Last updated November 21, 2023
The biggest struggle most travel advisors face is attracting new leads and clients. In the travel advisor groups I’m part of, the most frequent question I see is how to attract more potential clients.
There is a lot of advice out there, from purchasing leads to joining a host with a lead generation program. But more often than not any leads that come from those sources don’t turn into a good source of revenue for the advisor.
Why is that?
Most travel advisors haven’t taken the time to understand who their ideal customer is, so they aren’t able to attract them through their marketing and lead generation efforts.
Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, before you create a website, send an email, or start a blog, you need to know who it is you’re talking to.
If you haven’t answered that one simple question, the fact of the matter is that you aren’t really talking to anyone.
Whether you call them an Ideal Client Avatar (ICA), an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), or a buyer persona, knowing who that person is creates the foundation for every other piece of marketing.
But it’s a step that too many travel advisors and agents either don’t take the time to complete, or simply don’t know they need to complete.
But you’re different. You want to be a Savvy Travel Advisor.
That’s why you’ve read this far, downloaded your worksheet, and are starting the process to identify and understand your ideal client.
By the time you’ve completed the process you’ll know who your ideal customer is, what problem you’re solving for them, and you’ll be on the road to attracting more of the right clients who understand your value and want to pay you for the service you provide.
Let’s get started.
Why you need to understand your ideal client profile
In order to attract your ideal client, you first need to understand who they are.
Many advisors hesitate to identify an ideal customer for one simple reason.
They’re afraid that if they identify an ideal client profile they’re automatically eliminating all the other potential clients they could get. They feel like if they don’t say yes to every lead, they’re leaving money on the table.
But that’s not the case.
Every client you take who isn’t the right fit, who leaves you feeling drained and stressed, is taking time that could be better spent serving clients who you enjoy working with. If you spend all your time serving those clients that drain you, you won’t have time to find the clients you want to work with and serve them the way you’d like to.
Communicating directly with an ideal customer doesn’t limit you, it allows those people who fit the client persona to find you.
When you create an ideal client profile, there are actually tens of thousands of people who are similar to that persona. When you speak specifically to that persona each person who is similar feels like you know and understand them, and you’re speaking directly to them.
Instead of limiting your potential clients, an ideal client avatar attracts more of the right clients and helps weed out the wrong clients.
Understanding your ideal client also doesn’t mean you can’t take clients who aren’t an exact fit. Instead it helps you identify who you serve and, just as importantly, who you don’t serve.
You don’t need to work with every potential client who comes your way. We’ve all had calls and emails from people who are looking for someone who can beat the deal they found on one of the big booking engines. They end up being a drain, wasting our time, and making us almost no money if we do actually book something.
Knowing your ideal customer, and who you don’t work with, allows you to identify those tire kickers and potential problem clients and decline to work with them.
Your customer avatar is intended to be a guideline, not a hard and fast rule about which clients you can take.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Sometimes it’s easiest to start by thinking about the clients you don’t want.
Think about past clients you’ve served. Most likely, there have been a few that drained you. There may even be some that, if they called back, you’d be conveniently busy and unable to work with them again.
Take a few minutes to reflect on those clients. What made them difficult or frustrating? Was their budget too low for what they were looking for? Did they have unreasonable expectations that you’d be available to answer any question immediately, regardless of the time of day? Were they rude or demanding?
Jot down anything you think of in the first section of your worksheet.
Now think about the clients you’ve served who you’ve really enjoyed working with. Why did you enjoy them?
Were they appreciative of the work you put into their trip? Was their budget in line with the type of trip they wanted, or if it wasn’t at first did they take your advice and raise their budget instead of expecting you to work a miracle? Did they value your time and effort?
Write those traits and behaviors down in the next section.
Step 2: External description
The next step is to determine who your ideal customer is. Get specific.
There are no right or wrong answers here, but it is important to understand the implications of the decisions you make.
If your ideal client is retired and wants to take 2-3 week luxury vacations with their spouse, you won’t be marketing Disney vacations or Carnival cruises, so take that into account.
If your ideal client is a parent to young children, you won’t be marketing river cruises lines that don't have child-friendly options.
Take into consideration your niche and the type of travel you want to sell. Who do you see engaging with your brand?
Your ideal customer needs a name, an age, you should know where they live, what they do, how much they make per year, and if they hold a college degree. Bonus points if you know what they majored in and where they went to school!
Step 3: Internal description
This is where you start determining what makes your ideal client tick.
Who are they at a core level? What drives them? What do they love to do, what energizes and refreshes them?
Are they someone who wants to give back to a local community as part of their vacation? Are they looking to unplug and relax? Do they always need an activity or adventure to make them feel alive?
If your ideal client is looking to hike and get back to nature, you won’t want to write a lot of blog posts or send emails with ideas for cities they can visit. On the other hand, if your ideal client loves culture and museums, a series of blog posts on less-known museums to visit in various cities is perfect. It will help them appreciate your knowledge and understanding of the things that interest them.
The last section of the internal description is the most important, so don’t skip it.
What is the problem you solve for them?
It’s easy to think “I sell vacations, the point is that there isn’t a problem.”
But that’s not true.
People start by looking for answers to external problems, like “I’m exhausted and need a vacation.”
What they end up buying is the solution to an internal problem. A problem like “There’s too much information out there, how do I know where to go so I don’t waste the few weeks of vacation time I get each year?”
That’s the problem you’re solving.
Do you deliver special experiences, custom itineraries, private tours, and things they would have a hard time arranging on their own?
Have you spent years cultivating relationships with a specific hotel brand or cruise line that can benefit your clients?
Do you have deep expertise in a certain type of travel, location, or niche?
Those are the things you’re actually selling. Your ideal client is paying for your expertise and contacts. They’re not paying you to book a trip that they could just as easily book on their own.
If you understand the value you’re actually providing and the problem you solve you’ll have a much easier time incorporating it into your website and marketing efforts.
Step 4: Travel profile
This is where the rubber meets the road.
Determine your ideal client’s travel profile or buyer persona. What types of experiences, hotels, cruise lines, etc. would that ideal client be interested in?
There are thousands of suppliers that you can learn about and sell. Even if you or your host agency has a list of preferred suppliers, there is still a lot of variety in the types of experiences those suppliers provide.
Understanding your ideal client’s travel profile will help you clarify what training you need to do, which supplier offers you should pay attention to, and even which consortia you should look to be part of.
Does your ideal customer prefer the Four Seasons and dream of taking the Orient Express across Europe? Do they prefer to book the highest level suite on an intimate cruise ship, or want private access to the most sought-after experiences? If so, those are the products you need to be familiar with.
Maybe your ideal client takes a lot of long weekend trips, but likes to travel on short notice specifically to see a new show or museum exhibition. In that case you’d be well served to know about the latest show premiers and museum openings so you can share things that may be of interest with them.
Now that you’ve completed your ideal client profile, it’s time to use it.
If you’re writing website copy, a blog post, posting on social media, or creating any other marketing that will be sent to a potential client, tailor it to speak directly to your ideal customer. Speak to them the way you would a good friend.
Once you know and understand your ideal client you’ll find that it’s easier to know what to write or say to communicate with them. When they read your marketing and lead generators they’ll feel like you’re speaking directly to them.
Not only that, knowing your ideal customer profile will help you create new services, trips and ideas. Once you start thinking about what they want or need and how to solve a problem they have, you’ll find the creative juices start to flow. You’ll think of solutions you never would have otherwise.
You’ll be able to serve and help your clients in new ways, while attracting the right clients and building a business that supports a life you love.