One of the main concerns many of our Travel Counsellors face when deciding to start their own business is where they’ll get their customers from. Will anyone want to use me? How will I find new customers? Will I get marketing support to grow my business?
Typically, if you’ve worked in a retail or corporate travel agency, you’ll be used to a steady flow of customers coming in through the door. The prospect of this stream disappearing does obviously raises the question of how customers will find you now. If you have a restraint of trade, then it will be like starting from scratch.
The first thing to know is that Travel Counsellors provides you with plenty of support to help you to manage the transition, including your very own Business Development Coach. Secondly once you’ve taken the plunge, on average, our Travel Counsellors earn more than those working for an agency.
So how do they do it? Here are our first five tips for building your customer base...
Start with Who You Know
The best place to begin when you start reaching out and telling people about your new career with Travel Counsellors is your friends and family. You’ll be surprised at how many people you know are interested in tailor-made holiday planning and buiness travel made simple!
Join a Formal Networking Group
Business networking groups can be a great source of new contacts and an opportunity to spread the word about the service you provide. There are many different groups around South Africa who meet regularly on a weekly or monthly basis, to reach out to others in their local business community. Meetings give you a supportive environment in which to find new sales prospects – as well as gaining valuable advice from like-minded business professionals like yourself. One of the largest groups is Business Networking International (BNI) which holds more than 7,300 meetings around the world every week – there is likely to be at least one BNI chapter in your area.
If you don’t fancy a business group, how about a less formal approach to networking? There are plenty of informal groups you can attend such as Mom's and tot's. Think about any other groups or local classes you a member of – even if it’s the gym! What opportunities do they offer to reach out to people and let them know about the services you can now offer? Once you’ve got the networking bug, you’ll be surprised how naturally you will slip into it.
But don’t forget, our Business Development team are here to help you find a group that will suit you. We will also help you with advice, support and tools to help you find your feet when you start networking.
Ask for Referrals
Don’t be shy! If you’ve provided a great service to someone, they are likely to want to tell people about it. So, always ask the question: “Is there anyone else you know who would like a service like the one I offer. Please can you share my business card with them?”. You could also ask your happy customers to leave a review or share a link to your Travel Counsellor profile on social media.
You could consider taking a stall at the local school fair, village fete or church fair. Local events can often be a great source of potential customers. We provide great printed materials, branded merchandise, banner stands (and more!) for you to use at events, and we can also help you create printed materials to distribute. Your Business Development Coach can help you with ideas for placing an advert in the programme, setting up a stall or with ideas for grabbing people’s attention – and it’s usually a lot of fun meeting new people who are interested in booking holidays!
It is amazing how many ideas you can find for getting your name out there, when you begin to think about it. Check our part 2 for more tips on how to find customers if you decide to start your own travel business.