Agents learn marketing on the cheap

By Tom Stieghorst
2012CWFortLauderdaleFORT LAUDERDALE — Getting attention for your travel agency is easy with an unlimited budget. But who has that?

Marketing expert Stephanie Lee instead spelled out seven ways travel agents can market for $100 or less, at the Travel Weekly CruiseWorld and Home Based Agent Show here Thursday.

Lee, who runs the website, said online marketing provides the biggest return on investment for any small business operating on a shoestring.

One key idea is to build a mobile-friendly version of your website. While 20% of Internet searches in general are local, that share rises to 50% on mobile devices.

A cheap solution is a Google site called, which will help an agent build mobile capability and then demonstrate how the website will look when optimized for mobile when you type in your URL.

Another no-cost attention-getter is an online review of your business, which you can solicit from customers to post on Google and Yahoo. Another site, Yelp, is more selective, but also more influential.

With the money you save marketing online, Lee suggests you spend $30 to get good business cards, rather than free cards with ads on the back that are marketed on the Web to new businesses.

Finally, use a program like Mail Chimp to do A/B tests of subject lines in your mass e-mails. The program will send two subject lines to 10% of your database and tell you within four hours which is more effective.

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.

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