The other day, I was talking to some travel agents about areas that all agents should be focused on during this recession in order to enhance their businesses. One of the topics we discussed is the subject of this issue’s cover story, "Tools of the Trade".
Cruise lines — and other suppliers as well — spend a great deal of time and money developing marketing tools for agents, and most are amazed that so few agents take advantage of the resources provided. Tools such as co-op advertising, education, database sharing and others are designed for the sole purpose of increasing revenue. Even the knowledge of the lines’ sales representatives can be used by enterprising agents to enhance their agencies. After all, these reps are not only there to hand out brochures — many of them have been in the travel industry for years, and have certainly seen tactics that have been a success for other agencies.
"Industry-wide, the most underutilized resource is the field salespeople," said Tim Rubacky, senior director of corporate communications for Prestige Holdings, in the cover story. "They have an untapped wealth of knowledge."
One of the areas that too few agents succeed in is repeat business. I was surprised to hear one statistic that 75 percent of the average agent’s business does not repeat. Since word of mouth often accounts for the majority of an agency’s referrals, I would think that agents would be doing everything they can to bring back their existing clientele. Especially these days, when perhaps the phones are not ringing off the hook and agents have more time on their hands, there’s no excuse for not reviewing your agency’s database of past clients and reaching out to them.
"I’ve taken a ski trip every January for the past 15 years," one industry executive told me recently. "Even a minimal amount of research into my buying habits would give an agent a solid lead for booking my next trip."
By taking advantage of the free tools and expertise of suppliers, as well as focusing on bringing more clients back, agents have two more potential revenue-generating streams that can be tapped during these tough times.