HBTA Student Offers Tips for Home-Based Travel Agents

By Sally Bahner

Life experiences are fuel for this home-based agent

home-based travel agent

Stephanie Cannon

Stephanie Cannon purchased the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course in 2006, after a career in accounting and corporate finance, and entered the travel industry.

She hasn’t looked back.

She started Travel by Cannon while pregnant with her first child, then moved from New Jersey to Oklahoma while nurturing her fledgling business. (Yes, a home-based travel business is portable.)

Cannon loved the Caribbean and had planned her own destination wedding in Punta Cana. Once she moved to Oklahoma, she retooled her business and saw an opportunity for specialization based on her own experience in planning her own wedding and honeymoon. She marketed herself locally and rebranded her agency as “Honeymoons Designed.”

Today, she is a bona fide success story who is “paying it forward” by helping up and coming agents. Lately, in a series of articles for Travel Research Online, Cannon has been sharing the fruits of her experience with fellow home-based travel agents.

• Being in a new city, where I knew very few people, I had to ramp up marketing, build relationships, and choose something that would set me apart.

Cannon turned a stint on jury duty into a lesson for her business:

• I quickly saw that one team was far superior to the other. This wasn’t based on their knowledge of the law, or even their knowledge of the medical scenario. It was very much based on their demeanor, personalities, confidence, and the way they presented themselves.

And a conversation with the judge, post-verdict, translated into questions regarding client relations…

• How many of us take the time in our busy world to get to know our clients? To have a conversation with them like a friend? To stay in touch even when they haven’t booked in a while? Do you ask for their thoughts or feedback on your business and booking process? What can be improved to make things smoother and better for them and future clients? I do think that is a very important step for us. I am guilty of not always taking the time to ask for feedback, other than about their specific vacation. So how can we, as an industry, make the entire process a better experience for our clients, exceed their expectations, and beat the big online travel agencies in client relations each and every time?

And so did the fact that the lawyers and the client remembered the jurors’ names and thanked them:

• How many of you personally thank your clients each and every time? Thanking them when they least expect it and making them feel valued? I’ll admit that I have been a little lax in this area. What is your process of thanking clients? How well does it work for you? At what point in the process do you say, or send a, thank you? What unexpected surprises have you delivered in the past? Or have you received in the past? How can we use what I have shared, or what experiences you’ve had in the past to improve our businesses, our industry as a whole, and time after time ensure that our clients always remember us first because we made them feel special?

Cannon analyzed her marketing plan for 2015 to find a balance between busy and slow cycles:

• I had a great marketing plan with specific tasks for each week that I was to do…. I should have utilized some of my December slow time to pre-prepare several weeks’ worth of marketing in advance (emails, blog posts, social media posts), so I could do a simple copy and paste, or even schedule to post on specified dates and times.

• I also struggle with deciding what doesn’t get done during the very busy months… It was marketing, updating my website, updating processes and documents. Were those the correct ones to push aside? I’m not sure, but my gut says probably not. I should have done at least some marketing, whatever minimum I could fit in.

She attended a seminar with wedding marketing professional Alan Berg and came away with a new take on “to do” lists:

• One thing that stuck with me was the concept of creating two lists, a “Today List” and a “To-Do List.” Your Today List are things that you must get done “today.” Your To-Do List should be 3 larger items, and a bit more time consuming. You work on those a little each day/week until they are completed. The key with a To-Do list is you do not add any other items until you’ve completed those on the list. This helps to keep you focused and not continually work on the smaller, simpler tasks, but to make some real strides and accomplishments on more difficult goals as well. These can be business goals, personal goals, or whatever you see fit. I like the concept and will be trying it out here soon.

So what is her plan for the remainder of 2015 and 2016?

• Be prepared, maybe even over prepared, to make things as simple as possible when it comes time to do the task.

• Simplify as much as possible.

• Be consistent, even if that means cutting back due to time constraints.

If you’re already a home-based travel agent, take Cannon’s advice to heart! If you’ve been on the fence, let her success be a blueprint for yours through the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course.

Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course

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HBTA Student Offers Tips for Home-Based Travel Agents was last modified: October 28th, 2015 by Kelly Monaghan