Written By: Jason Coleman, CTC, ECC, CLS, LCS, DS, Business Development Manager/MentorU Coach, UNIGLOBE Travel Center
Awards season is here. Just a few weeks ago, Travel Weekly hosted its annual Reader’s Choice awards. Music, TV, and movie associations have their upcoming presentations. And I have my picks for my favorite award-winning marketing and business ideas. In the spirit of awards season, I present a few worthy contenders “For Your Consideration.”
Best Form of Marketing for Solopreneurs: Promoting Local In-Person/Face-to-Face
I am a firm believer that the most effective and efficient form of marketing for small business owners is done in person and face to face with prospects and existing clients. You are the power behind your brand. The old marketing adage, “people do business with those they know, like, and trust” is best accomplished in person. Get out there and network, exhibit, set up a table, find speaking engagements, or go door to door. Prospective clients will work with you because of you. Put on your friendly face and go build your business.
Best Tool for Staying Focused and On Task: Focus Time App
I’ll admit it, I am easily distracted. When I need to be focused and hunker down on a project or list of tasks, I need some help. My favorite way to manage myself is the Focus Time app on my phone (http://focustimeapp.com/). Instead of trying to sit down and work away, the app breaks that goal down into a manageable block of 30 minutes, 25 minutes of focused work followed by a 5 minute break. I know I have talked about this tool before, but it is so fantastic it’s worth repeating. I can focus without distractions for about 25 minutes before my brain starts to go a little crazy. I start my day by creating a short list of 5-10 projects or tasks that I can manage using the app. These are my most important activities of the day. I find that my most productive days are those when I have consistently managed my day in focused blocks of time, rather than just trying to work nonstop. Give it a try, I think you will like it.
Best Website Strategy: Sell You and Your Advantage
I work with a lot of new agents who assume that putting up a website with lots of travel content, booking engines, and searchable package offers will be the golden ticket to success online. That is what the OTAs and mega agencies do. They have more money, expertise, and staff to support that strategy. Use your website to sell what is unique about you. Do not compete with that same mega-website strategy; differentiate yourself and your business. If prospects want to search and buy online, let them go to the OTAs. Sell your relationship-based business and why that is an advantage for your prospects. Clients that work with travel advisors largely do so for that personal relationship. Don’t let your website get lost with a competing strategy.
Best Organization Strategy: Getting Things Done by David Allen
From time to time, my office starts to look like it could qualify for one of those hoarder shows. The piles grow out of control, and the task of organizing seems daunting. (Sound familiar?!) “Getting Things Done” is an organizational system by David Allen, and is available in book and audiobook form. The process is quite simple: get all of the tasks and activities out of your head and on paper to free your mind of all that “stuff” so it can relax and focus. From there, you can prioritize tasks and dump the junk. This process has been a life saver more than once. My challenge is making it an everyday habit rather than a panicked reaction to the fire hazard that is my office.
Best Client Collaboration Tool: Itinerary Building SaaS
Not more than a few years ago, I invested countless hours building client proposals, itineraries, and document packets. I used content from Travel42 and other sources to provide clients with detailed background reading material and paid designers to create beautiful templates to deliver the wow. Today’s version of those tools is a software as a service solution like Umapped or Travefy, a web-based subscription to collaborate and share documents, vouchers, and destination information with clients. If you have not explored the potential of these tools, each service offers a free trial period to check out their features and benefits. For me, the time savings far outweighs the moderate monthly cost. I am sure it can do the same for your business.
Best Way to Break into Groups: Profiting with Affinity Groups
I love group travel. I love the planning process, the creative marketing opportunities, and the profit. And groups are everywhere. We are all part of multiple groups, many of which could be great prospects for you to pitch travel as an activity or fund raiser. Start with the “low hanging fruit,” those groups that you are personally a member of or even a family member or close friend who can provide your introduction. Do your research, and present the idea. Tom Ogg has developed a fantastic resource of articles in the last few months of this publication to help you navigate group travel. Look back through the archives and read up on this topic. And make one of your 2018 goals to stop dreaming of group travel, and make it a reality!
Best Marketing Trend to Follow: Cause Marketing and Social Responsibility Trends
Purpose driven marketing is hot, and consumers are caring more about where they spend their money. Not exclusively driven by millennials, all consumer segments are paying more attention to the causes supported by companies they do business with. How can you as a small travel retailer align with these trends? Consider the causes your business supports. If you have charities close to your heart, consider sharing a percentage of your commissions with that cause and promote it. One agency I know of picks a different local charity each month and markets it in multiple ways. Cause marketing and corporate social responsibility does not only apply to large businesses and corporations. Perhaps it is even more impactful for small businesses to consider. Think about how you are active in your area and come up with ways you can support kids, education, and healthy living in your community.