Over the past few weeks I hope you have taken some time to reflect on 2018 to determine what worked and what didn’t in your travel business. Did you make as much money as you’d like? Did you work with clients you love? Do you feel confident your marketing was effective for you?
Now is the time to make tweaks and course-correct. If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten. If it is working, great! If it isn’t, time to try something new. But don’t make change for the sake of change. Be strategic about it! Here are a few areas I suggest you examine to see if changes are needed for 2019 to be the best year yet.
Evaluate Your Client List. Your client list is the most valuable asset you have. It is both clients who have booked with you, and those prospects that you hope will book with you in the future. To be as beneficial as possible to your business that list needs to grow and you need to nurture it. How do you grow it? There are lots of ways, but you should definitely be using social media to increase that list. But be clear: it isn’t enough to have likes and followers. You need those people on your email list. (If you don’t have an email list, that’s the first problem to fix.) Consistently focus on growing that list. If that list isn’t growing, you are setting yourself up for a decline in business.
Evaluate Your Social Media Strategy. The most important role your social media plays is to get people on your client list. Most often that means to drive people to your website where they sign up for your newsletter/ezine. To reach as many people as possible you should share great content on social media – not just vendor promotions. Limit your promotion of vendor events or deals to 20% or less of your posts. The rest of the time should be spent educating and inspiring your followers. Impress them what you know and educate them on why they should book with you. This makes it far more likely they want to hear from you and will sign up for your email list.
Evaluate What You’re Selling. One way you have control over how much money you are making is by directions who you are booking with. Clients don’t always dictate the vendor you use for their booking – even with cruises! So, take a look at your yield for this year and see what you are making with each vendor. Yield is the actual percentage of commission you make on a booking. The commission rate might be 16%, but the yield might be closer to 10% or 12% because not every portion of the booking is commissionable. Even vendors who pay the same commission rate might have different yields because some have more non-commissionable charges. Knowing how yield differs between the vendors you work with is very helpful to maximizing your income on bookings. And if you are selling a lot with a vendor with a low yield, talk to your host agency about other options.
Evaluate How Much You Are Putting in Your Pocket. The benefits of affiliating with a host agency are numerous, but increased commission is one of those. While you might earn 10% working under your own credentials, you can easily make 15%, 18% or more if you are affiliated with a host agency. But there is a cost to hosting. In most cases, the increased commission far outpaces the cost. But it is a good idea to revisit your hosting agreement and make sure you’re on the right plan. For instance, if you are selling $300,000 per year at an average yield of 12% and you are on an 80/20 plan with no annual fee and no monthly fee, you probably think that’s a great deal because you aren’t “paying” anything for hosting. But in reality, your hosting is costing you $7,200 per year. That’s a lot of money! If you move to another plan you could put a lot more money in your pocket. For instance, at Gifted Travel Network our 90/10 plan costs $69.99 per month and there is a $399 annual fee. That means on annual sales of $300,000 with average commission of 12% you would pay $1,238.88. That means almost $6,000 more goes into YOUR pocket! It pays to revisit your commission level periodically and make sure it makes sense for where your business is now and where you want to grow. If it doesn’t make sense, ask your host agency for a new plan. And if there isn’t one, look at other hosts. (If you want to know more about Gifted Travel Network, just email me firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Remember, if you want to make your travel business financially successful you have to focus on the business side of travel – not just the fun travel stuff. And just like any business a travel business requires regular care and feeding. That care and feeding falls to you, so put on your CEO hat and set the stage for a great 2019!