Annually, a travel agency needs to be reminded of the need for a SWOT analysis. The SWOT acronym indicates Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The traditional SWOT looks at Strengths and Weaknesses of the travel agency (internal factors) and tries to thereby ascertain the relationship with Opportunities and Threats (factors external to the travel agency). Doing an annual SWOT analysis is a good pre-requisite to a marketing plan and assists with developing the appropriate goals for your travel practice. One of the most important aspects of a SWOT analysis for travel agencies is very simply the act of planning: the analysis makes you take a good look at your positioning in the market. Each component of the SWOT analysis bears a relationship to the others. Each of your strengths will give rise to opportunities or the capacity to exploit an opportunity. Likewise, your strengths allow your travel practice to better confront the threats on the horizon or compensate for weaknesses.
Typically all travel agency marketing efforts accentuate the company's unique selling point ("USP"). The USP is the reason that clients would purchase travel through you rather than anywhere else. Your branding message will most likely involve three elements:
People - What do the people in your agency represent in terms of expertise and personality?
Assets - What assets do you have at your disposal that enhance your expertise?
Expectation - What type of experience can clients who use your agency expect?
For purposes of brevity, I will begin to refer to marketing and sales funnels simply as "marketing funnels." Each is constructed somewhat differently, but the basic principles are easy to understand. Whether you recognize it or not, you use marketing funnels all of the time. However, unless you are aware of the process and the ways in which you can enhance the performance of your funnels, you may be working with a less than optimal set up. Every travel agency should have a basic grasp of marketing funnel principles.
Every marketing effort you undertake for your travel agency can and should be modeled on a marketing funnel. Currently everyone thinks of marketing funnels in the context of online marketing. Actually, however, every networking meeting you attend, every speaking engagement, every ad you place is a funnel to be crafted and optimized.
The concept of the marketing and sales funnel is an old one, but it is enjoying some much deserved renewed currency in the travel agency world. The basic concept is fairly simple: as anyone makes a purchasing decision they go through some fairly predicable steps. If a business understands each of those steps and how to best facilitate the transitions between them, then the purchasing process can be enhanced and optimized. Pretty simple, if you can forgive the buzzwords, right?
Marketing has two goals: the retention of existing clients and the acquisition of new clients. From existing clients you achieve stability, and it is from new clients you achieve growth. When you design your marketing properly, both your new clients and existing clients first notice or are reminded of your presence, investigate your offerings, and finally enter into conversation with you about the services or products you offer. At this stage you have an actionable lead and enter into the sales cycle. The process of drawing the potential client closer and closer to you, finally resulting in an actionable lead, is sometimes referred to as the “Marketing Funnel.”
Developing and marketing a niche area of expertise is one of the best possible ways to differentiate your travel practice from the competition. As an expert in a particular theme or destination, you can quickly establish your travel agency as the only reasonable resource to which consumers should turn when considering travel in your niche venue.
Understand, the concept of adopting a niche is often misconstrued. Niche marketing is a way of helping you focus on locating new clients, not a set of restrictions on your business offerings. Niche marketing is not necessarily about gearing your entire business to a particular type of travel. It is about segmenting your marketing efforts to focus on particular groups of people, however.
Properly executed, niche marketing is a terrific way of locating and marketing to a group of potential clients in a highly effective and cost efficient manner.
One great advantage of a niche market is the way in which it helps you locate potential clients. When you are marketing “travel” to the world at large, everyone is your potential market and you lack focus. When your market is “adventure travelers”, however, you know where to find them. When your market is “golfers”, you know where to find them. Once you have located your market, it is much less costly to reach out to them as opposed to using much less efficient “shotgun” approaches.