Facing the Challenge

Kenneth Shapiro Remember when the Internet seemed like an insurmountable challenge to travel agents? And, in fact, a large number of agencies that couldn’t adapt to the new technology paid the price. Most agencies today, however, are as Web-savvy as they come. The industry as a whole met the challenge he

By: Kenneth Shapiro

Remember when the Internet seemed like an insurmountable challenge to travel agents? And, in fact, a large number of agencies that couldn’t adapt to the new technology paid the price. Most agencies today, however, are as Web-savvy as they come. The industry as a whole met the challenge head-on and now technology, rather than a threat to travel agents, has turned out to be an invaluable tool. Along those lines, the next skill for agents to master may be the fine art of marketing, and we think this issue’s cover story, “Marketing 101” (page 16), will help.

If the difference between a moderately successful agency and one pulling in the big bucks is the ability to find, develop and retain new clients, better marketing is certainly crucial. Yet, according to recent surveys, while most agencies have a Web site, relatively few have spent the same time and energy developing a marketing plan. To some agents, marketing goes no further than handing out fliers and posting a sign outside their storefront. So we asked experts in the industry for practical advice on how to develop a comprehensive strategy.

The good news is that, when it comes to marketing, there is no shortage of possibilities. In addition to the wide variety of online marketing tools, some agents use focused direct mailings; some develop partnerships with churches, schools, professional groups and other affinity groups; some agents donate trips to contests or pledge drives; and some agents take out ads in specialty magazines. Whatever your preference, there are several online resources included in the story that can help you get started. Also, organizations such as ASTA and CLIA offer assistance in developing marketing plans, as do most of the major consortia, like Signature, Ensemble and Virtuoso, among others.

Just as technology was once a challenge, if you start now, marketing can become one of your agency’s strengths over time. More importantly, if you don’t take your marketing to the next level, you may look up to find you have fallen behind the competition. K.S.

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