Finding new customers on line

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Agents of all specialties are finding that the Internet is a great tool for customer support, supplier communications and even some transactions.

However, for most agents the true measure of any effort is the number of new sales closed, so many agents are searching for effective ways to acquire new customers on line.

Recently, a number of companies started offering consumer marketing services to agencies. Although the details of each service differ, each offers agencies the opportunity to make sales to or get leads from prospective travel clients who visit the marketing company's site.

When evaluating these services, ask tough questions, including the following:

  • Are the leads qualified in any way? In order to please investors, these services want to produce a large number of leads, but you should be more interested in quality than quantity and be discriminating in your responses.
  • How is a sale closed? Is it done automatically (as in an auction), or is it done off line by e-mail and/or phone?
  • Who owns the client? Will the service provider have the incentive and means to contact and do future business with the client in place of you?
  • What does the service cost? Is it free or does it charge a fixed-price subscription or a fee per lead or sale?
  • So far, the existing services seem to have a ways to go before they can give consistently satisfying answers to these questions, but some agents have found services that work for them.

    Below is a list of some companies that provide Internet consumer marketing services to travel agencies. More companies are listed on the PositiveSpace.com Web site.

    iWant.com
    www.iwant.com
    iWant.com brings buyers and sellers of various products together, including travel.

    All Cruise Auction
    www.allcruiseauction.com
    This is an auction site for cruises posted only by travel agencies.

    Respond.com
    www.respond.com
    The site provides a means for buyers in 3,000 product categories (including travel) to submit requests to registered sellers.

    TravelBreak.com
    www.travelbreak.com
    This is an open-to-all global exchange for travel and leisure services, products and ideas allowing for business-to-business, business-to-consumer and person-to-person trading.

    TravelHub
    www.travelhub.com
    Consumer listings, Web page design and hosting for travel companies are available here.

    Travelzoo.com
    www.travelzoo.com
    This is a consumer Web site at which travel agents can post their specials for a fee.

    TripQuote.com
    www.tripquote.com
    This service submits travelers' requirements to travel agents, effectively driving business into their offices.

    This list was compiled by Greg Merkley, president of Evanston, Ill.-based Travel Technology & Magic, which owns and operates the PositiveSpace.com on-line directory for travel agents at www.positive space.com. All of these sites, along with complete contact information, are listed on PositiveSpace.

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