If you've been a travel advisor for any length of time, you've probably figured out something important.
This isn't an “if you build it, they will come” industry.
It's easy, when you're first starting out, to think that all you need to do to have a full roster of clients is tell people that you'll help them design their dream vacation. After all, who doesn't want help doing that?
Unless you're an incredibly well-connected individual, that strategy probably hasn't worked out well for you. You've created your social media accounts, set up some type of website (hopefully!), maybe you've signed up with a host agency, and now, nothing.
You dream of the day when you'll have to turn clients away. You hear about so many travel agents who are having to do that, and are wondering why you can't seem to attract enough clients. You find yourself waiting and wondering why leads aren't coming in.
But you're in luck! With the right strategies and tactics, you can start finding more of the clients you want to work with. You can grow your customer base and build the travel business of your dreams.
Here are a seven of the best ways I've discovered to start growing your client base.
1) Position yourself as the expert
There should be something that sets you apart from every other travel advisor or travel agent out there.
That special something is a combination of your personality, your customer service, your experience and your expertise.
No travel agent can know everything and appeal to every potential client. Instead of trying to please the masses, determine exactly who you want to work with and what types of services you want to provide.
Do you want to be the go-to Disney World vacation planner for families who have a child with severe food allergies? Go all in on that. Do you want to be the travel company that is known as the best for planning complex, intricate itineraries in France? Embrace that!
Instead of recreating the wheel with each trip, be a specialist in a certain destination or type of travel. Then stake a bold claim to that space, marketing yourself as the expert in that area.
2) Harness the power of referrals
You can find new clients by leveraging the power of your existing clients. After all, your current clients have already worked with you and understand the value you provide.
Now it's time to tap into those client's networks. How do you do that?
Start out by letting every client know, preferably in a welcome home email or thank you card, that the best thing they can do for you is to tell their friends and family about their experience.
It's natural, when they're sitting at dinner with friends and telling them all about the trip they just took, for those friends to ask what went into planning that amazing vacation. All your client needs to do is tell them how to get in touch with you, and you have a potential referral.
If you charge fees you can offer an incentive for clients to refer their friends and family to you. For each person they refer who becomes a new client, you can give the referring client a discount off of your planning fees for their next trip. That discount can be either a dollar amount or a percentage.
Say you offer a 10% discount for each new client they refer. If they refer 5 people who become clients, that original client gets 50% off their planning fee (a good deal for them!) and you get five new clients who each pay your planning fee (a great deal for you!).
3) Partner with an advisor who has a different specialty
If you specialize in all-inclusive beach vacations and you know another advisor who specializes in cruises, you can work together to provide each other with great potential clients.
When someone comes to you looking for a cruise, you refer them to the other agent. You explain that cruises aren't your specialty, but you have a trusted partner who does specialize in them.
And vice-versa, when the other agent gets inquiries about all-inclusive beach vacations, they provide the same information and refer the potential client to you. It's a win-win.
4) Reconnect with past clients
If you've booked trips for clients that you haven't heard from in a while, reach out to them.
You never know when a past client has been thinking they should get back in touch. If you take the step first, it's one less thing on their to-do list.
I've had several high-end trips that I've booked this way. I also see an uptick in inquiries after I send out Christmas cards in December, with clients reaching out in late December and January because they received the card and have my contact information handy.
5) Advertise on social media
Note that I said advertise, not boost posts. There's a difference.
A boosted post is simply a regular social media post that you pay Facebook or Instagram to show to more people. While it may generate a small uptick in engagement, and potentially a few additional social media followers, it won't generate the same results as an ad.
An ad is an intentional combination of graphics (or video) and text that prompts someone to take a specific action. It needs to be clear, concise and compelling.
Most people won't take action on a big-ticket item like travel the first time they see an ad. That's why you should create an ad for something that isn't your travel planning service.
What you should actually advertise is your opt-in. If you have an opt-in that is generating engagement, get it in front of a wider audience with a paid advertisement.
You want people to download your opt-in so they're on your mailing list. Then you have their attention and their permission to show them the value you provide while increasing the “know, like, trust” factor over time.
6) Raise your service fees
It may sound counter-intuitive, but in a post-pandemic world, travel agents who don't charge fees or who don't charge enough in fees can be seen as amateurs. It's a red flag that tells a potential client you aren't trustworthy.
Charging fees sets you apart as a professional. More prospective clients will want to work with you over an advisor who proudly states that their services are free. After all, in this day and age who can afford to work for free if they're actually running a business?
If you don't charge fees, it's time to start. You're leaving money on the table and selling your expertise short.
If you do charge fees, it's probably time to raise them.
Don't be afraid to charge high fees, especially for complicated trips or trips with a short turnaround time.
My agency fees start at $500 and go up to $1,500 for complicated, last minute trips. To some people that probably seems astronomical, but I've only had two potential clients not go on to pay the fee and have me book their trip after our initial consultation.
If you're afraid to start charging a fee or to increase your fee, try giving your clients and prospects a heads up. Give them a chance to book before the fee goes into effect or increases.
Choose a date a few weeks in the future (no further than a month out) when you're going to start charging fees or increase your current fees. Send an email to your list, and post a few times on social media to let people know that your fees are increasing as of that date.
If they'd like to lock in your current fees, they need to reach out by that date and secure your planning services. Otherwise they'll pay the new fee.
This strategy provides three benefits.
First, it pushes some people to jump on it and start planning a vacation they may otherwise have waited to reach out about.
Second, it gives your clients and prospective clients a heads up so they won't be surprised at your fees.
Third, it helps clients and prospects understand the value of the service you provide. You'll attract more of the clients you want to work with, and fewer tire-kickers and price shoppers will contact you.
7) Optimize your website
When a potential client is considering working with you, there's one thing they're going to do.
They're going to go to your website.
They want to know more about you and your services, and they're looking for information. Your website needs to be a representation of your business and the services you provide.
If your website is unattractive, unclear, or doesn't represent what they're looking for, they'll close it. You'll lose the opportunity to work with them before you even knew they were interested.
Does the thought of a potential client going to your website make you cringe a little? Do you know that what they'll find there doesn't really represent your brand or services?
If so, it's time for a website refresh. If you have the expertise to create your own copy and design the site, that's great!
But if you don't, it's time to call in a professional. We understand the words that prompt people to reach out and schedule a consultation. We know what layouts are more likely to provide the information people are looking for and where they're looking for it.
Having a professional write your copy and design your site is an investment. But if you're ready to take your business to the next level, or your wasting time and money on sites that aren't working, it's time to make that investment.
If you're ready to escape the cycle of website shame, reach out today and schedule your free website consultation.
The bottom line
With the right approach, you can start finding new clients and growing your client base. It's time to appeal to the right clients and position yourself as a high-end, specialized travel advisor.
Are you ready to attract more of the clients you want to work with so you can run a profitable, successful travel business? If so you’re in the right place. Start by getting your free, personalized travel marketing roadmap.