Susan Cauthen of Susan Cauthen Travel LLC talks business at GTM West. // © 2014 Eugene Ko
During Global Travel Marketplace West (GTM West), travel agents shared insider tips on how they generate new business and find new clients. Here’s a sampling:
Play Your Best Hand
“I play poker all over the world,” said Wane Webber, owner of Avanti Travel in Redding, Calif. “I pick the winners and I give them my card. Yes, I have helped pay for a lot of their trips, but I also get a lot of new business.”
Cut Through the Clutter
“We get walk-in people, once or twice a day, who come in with stacks of information they found on the Internet,” said Sheryl Fick, owner of Endless Travel / Uniglobe, in Evergreen, Colo. “I say, ‘Come, sit down. Let me help you.’ Then I take their stuff and put it aside, and I qualify them and I book them. That’s how we get new clients.” The agency also writes advertorials for the local newspaper.
Max Out on Social Media
“We market primarily on social media, on our Facebook page and even more on Instagram,” explained Dedra Shahan, president of Cowboy Way Travel in Stephenville, Texas. “And we have a great Pinterest board. We get lots of callers from Pinterest.”
Additionally, Shahan’s agency runs plenty of mini-contests for clients and awards winners with Starbucks cards and swag from suppliers. “We have fun keeping people thinking about us,” Shahan said.
“We market to our clients and we ask for referrals — we ask for the business,” said Moriah Turnbull, owner of Moriah’s Travel Service in Fresno, Calif.
To incentivize clients, Turnbull has also established a reward system revolving around referrals. The approach works: On average, the agency receives about three calls a day just from referrals.
Give a Little to Get a Lot
“Volunteer. Join a philanthropic organization,” said Sara Reshaw, an agent with Uniglobe Golden Empire in Bakersfield, Calif. “You’ll be surprised how much benefit you will get.”
Case in point: The agency donated a small item to a local school’s silent auction and got a $68,000 booking from the simple gesture.
Bark Up the Right Tree
Robert Papkin, owner of Bob’s Ultimate Travel LLC in Chandler, Ariz., cleverly uses his local dog park as a source for potential business. “Walk up to another dog owner and ask what they do for a living,” Papkin advised. “They’ll tell you and then, pretty soon, they’ll ask what you do.” It can be an effective opening to hand someone a business card.
Get the News Out
Linda May-Dinsmore, owner of Deluxe Travel & Cruises in South Surrey, British Columbia, paid an outside firm to develop a semimonthly newsletter for her agency. The newsletter generates a lot of response every time it comes out, with emails regarding everything from the newsletter content to questions about other trips.
But more importantly, the newsletter “touches people twice a month and keeps us on top of their list,” said May-Dinsmore.