Market Your Professionalism

As Diane Petras, CTIE, The Travel Institute’s president, says, “Success starts with skills, which translate into capabilities and confidence. The knowledge gained from our certification programs gives agents the ability to demonstrate both.”

“Now more than ever, astute travelers will be looking for agents who display confidence and expertise in handling the complexities of trip planning,” she adds, noting current high demand for agent education across the industry indicates agents and organizations alike are focused on professional advancement as they await the return of travel demand.

So, once again, The Travel Institute’s 7th Annual Promote Your Professionalism campaign is providing the opportunity for agents to use scholarship funds to bolster their skills before consumer travel demand returns. To apply for a scholarship, complete The Travel Institute’s scholarship form, available now through the end of July, selecting from our three certification programs.

We think it’s vital for you to know how to set yourself apart from your competitors, so we wanted to share this excellent article by Larry Mersereau, CTC, founder of PromoPower LLC and one of The Institute’s own Professional Educators.

This is what Larry advises:

There’s a difference between a “seller of travel” and a “travel professional.” Your certifications are credentials but, by themselves, may not be clear to your prospective clients. Here are five things you should be doing to differentiate yourself from the wannabes:

1. Educate Prospects. They don’t know what CTA, CTC, CTIE, DS/LS or other designations from The Travel Institute mean. Treat your designation(s) as FAQs on your website. Explain the years of experience, miles of travel, and hours of study you’ve invested. Tell them what that means in terms of planning an exceptional trip. Talk about ease, reliability, safety… how they will benefit from working with a professional.

2. Motivate Prospects. They may wonder, “Why should I work with you? I can do it myself on any number of sites, even save some money.” Translate your professionalism into benefits to the prospect. Here’s a simple technique to talk to prospects: First, read through the words on your website. How many sentences talk about you? Take each one of those and rewrite it starting with the word “you.” “You will have a travel industry insider guiding you through the planning process.” “You will enjoy the advantage of working with someone who has been there.” Prospects care about only one person, and it ain’t you. It’s them.

3. Be a Brand. Whether you’re a multinational corporation or an individual working from your dining room table, it’s important to brand yourself so your prospects will think of your name first. The name under which you operate should reflect what you do and what makes you the ideal choice for your prime prospects. If you’re using your individual name (or if your business name doesn’t really tell your story), you must have a tagline that explains what you do and whom you do it for. “Bob Johnson, CTC – Kid-Glove Luxury Travel Planning.” “Mary Jones, CTA – Exotic Destinations for Adventurous Travelers.” Use it everywhere you use your brand, including social media

4. Provide Content. Think about your last major purchase. You probably went online to research the available options. The best content-oriented websites provide three kinds of content: Content generated by the business (you!), curated content ( pulled from other sources), and content your clients provide (your blog). The more content you provide, including links to related sites (always opening a new window, so they don’t leave you to get there), the more they stay bound to you.

Write about destinations, products, services. Show photos and videos. Encourage clients to participate in your blog and to post their own photos and videos. By the way, you always should invite people to engage with you when they partake of your content. “Click here to get Mary’s weekly travel tips in your email inbox.”

5. Be Accessible. Questions and complications come up in the process of planning even the simplest itinerary. When they do, your prospects want answers. They can dig around on the Internet, read through blogs and forums… or they can ask you. Make it easy to contact you with questions and concerns, and, by all means, answer immediately. Give them an email contact page, your actual email address, your phone number, and possibly, a chat option on your website. In today’s connected world, people expect answers immediately. Not tomorrow…now.

A designation has value only if prospects understand what it means. And they want to know what it means in terms of their own interests. Demonstrate your professionalism by providing the information and service they expect and wrap the whole thing up in a brand identity that makes you stand out from the crowd. You’ll bring in more business and take home more money.

Thanks, Larry!

One way to stand apart from your competitors is through your brand. Don’t miss the upcoming webinar The Dos and Don’ts of Emotional Branding, presented July 9 at 11:00 am (EDT) by Alvin Adriano, CTA, CEO of Travelwise International.