Creating a Travel Agency Marketing Plan

by Jim Nathan
Vice President, Loyalty Marketing
Travel Leaders Network

When you are attempting to drive to a new destination, you use a map. Modern mobile map apps give you clear, executable steps to reach your destination—turn right at exit 41, turn left on Main Street.

But what if your destination is not a city or town, but a business goal? For example, if your agency wanted to reach Successville, USA, you’d need a different kind of map than Mapquest can provide—you need a travel agency marketing plan. A marketing plan is a map of your agency’s plan for success, complete with clear, executable steps and goals to get you to your destination.

Travel Leaders Network is first and foremost a marketing organization, (which would explain all of those awards we receive for marketing innovation). As such, we stress the importance of our members having a year-round travel agency marketing plan because it gives them the best chance to succeed.

Some view a marketing plan as a calendar with, for example, a multi-channel promotion for Europe Cruising in March or Australia in August. While this is one very small component of your agency’s marketing plan you must be sure you have the fundamentals down first. What do you sell, what makes you different, who are your target clients? When you are all done with the “meaty” issues you need to decide you can build your strategically designed detailed plan.

The Six Ps of Marketing

Most marketing books only mention the famous four Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. To that list, I tell our travel agency members to add two more: People, aka your target market; and Value Proposition, which helps you differentiate your services in the minds of consumers.

Product – the services, travel types and suppliers you sell; Price—how to balance profits, service fees, markups and revenues goals; Place—where your clients interact with you: those are all easy concepts to understand as you consider your travel agency marketing plan. Here, I’d like to focus on the other three.

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

There are four key components to promoting your services effectively: advertising, personal selling, sales promotions and public relations. They key here is to mix these elements together to communicate your message as simply, frequently and as powerfully as possible—in a fashion that smartly reaches your core target clientele

Who your targets are is a big driver of what media you use to reach them, whether it’s billboards, paid search results, travel shows, local radio or cable TC, newspapers and social media. Direct mail, email and social media generally work most effectively for our members since we know how to target each promotion to the recipient. If you belong to a travel marketing organization, I hope you’re incorporating their consumer marketing solutions in your travel agency marketing plan.

While direct mail and email are effective at reaching a large target audience, personal selling is the most powerful promotional tool you have in your arsenal. Speaking one-on-one with a potential client gives you the best opportunity to showcase your skills and experiences, something a website cannot do.

For sales promotions, always provide an incentive to the customer to act quickly, and make it super simple for them to understand how to act. And last, don’t forget about public relations as a component of your travel agency marketing plan. Clients love experts, regardless of industry, so the more you speak at events, community gatherings or are quoted in the local newspaper, the more people will view you as the expert you are.

People – Find Your Tribe

When it comes to nailing down your target market—such as young families, adventure seekers, honeymooners—think small. If you try to be everything to everyone, you won’t be anything to anyone. The finer you narrow down your search, the more effectively you can communicate with them.

Clients with niche interests are less price sensitive, because they know exactly what they want. If they recognize you as being the best person to deliver what they want, then you’re all set. Plus, as you become more of an expert in any given niche, your clients will begin referring you to their friends who share their travel passions and referrals are a terrific no cost source of new business

Value Proposition – Why You?

However, wherever, to whomever you market your services to, the essence of your message must be your personal Value Proposition. The Value Proposition is your own unique answer to this question: Why should a client buy from you rather than any of your competitors?

The more provable and concrete you answer is to that question, the stronger your Value Prop will be. If you’ve won tons of awards, visited a particular destination 18 times, are known by your clients for being reachable at any time or place they need you, have a five-star rating on Yelp, those are all important elements to build upon in defining “why you?” Once you have your Value Prop down, turn it into a 30-second elevator pitch that you have committed to memory and say with such sincerity and conviction that potential clients immediately know you’re the one!