Author John Donne famously said that “no man is an island” – and it’s just as true in the business sense. Looking to other businesses and working with them can not only encourage camaraderie and reciprocal support, but could help raise your profile and add value to your brand too.
Kelly Cookes, head of Freedom Travel Group, says travel agents should be looking to establish partnerships on a micro level.
“An independent agent relies heavily on their profile locally, so it is important that they actively seek out partnerships and get involved with the local community and businesses.”
These small-scale partnerships require minimal investment, and can really help boost your ROI.
From flyering at your local gym to setting up charity partnerships and community tie-ups, we take a look at the myriad ways that teaming up with other businesses can be beneficial.
Cookes says agents shouldn’t be afraid to “get out there and shout about [their] business”, and suggests starting by looking at the people that your team deals with on a daily basis – schools, dentists, doctors and local shops, for example.
One online agency putting Cooke’s advice into practice is Real Deal. Holidays, which works closely with The Gym Group, specifically its Nottingham City and Nottingham Sherwood branches, to promote its business. Chief executive Rahul Sabbarwal explains: “We have open days at the gym and it’s a great way to interact with members. It also works well as people at the gym are working towards a better body, and then they want to show off that body on holiday.”
All gym members have access to a 10% booking discount at Real Deal Holidays. The agency also offers the same booking discount at a local barber shop, and has put similar flyers in local shop windows.
Another avenue to consider is working with a partner to run events, and using your services there to enhance the guest experience.
Advantage member the Holiday & Flight Centre in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, raised its profile locally when it helped to run a talent show in conjunction with the local council and Jet2holidays earlier this year.
Rosie Ratter, managing director of the company, says she approached the local council, which runs an annual Family Man Fun Day, to ask if they’d be keen to include a children’s talent show at the event for the first time.
“It was great for the council, as they wouldn’t have had the budget to promote it or organise it otherwise. We ended up having 4,500 people at the event, compared with 2,800 the year before,” she says. The agency worked closely with Jet2holidays, who provided prizes for the talent show as well offering marketing support in the lead-up to the event.
“Jet2 brought its mobile travel agency along, and our team were all there in their T-shirts handing out flyers, branded sweets and pens,” says Ratter. The judging panel for the event included pop singer and former X Factor presenter Sinitta, resulting in lots of media coverage for the agency.
“The event was very good at raising our profile and was definitely good for business,” confirms Ratter.
“We promoted it on social media beforehand and contacted our existing customers to invite them along too,” she adds.
Travelmaker, which has three agencies in the Channel Islands, is also proactive when it comes to forging events-based partnerships.
“We’ve partnered with other retailers, hotels, wedding services and caterers over the years,” says head of travel Carl Winn.
“We’re just about to host a wedding and honeymoon event in one of our shops and have partnered up with a bridal shop, florist and a cake-maker for it.”
He believes that the partnerships have numerous business benefits.
“They allow us to widen our reach to a targeted audience by having these partners display our brochures and making positive recommendations – as well as reducing the costs of advertising for events.”
Working with a charity is an excellent way of giving something back, and in today’s climate, where customers are ever more concerned with a company’s reputation and social responsibility, it can also bring your brand positive exposure.
Haslemere Travel in Surrey works with the Prince’s Trust, a charity that owner Gemma Antrobus feels very strongly about due to the good work it does to help vulnerable young people in the UK.
The charity holds a prestigious annual silent auction event, which Haslemere Travel attends.
“We work with suppliers to provide prizes for it,” says Antrobus. Past prizes have included a villa holiday in Thailand for 10 people worth £15,000.
The partnership has helped Haslemere Travel to raise more than £100,000 for the Prince’s Trust over the past six years.
Antrobus adds that the high-profile guests who attend the auction have also helped secure new business for the agency. “As a luxury agent, the people attending are potential clients for us. One client we gained from the auction is a senior leader of a major City financial institution,” she reveals.
Freedom member La Vida Travel in Newport is also thinking charitably. It is currently supporting the Marrow for Marley cause and has enlisted the help of local businesses to help raise money.
The travel agency will fundraise for six-year-old Welsh boy Marley Nicholls, who needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant, at its upcoming five-year anniversary party.
Agency director Karen Reyes says: “We have lots of tour operators and local businesses helping us by providing prizes and selling raffle tickets for us. There are two hairdressers, a cake shop and a beautician involved. We are hoping to make £20,000 on tickets. We’ve just had permission to go into the Admiral Insurance buildings in both Newport and Cardiff. Combined they have 8,000 employees, so it’s an amazing opportunity.”
In exchange for their help, Reyes says the travel agency promotes the local businesses by leaving their business cards in the shop.
So how to pick the perfect partner? The key is to ensure they help you to deliver something meaningful, and also help clients to make a positive connection to your brand. Cookes advises: “It is vital to select the right business to work with locally. We have seen the biggest successes when agents have aligned themselves with local businesses that have similar markets and goals.
“Make sure you understand what the partner wants to get out of the relationship and then work together on growing awareness.”
David Forder, head of marketing at Advantage, gives his top tips for building successful partnerships:
1. Have a good understanding of who your target audience is and ensure the partnership works to attract these types of customers.
2. A contra-based partnership is a low-risk option, as neither party is paying to be involved.
3. Set clear objectives before you agree to any partnership or undertake any kind of marketing activity.
4. Think about how you will track and measure the success of the partnership to have a clear view on any ROI.
5. Suppliers paying for support is a good way to offset additional marketing spend, and allows you to try new activities.