You remember Fred Rogers, right?
You know – of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Red Sweater. Soft Voice. PBS legend.
Yep. That’s the guy I’m talking about.
And all of these years later still teaching us a thing or two.
This week I’ve finally been listening to the podcast Finding Fred. It’s insightful, nostalgic, and incredibly captivating. And I keep coming back to the travel industry every time I listen. Because all of these years later I’m still learning a thing or two about life from Mr. Rogers and I’m excited to be able to share them with you:
He knew his audience
Fred Rogers knew his audience – inside and out. His audience – his ideal client – was children. Young children. And he spoke directly to them. Not to their parents. Not about them or over them. He spoke to them.
Who do you speak to? When you write emails and newsletters, do you speak to a large audience? Do you speak to the masses and just hope someone is listening? Can you picture them? Can you see them? Do you even speak to them at all? Most travel advisors niche to a style of travel (luxury, groups) and know nothing about the traveler. Flip the switch a little and you’ll start to see large strides in your marketing efforts. Nail down your ideal client, and create content that speaks only to them.
He made his audience feel special
When Fred spoke to the camera he made you feel as if he was speaking directly to you. His content and message was so on point, that children never considered that he was speaking to a mass audience, or that he had any other agenda. When Fred Rogers spoke to his audience he consistently reminded them of how special they are. In fact, he ended his program every day by telling children “you are special.”
Making your clients feel special doesn’t always mean an elaborate gift, or an expensive bottle of champagne. Sometimes it is as simple as remembering a birthday or an anniversary. Sending an email welcoming them home and asking them how their trip was – what was the best part? At the end of the day, people will rarely remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel. When you systemize your client care process, you can make clients feel special just by being a friendly voice on the other end of the line. It’s personalized care that sets you head and shoulders above other OTA’s. Don’t lose that special sauce.
His intentions were not to influence or sale, his intentions were to cause his audience to feel something
Mr. Rogers didn’t try to sell us a Daniel Tiger stuffed animal. He didn’t try to promote sponsors or other advertisers. Instead he spoke directly to the pain points of his ideal client – the pain points of children. Every week. Without any mention of a sale.
Now you may think that this is easier to do as a television host than a travel advisor, but is it really?
The most effective content you can create for your audience is content that inspires them and that speaks directly to their pain points and objections. Your audience should be able to see pictures and imagine them in that setting. Your content should reflect people that look like your idea client. And it should speak to them in such a way that when they read/hear it they nod along and say, “Yes. Exactly. That’s exactly how I feel.” When it does it will invoke a connection between the client and you, building know, like and trust unlike anything else.
He understood his circle of influence and was intentional about the way he used it.
Fred Rogers understood that he had a great responsibility regarding the content that he put out and promoted to children. He knew that he worked in a very influential medium and understood the responsibility of doing things just right to reach his end goal. He wasn’t creating content for the sake of creating it, either. He had a strategy and an end goal to his mission.
Effective, successful travel advisors understand that they wield the same power and responsibility. They realize that they have control in funneling vacation dollars to companies that practice sustainable and responsible tourism, and that give back to the communities that we travel to. They realize that there is a social responsibility to advocate for in the travel business as it pertains to working with partners that advocate for human rights, anti-racism, and eco-friendly practices.
He was a lifelong learner and understood that he didn’t have all the answers.
Fred Rogers had a process where he would create content ideas by speaking with children and parents and asking them what they worried about, and what did they think about. He would create an outline for a show, and then would consult with an early childhood development faculty member at the University of Pittsburg to make sure he was talking through the right set of feelings and incorporating appropriate coping mechanisms into his teaching. Then he made it his mission to normalize these conversations around feelings that young children felt every day. And he did it in that order. He never asked the professors at the University what they felt kids should feel. He asked his audience first. He put himself in the shoes of his ideal client to really understand how they thought. And he never stopped asking questions.
You should never stop asking your audience and your clients questions. You should always work to understand and know their wants and needs. You should know if your ideal client is comfortable traveling during COVID. You should know what kind of activities they would like to do on vacation. What their preferences are. What they worry about. All of it.
Most travel advisors see a really bright, shiny travel opportunity and then try to find a traveler to go on it, and don’t ask the question of is this a good fit. Most advisors are afraid to ask a supplier, “My client is xyzzy, are they a good fit for your tours/cruise/etc.” Even worse, most suppliers don’t know either. But asking those questions – making sure we are addressing the right concerns in an effective way – makes us better advisors. Otherwise we would still be booking agents, and we shouldn’t strive to be that way anymore.
There are so many great examples outside of our industry that can teach us about how to be better, more effective marketers. Fred Rogers can teach travel advisors a thing or two about reaching their ideal client. Knowing who they are, speaking directly to them, acknowledging their feelings and pain points, and dedicating to become lifelong learners of our audience will make us head and shoulders more successful than the average advisor. And at the end that’s the edge that helps you rise above the noise.