Marketing can be a guerilla operation for outside agents, who
should take advantage of every opportunity to promote their names
and services, according to members of the Austin chapter of the
Outside Sales Support Network, who were asked to share their
favorite shoestring marketing techniques at a recent meeting.
“Most [independent agents] are on such a limited budget, they
have to focus on how to attract new customers with as little money
as possible,” said Tracey Younes, director of the Austin OSSN
chapter and owner of GTS Incentive and Travel Services. “We have to
do business differently.” Among the group’s suggestions:
" Use any event that generates traffic, including a garage sale,
to distribute your cards and brochures. When OSSN member Diane
Gondek was selling her home, she made sure every realtor had her
business card, and she added them to her mailing list.
" Donate old travel magazines to a doctor or dentist’s office.
Make sure your company name is on the label and insert cards with
information or a promotional offer. This is a personal favorite of
Younes. “I’ve got tons of old travel magazines,” she said. “I like
the idea that I can reach different people without having to take a
lot of time to meet people.”
" To help build a database, organize day trip tours of areas
near your home. The overhead of hiring a bus and advertising in the
Sunday travel section of the local newspaper is minimal. While it
may not be a big moneymaker, the real profit will come from
gathering names of people interested in group travel.
" Organize a coffee-and-donuts event at a client’s office. It
may be a chance to make a presentation. If not, even a low-key
event is a chance to meet people.
" Plan ahead before you travel. Order postcards from tourist
boards, cruise lines or tour companies and mail them to customers
from the destination, adding a handwritten note, said Susan Weber,
CTC, owner of Itineraries to Go. Not only is it an excuse to stay
in touch, but it demonstrates to clients that you know a
destination from firsthand experience and reinforces your role as a
“The thing I’m up against is that most people take only one or
two trips a year,” Weber said, “and I have to keep my name in front
of them so when they do travel they think of me.”
Weber said she tries to send something once a month to her
mailing list of 200 prime contacts. She also sends out a newsletter
twice a year.
Outside agents need to compensate for the lack of walk-in
traffic generated by a retail operation, Younes said. But
developing a modest two or three good contacts a week can translate
into a successful operation.
“Going after the business I want is a better way for me to spend
my time than dealing with people who call a travel agency looking
for the best prices to Vegas,” Weber said.