Written By: Jackie Friedman, President, Nexion LLC
Building your brand, whether it’s in the travel arena or for any type of small business, is not a one-time exercise. Instead, as an entrepreneur, reviewing your brand should be done at least annually. And if you’re like me, you’re probably taking some time during the first few weeks of the year to review and tweak your marketing and business plan, so what better time for a brand evaluation than at the start of a new year?
Let’s first take a quick look at what a brand is. Your brand is how other people perceive you and your business. So, before you can build your brand, I encourage you to take a step back and answer these questions:
- Who is my target audience?
- Who are my competitors?
- What do I want to sell, and what is my focus?
- What is my personality, and how do I want to come across to my customers?
- What is my passion, and why do I do what I do as a career?
After you’ve contemplated who you are trying to reach and why, and how your personality and passion fit into the equation, you’ll have a strong foundation in which to build your brand.
Look at it as a reflection of who you are. Authenticity is key – people do business with people they like. Therefore, welcome the types of people you’re targeting, and ensure they understand that you can help them as a travel advisor and that you’re good with connecting with people.
Furthermore, think of your brand as telling your story. What makes you different? What is your unique selling or value proposition? Is it meaningful to your customers? Why should consumers use your services, and can you clearly and concisely articulate your passion and expertise as a travel professional?
If you have to work too hard to tell people who you are, you may want to rethink your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Once you have your USP established, here are additional tips to build your brand and get it out in the marketplace:
- Take a good look at your business name, if you have one (if you don’t, now’s the time to create one!), and ensure it speaks to your focus.
- Evaluate your logo. Does it complement your business name? Does it look good in all sizes, including small on business cards and email signatures?
- Develop an online presence. You should definitely have a website where consumers can find you and learn more about your travel agency and services. Many host agencies offer a basic website solution to its members, and some, including Nexion, also offer customizable web solutions. My recommendation is if you truly want to specialize and stand out from the crowd, invest in your website a bit more to attract customers that are looking for what you do.
- Know your voice, and have a social media strategy. It’s not enough anymore to strictly have a website. You must also be engaged in social media to keep your brand forefront in your customers’ minds. Host agencies, including Nexion, have social media solutions that do a lot of the work for you, making this task easier.
- Find speaking opportunities or become a thought leader in your area. In-person encounters and networking are some of the best ways to build your brand, so get out there and establish yourself as an expert. If you’re not sure where to start, consider partnering with organizations or businesses in your community to get in front of potential customers. (Reference Power of Partnerships: Cross Marketing to Double Your Exposure.)
No matter how established your brand is, always remain a student of the industry, as there’s always more that you can know to keep on top of your game. This holds true with supplier partners you choose to sell and the destinations you choose to market.
Are you who you say you are? In the end, your brand all comes down to credibility with your customers. Ensure everything you do is authentic and true to your brand, and the rest will form naturally.