Mistake #1: Failing to Pick a Specialty
Anyone who has been in the travel industry for more than a minute has heard people talk about picking a specialty or finding a niche. Why is it so important? Because it drives your marketing and how you communicate your value. Let’s be honest: Saying, “I’m a travel agent” doesn’t communicate anything to most people. You will probably get the, “Is that still a thing?” response from many people. Others will say, “OK” and move on. That’s probably why so many agents are calling themselves something else: travel advisor, vacation curator, travel concierge – you get the idea. What they are really trying to say is: I’m different! I’m not just a booking agent! I provide service and value.
That is a very important message to get across. But the most effective way to do it is by focusing on a market that you can serve to a high level. There are lots of specialties, but the secret is to find one that is a strong fit for you. Don’t pick a specialty because it is something you think will be profitable, or pick the one your friend chose. You need to feel a calling to your specialty.
This all ties into the reason your specialty is so important: it drives your marketing. Just promoting, “I’m a travel agent” will not get you anywhere. You might have a little success, but long-term it does not lead to a profitable business.
Mistake #2: Focusing Too Much on Vendor Training
One of the great things about the travel industry is that the vendors you work with do a great job of providing training on their products. They are really good at it! But here’s the truth: All the product knowledge in the world won’t get you clients. And without someone to sell to you don’t have a business – you have a hobby.
So before you jump into another vendor course ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time and energy?” Instead could you be doing something to build your client list? Or reaching out to prospective clients. Or attending a networking function? Sitting at home behind a computer taking training courses does not build your client list. Spend 20% or less of your time on product training and fams. That’s it. Sure it is fun, but you do NOT need to know a product inside out to sell it. That’s an excuse we tell ourselves to keep from doing other types of activities that aren’t as fun for most people: like list building, networking, and marketing.
Mistake #3: Relying Too Much on Family & Friends
For 99% of the agents out there, your friends and family are not enough to get your business off the ground. Here is the marketing strategy I often hear from people getting into the industry: “I will promote my new travel business to my family, close friends, and reach out to all my friends on social media. All these people will book their travel with me and then refer others.” I am sorry to have to tell you, but that doesn’t work that way for the vast majority of new agents.
And here is another thing that many experienced agents will share with you: You may not want to work with friends and family. For many agents they turn out to be the WORST clients ever. “Cheap”, “picky”, “high-maintenance”, “annoying”, and “unappreciative” are all ways I have heard agents describe their friends and family who have booked with them!
Instead, focus on that ideal client who needs your guidance in your specialty instead!
Mistake #4: Trying to Do it Alone
The great thing about working in travel is that you can work from home or anywhere else. One of the most challenging things about that is that you are so often isolated. Just because you aren’t physically surrounded by colleagues doesn’t mean you can’t be virtually surrounded by them. And you should be!
Going it completely alone is so much harder than being part of a community. That community can take lots of forms. Your host agency, other agents who work in your area, and other agents in your specialty who are spread out across the country can still be your “community”. The point is that you need a community to inspire you, learn from, and help keep you going.
For more than 1,000 agents, GIFTE is that community. They learn from one another, share ideas, and get resources. No matter what form it takes, make sure you find a community of people who are your people! You will be more successful and will enjoy the journey so much more!