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Wednesday, 02 July 2014 14:16

The Advantage of Belonging

Written by  Douglas Cooke

Doug
Along with this issue is our Annual Guide to Host Agencies, Coop’s and Consortia. This guide is a valuable source of information when looking to join one of these types of groups. It can also serve as a starting point for those agents who may currently be affiliated with an organization but are looking to make a change. Our research indicates that up to 35% of agents are considering changing their affiliation.
Why join one of these groups in the first place? For newer agents without a track record in the industry, it provides them with an agency partner through whom they can book travel. More experienced agents may join for one or more of the reasons below.

Perhaps the single biggest reason most agents join one of these types of organizations is for the higher commission levels that can be achieved by booking with their group’s preferred suppliers. But that is really just the tip of the iceberg. Most affiliate groups provide their members with tools and technologies and training to use them, which agents couldn’t otherwise afford to invest in on their own. Some have a consumer facing website that will provide leads to their agent members. Most offer some type of cooperative marketing programs, providing agents with the ability to send hosted messages and mail pieces to their clients, often at little to no cost. Most of these organizations also have an annual conference providing their membership with hundreds of hours of training and seminars, along with social events and the chance to meet their preferred suppliers at some type of a tradeshow.
Despite all of these great advantages of belonging, one of the biggest challenges that the management of these groups face is getting their membership to utilize all of the tools at their disposal. Programs like cooperative marketing are generally used by less than 40% of their members. Even the annual conferences draw only a small percentage of the agent members. I am just returning from a very successful Vacation.com conference that had record attendance of 1,100 agents. A great number to be sure, but Vacation.com estimates their member agencies represent about 25,000 total agents.
It is not my intention to be critical of the agent community that isn’t fully embracing all the tools at their disposal. After all, you have already taken the first positive step of joining a group. Rather, I want to encourage you to challenge yourself to learn about all the different programs your host organization has to offer, and utilize them. I understand time limitations and reluctance to change the way we do business, but by fully taking advantage of these resources that your group has spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions developing, you will likely grow your business to new heights. And wasn’t that why you joined in the first place?

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