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Sometimes it might feel as if a travel advisor has to be his or her own version of a Fortune 500 company, sans the fancy teams and outsized expense budgets.
Branding, content marketing, copywriting, bookkeeping, managing social media, building a website, understanding liability and strategizing business growth — these are just a few of the professional responsibilities advisors are supposed to juggle while learning about travel products and providing around-the-clock concierge services to clients.
Host agencies and consortia help fill in some of these gaps, particularly when it comes to essentials such as developing strong supplier relationships, learning about new products and sending out direct mail marketing. But even with this help, there is still plenty to keep a one-person travel business busy.
And while most advisors — particularly those who are business owners or independent contractors — knew that this career would keep them busy, they likely hoped that most of their time would be dedicated to planning travel and servicing clients.
Unfortunately, though, certain business needs can impact how often an advisor actually gets to create a trip for a new client. Advisor Anneke Marchese, owner and travel designer of AM/FM Leisure & Adventure Travel, was struggling with low engagement on her social media channels, and knew she had to improve her digital presence. She got in touch with Melissa Cooper, owner of social media marketing company MC Squared, for a custom session that has already yielded results.
“Our engagement has quadrupled, our visibility has majorly increased and leads are flowing in,” Marchese said. “I’ll never look back.”
According to a flash poll conducted on TravelAge West’s Instagram account, only 43% of advisor respondents employ outside assistance. But 86% of polled advisors would like to hire help. Jenna Daykin, founder of In the Details, Darling, a process design company, finds that many advisors want help, but are unsure of where to start.
“Because of this, instead of taking steps forward, they find it is easier to just do it themselves,” she said. “[But] being able to hand off administrative tasks allows advisors to focus on, stay on top of and continue to grow in their zone of genius while ensuring their clients are still getting well taken care of.”
Being able to hand off administrative tasks allows advisors to focus on, stay on top of and continue to grow in their zone of genius while ensuring their clients are still getting well taken care of.
Emily Matras, owner of copywriting studio Bon Vivant Copy, acknowledges that it can be scary to entrust your business to someone else — especially because there is a low barrier to entry for digital marketers. She suggests relying on your networks for recommendations and collaborating with outsourced help.
“You are the travel expert, so your hired help needs your input and expertise to create authentic marketing materials for you,” Matras said. “If someone is promising you amazing results with generic material and a hands-off approach, that’s a red flag.”
Fortunately, several entrepreneurs have homed in on the advisor’s impossible dilemma and have dedicated their careers to assisting advisors. The following professionals come recommended by fellow advisors and have taken many agencies to the next level. Perhaps they can help you, too.
Jenna Daykin, Owner of In the Details, DarlingRecommendation: “Jenna is one of the most selfless, kind, thoughtful humans you can have as an ally in business and life.” — Heather Christopher, owner of Heather Christopher Travel Consulting
In 2018, Jenna Daykin left her job as a social media coordinator and operations manager for a tour company to start her own business as a virtual assistant for travel professionals. In the last three years, Daykin’s services have changed — she now mostly takes on advisors looking for a customer experience and systems strategist.
Daykin helps advisors streamline and automate their client experience process to guarantee that all clients receive the same high-quality experience without having to reinvent the wheel with every interaction. She offers a system audit that looks for gaps in workflow, and walks advisors through the best tech solutions for their problems, including programs TravelJoy and Dubsado.
Advisors who take one look at the company’s beautifully organized website will see that Daykin could not be better suited for the task. Her approach is so systematic that she even suggests that advisors considering outsourcing ask themselves five questions: What are the tasks you love to do in your business? What are the tasks only you can do in your business? What are the tasks you don’t love to do in your business? What are the tasks you don’t know how to do in your business? What are the tasks you shouldn’t be doing in your business?
These answers will help advisors see what duties they would like to outsource right away.
“Now you have a plan in place so you can seek out assistance for exactly what you need,” she said. “This not only will allow you to progress in business, but it will allow you to maximize the assistance you plan to hire.”
Nikita Brown, founder of Travel Agent CollectiveRecommendation: “Nikita has helped me build the know, like and trust factor that was missing in my business through her curation and trainings. I absolutely love working with her.” — Ana Castro, founder and CEO of Touralux LLC
Nikita Brown, founder of Travel Agent Collective, believes that all travel advisors can grow their business through social media — if they have a consistent strategy in place. Of course, that is easier said than done. After working as a content and digital strategy consultant for travel content creators and agents, Brown began polling advisors to understand where they needed the most help.
Advisors expressed that they felt overwhelmed trying to create content for different platforms, and they struggled to develop a game plan for social media.
A few months later, in November 2019, Brown launched Travel Agent Collective, which provides monthly and annual memberships that include a monthly content calendar to promote consistency; writing prompts agents can use to create conversational content that encourages followers to engage; and a vault of photos, graphics and videos. Members also receive access to monthly group coaching calls, master classes and a community able to provide support and guidance with social media.
“Not everyone is traveling, but when they are ready, they’ll be looking for great advisors to work with,” Brown said. “Now is the time for agents to stay top of mind and to nurture their followers.”
Note: TravelAge West readers can use code “Social20” to get 20% off their first month as a member.
- Start creating a library of tutorial videos and instructions, so when you do find the person you will hire, you have standard operating procedures that make the transition of delegating tasks simpler. - For example, if you want to hand off building itineraries in the Travefy management system, create a video talking through each step. - Document any notes you wish to have outside the video. Intentionally documenting your processes and business information now will pay off in the future and make handing off tasks easier.
Grace McBride, founder and managing director of TripKitRecommendation: “TripKit makes our lives easier and allows our team to focus on what they are best at — selling travel to make more money.” — Jason Miller, founder and CEO of Accomplished Traveler
A former advisor herself, Grace McBride, founder and managing director of TripKit, was often dismayed at how much time it took to create itineraries, collect credit card details and hire and train new talent.
“Even with the modernization of the industry, this was a sore spot that technology just had not addressed,” McBride said. “I knew that advisors needed more time to grow exponentially, without the financial commitment.”
Launched by McBride in September 2019, TripKit is what she describes as an “intelligent virtual assistant” that not only does administrative work, but learns your preferences and suggests efficiencies and innovations for your business.
The company offers several “kits,” from a new and popular hourly service that offers assistance with itineraries and proposals to the all-inclusive Tool Kit, which also handles trip reminders and checks, commission tracking, credit card authorization forms and client data management. The new Air Desk by TripKit is an add-on tool that proposes and books flights as well as collects commissions.
Note: McBride is offering TravelAge West readers 50% off their TripKit service for four weeks, valid until the end of 2020 with code “TAW50.”
Melissa Cooper, owner of MC SquaredRecommendation: “She was the breath of life that my business desperately needed.” — Anneke Marchese, owner and travel designer of AM/FM Leisure & Adventure Travel
One day after Melissa Cooper ended her last role this July, she was ready to launch MC Squared. In her former life as an events marketer for Northstar Travel Group (the parent company of TravelAge West), she befriended numerous travel advisors. Conversations often ended with a similar request: Could Cooper run their social media platforms for them?
“I never agreed, as I was already committed to full-time employment, but I saw that there was a gap in the market several people seemed to think I could fill,” she said. “I decided to offer my help in a lesser capacity, giving people the skills to improve their own social media and ideas to work from, rather than managing anyone’s platforms. I’m so grateful for the travel advisor community’s confidence in my ability to help them during such a tough time.”
The company offers social media help, content ideation, website proofreading and feedback, along with full-team custom agency seminars. Advisors who work with Cooper do not have to commit to a long-term program — she offers one-off reviews and analysis of social media utilization, followed up with a video chat that includes brainstorming ideas and a custom slide presentation that advisors are able to keep.
Note: If advisors mention they found MC Squared through TravelAge West in the “Anything else you’d like me to know?” section of its contact form, they can receive a 10% discount through the end of November.
Emily Matras, owner of Bon Vivant Copy Recommendation: “I knew she was the person who could capture my brand and my vision, then translate it into words that sounded like my voice. I consider Emily to be a part of the team.” — Nicole Lawrence, founder of Travel With Great Company
Too many travel advisors confess that their websites do not reflect what makes them different from other advisors — even after they have splurged on expensive design services. Enter Emily Matras, owner and “writer-in-chief” of Bon Vivant Copy, a custom copywriting and content marketing studio for travel professionals.
After working as the marketing associate at the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs, Matras caught the entrepreneurial bug herself, and was convinced her writing chops and understanding of advisors’ value could result in a much-needed solution for pros looking to better attract clients with their websites, newsletters, email campaigns and more.
“The truth is, the prettiest website will do zilch for you if you don’t have the right messaging in place,” Matras said. “I hated seeing advisors’ website efforts go to waste, so I developed a unique process and several signature website copy packages to help them.”
Matras’ most-popular package is the Marketing Aficionado, which includes a one-hour strategy call, competitive research, conversion-focused copy, two rounds of revisions and more. For advisors who would like to write their own copy, Matras offers an on-demand Website Roadmap educational course, as well as critique calls.