Change Of Tack
One thing about high street agents that is clear, is that although most make use of social media as well as the internet, few have really embraced these tools as a means of getting their message out and more importantly, getting clients in.
How many traditional agents can truly say that they have embraced modern media as a means of holistic client communication?
How many traditional agents still sit behind their desks and though they write the odd blog post (or borrow someone else's) and maybe even send out the odd tweet or Instagram picture, few seem to see this as a positive way of attracting and keeping new clients? How many still cast but a jaundiced eye in the direction of modern social media and grudgingly offer such only a passing interest?
As High Street agents, we need to realise that the people we can see from our shop window; indeed the people that live in our town, village or catchment area are really only a tiny, tiny fraction of our potential customers.
The way forward for traditional agents must include a well thought out and pursued application of all the elements of social media, email and the internet into a coherent an ongoing programme. Regular client emails, regular updating of any website (big bugbear of mine, that one), continued, persuasive use of the main (or even, the latest fashion) as regards social media platforms including the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook (and there are more new ones - ask any child of 6 who will keep you updated).
The move needs to be away from viewing social media as being an adjunct to traditional selling means, to being the mainstream. Actually having clients walk in or be attracted by a window display should no longer be viewed by traditional agents as the High Street agent's main source of traffic.
There are now firms working towards offering agents the opportunity to expand greatly their website offering. This not only covers such things as affiliate marketing but new concepts such as "Sujester" which enable clients to produce a wish list of future holidays; for we do not just wish to book any clients next holiday, but ideally to have that client mapping out potential holidays for some time to come.
The main consortia have an important role to play in this arena. Here, they can actively pursue an assault on social media for the benefit of their membership, even though sometimes managing a consortia's membership can be a bit like driving a car, where the gearbox is a piece of string in a bucket of porridge.
We High Street agents need a complete change of tack to maintain a stout and resolute challenge to online travel agents. The funny thing is, it is not hard. Even having an up to date website is easy to produce as there are many DIY website builders such as Wix, that can enable any agent to have a startling presence, cheaply and easily. Then one needs to review the mailing lists, start a regular and (above all) up to date newsletter, to make sure every tour operator offer is reflected in a post on all social media streams and generally to start to make oneself known.
The High Street agent is not dead. It is a sleeping tiger.