This is how Louise Trowbridge used word-of-mouth marketing to grow her Not Just Travel agency
Having worked in HR and IT respectively, both Louise and Lee reached a point where they were fed up with their careers. But then an existing franchisee introduced them to Not Just Travel in 2017 and everything changed.
It’s that spirit of recommendation that’s helped make Louise’s business a success, even though she began part-time and had no prior experience. Just six weeks after being introduced to the concept, Louise did her initial one-week induction training. And her first bookings came soon after – from friends and family.
“Both of us were fed up with the corporate life and the nine-to-five,” explained Louise. “I was making people redundant and holding disciplinaries. Maybe I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had all these little things from my background that were pushing me towards a career in travel. Now I get to talk about holidays and look at hotels all day!”
The couple’s friends and families still book to this day, five years later, with one friend recently booking an £18,000 multi-centre trip to Japan for next year.
Louise said: “In the early days, it tends to be people that you already know. We’ve both booked for a lot of ex-work colleagues – and it was definitely family and friends in the beginning.”
Just the beginning
The biggest growth Louise has seen has come through being referred and recommended to others. That isn’t something to take lightly, as it means people are happy to be associated with you and your service.
“We get a lot of referrals, which is amazing,” said Louise. “I think it’s the highest compliment that the customer can pay you. That they’re happy to put their name to your service when they recommend you to their friends and family.”
The power of social media
Social media has also amplified the word-of-mouth effect, with a local Facebook group being the source of a recent massive £85,000 booking for a multi-generational family trip to Thailand, Singapore and then the Maldives.
“I joined some of the local groups on Facebook,” Louise said. “The biggest one that I’m in has about 80,000 women in the area. Everyone asks for advice and tips. And, as time went on, when people were asking for independent travel agent recommendations, my existing customers were mentioning my name. I guess I had a bit of a reputation in the group!”
Consistency and a good reputation
Running a great travel business isn’t about getting customers once - it’s about keeping them and having them recommend you to others. That only happens when you love your work, and your customers, too.
That’s clearly true for Louise and Lee, and it shows in the reviews and testimonials they get. Rated 5/5 on Trustpilot, one recent reviewer demonstrates how their service is valued.
They said: “I had the responsibility of making a group booking. 18 people, five families with a broad age of children. Louise did a great job and has found us… the perfect all-inclusive hotel in a great location. Very happy with the prompt and professional service provided and wouldn’t hesitate in recommending.”
The joy of gifting memories
Far from being fed up with careers that weren’t going to be right for them long-term, Louise and Lee now get immense satisfaction from helping people make great memories.
Louise said: “There were lots of people that didn’t travel and now they are travelling again. They haven’t been away for two or three years and they’re really nervous about it. They really appreciate the support. You feel like you’ve helped someone to get away and have a good time.”
Helping people with tailor-made itineraries, where they don’t quite know what they want is also hugely enjoyable for them.
“I feel like that’s where we get to add the most value,” said Louise. “If you get to know the customer and actually understand what they’re looking for, you get to bring that to life for them.
“Equally, it might be that you listen to what they’re asking for, and you tell them that it’s not actually what they want. It sounds so cheesy, but to go on that journey with them, people are so grateful when they’ve had a lovely holiday. That’s a lovely feeling.”