Sell Yourself First!
By Jack Mannix
April 24, 2011 11:45 PM
You probably don’t consider automobile dealers to be great marketing and sales role models. But there is at least one thing we can learn from them: how to sell ourselves, not just the product. Whether you thrive, or even survive in this business will, to some degree, depend on your ability to let the customer know why they should buy from you.
Think about local car dealer ads. They spend very little time selling the vehicle. They assume you’re already interested in that Ford or Jaguar. They spend most of their precious airtime or ad space selling you on why you should buy that car from them.
Price, service, marketplace longevity, best selection, love their customers, hometown boys, convenient location and/or hours? They’re all legitimate value propositions but the point is that they’re differentiating themselves from other Ford or Jaguar dealers and creating a sense of urgency to buy now. You should do the same.
Most of you have probably sent out print or electronic marketing imbedded with gorgeous pictures of destinations and travel products. Sometimes it’s a formally-dressed, good looking, well-tanned (and annoyingly slim) couple clinking champagne glasses on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean sunset. The accompanying copy extols the incredible virtues of the destination and the product.
Of course your marketing has to be inviting and visually appealing, but 95 percent of the time there is virtually no information about you and your skills (your address and phone are not enough). If the customer finds the destination or product attractive, are they equally clear that the only intelligent way to purchase such travel is by calling you? That will only happen when you market your story, not just the supplier’s product. Here’s what you need to do:
Determine your unique positioning: If you can’t describe what’s unique or unusual about yourself, it’s impossible to effectively communicate a compelling message about why the prospect should buy from you. What’s great or unusual about you? What do you do (or know) better than anyone? What’s truly different about what you do? Will it pass the consumer’s “so what?” test?
Invest in your image: Being a home-based agent doesn’t relieve you of the obligation to be a professional. Do you dress like an executive? Does your website look like one of the many basic templates or does it portray you as a professional? Are your business cards on good stock and professionally printed or did you print them yourself on that printer you’ve been meaning to replace? Do you carry a BlackBerry or other device to ensure your customer can reach you anytime? Do you have a CRM product to track your contacts whether they are in-person, telephonic, electronic or otherwise? Do you have a postage meter? Businesses don’t use stamps. Spend some money to look the part!
Market yourself to the right customer: Exclusively pursue the customer who needs you and promote only those products you want to sell. The longer and more complex the vacation, the more your customers are apt to require your expertise, so be sure that you’re promoting your unique capabilities as well as the product or destination. Get more comfortable selling premium and luxury products.
Make yourself the local expert: You can market and sell anywhere on the planet, but most business is still relatively local or regional. Other than top 10 market media, most media outlets are hungry for content. Find the editor or producer who handles travel stories at your local paper or television station. Introduce yourself. Tell them about your experience and let them know you would be delighted to help them. Keep in touch, sending occasional notes about relevant or intriguing topics. Respond immediately when they do call since they’re likely under deadline. If you’re knowledgeable and responsive, they will call you semi-regularly. It’s free, priceless exposure and it validates you as the travel expert.
Leverage social media, but don’t abandon the basics: Handwritten notes stand out since very few actually send them. Mail a relevant newspaper article to a prospect (or email an electronic version). A brief but informative monthly newsletter will enable you to remain in touch while promoting yourself. Call people! The all-important personal relationship will grow exponentially faster if you speak to your prospects at least quarterly. Use any contact opportunity to at least subtly remind them why they should purchase travel from you. The purpose of your marketing is to get the customer to buy from you, not to highlight a particular travel product or destination.
Jack E. Mannix, CTC, is head of his own consulting firm, Jack E. Mannix & Associates (www.jackemannix.com). He also serves as chairman of The Travel Institute. You can reach him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.This column is adapted from one appearing in the April 2011 issue of Agent@ Home magazine.