What's one of the most important things people forget to do with their Web site?

Check the spelling of all the copy.

"How many sites do you visit that have misspelled words in the first paragraph?" asked Peter Stanzel, the Hanover, N.H.-based head of TA Edge, which creates sites for travel agents.

www.taedge.com.According to Stanzel, such mistakes create a bad first impression: A site that looks carelessly put together can scare off potential clients.

Speaking at ASTA's Eastern Regional Conference, held recently in Bermuda, Stanzel provided the following tips on building effective Web sites:

  • Identify the site's objectives. Will it be to gather leads or provide information for current and prospective clients? Will it offer on-line booking?
  • Right now, only about 10% of all agent sites offer booking capability, but that's always an easy thing to add later, said Stanzel.

  • Figure out the level of resources you can commit to developing and maintaining the site.
  • According to Stanzel, the cost of basic site development can range from $200 to $4,000. Other costs include an average range of $20 to $80 monthly paid to the service that hosts the site as well as annual or monthly maintenance costs.

  • Identify the target audience. "You're going to be most effective concentrating on people in your own community" instead of looking for an international customer base, said Stanzel.
  • Keep the site's message simple. When deciding what to say on your Web site, "keep it simple, elegant and focused," said Stanzel. To avoid wordiness, he suggested that you "write the copy, then cut the text in half."
  • Balance special effects vs. performance. Set up the site so people who are looking for basic information can bypass special effects such as video clips and go directly to a specific area.
  • Register with search engines to market your site. There are some sites, such as www.add-me.com, that will register you with a number of search engines for a small fee.
  • It costs $239 a year for a TA Edge package that includes site-building tools, site hosting, the ability to update the site and upload pictures, access to an art library and a toll-free support number.

    Turning salsa into dollars

    Travel agents looking to generate new business need drive no further then their favorite ethnic restaurant. The following are some helpful guidelines to cooking up some new clients:

    Richard Turen.

  • Meet with the restaurant owner. For our example, we will use a fine Mexican restaurant. Explain that you want to promote a tour or a cruise to Mexico and that you are going to turn over the earned escort tickets to an employee of his/her choice.
  • Explain that every diner at the restaurant will receive a $100 (per family) voucher toward the trip when they receive their bill, as well as a group discount (at least a portion of which will be funded by the supplier).
  • The trip can include such special features as an on-board cooking demonstration by the restaurant's chef and a group margarita party at a local in-port venue.

  • Remind the restaurant owners that there is no cost at their end. You are paying all expenses -- you are asking only that the trip information be distributed in a mutually agreeable way.
  • Explain that, if successful, this could become an annual event, perhaps tied in to Cinco de Mayo or some other important event.
  • Richard Turen is an industry consultant and travel agency president.

    Contact him at[email protected].

    Golden rules of interviewing

    Next time you watch "60 Minutes" or "20/20," pay close attention to the interviewers.

    A Barbara Walters or a Morley Safer is so good at directing a question-and-answer session, you'd think they could get a tree to talk.

    Mark Mancini.How do they get so much valuable information from sometimes reluctant interview subjects? And what does this have to do with selling travel?

    Well, the "tricks" used by professional interviewers apply equally well to your efforts when qualifying clients.

    The following tactics are just simple rules for good interviewing. But used well, you'd be surprised how quickly you can get to know your clients -- and then match them with a product they'll be eager to buy. Here are the rules:

  • Keep questions short and simple. Compound questions, such as "What ships do you like, and what stateroom category?" can be confusing. Focus on one thought at a time.
  • Avoid overly personal questions early in the interview. Although it helps to know up front how much a client wants to spend, asking about money or other personal information too early can make clients uneasy. Begin by asking about the client's travel history or favorite destinations or activities.
  • Ask three questions for every one statement you make. Good interviewers leave themselves out of the picture. If you make an effort to ask more questions than you answer, you'll ensure that your focus remains on the client.
  • Listen carefully. Not only will this help you do your job better, but it sends the clear signal that you're attentive and that you care. An effective way to show that you're listening is to take notes. Even head nods or declarative expressions ("I agree."; "Yes, that's a good point." ) convey that you're listening carefully.
  • Marc Mancini is an industry consultant and educator.


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