Marketer finds website upgrades, social media drawing agents' attention

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Insight logoDespite reining in operating costs and keeping expenses down, it seems more agents are looking to add bells and whistles to their websites, such as slideshow and video capabilities, according to Passport Online, a provider of Internet marketing solutions company for leisure agents and suppliers.

"Looking at our numbers from January through the end of August, we are up every month, with an average of 38% a month in all of our Web products," said Greg Kott, president and CEO of the Beaverton, Ore., firm.

"We weren't certain what to expect over the summer, considering the year everyone has had, but our sales held up at the same pace and September is trending even higher," he added. "Since June, we have seen strong existing customer calls to upgrade or enhance their site. Agents are finally spending time actually looking at their sites."

Some agents are simply looking to change up their site, maybe redesign and add some flash or color, according to Kott.

Passport Online's key products are VacationPort and NexCite. The firm, which counts many consortia and host agency groups among its clients, along with individual agents and agencies, also offers email design and delivery services that integrate with the VacationPort and NexCite systems.

Retailers are looking for direction with social media, as well.

"We are helping anywhere from three to five agencies a day add some social media component to their website. Many agents are interested in Facebook, Twitter and blogging," said Kott.

Agents, he said, are "trying to solidify their digital footprint and recognizing that the digital footprint of their business has the website at its hub and has these social networking tools as opportunities to start and continue discussions with customers in various forms." Then, when agents attract the attention of potential clients, "they need their sites to house the best content to create interest in a sale," Kott said.

In fact, due to the keen interest in social networking, Kott said Passport Online recently launched a pilot project "designed to help us better help agents in this arena."

"We have engaged the services of a social networking consultant who is working directly with a handful of our customers to build an effective social networking strategy. The consultant is providing coaching on blogging, Facebook and Twitter and is helping these agencies to determine what mediums are most effective for them to communicate information about their agencies," Kott said.

Travel agents are social networkers by nature, according to Kott.

He said Passport Online is working toward rolling out a social media turnkey starter kit for existing customers later this year.

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