Many of you no doubt remember a time when, in order to be successful, you just had to be the best travel agent on your street or in your neighborhood. At that time, marketing consisted of a clever sign in the window. Of course, as I’m sure all of you know, the Internet has changed everything. These days, you are competing with agents around the country and, sometimes, across the globe. Like it or not, you’re now part of a global marketplace and, in order to compete in this arena, the most important tool you have is your reputation.
Today, successful travel agents have to think of themselves and their agencies as brands and take a lesson from the way multinational corporations fiercely protect their own brand names. Like any corporate brand, you need to identify your strengths (your brand pillars) and clearly communicate those to potential customers. The goal is to have your name become synonymous with whatever benefit you provide to your clients, whether that’s a destination specialty; a niche, such as group travel or upscale travel; or great customer service. Your name — your brand — will be crucial in conveying this message in the marketplace.
In this issue, we feature “You, Inc.” (page 8), a primer on creating, marketing and protecting your personal brand. While the idea of personal branding goes back at least a decade, the rise of social networking sites has made this an even more important lesson. If you begin developing a brand now, before long, you can be acting locally and marketing globally with the best of them.