How to: Grasp the basics of travel agency marketing

Do you know what separates your business from other agencies? Do your staff? And do your customers?

If the answer is yes, and the answer from each group is the same, go back to work. If not, read on.


Choose a tennis ball

Imagine I throw seven tennis balls to you at once. How many would you catch?

The answer is probably zero, because you don’t instinctively focus on just one. Now imagine I throw one tennis ball to you. It is pretty certain that you would catch it.

Apply this concept to marketing. Too many marketing communications fail because they try to sell every product they feature at the same time.

A single message ensures your customers understand what your brand means and what is being offered. Once hooked, they can engage more.

Take Audi, for example: its tennis ball would be form and function, meaning the cars have to look great and work well. All its advertising messages follow this principle.
So how do you discover the single message or ‘tennis ball’ from which all other selling points are based? The answer is to gain knowledge about your agency and then apply it.


Understand your customer

Do you have a database of past lookers and bookers? Do you have a record of what they purchased, when and even why? Do you know how they heard about your agency? And do they live nearby or far away? Are they families or couples? Are they professionals?

Most importantly, can you distiguish between lookers that didn’t book, bookers that returned and those that did not? In short, can you identify patterns to help you find more people like your best customers?


Understand your distribution channels

This is where your audience buy from you, not where you advertise. This may be through your own retail shops, online, on the phone or homeworkers.

It is crucial to understand these channels so that the customer journey is seamless and consistent, whether they visit the shop or call you on the phone.

Do you offer these channels now or should you in the future? Your customers are researching through all channels, so make sure you are there.


Understand your competition

Who is your competition? Ultimately it is any other travel company trying to take money from your target audience.

Do you know who you compete against? How they market themselves? Do they talk to your customers? How far away are they? Are they a local or national company?

Have you ever carried out mystery shopping? You can simply get a friend to call/visit the companies you want to find out more about and pretend to be a potential customer. You will learn a lot. Big companies simply buy one share in their rivals, so they have to be sent all the shareholder information.

And don’t just look on the high street – more than 70% of research is done online. Imagine yourself as a customer and think about where you might look.


Apply the knowledge

With this knowledge you can sit down and spend time working out what it is that you should focus on, what is your tennis ball.

It could be based around price, service, product, quality or quantity, local or regional, the list is long. This proposition probably never appear as a phrase or strap line in your marketing, but it is what designers use to develop the creative ideas.


Example: How to position upmarket agency

Your agency: You are a one-shop high street agency focused on the upper end of the market in a prosperous area. Your repeat business is very good and your best customers introduce friends to you. You offer competitive prices and great service in store and on the phone.

Your ‘tennis ball’: In this scenario, your ‘tennis ball’ could be “Everything we do leads to a referral”. Staff would understand that putting the customer first would encourage them to tell their friends, and your design company could develop ideas that concentrated on this message.

  • Next week: part two will focus on how to communicate your message at every stage of the customer’s buying process


Danny Crowe, director, ElmscottDanny Crowe is the planning director of Elmscott, a communications agency

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