In our latest issue, we break down the issues you need to know about to shape your business. Here are a few pointers of my own that I hope will shape your year.
1 Revisit your phone: Have you noticed it’s 2018, but our phone connections are worse than ever? We’re no longer using landlines so we either sound as if we’re speaking from the bottom of a canyon or the call reception goes in and out and we hear only every other word because we’re standing in a dead spot in our kitchen. Regardless, be sure your technology allows you to speak clearly to clients and suppliers on your cell phone so they’re not missing the specifics of your message, no matter where you’re standing.
2 Make customization easy: I launched an Etsy shop last year to sell my illustrations and learned that no matter how much amazing off-the-shelf product you have, customers will want you to tweak your creation to make it special for them. Aggregate the special itinerary requests you have fulfilled for clients and keep them in a file called “My Bag of Tricks.” It’s likely you’ll be able to draw on these already-completed projects often to modify them to make them special for future clients.
3 Listen, Listen, Listen: Another lesson learned from Etsy? Your clients have great ideas you’ve never dreamed of. At first, I dreaded the thought of a custom request for a drawing, but then I realized that the customer was actually telling me exactly what the market was looking for. I learned to listen to their requests and adapted some of their ideas to my off-the-shelf products and hit several home runs with sales.
4 Experiment With New Concepts: Business is thriving. Customers are traveling despite terror threats and other uncertainties. Harness this desire for vacations and ride the sales wave. But don’t forget to take the time to innovate. Doing it in an upmarket allows you the chance to experiment without losing revenue momentum.
5 Get Ready for Gen Z: They’re here. The oldest members of this young demographic have just turned 21 and while they’re not likely to be jetting off on high-end vacations just yet, you’re likely to bump into one or two of them. What are their attributes? They were raised by Gen Xers and Gen Yers who suffered in the Great Recession. They taught Gen Z that money can be easy come, easy go and to always be ready for a downturn. As a result, Gen Z will likely be more fiscally conservative, less likely to have taken out big college loans and quite willing to take jobs they’re not exactly crazy about taking. Getting them to travel when the time comes could be a challenge, but understanding their pain points will help you make them understand that vacations can be enriching and well worth the value.
6 The market is in your favor: If you’re an independent contractor with a great book of business, host companies are increasingly eager to sign you up. Traditional travel agencies are creating host programs and layering on tools and benefits that make your life easier to sell travel. Consider exactly what you’re looking for in a host agency and shop around for one that works best for you. Don’t necessarily just go where the money is; you may want a program that provides mentoring and education that will help you to reach the next phase of your career.