Travel Coach Weekend Thought: The Brand Me


Dear Renato,

After having worked in the High Street for 14 years I’ve recently become a home-based travel agent. Given that quarterly conference is coming up and I also need to network with prospects, how do I go about presenting myself? Do I need a brand?

Sharon – Middlesbrough

Hi Sharon,


To start let’s put the ‘brand’ thing to bed. A lot has been written around this concept. All it means is that you have thought about what you do and how you do it and that the way you come across reflects this process. End of story.

Cattle branding
This is the true beginning of branding ‘My Cow, hands off’


You’ll have to choose to what extent you wish to identify with the company behind you. Naturally all the due diligence stuff like handling money and only selling approved suppliers is (rightly) inflexible. However, you do have latitude as to how you portray yourself e.g. are you part of a large professional set-up or are you an independent expert who is truly the best in their field? There is no right or wrong here but you do need to contemplate which makes you feel most comfortable as this will affect your confidence when dealing face to face with new people.

Head tattoo
…and developed into something really sophisticated

You asked about how to present yourself. I suppose you are thinking of what to wear –more of that later. Let’s now examine Social Networking. The facilities offered by Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Word Press, About.Me and whatever else will appear in 2017 are amazing ways of adding to your self-portrait. By working with them you will actually begin to know yourself better. Because these media thrive on users writing with brevity you’ll soon find you are better at discussing what interests you. This in turn will inspire you to research subjects you have a passion for and in time, you will become even more expert in them. For instance one person I follow on Twitter divulges how many seats particular airplanes have. Although the subject matter is somewhat niche (by which I mean boring!) it does help me think of this person as an air seat specialist. Social networking consumes both time and money but has become the marketing method of choice simply because people gravitate to these sites with the same verve as they delete both solicited and unsolicited emails and recycle paper mailings they have not even bothered to open.

So, when you have decided how big or small you are and have become a self-knowing maven you are ready for launch. Before you leave home however, remember that a conference with your peers is different from meeting potential clients. At the company event you are among trusted friends and you’re only selling a smile and a listening ear. However, being among customers is altogether more difficult. You do it because you need to sell to and through them.

And what will you wear? Actually, it doesn’t really matter. The purpose of selecting the right clothes and make up is to suggest competence and expertise. What you put on is secondary to the way you carry it. If a certain styles make you feel confident and good about yourself, then wear it. As a person who is now working for herself you are the boss and you should enjoy the freedom.Mrs May


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Lawnmower head:
Teresa May Heels:

Travel Coach Weekend thought: Network-Notwork


Dear Travel Coach,

I run an independent agency and want more clients. I have been advised to start networking and to join a breakfast group. What is networking and would you recommend it?

Agatha, Bury.

Hi Agatha,

The big idea behind networking is that by regularly meeting people and building personal rapport, and trust with them you will increase business opportunities. This is done by promoting yourself (instead of your company) with the largely, but not entirely, truthful adage in mind that ‘people buy people first’.

At its simplest, networking is the attitude that when you are at a work-related gathering, many of the other people there are either potential clients or capable of referring you to potential clients. Be aware however not to treat everyone as a prospect nor make it obvious you are viewing them as such, otherwise they will keep a distance from you (think how unpleasant it is when somebody thrusts a business card in your hand). To maintain a balance you need to listen, show genuine interest and obtain the other person’s card (this also gives you the power to contact them).english-breakfast

Your stated reason to network is to acquire more customers. This is fine, but don’t assume everyone else has the same motive. I met a university librarian at a networking skills event. Unable to guess her commercial motive (after all, libraries lend – they don’t sell), I asked her purpose and she explained that success for her was having empty shelves. If her books were out on loan at the Universities of Helsinki and Rio, she was doing well and networking was a way of achieving this goal.

So, by tuning in to their definitions of success, you can assist other people before they help you and thereby gain credibility and the right to request their support in return.

On the back of this ‘mutual support’ idea, some entrepreneurs have formed ‘open to new members’ networking groups. They have a tendency to posture as ‘professional’ associations but are businesses and profit is central to their aims. There is nothing wrong in this, but do remember where their priority lies when you consider signing up. Their profit comes before yours so look at the fees involved with care.

The term raison d’etre of networking groups is to gain business for members. They can be successful, but be aware that people whose services are used out of desperation (plumbers, electricians, roofers) or legal obligation (lawyers, accountants) fare better than the others. Unfortunately, travel agents, like insurance brokers, are one of many competing channels and you will need to work much harder than other nominally equal members to get business referrals and loyalty from your cohort.knife-in-the-back-118x150

Lastly, networking companies’ regulations and habits foster a ‘team’ ethos. This is often a false construct to make you feel that membership is worthwhile even when it actually isn’t. Fine if you obtain gratification from being among ‘mates’ in a group but do consider if it is really worth being part of ‘We’ if it is at the expense of ‘Me’.