(Excerpt from SMP Training's eMagazine: Travel Agency Manager)
Each day every day when I check the social media landscape across the travel trade my heart goes out to travel agency managers who are encouraged to wrestle with the digital monster. So many social channels, so little time. So many gurus, so many ideas. So many facts, stats and metrics and no time to fathom. Here’s the no-fluff take on social media when it comes to SELLING retail travel. Closing the sale is the outcome every travel agency manager needs and wants - but get it straight: no social network / channel is going to do that for you. Only YOU can close the sale.
You will read of fantastic social media promotions and competitions across all known social networks and various spin-off and niche channels too. Many of these promotions are run by travel trade and leisure based businesses who own their products be they seats, beds, or berths. A competition, an enter to win, means you are spending money, not generating it. Understand the psyche of FREE and you'll know that as a typical travel agency, you should not be involved in giving away a $2,000 trip in the hope of a huge deluge of bookings. Never happens. Been there, spent that.
You can however create a promotion that happens once a customer is paid up and heading out on a group tour. You have a captured audience of 45 people on that coach for instance and that's when you talk about your Best Photo of the Tour contest. All tour participants are to upload their best photo to your Facebook page AND theirs. All entrants get $50 off their next trip with you and the winner gets... you fill in the blank. In this way, you've sold the group, spiced up the journey, added a social media promotion using consumer content that will push market you and go viral amongst their social pals. When those "me-too" social connections make the click, call, or walk in - now you've got a prospect to close. Plus you sold some futures based on the $50 participation giveaway – perhaps ten in all - out of which three may be redeemed. Not a bad return.
Check the social sites of your suppliers as they are selling big time. Sure they have the money and the time and talent to create the warm and fuzzy promotions, but they are also well focused on closing the sale, with you or without you. The difference for you as a travel agent is that you have to emphasize the reasons why YOU are the best in town. Attract inquiries and then turn on that well honed sales know-how to end the socializing with a booking.
Remember when that famous slogan was created to battle back against the Internet - “Travel agents are still the BEST Search
Engine!" Nothing has changed and that slogan is still an excellent banner to wave. Why not use a similar slogan to wake your clients up to the fact that you are also and still, the best link, best social connection to all their travel needs, be it information or booking. Perhaps you can play with the term I created for one of my workshops called: 'facebooking'... Make a Facebooking today and (you can fill in the rest).
I preach the BIG FOUR - email, website, Facebook and YouTube. Put your social promotions through these channels and ask your social clients to pass on your information, send it viral, to tell their friends, refer your agency, play it forward and you will generate response.
Email has often be reported as the most robust of social media tools and I concur. For many travel agents, email is all you need from the digital tool box. That and a very nice, fully functional website. The combination of email and website can be the best social media marketing duo if you learn how to use them well. For email that means using well written, compelling words that sell, to HTML templates with embedded video tools and links to your website and all the time asking the client to click, call, visit or Skype.
Your website should do you justice and support your talents, knowledge and expertise. It too should also ask for the booking. Your website is actually the hub for all your blended (social and traditional) marketing activities. Excite your clients to visit your website and from there to your email, telephone or office. Always ask for the sale. Unless you have the bank account to support your socializing you do not have time, as a travel agent to play nice for months on end. Turn your social attention to monetizing your socializing and CLOSE!