By, David Peterkofsky
WeBeenThere - the online site where consumers can search for specialist travel agents based on the retailers' expertise - unveiled a campaign designed to boost agent participation and to help them win back the clients they've lost to online direct-booking sites.
The Get 'Em Back campaign offers agents strategies for winning back online customers and retaining those who return. And as an incentive for new agents to join its network, WeBeenThere reduced its one-time set-up fee from $100 to $50; agents must join the WeBeenThere network by June 1 for the special rate.
Despite gains made by online sites such as Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz, WeBeenThere CEO David Feit said, "Only travel agents can recommend the ideal hotel, must-see attractions and the perfect restaurant based on each customers' individual preferences."
But a shortcoming for agents, Feit added, is that retailers "as a whole have been slow to adopt the Web as a means to reach new customers and retain their existing customer base." To help remedy that situation, WeBeenThere suggests these straightforward strategies for winning back clients:
Agents who join the WeBeenThere network receive listings on the WeBeenThere site with detailed profiles of their services and specialties; access to its agent-only Intranet; and access to low-cost e-mail marketing services.
- Specialize. Agents' true value to clients, the company said, comes from their knowledge of destinations and activities.
- Establish a Web presence. Customers who already have used Internet booking sites clearly are comfortable working online, so it's imperative for agents to be online as well. WeBeenThere also helps agents get online or revamp their presence.
- Use the Internet to attract business. WeBeenThere helps agents develop online marketing strategies ranging from direct e-mails to mentions in WeBeenThere's consumer e-newsletter, TravelSavvy.
As for WeBeenThere itself, Feit said his company counts some 260 agents in its network, and he hopes the current marketing push will drive that number to as many as 700 by year's end. Feit added that his site's traffic now stands at several thousand hits per day, thanks to partnerships with travel-planning sites such as IGOUGO.com and an affiliate program in which other sites place links to the WeBeenThere database of agents.