Austin OSSN Shares Marketing Tips

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.

By: Kevin Brass

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 travel expert.

“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.

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