Travel Tag

As a travel advisor, you wear many hats. In today’s day and age, it’s not enough to be a great travel advisor in terms of knowing and selling destinations. You must also think as a business owner with a plan and strategy on how you wish to grow your business. Of course, one size does not fit all.

Most of you understand the importance of having a plan and strategy but may not know how to make it a reality – you’re not alone.

From my perspective, the best place to start is with your passion and interests. Then, start with understanding who your target customer is and what products they will want to buy. You may have gone through this exercise some time ago, but it’s always good to dust off that plan and reevaluate it to ensure it’s producing the results you seek. For others, you’re not quite there yet.

I, along with a team of marketing executives and industry leaders, would love to try and help you take your marketing plan to the next level. This summer, we’re bringing back a Magellan award-winning event that will give you the tools, knowledge and components of a good marketing plan. This three-day event is aimed at all levels of expertise and designed to dive deeper than the basics of marketing. You’ll leave Marketing with your own marketing plan that is developed and ready to put into practice.

At this symposium, you’ll work with experts on:

  • Learning the components of what makes a strong marketing plan, and work on your own unique marketing plan
  • How to build your brand
  • Mining your database
  • Maximizing your marketing with Nexion and Travel Leaders Group tools
  • Social media and online strategy
  • Leveraging public relations
  • Planning and executing consumer events
  • Budgeting and measuring return on investment
  • Making yourself retainable and relatable

One of my mantras is “It’s important to work on your business and not just in it.” You may not fully understand what I mean by that. Working in your business equates to the day-to-day tasks you do as an advisor – making bookings, taking final payments, accounting, for example. Growing your business means also taking time to work ON it, and a lot of this centers around marketing.

Everything Nexion Travel Group does in terms of education, coaching and specialty events adds value in making you the most effective, efficient and profitable travel advisor you can be. This event is personally important to me, because I truly believe that as much as anything we do, this program will prepare you to take your business to the next level by giving you the tools, knowledge and confidence to develop and execute on a marketing plan that is relevant to you and your business.

I invite you to spend three days with me and our experts at Marketing, who are there solely with the purpose to make you successful marketers. It’s going to be a phenomenal event, and I am excited to see the inspiring and lucrative ideas and plan of action that our advisors will put into place and execute from their learnings. To attend, you must be a member of Nexion Travel Group.

All travel professionals interested in learning how to succeed as a professional business owner, backed by Nexion Travel Group’s many great benefits, are encouraged to call 800-747-6813 or email sales@nexion.com.

 

Written by Jackie Friedman, Nexion Travel Group President

 

credibilityDo you want to increase your credibility and expertise in your travel specialty or niche? Do you want to reach new audiences, find new clients and create new business opportunities for your travel business?

Are you not sure of the formula for success or even where to start? Keep reading to learn how to go from zero to hero and market yourself as an expert in your travel specialty without having to spend a penny.

Recently, I attended an entrepreneurship workshop in Fort Lauderdale with a talented group of new and experienced business owners. One of the guest speakers was a gentleman by the name of Bruce Serbin, an award-winning media publicist serving clients in a variety of fields, from financial services and the travel industry to book authors, business consultants, professional speakers and everything in between.

expertFrom this workshop I gained 12 best practices you can implement today to build your reputation and credibility as an expert in your travel agency niche or specialty:

    1. Make a list of experts and journalists who regularly cover your travel specialty. Be sure to look at radio, television, newspapers, social media and online blogs. If your specialty is honeymoons and destination weddings, look at the number of people who are regularly featured in your area of expertise. Make a list of those specialists. Second, make a list of the journalists who covered these specialists; this will be one of your go-to lists of publications and people you will need to develop relationships with to establish your credibility.
    2. Be an expert. Don’t make it about you; make it about your expertise. Begin to chronicle the trips you have planned, hosted and executed for your clients in your niche and collect testimonials and reviews from those clients.
    3. Stop writing press releases. Press releases are typically meant for new product launches, new business launches and other innovative and newsworthy topics. They are not intended to be written for your business in general. If you do this, the press releases will get lost and probably won’t be published.
    4. Develop your pitch. You need to have a solid pitch for each area of expertise you want to develop for your business or hot topics that are trending in your market niche. Components of a successful pitch include:
      Introduction/Lead: Why are you contacting me?
      Define who you are: Why are you a good source? Indicate number of years as an expert, any high-level positions you may have, positions on boards of directors, etc.
      Articulate your thoughts: What do you have to say about your expertise? What can you offer on the topic that’s trending
      Always include the close: The close must include your mobile number, email address, website and social media handles.
    5. Learn the different types of pitches. Great places to start include:
      – Knowledge and insights: Share your knowledge and insights around your specialty or niche.
      – Breaking news: Selling “you” around existing events as an expert.
      – Predictions: What do you see in 5-10 years?
      – Leverage HARO (stands for Help a Reporter Out): This is a website of journalists looking for experts on a specific topic.
      – Breaking Myths: Focus on common travel-related myths and what the truth is to bust the myth.
    6. thought leaderBe a thought leader. Draft a pitch as a thought leader versus a follower in your specialty. Offer fresh new ideas, and say what others are not saying (entertain a controversial headline).
    7. Be flexible. People may reach out to you to for an interview on a topic that you may not think of yourself as an expert at first glance.
    8. Size doesn’t matter. It’s all about earned media and credibility. A blogger with a smaller following could be more beneficial for you than a major media outlet from a conversion perspective. Take advantage of every opportunity, and remember that smaller opportunities can lead to bigger opportunities.
    9. Write an article. Write an opinion piece on a topic where people are split down the middle 50/50; you will see traction online. Keep it about the benefits for your readers (9 ways to reduce travel stress, or 7 questions to answer when planning your next family vacation, for example).
    10. Expect rejection. Keep at it; if you are working on 10 new media opportunities, you will be lucky to have one “yes” come to fruition. Remember, there are many people pitching to media outlets.
    11. Get media trained. If you’re serious about being covered on radio and television (even if it’s local coverage), be sure to invest in proper media training to ensure your credibility comes across on camera and over the radio.
    12. Leverage your media coverage. Be sure to leverage your media coverage in everything you do. Have a media page on your website, include a link on your subject line in your email and on your social media channels, and in your phone and in-person conversations (Did you hear about our agency on the local CBS news the other night?).

With your pitches, remember to publish them on your website. Journalists can pick these up and write articles from the pitches you publish, making it easier for them. Remember to pitch on the long side. If your pitch is longer in word length, it will be less gaps for journalists to fill when they go to write the article.

If you use some of these PR secrets in your travel business, you will find success in the media and new business opportunities. Whether you are a travel agent who is new to the business, or you’re an experienced travel agent, using the media can be your engine and fuel for growth and reach new audiences and build new business opportunities in your travel business.

 

Written by Cris De Souza, Nexion Vice President, Sales and Marketing

 

We’ve all heard the term, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” This concept certainly rings true in the travel industry. Many independent contractors are business owners and are faced with the challenge of generating new customers.

To face this challenge, most travel professionals start with contacts they already know and turn them into clients. For some travel agents, this may be enough. For most, it’s necessary to be creative in how to successfully reach potential, new customers. If you’re one of these travel professionals who wants additional clients, the good news is, you don’t have to go after the search process alone.

Consider partnering with a complementary business to promote each other to your customer bases and expand your reach. The benefits of cross-marketing with complementary businesses include:

  • It expands your reach to potential customers who otherwise would not know about your travel services.
  • It provides added value to your agency by differentiating you from your competition.
  • It adds credibility to your agency through the power of referrals from trusted customers.

Tips for Finding the Right Partnerships

The best partnership relationships benefit both businesses, along with their customers; everyone wins/receives a benefit. Here are 10 tips for finding the right businesses to become successful partners:

  1. Take time and write down as many types of businesses that you can think of that may work for you and your agency.
  2. Get out and visit with owners of other businesses, both small and large. You never know what types of ideas can be generated with other successful entrepreneurs.
  3. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
  4. Seek mutually beneficial partnerships. Ask, “What are both businesses wanting to get out of the partnership?”
  5. Always budget for associated expenses. Treat these opportunities as part of your overall marketing plan costs.
  6. Be open to partnership opportunities.
  7. Look to your local chamber of commerce or business networking groups for good partners.
  8. Find businesses that cater to your target customer; is there a matched appeal or interest based on demographics or affinity/psychographics?
  9. Use social media to “trade” marketing. Once you’ve found a business partner, link to each other’s websites and social media pages to cross-promote both businesses.
  10. Be creative. The best partnerships aren’t always obvious.

On the last tip, an example of an obvious partnership would be a destination wedding and honeymoon specialist partnering with florists, bridal shops, photographers and caterers. A more subtle example would be a travel agent partnering with a doggie daycare, for example.

The doggie daycare gives pet owners a coupon for reduced day care services, courtesy of the travel agent, when the pet owner travels. The agent gains access to new, potential customers; the pet owner receives the benefit of reduced day care services, courtesy of the travel agent paying the difference; and the doggie daycare receives happy customers who have saved on their services, and thus are more likely to return. Win – win – win!

When I reached out to our Nexion members to see what they are doing to reach new clients through cross-marketing with businesses, I received many partnership success stories. Here are just a few:

  • One member is partnering with a snow removal company for winter resort travelers. “We’re putting together a flier to use on social media for cross promoting,” Gene says. “I will be offering their first snow removal (if it snows) to new clients booking winter destinations and traveling between Jan. 1 – April 30.” If it snows while the traveler is away, Gene, the travel agent, will pay for their first snow removal. “While this is a $25-$50 value, the snow removal company and business partner will only charge me $25. He gets a client for potential future snow removal and spring landscaping, and it adds credibility and differentiation to my business, because I am offering an added value of service and good will to new clients.”
  • Another Nexion travel professional partnered with a local pizza parlor to provide a coupon for a free pizza to travelers be enjoyed upon returning from vacation when they weren’t ready to start cooking yet. In turn, the pizza restaurant distributed fliers on the travel agent’s group departure with every pizza they delivered. As such, both businesses were exposed to new, potential clients.
  • Another Nexion member used the grand opening of a local Mexican restaurant to promote all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, as well as experiences such as Experiencias Xcaret. The travel agent provided the door prize, and the restaurant provided the clients.

My dad taught me that the best partnerships in business are those that when both business owners get up from the table, they have a feeling they have achieved something. Truly successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of mutual partnerships.

From art galleries, restaurants, bakeries, wine shops and wineries, to local ski apparel and equipment shops, bookstores, toy stores and more, the ideas for travel professionals to partner with complementary businesses are endless! Get creative, and you’re on your way!

 

Written by Jackie Friedman, Nexion President

 

Nothing will get you in the holiday spirit like the scent of roasted chestnuts, gingerbread and hot mulled wine, and the sight of festive holiday décor as you stroll through bustling Christmas markets across Europe – or even close to home.

Christmas Markets are essentially street markets, which are associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. Usually set up outdoors, the Christmas Markets specialize in a variety of local crafts and wares, along with tasty holiday delicacies. This is a no “mass-market” shopping experience; it’s a chance to experience a long-held holiday tradition throughout many parts of Europe. In fact, these historic markets have filled medieval town squares in late November and each December for hundreds of years.

Browse row after row of highly decorated stalls, illuminated with twinkling lights, for the perfect, one-of-a-kind gift, from hand-blown ornaments and handcrafted toys to beer steins and colorful woolen scarves.

A river cruise is an excellent way to experience the magical Yuletide season, as you’ll get to partake in multiple Christkindlmarkts, as the Christmas Markets are known. At one time, Christmas Market voyages were only offered along a handful of European rivers; today, nearly every major river cruise line offers sailings that traverse the Danube, Main, Rhine and beyond. Outside of Europe, one popular route brings you to the celebrated Mississippi River, with markets that beckon you with calliopes ringing in Christmas carols.

Christmas Market river cruising also goes well with time spent with family and loved ones. Travel logistics are handled for you, so you’re free to celebrate the season. The price for each vacation generally includes riverboat and hotel accommodations, along with most meals, entertainment and guided sightseeing. It’s quickly becoming a popular time for multi-generational families to cruise together, as these voyages are a great value and a lot of fun.

As you wander through the many markets, stay merry with these tips:

  • Bundle up in layers and wear good walking shoes. It can get a bit nippy in the outdoor air, but don’t fret – a cup of hot mulled wine and delectable gingerbread as a snack will keep you on the go along the many cobbled streets and rows of stands.
  • Visit more than one market! Depending on which city or neighborhood you are in, each Christmas market has a distinct personality – some are more traditional than others, with different music and local, handcrafted items.
  • Daytime is good; nighttime is great! The markets generally open in the afternoon, and you can peruse what’s on display. Once night falls and the lights are aglow, everything is more festive.
  • Bring small bills. Many of the stalls will accept credit cards, but it’s beneficial to bring cash. You wouldn’t want to miss getting that unique gift because plastic is a no-go.
  • For a fun memory, collect the mug. Each market boasts its own distinct ceramic mugs. Highly collectible, you might just end up with a suitcase full! (You can also return it to the vendor you bought your beverage from for a small refund.)

A trip to the Christmas Markets will have you stepping back in time to a world without big-box retailers and long lines. Don’t wait too long to contact your travel professional to book – these cruises are popular and tend to fill up fast! In fact, while you’re in the holiday spirit this year, it’s the perfect time to book your Christmas Markets vacation for next year and get the best cabin and itinerary!

 

Written by Suzanne A. Harbison, Marketing Manager at Nexion LLC

 

Inclement weather, delays and crowds – oh my! Traveling during the busy holiday season doesn’t have to weigh on your nerves or purse strings. While some things you can’t control, by following these seven holiday travel tips, you can still be well on your way to finding a boat- or plane-load of joy in your stocking.

  1. Avoid peak travel days of the week. At Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, traveling on the actual holidays is almost always cheaper than the days leading up to them. Your travel professional can help in finding you the best value.
  2. Oh, the weather outside is frightful. Weather can be unpredictable and turn ugly on a dime, so leave plenty of time between you and your destination. Check with your carrier prior to heading to the airport, and keep their app handy for gate changes and updates. Know the weather report where you’re headed, so you can pack appropriately. Getting stuck in Rockefeller Plaza in the snow with no mittens is certainly no fun.
  3. It’s a mad, mad world. Being caught in holiday traffic can be a nightmare – literally! Leave plenty of time to get to the airport, and consider taking a shuttle, car service or public transportation. Trust us; you’ll thank us later!
  4. If you’re flying, choose the right seat and flight. All airplane seats are NOT created equal – and we’re not just talking first class versus coach. Check seat and plane reviews on SeatGuru. Spending a little extra money to enjoy more leg room, priority boarding access or even lounge access can also go a long way on the ease factor. As far as timing, flying out as early in the day as possible usually means less delays.
  5. Bring comfort items for you and your travel mates. No, we’re not talking your Sherpa throw blanket and bunny slippers, but we do suggest a good book or noise canceling earphones with your favorite tunes, a sleep mask and pillow if you have a longer flight and your favorite healthy snacks. Wearing comfortable clothing completes the Zen you’re seeking.
  6. Keep it small. If you can, skip checking baggage and instead bring a carry-on to save yourself the stress of a lost suitcase. Whether you check or carry on, don’t pack gift-wrapped presents, or airport security will have a field day with them. Consider shipping gifts ahead of time, or if you must bring them, a collapsible gift bag that can be used to wrap upon arrival works nicely.
  7. Above all else, stay positive. Studies show that keeping a cheerful and optimistic attitude allows you to cope better with stressful situations. You’ve got this!

Avoid the stress and let a travel professional help you on your next holiday outing. A good travel agent, like those you’ll find at Nexion, can secure the perfect package for you that includes the best airline seats, hotel rooms and rental cars.

Written by Suzanne A. Harbison, Marketing Manager at Nexion LLC

 

It’s important to get the right foundation to be a successful travel agent. For four years, Travel Leaders of Tomorrow (a Travel Leaders company and sister company to travel host agency Nexion) has been training the industry’s newest travel professionals with its Virtual Campus travel agent training program. It’s easy: attendees get live, instructor-led virtual sessions, textbooks and a virtual study group of classmates. A new study group starts approximately every six weeks throughout the year. But sometimes, prospective travel agents need something else – something even more flexible. That’s why Travel Leaders of Tomorrow introduced the Independent Learner travel agent training program.

This program includes high-quality, online lessons, as well as quizzes for the aspiring travel agents to test their understanding and retention of the course material. Travel Leaders of Tomorrow instructors are available via email for guidance, and one coaching session is included. Independent Learners can move at their own pace, and the courses are available to them for six months.

You might want the Independent Learner track if you:

  • Want a highly flexible training program with no study group or class commitments
  • Have a good idea of the areas of specialization for your prospective travel business
  • Are looking for a more economical option
  • Have heavy career or family commitments that would make it difficult to be in a regularly scheduled study group
  • Want to get started on your training but just can’t make the time or financial commitment just now for the Virtual Campus training program

“The travel business is as robust as ever, and the Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program intends to infuse it with fresh energy and talent, which will continue to sustain it for years to come,” says Nexion President Jackie Friedman.

The entire Independent Learner travel agent training program is being offered by Travel Leaders of Tomorrow for $495. Students also have the option to buy textbooks and take the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test for an additional fee. If you’re already affiliated with Travel Leaders Group, please ask us about our discount program. Participants who decide to upgrade to the Virtual Campus travel agent training program will get the Independent Learner fee applied to their tuition.

If you are thinking about becoming a travel agent, we’d love to talk more about which program is right for you, the Virtual Campus or Independent Learner program. Either way, Travel Leaders of Tomorrow can help set you on the path to success. Learn more about us here.

Written by Heather Kindred, Travel Leaders of Tomorrow Program Director

 

Whether you’re new or an experienced seller of travel, a major key to success for today’s modern travel professional is consistently engaging in sourcing new business, or prospecting. It’s possible to opt in to lead generation programs, and many travel professionals have found varying degrees of success with such programs. In addition, to ensure you have a solid pipeline of new business that is healthy and diversified, it’s critical to have a consistent and comprehensive prospecting plan in place.

Regardless of the industry, prospecting is the cornerstone and lifeblood of the sales process, and you wear the hat of a sales professional every day with existing and potential clients. You may have found yourself on a “prospecting rollercoaster” of sorts when you notice your business is slow. When cash flow is not where you want it, you go out and pound the pavement to drum up new business. Then, when the business starts to come in, you get caught up in the other aspects of managing your business, such as marketing, service and administration. Once again, the pipeline empties, and you jump on the same roller coaster, and the cycle starts all over again. Don’t get caught on the prospecting rollercoaster!


7 Prospecting Channels to Fill Your Sales Pipeline

As a travel sales professional, you have the responsibility to find sufficient leads that adequately fill the pipeline, convert the leads to prospects, move the prospects through the sales process and win the business. To set your travel business up for success, your strategy should include a minimum of five of the seven prospecting channels that are appropriate for your travel market niche.

Let’s take a look at these seven prospecting channels, along with the Prospecting Pyramid, and what to expect in terms of conversion rates from each channel. The activities you engage in at the bottom of the pyramid require a lot more effort and heavy lifting on your part, and conversion rates are generally on the low side.

 

 

 

1. Cold Calls:

As a travel sales professional, you call a prospect to market a new group opportunity, new travel brand, new itinerary or destination without the prospect’s prior knowledge or interest. Cold calls can be telephone calls or by physically visiting the prospect. Most times the conversion ratios are low, and sales cycles are extended. Tips for Success:

  • When contacting prospects using the cold call channel, call scripts are vitally important. They should be simple, yet concise, and address the concerns or objections your clients may have that keep them from booking their next vacation or business trip with you. At Nexion, our Business Development and Education team assists our members with crafting and customizing these scripts for their travel market niche.
  • Look at strategic partners as a way to expand your cold call database, and see if they have potential clients who may be more qualified leads for your travel agency.


 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Direct Marketing:

Direct Marketing includes the mailing of information (physical and electronic), and through the various forms of media such as radio, email, social media and print (magazine/newspaper). In direct marketing, the information should not overwhelm the prospect with too much information. Simply address their needs and inform the prospect of the destinations, group opportunity or product being offered (new itineraries for example). An advantage of social media is that daily postings can be placed on the platform that establishes credibility and keeps prospects educated on new product offerings, such as that new all-inclusive resort in Los Cabos. Tips for success:

  • With all forms of direct marketing, stay in front of your prospects consistently.
  • If you’re going to start a newsletter or a blog, be sure you make them brief and informative

3. Seminars/Workshops:

This is a great prospecting channel to use when developing your group business pipeline. Many travel professionals host these “information sessions” either in person or virtually through a webinar hosting platform. Tips for success:

  • Make these events themed (maybe by destination), interactive, fun and engaging.
  • Focus on one or two opportunities at most.
  • Have a clear call to action at the end of the event (special offer for those who deposit on a trip).
  • Keep the number of attendees smaller with a more intimate event; you will find greater success. People who engage with you more are your high-value prospects.


 

 

 

4. Networking:

This is an event in which an individual or group may create leads. It allows you, the travel sales professional, to explore in an environment with a higher probability for sales. Many networking events require less preparation and are cost-effective, which helps budgetary constraints; however, they tend to involve more personal time and effort. Networking is work! It requires a strategy. Tips for success:

  • Take the time to develop a networking pre-plan, and also go in with a game plan.
  • After the networking event, make sure you have a solid post-event, follow-up plan.
  • Always follow up within 48 hours. Remember that everyone is a prospect or a potential strategic partner that can refer you, be a resource and help in other ways.
  • Be sure to have your elevator pitch ready to go when networking. At Nexion, our Business Development and Education team partners with our members to craft a winning elevator pitch and develop a networking pre-plan and post-plan to maximize time and effectiveness.

5. Referrals:

A referral is when the name of a prospect has been given with permission to use from a third party who gave the contact information. This is a direct way of obtaining a lead to generate unsolicited business and does not cost you any marketing dollars. In the travel industry, we often call referrals “word-of-mouth” marketing. Tips for success:

  • Be confident in your product and delivery.
  • Set the expectations early with customers.
  • Believe you “deserve” them, and have a system to “help them” identify referrals for you. Nexion helps our members with a system of success.
  • Most importantly, ASK FOR IT!

 

 

 

 

 

6. Strategic Partnerships:

This channel may be new to you as a travel professional. Simply defined, a strategic partner is one who reciprocates an exchange of business on a regular basis. This core group represents a higher level of influence and is normally smaller in numbers – between six and 10 people serving similar client bases as your travel business or complimentary client bases for your business. While marketing and networking are based on the concept of building relationships, strategic partners involve clear intent and sharing an integral part of the same value system, including trust, integrity and ultimately leading to mutually beneficial outcomes. This prospecting channel can provide 95% of the closure ratio, if qualified. Tips for Success:

  • The 80/20 Pareto Principle asserts that 80% of results come from 20% of effort. Thus, to achieve more with less, you must be selective, not exhaustive.
  • Develop strategic partnerships that can take 20% of efforts and lead to 80% of your new business! At Nexion, we work with our members in a systematic way to identify these strategic partnerships as a core component of their travel sales mix.

7. Quality Introductions:

When a strategic partner or someone refers you face to face, it creates a quality introduction. Often as a travel sales professional, you won’t ask for this type of introduction; however, this personal introduction builds instant credibility and has the highest close ratios. In cases where all parties are not in the same geographical area, the same process can be done via phone or by using other technology. Tips for Success:

  • As a travel sales professional, address your beliefs regarding asking for personal introductions. Most sales professionals are gracious for the referral, and the process typically stops there.
  • Asking for the quality introduction can shorten the sales cycle and increase the closing ratios.

To take advantage of all these prospecting channels, whether you’ve been a travel professional for three months or seven years, take some time and look at your new business during the past year. Do an exercise and identify what percentage of your business has come from each of these prospecting channels.

What do you see? What does this tell you? Do you need more strategic partners? Do you need to engage in more networking? Is your new sales pipeline too heavy in one channel, and does that present a risk to your travel business?

An honest appraisal of where you’ve been spending your time prospecting and where you need to spend your time will accelerate your sales and dramatically increase the return on your invested time!

To have an effective prospecting plan, your travel business should always be engaged in at least five out of seven prospecting channels to be successful. The more time you spend at the top of the pyramid, the more efficient and effective your sales efforts are going to be! At Nexion, we work with our travel sales professionals on optimizing their prospecting plan to accelerate their sales and save them time and money.

Written by Cris De Souza, Nexion Vice President, Sales & Marketing

 

I have the opportunity regularly to meet with suppliers and talk about what is working and what’s most effective with travel professionals who want to grow their business. One of the top three reasons suppliers consistently give for success is hosting a consumer event.

Consumer nights are a great way to connect customers interested in what you’re selling travel-wise to you, the travel professional; it establishes you as the expert. Travel agents who take the initiative to host a consumer night for their clients and potential clients to expose them to a particular product or travel style will certainly be one step ahead, and now is the perfect time to start planning your event, as CLIA Plan-a-Cruise-Month is in October.

Consumer nights (which can be held any time during the day or night) can be very rewarding in terms of driving results but take careful planning and execution. Let’s look at five essentials of hosting a successful consumer event:

1. Determine the Type of Event You Want to Have

Hosting a successful consumer event starts with determining the type of event you want to have. Your theme is a crucial element of success. It needs to be appealing and relatable to the attendees – the consumers while also bringing in the type of clients you wish to do business with. Finding an appropriate venue is part of this process.

Some questions to ask yourself to help you get started include:

  • Do you have a particular group you’re trying to promote or book?
  • Do you want to do the event on a certain style of travel, such as river cruising?
  • Do you want to hold a small event with just one or two speakers (yourself included), or will a trade show format work better?
  • Is there a place where a group of people meet that you can bring the consumer night to them, such as a country club, church, senior center, neighborhood community center, etc.?

When considering venues, ask yourself:

  • Is there a good Wi-Fi connection?
  • Is it the right size?
  • Does it offer catering, or will you need to bring food and beverage in?
  • Is it easily accessible?
  • Is there a charge to rent/use the space?

If you’ve never held a consumer night before, start small. It could be hosting 10-12 people at a local Mexican restaurant or having nachos and quesadillas in your backyard to talk about all-inclusive resorts.

No matter what your theme or purpose of your event, you’ll want to ensure the experience mirrors the theme. For example, if you’re promoting luxury travel, the venue, food and beverage and overall experience should also emulate luxury.


2. Find the Right Clients to Attend

Next, you’ll want to find the appropriate consumers to attend your event. Here’s how:

    • Be targeted. Go into it knowing exactly the type of client you want to invite and the type of products/product that would be of most interest to those clients. If you’re not sure, engage some of your clients or people you meet and ask them about what they want when it comes to travel. If informal conversations aren’t getting you the results you seek, then try sending a survey, posting to social media or bringing in a pied piper. Travel professionals who engage a targeted group prior to the event to find out what they want and then plan that event around that particular need – whether it’s learning about a supplier or travel niche/style – are typically more successful than setting something up and hoping people will come. The “Build It and They Will Come” approach does not apply to consumer nights!
    • Be specific. The broader your target audience, the harder it will be to produce a successful event and attract attendees to come. Segmenting your database is a best practice (not only for consumer events but in general). Search your client CRM for customers based on travel or interest, and use this to invite to the event. For example, Alaska cruises is a frequent hot topic that consumers want to learn more about. If you’ve kept track of who has Alaska on their bucket list in your CRM, you can easily invite them to an event touching on this subject. Don’t have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program to segment and query your clients? Nexion can help!
    • Be “them.” People will only attend your event if it’s clear what’s in it for them, so always have this in the forefront when planning. What will they learn? What will they come away with after attending?
    • Be cognizant. Ensure you know where to find the consumers you want to attend and how to promote the event to them through various marketing channels.


3. Partner for Best Success

The good thing about hosting a consumer night is you don’t have to do it alone! Supplier partner Business Development Managers (BDMs) can often assist with co-op and/or attending the event to speak, depending on the scope and size. Here are some things to think about when choosing event partners:

  • Have you determined your event budget, and are there partnerships to help offset costs, such as supplier co-op? (Nexion has a co-op process in place to assist.) Remember, it’s up to you to do your homework on the expected outcome of the event and show suppliers what they can expect in return from their co-op investment.
  • Which suppliers do you want to partner with on your event? Unless you’re holding your event on a large scale, be targeted and focused.
  • If you’re going to have more than one supplier attend, have a theme. For example, if you’re promoting family travel for your event theme, consider having one tour operator, one cruise line and one specializing in family activities.
  • If you plan to give away prizes at your event, be realistic. Suppliers are usually willing to give away promotional items, but it is not realistic for them to give away free trips. Prizes should also be relevant to your overall theme, so plan ahead.
  • Don’t know where to start? BDMs can help you organize, order collateral and execute a successful consumer event. Take advantage of their expertise!
  • In addition to supplier partners, don’t forget about your community partners. They can help when locating a no- to low-cost venue, for example. Are there cross-promotional opportunities, such as partnering with an Italian restaurant to promote an Italy trip? Consider partners you can pair up with to cover part of the costs, while you promote their venue in the event marketing.


4. Don’t Forget the Details

Now that you’ve got the bulk of the hard work squared away, you can focus on the details of the event to ensure it’s a smashing success. Just a few things on your checklist:

  • Where are you going to hold the event? (When finding the right venue, be aware of cost minimums. Remember that venues don’t have to cost money; be creative.)
  • When will you have the event?
  • What content are you going to deliver during the event? Are you giving a presentation? Is a supplier presenting?
  • What materials do you need? Are you promoting a unique departure?
  • How are you going to market the event to attract attendees?
    • One idea is to create an evite to RSVP, which also sends reminders.
    • Don’t forget the power of personal invitations – a personal message sent through social media or even a handwritten note goes a long way.
    • What resources does the event venue have for communicating the event? For example, if you’re holding at your church, what methods are available of communicating to members? Consider time dependencies and deadlines associated with the frequency of these promotions.
    • Set up an event on your business Facebook page and through social media.
  • What are you going to do once people get there; how are you going to engage them?
  • What will you serve? Appetizers or a meal? Beverages?
  • When promoting a specific group for your consumer night, look at key dates associated with the group, such as when you have to give back unused space, to determine planning time and when you’ll need to hold the event.


5. Measure Results

Congratulations! With these tested methods, I’m certain you’re on your way to booking some exceptional travel for new and existing clients! However, take a moment to measure the results of your event, and follow up as necessary.

  • Have realistic expectations for your event. Is your goal to obtain three new clients? Book two vacations from information or promos presented? Measure your results, but keep in mind that bookings may not come right away.
  • Find a way to keep in touch with the event attendees. At the event, have a way to capture their interest so you have a way to follow up. (A raffle where they give you their information to be entered into a prize drawing is an easy approach.) Note: It’s important that you capture their interest during the event, but do not try to book them. You want to spend the right amount of time with them on their individual booking, which is best done following the event. Consider having a “save your spot” capture form they complete versus booking. This will also protect you with consumer protection rules in place by the Federal Trade Commission. At the same time, you want to give them something as a “thank you” for attending – again, it’s the “what’s in it for them” approach. This could be an early booking discount, reduced deposit or whatever extra thing will help close the sale during your appointment.
  • Make sure you’re ready to answer inquiries after the event. Don’t forget the power of social media – check to see if any attendees posted from the event or shared any feedback.

Now that you have the tools and resources to hold your best consumer night ever, plan to hold at least one consumer night a year – it can be as complex or simple as you want to make it – and see your bookings soar.

Written by Jackie Friedman, Nexion President

It’s never a good situation when you miss a flight when connecting somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re leaving or heading back home, delays in flights that cause misconnection are nothing we want to face. From a travel professional perspective, there are things you can do to protect your clients:

  1. Check the itinerary to ensure the legal minimum connecting time is met.
  2. Check to ensure there is no change of airports, such as getting to Heathrow LHR and getting a connection in LGW London Gatwick to move forward with an intra-Europe flight.
  3. Ensure that connections are purchased in the same ticket to allow baggage transfer.
  4. Use your own knowledge about the connecting airport, or do some research regarding distance between terminals and how easy it is to go from one to the other. Consider your passengers’ age and any physical limitations. For example, it’s not the same to go from terminal A to F if a passenger is young and athletic versus if a passenger is a mother with two, small children or if the passenger needs wheelchair assistance.
  5. If possible avoid tight connections, giving extra time to guarantee the connection will occur.
  6. Have alternate flights handy in case the connection is lost, which will shorten your time when dealing with the airline with a last-minute request.
  7. Let your passengers know that most times the airline will be able (if willing) to protect them on the next available flight, but the next flight could be the following day.
  8. Nobody is under control of delays due to weather conditions. When the season is known to be tough, suggest to book longer connection times.
  9. Prior to any trip, ensure you review details carefully and ensure involuntary schedule changes have not interfered in your original booking and connecting times.
  10. Contact your passenger to refine details and wish them a good trip!

 

Booking air has never been simpler than through SNAP!, available with your Nexion membership. Contact us today to find out more.

Written by Alejandra Alexanian on the Nexion SNAP! team

Summertime is just about here, and just like your clients, it’s a popular time for travel professionals to go on vacation. We know you do the best to take care of your clients’ vacation needs, but have you thought about everything you need to do before YOU go on vacation or are out of the office for an extended period of time? Here are some best practices to ensure your business stays on track when you’re out of the office:

  1. It may seem basic, but it happens … Ensure your clients know your name and have your contact information.
  2. Ensure you have coverage if you’re unavailable and notify your clients with a courtesy call or via email if you’re going on vacation or will be out of the office for an extended period of time.
  3. Buddy up with another agent who can handle emergencies while you’re out. Nexion members are great at helping each other and Nexion also has a Buddy System in place to help members in need find other members who can assist clients or potential clients.
  4. Before you head out on vacation, run a query of customers who may have deadlines coming up for final payment, booking option dates, group finalization deadlines, etc.
  5. Be sure to update outgoing voice mail or recording messages when you’re unavailable. If possible, forward your phone, or leave information on who will be covering for you in your absence, as well as the dates of your absence.
  6. If you’re going to be unable to access and respond to email, be sure to leave an “Out of Office” auto reply, if you use Outlook, or similar message with other email programs. This lets your clients know your whereabouts and who to contact in your absence.

Now that you have your clients’ covered, you can relax and enjoy YOUR well-deserved vacation.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or new to the travel industry, the difference is clear. Joining Nexion – a powerhouse host agency backed by Travel Leaders Group – is the best business decision you can make.

Written by Suzanne A. Harbison, Nexion Marketing Manager, and Traci Cummings, Manager of Member Services