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“Freedom isn’t Free!”

Uncategorized Jul 02, 2018

We often hear this expression around patriotic holidays about the sacrifices made by our service men and women.  Many have given life and limb, so we can continue to enjoy the personal freedoms we have and is something that should never be taken for granted.

Personal Freedom is not free, and neither is financial freedom.  It takes a tremendous amount of effort and personal sacrifice to be successful in any field- especially one as competitive as travel sales.

When I speak around the world, it is common for agents especially new ones, to ask what it takes to get up on stage and pick up awards.  Many of them, equate sales achievements to financial success.  Unfortunately, it’s just not true.

Suppliers reward those who sell in large volumes.  It’s not only in travel, but in virtually every industry and with every product, there are volume discounts.  Some, in our business, rely on the low margin / high volume model.   With high...


The Rebating Beast is Back! (again)

Uncategorized Jun 07, 2018

 Most luxury product designers control their pricing by controlling distribution.  They sell exclusively through their own branded stores or high-end retailers such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.  

In her book “Let Them Eat Cake” author and luxury goods researcher Pam Danziger states, “The business of experiential luxuries remains largely one based on consumers paying full list price.  Travel is the only widely discounted experiential luxury where 64% of buyers got a “deal” - otherwise they expect to pay full price for luxury goods & services.” Unfortunately, this observation can be applied to all segments of travel, not just to luxury purchases.

Retail travel distribution is a highly fragmented channel.  Virtually anyone can put up a website and be a “travel agent”, so the competition for the sale can be intense.

“Rebating” or “Discounting” as we know it, is perhaps the single most...


What is "Marketing"?

Uncategorized May 17, 2018

Marketing is a big, esoteric term that is thrown around like the holy grail. But what is it really? In my experience most people in the retail channel do not know what marketing is – they just know they must have it.

To most business professionals, marketing and advertising are the same thing and while there are many similarities – like sales and marketing, they are different. The easiest way to understand is to imagine it as a pie: pumpkin, pecan, it doesn’t really matter. We will call it the marketing pie, and each slice represents a subset of the overall pie.  Each slice represents: market analysis, pricing, customer service, advertising, public relations, and community involvement.

When we dig deep, we find that most are not investing their money in marketing, what they are really buying is just one slice of the pie - advertising.

The real estate industry does marketing just about better than any other, they embrace each slice of the marketing pie. The...


The Secret Formula to Keeping Your Hard-Earned Clients.

Uncategorized Apr 24, 2018

If you have been following me for any length of time, you have probably noticed I only use a few quotes to reinforce my messages. One of my favorites is from a management guru, the late Peter Drucker, “The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.” 

The cost of getting a new customer is astronomically high in terms of both money and time. In fact, it is not unusual to lose money or barely break even on their first transaction. That’s right, run the numbers and I think you may be in for a shock once you factor in real costs, time and overhead – not just the marketing expenditures.

We usually spend a disproportionate amount of time and money on new customer acquisition, then tend to fail at giving customer retention the respect it deserves.

I always ask my audiences, “What percentage of your business is from repeat customers?” The response is typically 60, 70, or even 80%. Sometimes I get 40- 50%, but not often. It might surprise...


Guest Blog: How to Target Travel Audiences with Social Ads


What would you do if you worked in a bricks and mortar storefront business and your walk-in traffic dropped by 50%?  Yikes, you’d probably be thinking about moving or advertising, right?

Well, as a travel, tourism or hospitality pro, moving is probably not in the cards.  So that leaves advertising.  Now that organic social reaching is dropping quicker than you can say ‘travel’, (some estimate a 50% drop year over year) we need to power up our social ad strategy.

Audience Expertise
Social ads are the ‘way of the world’ when it comes to sky-rocketing the number of people you reach online.  Creating custom audiences of people who want and need to travel is easy, then building ads that appeal to that audience is key to reaching the right people at the right time and on the right social site.

Did you know that you can target Facebook & Instagram ads by:

  • Upcoming birthday or anniversary –think about all the milestone...

Three “Must Haves in Your Sales Plan!”

I was recently interviewing a prospective client, who repeatedly asked, “Dan, what are we going to do about my marketing plan?”  After reviewing her efforts, I told her, “Maybe a tweak or two - here and there - but for the most part your marketing is fine.” I replied, “What’s missing is a sales plan.”  The phone went silent, and I waited while she processed what I had said. “A sales plan?” she asked, “I’m not even sure what that is.  I thought all I needed was a marketing plan.”  As I explained the purpose of a sales plan, I could practically see the light go on in her head.

A marketing plan does not guarantee that you will sell anything.  It does guarantee a substantial investment to attract and retain clients, but I repeat – a marketing plan does not guarantee sales.

 As travel professionals, we operate on a business model virtually identical to our friends who sell real...


The Bedrock of Transformation - A Rock Solid Foundation

Uncategorized Jan 30, 2018

Many of us came into this business with high hopes and big dreams.  You poured your heart and soul into your business, but you keep hitting walls all around you.  24/7 is not enough and you can barely pay the bills, much less have anything left over to pay yourself.  Your spouse is pressuring you to quit. 

It is easy to quit and maybe you should.  However, in my opinion, if you are doing all the right sales activities, there is no reason why your travel agency should not be successful.

 As a teenager, I spent several summers working in a variety of construction jobs.  One of my favorites was with a masonry contractor building foundations.  I was so impressed by how meticulously the masons laid the blocks.  Just a fraction of an inch off level could have a disastrous effect on the rest of the structure.  The taller the building the more exaggerated the effect (picture the leaning tower of Pisa). 

Like a building, it’s the...


Is it Time to Transform Your Travel Agency?

reboot travel agent Jan 03, 2018

If your answer is "NO" and you were given an opportunity to hit the “Reset” button and reboot your travel business or career, would you do it?  

Virtually all travel professionals, whether new home-based agent or the general manager of a large, multi-location agency, struggle with similar challenges such as finding new clients, keeping the old ones happy, cash flow, and advertising to name just a few. 

You may have heard the expression “The tail is wagging the dog!” In my opinion, the biggest challenge we face, is building a business that you run, not one that runs you.

Michael Gerber author of The E-Myth (which I highly recommend) put it more eloquently, “If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business—you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!”

I started both my travel and consulting businesses to gain the freedom from having a job and I imagine you...


We Are Preaching To The Wrong Choir!

Uncategorized Dec 12, 2017

My local newspaper, The Seattle Times, runs an immensely popular column called “Rant & Rave.”  Readers send in items such as this rant; “To the inconsiderate man at the Seahawks game who insisted on standing the entire time, my ten-year-old son wasn’t able to see any of the game thanks to you!” and this rave: “Bravo to the city bus driver who helps my elderly mother get safely cross the street.  Its people like you that restores my faith in mankind.”   It’s the little things that are big to people that make their way into this column each day.

As we approach the holidays, let’s take time to reflect and celebrate all the wonderful benefits the travel business provides us.

We are richer because of it.  Not just monetarily, travel is enriching physically, mentally, and emotionally.  We have the privilege to explore places that to most people are just a fantasy or pictures in a book. For us, it can...


Control Your Time, Control Your Business

Uncategorized Nov 06, 2017

Time management is something of an oxymoron to me. I will not even attempt to create the illusion that I am good at it. In fact, I am probably one of the biggest procrastinators you will ever meet. No, time management and I don’t get along.

But let me ask you this: Are your customers consuming virtually all your time? Do you feel like you must be available to your customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week or they will find someone else who is? Are your relationships at home strained because you are always “on”?

I see this every day at conferences, parties, dinners, and movie nights out with the family. It’s not unique to the travel industry, but unfortunately many of us have backed ourselves into this corner of which there seems to be no way out.

I have been there myself.  In fact, I spent over ten years totally devoted to my customers and it almost killed me. I ate at my desk, worked weekends and nights, kept my phone with me always. My family stopped...

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