How I’ve used word-of-mouth marketing to grow my travel agency franchise
Louise Trowbridge started her Not Just Travel agency with husband Lee after being introduced by an existing franchisee in 2017.
And it’s that spirit of recommendation that’s helped make her business a success, even though she began part-time and had no prior experience. Previously working in HR and IT respectively, both Louise and Lee were fed up with their careers.
“Both of us were fed up with the corporate life and the nine to five. I was making people redundant and holding disciplinaries,” explains Louise. “Maybe I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had all these little things from my background that were pushing me towards a career in travel. Now I get to talk about holidays and look at hotels all day!”
Just six weeks after being introduced to the concept, Louise did her initial one week induction training. Her first bookings came soon after, from friends and family. And they still book to this day, five years later, with one friend recently booking an £18,000 multi-centre trip to Japan for next year.
“In the early days it tends to be people that you already know. We’ve both booked for a lot of ex work colleagues – and it was definitely family and friends in the beginning.”
But that’s just the start. The biggest growth Louise has seen has come through being referred and recommended to others. That isn’t something to take lightly, as it means people are happy to be associated with you and your service.
“We get a lot of referrals, which is amazing,” says Louise. “I think it’s the highest compliment that the customer can pay you. That they’re happy to put their name to your service when they recommend you to their friends and family.”
Social media amplifies word-of-mouth to people you’ve never met
Social media has also amplified the word-of-mouth effect, with a local Facebook group being the source of a recent massive £85,000 booking for a multi-generational family trip to Thailand, Singapore and then the Maldives.
“I joined some of the local groups on Facebook,” Louise says. “The biggest one that I’m in has about 80,000 women in the area. Everyone asks for advice and tips. And, as time went on, when people were asking for independent travel agent recommendations, my existing customers were mentioning my name. I guess I had a bit of a reputation in the group!”
A good reputation and consistency are key to spreading the word about your business.
Running a great travel business isn’t about getting customers once – it’s about keeping them and having them recommend you to others. That only happens when you love your work, and your customers too.
That’s clearly true for Louise and Lee, and it shows in the reviews and testimonials they get. Rated 5/5 on Trustpilot, one recent reviewer demonstrates how their service is valued.
“I had the responsibility of making a group booking. 18 people, 5 families with a broad age of children. Louise did a great job and has found us… the perfect all inclusive hotel in a great location. Very happy with the prompt and professional service provided and wouldn’t hesitate in recommending.”
Far from being fed up with careers that weren’t going to be right for them long-term, Louise and Lee now get immense satisfaction from helping people make great memories.
“There were lots of people that didn’t travel and now they are travelling again. They haven’t been away for two or three years and they’re really nervous about it. They really appreciate the support. You feel like you’ve helped someone to get away and have a good time.”
Helping people with tailor made itineraries, where they don’t quite know what they want is also hugely enjoyable.
“I feel like that’s where we get to add the most value. If you get to know the customer and actually understand what they’re looking for, you get to bring that to life for them.
Equally it might be that you listen to what they’re asking for, and you tell them that it’s not actually what they want. It sounds so cheesy, but to go on that journey with them, people are so grateful when they’ve had a lovely holiday. That’s a lovely feeling.”