The second General Session at the ExecConnect: Elite Agent Symposium had the theme “Efficient E-Marketing Tools,” and it was moderated by TravelAge West Online Editor Monica Poling. Here is some of what the session covered.
Poling began the General Session 2 by asking the agents how many of them had a website. She encouraged everyone who did not have one to sign up for a dedicated domain name — which can be had for as little as $12.95 a year, with hosting plans starting at $4.95 a month. Poling also pointed out that many hosting sites, including GoDaddy.com, have easy-to-use, free templates that will help them with web design.
Poling then discussed WordPress.com and WordPress.org, which are both good options for travel agents:
-Is a blog tool
-Free, easy-to-use web software
-Fully driven by templates
-Add new content as needed
Poling also stated that WordPress.org features special templates for travel agents that run $55 for the template or $104 for template plus installation.
Poling went on to say that, in addition to blogging, agents have several options for finding content for their websites. She suggested that agents use Google to find press releases on various destinations (by searching for “[destination/subject name] press releases”) and that these releases are available for anyone to repurpose.
Poling also talked about article marketing sites, such as ehow.com, squidoo.com, ezinearticles.com, gather.com and suite101.com.
She made sure to warn agents, however, not to “borrow” complete articles from news sites because that is against the law.
To get photos for a website, Poling encouraged agents to contact suppliers directly and ask them for photos; to visit the press rooms on supplier and destination websites; and to use sites such as Flickr.com and Wikipedia.com. Again, Poling stressed that agents should only use images that are designated as “Creative Commons” licensed content.
Communicating With Your Clients
The next part of General Session 2 talked about some of the ways agents communicate with their clients. These include:
-Microsoft Word mail merge, BCC, etc.
-Online email client
In terms of how often an agent should contact a client, Poling said one simple method is to ask them how often they prefer.
Poling went on to discuss the pluses and minuses of various options for reaching out to clients electronically, such as:
-Outlook, Google, Yahoo, etc.
-Great for personal, individualized communication
-Time consuming, not great for frequent communications
-Hard to track responses
-A popular format about 10 years ago
-Good if doing once a month; can send multiple stories, promotions in one format
-Can track clicks, opens, etc.
-Quick, short, easy to design
-Can send with a greater frequency
There are a variety of companies that can assist agents with such contact, including Mail Chimp, Vertical Response, Constant Contact, Exact Target and Subscribermail. Whatever the company an agent uses, Poling stressed the importance of making sure the tool has a way to track open rates and click throughs.
The final topic of General Session 2 discussed ways to gather intel on clients. Poling explained how Google Alerts can be useful to agents, as well as the benefits of Google Analytics.
Poling ended the session by bringing up travel agent Eric Maryanov, of All-Travel.com, and Derek Lloyd, of Norwegian Cruise Line, for a live panel discussion about some of the tools and tips they use to e-market to customers.