Milton, Ontario travel advisor Natalia Weidner, CTC is affiliated with TPI. She’s also part of the Virtuoso network. For this issue of Sphere she talks about social media, networking and the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
How long have you been a home-based travel agent and how long have you been with TPI?
Weidner: I have been a home-based travel agent since 2005, with TPI since August 2010. I was working with a wonderful agency as a home-based agent but they just couldn’t provide the services customized for my needs as a solo home-based agent.
I happened to meet a TPI advisor at a Transat launch event and her enthusiasm for TPI piqued my interest. I researched a variety of host agencies and TPI offered the best of everything. It was the best move I ever made and TPI continues to delight and surprise me.
Even though I work alone, I feel like I’m part of a dynamic, growing team and that our Head Office is always looking out for ways to help me improve and grow my business. As in any organization there are ups and downs, but overall TPI is a class act and I am very happy to be part of this organization.
On your website you mention meetings, corporate events and conferences. Have you been able to focus on those areas of your expertise as a travel agent, or do you mostly sell leisure product?
Weidner: I left the Meetings & Events industry after 12 years because I wanted a change. Most of my business is leisure but I have a large focus on groups – which is comprised of destination weddings, family groups, wellness groups and I do have some corporate clients for whom I do corporate travel and small meetings.
You have some great videos on YouTube, for example, your Royal Caribbean short promotional videos. How have you used social media channels to your advantage?
Weidner: Well I’ve got a million great ideas for social media but I’m not utilizing it much at the moment. It’s on my radar and is a goal that I want to get to this year!
You mention that you were voted Milton’s Favourite Travel Agent in the 2014 Milton Readers’ Choice Awards. That’s an amazing achievement especially considering how ‘under the radar’ many home-based agents continue to be, despite their best efforts. How do you promote yourself/ your agency and your services?
Weidner: Thank you! It was an honour to win this year.
The best source of new and repeat business I have is my networking group, BNI. BNI is the world leader in Business Networking and Word of Mouth Marketing. I have been a member since 2010 in the Milton Escarpment Entrepreneurs chapter, and the cost of membership and time commitment (weekly meetings) has paid itself off in spades. I compare the results to that old Clairol commercial: “I liked it so much I told two friends, and they told two friends….”
My business growth has primarily been via word of mouth. Satisfied repeat clients who tell their friends and family and it keeps on spreading.
What’s your best advice to anyone who enjoys being a home-based agent but may be frustrated by a lack of growth in their agency business?
Weidner: Invest in a networking group. BNI is the best one in my opinion, and there are chapters all over the place – many without a travel advisor. Develop your social media presence. Invest some money in training or coaching specific to our industry and develop your niche.