Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Looking to expand your list of prospective clients so you can market to them? Try creating an opt-in offer.

"It's an amazing form of lead generation that small business owners, including travel agents, can and should be using online," said Emily Matras, founder of Bon Vivant Copy, a travel agent-focused copywriting studio.

Opt-in offers, also known as lead magnets, freebies or free downloads, are popular in digital marketing circles, according to Matras, who said the time is right for agents to take advantage of the technique when looking for prospective clients.

By definition, she said, an opt-in offer is "a valuable piece of typically downloadable content that somebody gives away free in exchange for an email address."

Many are framed as free guides. For instance, an agent might create a PDF guide about the "top 10 ways to skip the lines at Disney" or "top 10 destinations for honeymooners," Matras said.

There are also some increasingly creative ways of creating an opt-in offer, including creating an online quiz  for an agent, that should be something to the effect of "Where should you travel next?" Then, to get the results, a user has to enter an email address.

Travel lends itself to opt-in offers, as do agents, especially ones who have specializations.

"Travel agents today are travel experts," Matras said. "They have insider tips that they can give out."

When creating an opt-in offer, several things come into play. First, an agent needs to have an email autorespond system. Matras said there are a number out there, including iContact, Constant Contact and MailChimp. Such systems send the content teased in the opt-in offer once an email address is received.

An agent also needs to have a landing page that teases the opt-in offer and includes the area to submit an email address. Some email software includes landing pages, Matras said, but there are also companies that specialize in landing pages, like Instapage.

As to the content of the offer itself, Matras advised agents to think about the kind of content their ideal prospects want to read, not what they want to write. 

If the ideal prospects are similar to clients agents already have, Matras suggested asking them what they want to learn more about. If it's a new client market, she suggested hanging out online where they hang out online. For instance, if an agent wants to break into the family travel market, they should join some family travel Facebook groups and see what kind of questions regularly come up, then create an opt-in offer around that.

Once someone signs up for an opt-in offer, the agent should do two things: Let responders know they'll be added to any existing e-newsletters, and develop a specific follow-up campaign for the opt-in offer.

The follow-up campaign should be a series of emails that continue to provide valuable information to the prospect. The prospect will then recognize the agent's name in their inbox, and that builds trust with them.

For instance, if the opt-in offer was for a list of the best ways to skip lines at Disney, future emails could include information on dining reservations at Disney or finding characters at the park.

"The idea is that you continue to provide free, valuable, insider information that you know as a travel professional, and dole it out in a series of follow-up emails," Matras said.

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