Jo Hyder left the world of corporate marketing behind two years ago to become a Not Just Travel agent. She talks to Abra Dunsby about her career and what she’s learnt.
After working for big brands such as Coca-Cola, Unilever and Virgin Holidays for 14 years, Jo Hyder decided to leave the world of corporate marketing two years ago and join Not Just Travel as a homeworker.
“I wanted to be around more for my two kids ¬– I’d read too many bedtime stories over FaceTime,” explains Hyder, adding that working as an agent has allowed her to pursue her passion for travel.
As a homeworker, Hyder must market her personal brand as well as the products she sells, which she describes as a “very different experience” to marketing in the corporate world.
“It’s very different controlling a large marketing budget and having a team of skilled professionals to having a tiny marketing budget and doing it all yourself. It’s been a steep learning curve at Not Just Travel. You get real highs from little victories.”
While she might now be marketing on a smaller scale, Hyder has undoubtedly brought myriad skills and learnings from the corporate world into her current role. Here she discusses those learnings and offers tips for successful marketing.
“Given the current climate, look for opportunities to sell your expertise in a non-sales way, so clients can come to you when they’re ready to book,” advises Hyder.
“You can also help clients understand what the travel experience will be like, unpicking the government’s changing travel advice and offering practical tips, as well as answering the many questions clients and potential clients might have.”
Despite the current challenges posed by coronavirus, Hyder says agents must continue to stay front of mind.
“You’ve got to keep going, remain present and keep talking. Continue to inspire them but also try to read the mood and be sensitive.
“Be positive and enthusiastic that the world will heal. Also highlight the benefits of working with an agent and the fact that you’re available all the time to answer questions,” she adds.
“The role of social media as an agent is to inspire and show clients what it’s possible to book. They might not go on to book that particular thing, but it starts a conversation,” says Hyder.
“I use Facebook as a community marketing tool, to talk about different topics with my local community. Then when travel comes up, those Facebook members will come to me.
Hyder uses LinkedIn to talk to employers and “become their agent of choice.” She explains: “I’ve gone into various companies with a pop-up store once a quarter, offering employees 15- minute appointments to discuss travel.
“It’s good for bosses too as it means their employees aren’t researching holidays themselves during working hours. I’ve also had some great bookings from ex-colleagues.”
“I attend local networking groups on Zoom to promote myself,” says Hyder, who is also working with the Women’s Institute to talk about post-Covid cruising and rail journeys. “It’s not a sales presentation, more a chance to show my expertise,” she explains.
“When I first started out, marketing was about making people feel something. It was a bit of a leap of faith and a creative time,” says Hyder. “Today everything is measurable and very data-driven –there’s no guesswork involved. You can continually optimise and sharpen your efforts.”
“Make sure you always know why you’re doing something,” suggests Hyder. “Ask yourself ‘what strategic role does this have in my overall plan? What does good look like and how will I measure it?’ Brands such as Unilever and Coke have a strong brand purpose ¬– you need a purpose for being.”
“Remember to be you throughout the entire sales process, and highlight the human interaction an agent offers,” says Hyder.
While personalisation remains important in travel marketing, Hyder believes it’s the human element that often helps clinch a sale.
“Being able to talk to a travel expert is priceless – someone who has an infectious enthusiasm for where a client is travelling to and can talk about the best bars and restaurants or national parks to visit.
“An online booking system can’t tell you if the experience is likely to match your expectations. Booking a holiday is a lovely experience, and yet that just-booked feeling falls pretty flat online. You can’t always get an answer from a booking system either, and people are starting to realise that, especially since the pandemic.”
Agency life: “I landed a job at a marketing agency when I was 21 – I’d been working for a print company previously and the agency was one of their clients. The agency had a great atmosphere and lots of cool young people working there. I got a job as a PA and spent almost 10 years working through the ranks there.
Coca-Cola: “I was very privileged to work at Coke for seven years – it was such an amazing experience with excellent opportunities. We had big marketing budgets, which allowed for real creativity – although they still had to perform brilliantly. One of my favourite projects was a schools’ initiative, where we invited kids who won a competition to play football at Wembley Stadium with the England team. It was brilliant seeing it come to life and to see the kids’ faces.”
Unilever: “I had a global role and was tasked with raising the standards of digital marketing and having consistent approaches across our top 25 markets, as well as trying to find really innovative ways to create revenue streams. I travelled lots (although only for meetings) and met lots of different people from different cultures.”