The fourth “C” to the five pillar pentalogy of brand marketing is creating a connection. I am sure you’ve heard it said before that people buy from who they know, like and trust. And how does one achieve that holy trinity but through establishing a connection.
At the end of 2019, there were close to 67,000 travel advisors in the US alone*. That’s a lot of people screaming…”Book your next trip with me.” So how does one acquire a loyal online following that will lead to bookings? It comes down to making connections.
In a recent study by SproutSocial, a social media management company, it was determined that 89% of people would buy from a business they follow online, and 75% of people will increase their spending with that brand once they start to engage with them.
That’s a pretty cool stat and one that shouldn’t be ignored. Somehow, we have to cut through all the noise.
Because at 11:59, mostly we are all selling the same stuff at close to the same prices. So you have to differentiate yourself. You have to be an expert at what you sell, of course, but more importantly, you have to be likeable even, and especially to, that online follower living miles away.
So how do you do that? Here are five things you can start doing today.
Decide who your ideal client is
I touched on this briefly in the post, “Clarity is the Key to Effective Communication.” I said that if you are talking to everyone, you are talking to no one. And that was just so dang juicy that it had to be said again.
But before you can build a connection with your client, you first have to decide who that client is. You have to get to know her intimately because only then can you begin to speak her language.
Some travel experts might recommend you choose an affluent client, 70ish, and Harvard educated. After all, it follows that they’ll have a high disposable income to spend on booking holidays with you. But, if that’s not the person you connect with, trying to meet them at his level can come off sounding inauthentic. I sometimes think that is why so many travel advisors struggle to find good clients. They fall into the trap of focusing on people they don’t even like or with whom they share nothing in common, simply because they’re fixated on the idea that this is the perfect market. If one more discussion of how much fibre Joe Smith has to consume to keep himself regular, creates internal angst, then maybe the 70+, ageing with money, client isn’t the best fit for you.
The best connections are often the ones that take the least amount of effort. And believe me, you have so many other things to worry about, trying to be someone you aren’t just to gain a client, shouldn’t be one of them.
Remember that you can’t please everybody all of the time
And you should know in advance, that regardless of your best efforts, you are most likely going to offend someone at some point. Not everyone is going to like you. That’s a vital lesson to understand before you even get into the game. Your style should be unique, and that’s not always going to land the way you might hope it does. You won’t be everyone’s brand of tequila, and that’s okay. For example, some people aren’t going to love the fact that you are a cat person. But some people will. And those are YOUR people. They aren’t my people but they are YOUR people.
In a world of 7.8 billion personalities…there are enough customers to go around for everyone. So just pick your ideal client and go with it.
Now having said that, I will offer one caveat. As much as I believe that we should all stand behind our values and beliefs when it comes to our business accounts, I keep my political and religious opinions to myself. It’s not that I don’t feel strongly about my views and that I mind sharing them, I would just prefer to do that over a glass of Cab Sav, in-person… not on a social media post or within a blog article.
Start a conversation
The first step in building a loyal following is to start a conversation. Social media marketing is a slow burn. Think of it this way. You wouldn’t go to a backyard party hosted by people you’ve never met before and tell everyone how fantastic you are.
Instead, you’d probably introduce yourself and then ask a few non-evasive questions to find some commonalities between you and your potential new friends.
It’s the same in brand marketing. You’ve got to build rapport first, and the only way to do that is to be genuinely interested in the other person. I see so many social media posts that never bother to engage with anyone. It’s just a photo. Maybe a geotag. A couple of hashtags, and then if I’m lucky, I’ll see a brief description of where the photo was taken or a summary of the facts behind the pic. And that’s it.
That is the equivalent to hanging out by the punch bowl and the guac and describing the recipe to any passerby that might listen. Sure, they may nod, smile awkwardly at you, but you can bet, they ain’t stopping to engage you in conversation.
Every interaction you have on social media should start a conversation. And then….when somebody bites and responds, you respond back. That’s how conversations work, but people often don’t realize that social media is about starting conversations. Social media is like dating in a relationship. Your focus should be to get to know the person. That’s it. Don’t try sealing the deal before you’ve even gotten past the appetizer.
And once and for all, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have if you have zero conversations happening. It would be far better to have a hundred followers with many interactions than 10,000 followers and the odd emoji, but no comments.
It’s not quantity; it’s quality.
Don’t be shy
Put yourself out there a little more. A good rule of thumb is to post a pic of yourself every seven to fourteen posts. And don’t be afraid to use video, especially of yourself, in your stories. Believe me when I say…I know it’s tough — but brands that do this see far more significant results than those that don’t.
Anyone can post a beautiful beach photo or sunset. You need to project yourself as a confident individual who knows their stuff. The road less followed, so to speak.
And you know…very few travel advisors do this – probably out of fear. I’m not going to blame them. #nojudgement. But what I see is that this is a massive opportunity for anyone in this industry to get out in front and build a solid business.
And as a bonus to the selfie and the video…it never hurts to sprinkle in a few fun facts about yourself. Again, you don’t want to dominate the conversation, but you want to start the conversation. Letting people know that you are an expert in selling European vacations and oh, by the way, you have a French bulldog named Ruby who loves belly rubs in the sand, makes you more relatable. One has to think…eeeish, that girl can’t be all that bad. She seems likeable, trustworthy – my kinda girl!
Use testimonials if you can
The final tip, one of the best ways I know to build connections with new people, is to ask your current clients for a testimonial to vouch for just how amazing you are. This one is easy because you are amazing, and most people want to help those who helped them.
You can either ask them for a few short sentences to post on your website or on your social media channels. Video would be awesome if they are up for it.
And ask them to tag you on any content they share from their trip. People love talking about their holidays and sharing their positive experiences with friends. And to help them remember to do so, you can get creative with this. Do weekly draws for fun prizes for anyone who tags you in any of their social media posts. This may not lead to bookings right away, but you’ll gain new loyal followers, and new conversations begin. Oh, the circle of life!
We are all inherently wired the same. We all want to feel like we matter, and we’ll do business with people who appreciate us and who we can connect with. If you can establish that connection with your client, assuming your content is fantastic, and you consistently show up, you will be heard above those other 67,000 travel advisors.
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