In a recent article, CNNmoney.com cites a report from brokerage firm Credit Suisse that notes that brick-and-mortar stores are closing at a record pace in 2017.
Whether it's due to shoppers turning to online giants such as Amazon or simply a reflection of a cash-strapped middle class, one thing is clear to any small-business owner - the way to survive in an uber-competitive market is by establishing (and branding) oneself as the leader in a given niche.
As any successful travel professional knows, long gone are the days when you could be an all-purpose travel agency and sit back and wait for clients to walk through the doors. Today's most successful travel agents, like those at Funjet Vacations, have carved out a purpose-driven niche, set about establishing their agency as the best provider of those services, and then made sure that every piece of marketing reinforced that fact.
If you're saying to yourself "I already serve a niche, thanks," ask yourself whether you have seen business waning. If so, it might be time to take another look to see if your branding (and niche) need tweaking. For example, if you have a loyal following among new retirees, consider adding travel options for grandparents that may appeal to them as their children begin having families of their own.
However, if you're still trying to be a jack-of-all-trades or just having trouble getting the word out about your specialty, it's time to get to work.
First things first. If you haven't already, figure out what niche you want to serve. Don't know where to start? Do some homework, and check up on the competition. Look around to see what other agencies are doing and more importantly, what they're not. Under-served markets are a great way to jump in and make a name for yourself. What customer demographics mesh with your proposed niche? Will you be targeting young professionals? Families? Upper-income couples?
Then, think about what it is you love to do. Is there a destination or a type of travel you are passionate about? Look for ways to marry the two, so if you're a big fan of cruises consider selling nothing but family cruises or cruises targeting the LGBT market or even cruises that ply a certain geographical area, such as river cruises in Europe.
Next, suss out your target audience and determine what messages will resonate with them. Try building out sample profiles of these imaginary customers including income, employment and lifestyle choices (i.e., city-dwellers, long work days, active).
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Regardless of what niche you select, create an internal positioning message that reflects it. A good place to start is with The Cult Branding Co.'s outline: For [target customers], [company name] is the [market definition] that delivers [brand promise] because only [company name] is [reason to believe].
Make sure that your positioning message meshes with what think your clients will want. Upper-income, professional couples and families won't care that you're selling trips at basement-level prices. Rather they will be looking for experiences and service, above all.
People short on time and money, on the other hand, still want to travel but may not be able to swing a 3-week Silversea cruise or a concierge-type travel experience. Instead, focus on the value they will receive from your agency, combining affordable vacation experience with the added bonus of having a personal travel agent take care of the details.
From there, make sure that every piece of external branding, be it your website, brochure, or your tagline reflects that message and sets you apart from the pack.
Creating a successful brand for your agency takes time and hard work, but when done right can pay off substantially. And there's no time like to present when it comes to becoming a market leader.
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