It’s all about relationships
We’ve always been pretty ‘old school’ in our approach to business…and big believers in building authentic relationships as the way to build sustainable businesses.
In our business, we were never huge on loading our tours with the big online travel agents – Viator, Expedia etc, or placing a large focus on social media, online advertising and SEO as a key part of our growth strategy.
We are not talking these strategies down (SEO and social media were hugely important to us).
However, as far as we are concerned, an OTA (online travel agent) doesn’t REALLY know you. They don’t know a lot about your business, your people, or your product.
And they don’t REALLY know what their customers are saying about you.
We placed more value on a straightforward approach:
Get your detective hat on, find the right global partners for your tours, win their business no matter how long it takes and then build great, long lasting relationships with them.
The kind of relationships where, over time and with a bit of nurturing, you come to know each other’s businesses and the people that work in them intimately- kind of like a big extended family.
These are the kind of relationships you want in THIS industry.
As mentioned, this strategy was definitely complemented with other funnels (social media etc, direct business via our site etc) however, the focus for us was always on nurturing these key partners or ‘key accounts’.
And it was sure as hell worth it.
When you’re starting out it can seem impossible, daunting and overwhelming. Why would they work with me? I’m too small, too inexperienced, they’ve been using someone else for years.
But why not? Why shouldn’t they work with you? You’ve got a great product. You’ve got runs on the board. You’ve been around a while. You’ve got some great reviews that you can share with them. There’s been some buzz around you. Sure it may take awhile to break through…
You need to back yourself.
Everybody has to start somewhere. When we started our business in 2007 we were literally one man with a van making a $20k profit per year. Eight years later we were doing over 2 million in revenue. We had one travel agent account alone worth 290k annually, another worth 230k annually and three more worth over $100k annually.
That’s a lot of private day tours.
When we were first introduced to these companies all those years ago, our ‘tour business’ consisted of one second hand Toyota van and one tour guide and one “general manager” (us).
Sure, it takes a bit of time to break through and be taken seriously – and you might even be out and out ignored for a while but…it’ll happen for you.
You can do it.
What you need to do once you have created the wish list of partners you want to work with is find out what they are not getting. Find out what your city, your region or your competitors lack in their eyes.
Ask questions. Listen and collate data from these companies. Look for common themes in the information you are receiving.
Be ready for an opportunity. Be different. Be exciting. Be consistent – and be patient.
It may take one, two or three years to start seeing some results from that initial meeting. They will monitor your progress, they’ll want to make sure that you’re around for the long haul before they start using you.
That‟s okay. Keep chipping away, keep knocking on the door and keep being exciting and consistent and… you‟ll get your chance.
And when you do it will transform your business – and change your life.