|Packed general session at Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX)|
The debut of the newly rebranded Luxury Travel Exchange kicked off November 27 at the Palazzo Resort in Las Vegas. Approximately 600 qualified luxury travel advisors came together to meet with suppliers and partake in educational workshops.
One of the first workshops of the morning was titled "Creating a Strategic Marketing Plan, or, How to be a Marketing Rockstar in 30 Seconds and 3 Easy Steps," hosted by Chelle Honiker-Yarbrough of The Travel Institute.
For years the Internet has been seen as the "enemy" for the travel professional, but Honiker-Yarbrough's most important point is that agents need to learn how to harness the Internet to make it work in their favor. "We used to just have demographic advertising through mail marketing," she says. "Those days are over. Now you as an agent have access to demographic information that's far beyond what you can expect." Now there are ways for agents to find, for example, brides that have been engaged less than six months within a 50-mile radius who like Grey's Anatomy and have been to Puerto Vallarta twice. "You can find those people and advertise to them cheaper than you ever dreamed possible," says Honiker-Yarbrough.
Agents need to create a plan for each endeavor, and having a niche is an extremely valid way to do business, which has been a common theme at the conference so far. "You can target people and find business to do with anyone, anywhere. That's the beauty of the Internet," she says.
From a strategy perspective, Honikier-Yarbrough believes that it is important to do two things. The first is to make sure that your points of differentiation are well defined. "You need to know who you are and what you sell," she says. The second is that you need to tell people about it. "What's important now is utilizing online technology to help you do that faster and smarter and more intuitively."
Social media is still extremely relevant, but it is important to stick to the goal of not getting "sucked into the vortex."
"Facebook is the most relevant marketing tool on the planet right now," she says. She asked the audience who in the room has a Facebook page, and almost the entire room raised its hands. However, when asked who knows what they are doing on Facebook, the number of raised hands dropped significantly.
"Everyone should use their personal Facebook page to market to your business, but you have to do it smartly," she says. One of the best ways to market on Facebook nowadays is to create a Facebook ad, which allows people to target their sales to a very specific demographic. "Facebook aggregates peoples' 'likes' and keeps it fresh," she says. This means that if as an agent you want to sell a Jazz Cruise, you can create an ad that targets fans of Harry Conick, Jr., or fans of the New Orleans Jazz Festival. "Facebook ads are repetitious and people are starting to click through to be directed to your page." To create a Facebook ad visit www.facebook.com/ads.
Twitter is still another great way to grow business, but it is one that you have to be devoted to. If agents aren't that into Twitter, it won't be a loss for their business, but if someone has really embraced the medium, it can be incredibly beneficial. "There are powerful ways to use it. It's good at asking questions. It's good at letting you learn. Twitter is instantaneous and it's excellent for letting your personality show through," she says. If someone on Twitter is complaining about a particular cruise or travel experience, an agent can swoop in and fix it. What better way to gain a client for life than by helping them figure out a sticky situation?
"The most important thing to remember is to think about your objective. Your objective should be a better action - something that will give you ROI. Decide what gameboard you want to play on and then spend your time devoting to it," she says.
Visit www.travelagentcentral.com for our exclusive coverage of this year's show.