Plane Over Island

Small Travel Agencies Beat Goliath With Social Media?

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison

Working in sales, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with lots of different people in many different environments. From part-time travel agents to executives at Fortune 100 companies, I’ve had the chance to listen, sell and present to a diverse group of decision makers. While there are certainly obvious differences between a single mom working part-time selling vacation packages and a hotel magnate managing multimillion dollar properties, they both care about the same thing – growing their business.

A Fortune 100 company has all the resources in the world to help them increase their bottom line…but what about the mom-and-pop travel shop in small-town Tennessee? How can they effectively market their business without the budgets and resources of the Expedia’s and Priceline’s?

The answer is digital media. A wonderful thing has happened with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and all things social… the democratization of marketing. You no longer need a bloated budget and large support staff to attract more business and dollars. Now, for less than the cost of new business cards, small to medium sized businesses can market their services right next to the major players in the industry…an amazing opportunity, right?

The answer is of course “YES!” but unfortunately I‘ve seen far too many businesses pass up this opportunity (or not maximize its usage) due to a lack of knowledge or lack of funds – both are poor excuses in today’s digital environment.

Let’s start with lack of knowledge. Everyone knows about Facebook, however most do not understand how to EFFECTIVELY use it as the revenue generating behemoth it is. Like it or not, Facebook isn’t for social anymore – it’s for business. Most businesses have a Facebook page, but the vast majority aren’t using it to drive revenue, and if it’s not doing that then what is the point? “Likes” and “shares” may make you feel good, but what are they really accomplishing? Are they generating leads and new business? Are they helping you develop your brand? When you post something on Facebook, less than 2% of people who have liked your page will see it…you’re missing out on 98% of users. Facebook and Twitter now allow you segment and target your audience in some amazing ways.

Lets take the hypothetical one-woman travel agency in Tennessee for example. She loves planning honeymoons, however,she only gets to work on a few each year. The rest of the time she has to search for business that she isn’t too passionate about and may not pay very well (cruises anyone?) Now, through platforms like Facebook and Twitter, she has the opportunity to not only grow her business, but grow it in a direction she is passionate about. She can segment her market down to “men and women between the ages of 22 and 50 who are recently engaged, have incomes over $50,000, and live within 50 miles.” Armed with this, she can market right at the demographics she wants to work with. She is not only growing her business, but doing it in a way that allows her to focus on the areas that interest her.

“This all sounds great but I can’t afford any marketing right now,” I hear this from almost every agent before they become a client. The reality is you can’t afford not to be marketing. If you aren’t, the one-man travel agent a few miles away is and he is capturing the audience and business that could be yours. Not to mention the large agencies and internet sites are heavily advertising…and spending a lot of money on it. Think about it, how many Priceline or Hotels.com commercials have you seen in the last week? This is your competition! The beauty of social media is that you can compete with not only the agent down the road, but the bigwigs at Travelocity. Marketing on social media can be so cost effective that even landing one new client can pay for a year of effective advertising. How’s that for a return on your investment?

The time to act is now. The democratization of advertising is at its peak and if you want to take your business to the next level (whatever that may be) do it now while you can. The opportunity won’t last forever.