Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “if man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs to sell, or can make better chairs or knives … than anybody else, you will find a broad, hard-beaten road to his house, tho’ it be in the woods.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all it took to win new business in today’s competitive environment was just being the best at what you do?
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always apply anymore. Nowadays, it’s not just how well an advertising or public relations agency performs its craft but how well it markets the service.
With tourism one of the fastest growing U .S. industries, more agencies than ever are competing for travel -related accounts. The good news is that the outlook for growth in domestic U.S. travel is optimistic, which means that more tourism-related services and products will require marketing programs.
DO SOME HOMEWORK
Agencies prospecting for travel industry accounts will improve their chances of winning the business by analyzing who their competition is, and becoming acquainted with trends, changing demographics and consumer preferences.
Those new to the industry will find that an agency’s location can be a pivotal factor in whether or not it gets the business. For example, a Los Angeles-based agency bidding for a Hawaii resort account, may lose out to a New York agency, or to a Hawaii agency with a New York affiliate even though California is the primary market for Hawaii, and Los Angeles one of the country’s major media centers. It’s a manifestation of the popular belief, particularly among larger chains and independent hotels west of the Mississippi, that an East Coast agency can do the best job because of its New York media strength.
There are ways around this, of course. One of the most important is education. An agency must demonstrate to the prospect that he can expect the same hi-coastal media clout minus the cost of long distance communications, or the inconvenience of having to bridge time zones. He will benefit from regional media opportunities that no “long-distance” agency can be privy to.
Before preparing a new business proposal for a travel-related prospect, consider the following:
Economics and Logistics
Economics and logistics play a role in landing an account. The advantages to a prospective client of hiring an agency relatively close by, are obvious: expenses associated with the account are usually lower, and response times to both client’s needs and to regional media opportunities is much quicker. A California-based agency, for example, should emphasize to prospects who draw most of their business from California, that there are nearly as many productive freelance writers in California as there are in New York, and that skilled, experienced travel industry counselors know the key New York media just as well as they know those in their own city.
More editors than ever are assigning local freelance writers to stories in their own geographic region, which means more local opportunities for national media coverage. Many eastern editors can no longer afford to pay travel expenses for a staff or freelance writer to cover a story out west. Fewer newspaper travel editors have the budget for staff travel, and increasingly, publishers are adopting a policy that forbids staff or contributing freelance writers to accept press invitations. Further, most freelance writers don’t have the money to pay their own expenses.
If location is still an issue with prospective clients, consider forming an alliance with a New York agency. Nurturing such relationships can pay dividends in shared business opportunities.
Read Trade Publications
Read the trade journals for leads. Hotels and travel trade journals are excellent sources for new business. Travel trades announce the opening of new hotels and resorts, which can provide new business leads. Watch, also, for appointment stories about directors of marketing; they’re often the ones who make decisions about public relations counsel. Clip the article and send it with a note of congratulations. It’s a great lead-in.
Become active in travel councils. Memberships in travel-related organizations such as Travel and Tourism Research Association, Travel Industry Association, and state hotel and motel associations, offer plenty of opportunities for networking and new business. Becoming active on a committee helps create visibility, and often referrals.
Demonstrate creativity to your prospect. A Western-region public relations agency was recently awarded the contract for a Los Angeles luxury hotel, in part, on the strength of a promotion it conceived in cooperation with one of its product clients. The hotel’s director of marketing was so impressed with the creative approach and ensuing publicity, that there was no question about: who would win the account.
Ask for References
Ask for references and referrals. Prospects sometimes rely on respected travel writers to recommend the best public relations agencies. The premise is that writers are in the best positions to recognize an agency’s capabilities. Media friends are often glad to make referrals if they respect an agency’s work. While some of the foregoing concepts pertain exclusively to the tourism industry, most are fundamental marketing strategies, the need for which serves as a rude reminder of the transitory nature of public relations accounts.
A final word of tourism-related business. The first thing that many hoteliers cut during hard times is the marketing budget. This is only true of some members of the lodging industry, however. The far-sighted ones do not take their names out of the marketplace in tough times. They weather the storm, and maintain their advertising and public relations programs as a hedge against loss of market share and as a smart investment in the future.