One way that top travel agents stand out from the crowd is to develop a niche area of practice. Though we hear the advice to specialize, the concept of niche marketing is often misunderstood.
Niche marketing is a way of helping you focus on locating new clients, not a set of restrictions on your business offerings. Niche marketing is not necessarily about gearing your entire business to a particular type of travel, but rather about segmenting your marketing efforts to focus on particular groups of people. Many travel consultants avoid it as a concept out of fear of having to turn away business outside the chosen niche, or being too closely identified with the niche. Properly executed, however, niche marketing is a terrific way of locating and marketing to a group of potential clients in a highly effective and cost efficient manner.
The lesson of effective niche marketing is this: it is important to be clear about the market you are addressing and to address the target market clearly. This might require you to have one marketing brochure or presentation for adventure travel and another for senior escorted tours and yet another for golf travel. You do not have to devote your practice exclusively to any of these niches.
When you focus on a niche, you very quickly become an expert. You will be able to speak with authority on your topic and marketing will be a matter of speaking directly to those who share an affinity for your niche. One great advantage of a niche market is the way in which it helps you locate potential clients. When you are marketing general travel, everyone is your potential market and you lack focus. When your market is “adventure travellers”, however, you know where to find them. When your market is “golfers”, you know where to find them. Once you have located your market, it is much less costly to reach out to them as opposed to using much less efficient “shotgun” approaches.
As an expert in a niche, your ability to generate referrals and word of mouth advertising will be amplified as those who have used you in the past tell others interested in similar travel experiences. You will also develop deeper and richer relationships with the suppliers that you use as they come to understand your devotion to their area of business.
A niche will assist your other marketing efforts. For example, search engine optimization in generalized travel can be very difficult to accomplish. However, within a niche market, your website or blog can more easily stand out as authoritative on a topic and become a favorite of the search engines. For example, compare a search for “travel agency” and its 25 million results with a search on “tours of civil war battlefields” and its 107,000 results.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, niche marketing can place you squarely in the middle of the type of travel about which you are most passionate. Far too many agents spend the majority of their time researching and planning travel for which they have no affinity or expertise. When working within the context of a favorite genre, the travel consultant’s passion shows.
Do yourself a favor and begin to search out a niche area of practice. Done well, you will be a happier travel consultant for the effort.
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.