Start-up businesses need clients — any clients! Mid-level businesses need more clients and more money. Established, successful businesses need fewer, better, higher-paying clients. But how does a home-based travel business go about getting clients? How do you get your first client? How do you get more clients? How do you get better clients? Here are some suggestions:
Tap into your past life: Most of us stay in touch with our friends and family, but what about former work colleagues, employers and mentors. Let these people from your past know that you have started a business and that they played a role in your success and current endeavors. You’d be surprised how willing they may be to give you their travel business and how helpful they may be in connecting you with potential new clients.
Ask for work: Referrals are the number one way that home-based agents can find more clients. Sometimes referrals just happen. A client who likes how you handled his or her vacation refers you to a friend, which is great. But if that’s the only way that you get referrals, you may be missing some opportunities. Each time you complete a trip for a client, you should gently ask something like: “Is there anything else that I can do for you, or do you know anyone else who could use my services?” You’d be surprised how this can increase the number of clients you can get.
Tell your story: Every home-based agent has a story of how they got into the travel industry. It’s the story of what the business means to you, how you got started and why you are the best at what you do. Too often agents let this story go untold. Make sure that your website and promotional material reflect your story.
Stay organized: Good organization and database management can help you find leads that can be turned into prospects for your business. It’s acceptable to touch base in several friendly ways on regular intervals, such as social media, print marketing, a personal email or phone call. Keeping your name in front of your clients also helps them keep you top of mind. Also, you should know the source of where each and every client came from. Did they come from an advertisement? A referral? Another source?
Keep a good reputation: Aspire to be the best at what you do. Your reputation is vital to finding new business. Be aware of what you say both online and in person. I remember once that I got caught up in a small bit of road rage, honking and shaking my fist at a person who cut me off. Later that evening at a networking event I was introduced to a person who recognized my business name…from my personalized license plates. Whoops! And please make sure you separate your personal and business Facebook accounts and other social media outlets. Do you really want your clients to see your pictures from last year’s Halloween party?
Be part of your community: Any business can sponsor a Little League or pitch in with a local charity for the advertising value, but it's important to remember that these events are as much about making yourself a part of the community as they are about getting your name out there. Doing good work as a business makes customers aware not only of your business, but how you use it.
Strike now when the time is right: Many may observe that travel clients and prospects are a bit cool now because of the economy has not fully bounced back yet. But that's exactly why you want to get in front of new potential clients now. By holding client events during this time, you are increasing the chance that the prospects you ultimately meet and cultivate view you more favorably than their own travel agent who's not being visible or holding such client events.
Get out from behind your computer: Talking to three people a day about your business is great, but only one of those conversations should be electronic! You need to do your research, find out where your ideal clients go to network, learn and grow their businesses—and you need to go there, too! If your ideal customers are teachers or educators, you need to participate in educational conferences. Or check out Meetup.com and you will see that there is a meet-up group for just about any group of like-minded people. Know where your target market is hanging out and go where they are.