My Thoughts and Tips on the Art of Specializing
Written By: Jackie Friedman, President – Nexion Travel Group
We are so lucky to be part of an industry where we can blend our passions – the love of helping people, the love of travel, etc. How fortunate it would be to build your travel business around yet another passion you may have and turn it into a niche or specialization!
Besides the additional zeal you’ll bring to your career, specialization is important from both an education and a marketing perspective. “You can’t be all things to all people” certainly rings true in the travel industry.
Knowing more about less (versus less about more) helps control the breadth of information you need to know. By focusing on knowing things well versus being a generalist, both personal development and marketing are so much easier! Of course, it’s perfectly OK to specialize in a few things – many successful travel professionals have a couple of niches, such as river cruising and FIT journeys through Europe, for example.
So, how do you get started in choosing a niche? I recommend beginning with your passion. What do you love to do? What does your circle of friends like to do? What types of hobbies and interests do you have that could make a great foundation for your travel business?
Be sure to consider the who with the what, and ensure they are aligned.
Looking at the WHO and the WHAT
The who represents your targeted customer base, including demographics and psychographics (interests). Examples are affluent/luxury, multi-generational family, religious/pilgrimages, wellness and culinary.
When looking at the who, it’s also important to consider how you’re going to reach that customer base as well as build it. Are you connected with them? Do you know someone who can help open doors? Where can you find them? Are you wanting to build life-time relationships and have repeat customers, or are you more interested in acquisition and bringing in new customers? Destination wedding and honeymoon specialists, for example, better be interested in acquisition marketing (smile). Focusing on very narrow niches may make it difficult to build those repeat clients.
It doesn’t matter if you focus on the who or the what first, if they are aligned. With the WHAT, you’ll want to consider the appropriate product market for your specialization. For example, if your niche is multi-generational family travel, look at what resorts or cruise lines are appropriate for this demographic, and then focus on learning more about those particular supplier partners. I have seen travel agents struggle when the who and the what are not aligned.
Should I Book Outside My Specialty?
I often get asked, “If I have a niche, should I book outside of my specialty?” My answer is, it depends. If you believe you can do a great job or you have a network of agents with expertise you can tap into, then go for it! Host agencies, such as Nexion Travel Group, have networking communities available that make it easier to tap into your colleagues’ skillsets.
Look at how much time and attention will be needed to make that booking. If it’s a complicated tour of Southeast Asia, for example, and you specialize in destination weddings in the Mexico and the Caribbean, you probably want to refer it to another agent. But, if it’s a request for veranda cabin on a cruise, take the booking. You, of course, know yourself and your comfort level the best.
Know, too, that it’s ok to fire a client if you can’t take on the booking. And if you believe that this client will turn into a long-term relationship with future bookings in your specialization, consider referring the client to another travel advisor that you know and trust for that trip you don’t specialize in.
Don’t Forget Marketing
Once you know who you’re trying to reach and what products fit that niche, you are ready to start the marketing process. The more targeted and focused your specialty is, the easier it will be to market to the right audience. Here are some ideas to think about:
- Sit down with paper and brainstorm on a comprehensive list for good customer sources.
- Where do these customer sources hang out both online and offline? Think about Meet-Up Groups, online communities you can get involved in, clubs and special interest groups.
- Think about complimentary businesses that could help promote your agency and specialization.
- Remember to be patient. Being helpful and serving as a resource could and should lead to business; don’t go into special interest groups with the goal of doing a hard sell, or this could come across as being off-putting.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help; are there people associated with your connections you can reach out to and ask for help?
Once you know who, what and how you’re going to reach your target client, take a step back and make sure to identify if what you’re specializing in is too broad or too limiting. Will it generate the kind of income you need for your business? Don’t sell yourself short. Successful entrepreneurs set the bar high and go after it!
If you build your business around something you love and it’s something with the potential to be lucrative, you’re well on your way. You’ll know if it’s right if it really motivates you.