Written By: Jackie Friedman, President, Nexion LLC
We’ve all heard the term, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” This concept certainly rings true in the travel industry. Many independent contractors are business owners and are faced with the challenge of generating new customers.
To face this challenge, most travel professionals start with contacts they already know and turn them into clients. For some travel agents, this may be enough. For most, it’s necessary to be creative in how to successfully reach potential, new customers. If you’re one of these travel professionals who wants additional clients, the good news is, you don’t have to go after the search process alone.
Consider partnering with a complementary business to promote each other to your customer bases and expand your reach. The benefits of cross-marketing with complementary businesses include:
- It expands your reach to potential customers who otherwise would not know about your travel services.
- It provides added value to your agency by differentiating you from your competition.
- It adds credibility to your agency through the power of referrals from trusted customers.
Tips for Finding the Right Partnerships
The best partnership relationships benefit both businesses, along with their customers; everyone wins/receives a benefit. Here are 10 tips for finding the right businesses to become successful partners:
- Take time and write down as many types of businesses that you can think of that may work for you and your agency.
- Get out and visit with owners of other businesses, both small and large. You never know what types of ideas can be generated with other successful entrepreneurs.
- Don’t be afraid to take risks.
- Seek mutually beneficial partnerships. Ask, “What are both businesses wanting to get out of the partnership?”
- Always budget for associated expenses. Treat these opportunities as part of your overall marketing plan costs.
- Be open to partnership opportunities.
- Look to your local chamber of commerce or business networking groups for good partners.
- Find businesses that cater to your target customer; is there a matched appeal or interest based on demographics or affinity/psychographics?
- Use social media to “trade” marketing. Once you’ve found a business partner, link to each other’s websites and social media pages to cross-promote both businesses.
- Be creative. The best partnerships aren’t always obvious.
On the last tip, an example of an obvious partnership would be a destination wedding and honeymoon specialist partnering with florists, bridal shops, photographers and caterers. A more subtle example would be a travel agent partnering with a doggie day care, for example.
The doggie day care gives pet owners a coupon for reduced day care services, courtesy of the travel agent, when the pet owner travels. The agent gains access to new, potential customers; the pet owner receives the benefit of reduced day care services, courtesy of the travel agent paying the difference; and the doggie day care receives happy customers who have saved on their services, and thus are more likely to return. Win – win – win!
When I reached out to our Nexion members to see what they are doing to reach new clients through cross-marketing with businesses, I received many partnership success stories. Here are just a few:
- One member is partnering with a snow removal company for winter resort travelers. “We’re putting together a flier to use on social media for cross promoting,” Gene says. “I will be offering their first snow removal (if it snows) to new clients booking winter destinations and traveling between Jan. 1 – April 30.” If it snows while the traveler is away, Gene, the travel agent, will pay for their first snow removal. “While this is a $25-$50 value, the snow removal company and business partner will only charge me $25. He gets a client for potential future snow removal and spring landscaping, and it adds credibility and differentiation to my business, because I am offering an added value of service and good will to new clients.”
- Another Nexion travel professional partnered with a local pizza parlor to provide a coupon for a free pizza to travelers be enjoyed upon returning from vacation when they weren’t ready to start cooking yet. In turn, the pizza restaurant distributed fliers on the travel agent’s group departure with every pizza they delivered. As such, both businesses were exposed to new, potential clients.
- Another Nexion member used the grand opening of a local Mexican restaurant to promote all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, as well as experiences such as Experiencias Xcaret. The travel agent provided the door prize, and the restaurant provided the clients.
My dad taught me that the best partnerships in business are those that when both business owners get up from the table, they have a feeling they have achieved something. Truly successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of mutual partnerships.
From art galleries, restaurants, bakeries, wine shops and wineries, to local ski apparel and equipment shops, bookstores, toy stores and more, the ideas for travel professionals to partner with complementary businesses are endless! Get creative, and you’re on your way!