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.
Let's look at a simple example of a marketing funnel to demonstrate how funnels work in every marketing effort and some of the obstacles you might encounter and need to resolve. Many people wrongly associate marketing funnels with technology and online efforts. I want to use an "off-line" example to demonstrate an important point: every good marketing effort should be built with funnels in mind.
A Social Gathering at the Chamber of Commerce Let's take the most simple example of how a new acquaintance might move through the stages of a simple funnel. No doubt you have attended many social events. What if you actually prepared a funnel for the event rather than merely attended? Remember, marketing is INTENTIONAL. Imagine you are introduced to a new person at the Chamber of Commerce meeting.
You begin with some small talk. The new acquaintance says "What do you do?"
1. Funnel Stage: Awareness/Lead Generation
You say "I'm a travel agent."
Here, you may have hit your first obstacle. By introducing yourself as a "travel agent" your new potential client thinks "I know what travel agents are and what they do. I didn't know they still existed. Sort of like rotary phones." The client may even say this out-loud and give you the chance to redeem yourself. The client who is now Aware you exist, may, or may not, move to the Interest stage without appropriate prompting. What if, instead, you say "I'm a travel consultant."
2. Funnel Stage: Interest/Lead Nurturing
Now you have hit the new acquaintance from a slightly different angle. They may say, "Is that like a travel agent?" If they do, now you have the opportunity to further engage. The relationship now begins. You peak their interest: "Travel agents once sold travel, but my mission is different. I don't sell travel. I help travelers make intelligent buying decisions. Do you like to travel? "
If the potential client begins to talk about themselves and travel, then they are further into the funnel. You ask the potential client what types of travel they have experienced and loved and where they would like to go next. Finally the potential client says "I would love to take a river cruise some day!" You respond "River cruising is great! So much fun, and the scenery ,like castles and vineyards, amazing little European villages, just float right by you. We get information on River Cruises all the time and, in fact, I have just written an article on the topic. Want me to send it to you? "Absolutely!"
Your Chamber of Commerce funnel has just produced a lead to be nurtured and grown into a client in the context of a relationship! Exercise: Think through several of your last few encounters with clients. Pick one that went very well and pick one that went not so well. Plot their course through the funnel. Then, think back through a recent full blown marketing effort you may have undertaken, perhaps a networking event or a speaking engagement. Did you generate any leads? If so, where are those leads right now in your funnel? In each instance, what would you say went right and what went wrong? We want to begin doing more of those things that facilitate progress through the funnel, enhancing each step.