In today’s episode, I am joined by Marissa Daniels of Spread Your Wings Travel Agency. Marissa started her business in 2019 as a side hustle, which it remains today. Marissa manages to balance a very intense 9-5 alongside a growing travel agency, which has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to her particular Instagram strategy for travel agents.
The amazing thing is that Marissa started her business in 2019, and still managed to experience explosive growth regardless of the pandemic. I think Marissa’s Instagram strategy that has gotten her this success is absolutely brilliant and I’m so excited for her to talk us through how and why she’s decided to take this approach, and what her results have been.
We also talk about the importance of sticking to your niche and staying in your lane. Marissa is a big believer in knowing your audience and delivering trips or services that cater specifically to your ideal customer. And of course, as a woman who’s got a full-time job and is doing this as a side hustle, we do talk quite a bit about how she even manages that. What does her day look like, and how does she maximize her productivity?
If you are a travel agent or a travel planner, you absolutely need to listen to this episode. It is so good, and Marissa is completely right when she says Instagram marketing isn’t really being done this way. So, kudos to Marissa for taking charge, being fearless and growing her travel agency this quickly.
Starting a travel agency with no experience
While working for the federal government a few years ago, Marissa decided she wanted another source of income to support her lifestyle. Becoming a travel agent wasn’t something she had in mind, but she loved the travel deals she came across on Facebook. So, she took a leap of faith and decided to reach out to the travel agent who was posting these deals and signed up to become a travel agent herself.
Starting a travel agency was a lot easier than Marissa had expected. She paid to sign up, but she didn’t need to take any courses or certifications. She just signed up with the host agency and she got access to different travel agent websites, suppliers, discounts, customer service, and the company’s IATA number.
After that, Marissa had to learn how to create her own business, set up email and social media accounts, find out how everything works as a travel agent, how to book trips for clients and more. “I wanted to do all this stuff before I launched,” Marissa says, “I wanted to learn the business before I actually said, “Hey, I’m a travel agent” and have people contact me, and I didn’t know what I was doing.”
She went through some training offered by her host agency, but Marissa is mostly self-taught. By now, after a few years of experience and growth, she has created an orientation course for travel agents who work below her. Because she didn’t have a clear step-by-step roadmap when she first started, she wanted the experience to be different for people on her team.
Instagram strategy for travel agents
Initially, Marissa created a Facebook group to market her travel agency. But the group felt limited, so she quickly decided to get active on Instagram, and that’s when her business took off. Nowadays, most of her clients still come from Instagram, or word of mouth. “Word of mouth is everything for a service business,” Marissa says.
As I mentioned earlier, Marissa also has a unique approach to marketing on Instagram, sharing specific deals on her Instagram. “I post everything in the caption for the trip because I want to be upfront about everything. I don’t want to just post pretty pictures and have y’all scroll by and like. That’s not getting me a sale.”
Most travel agencies just post pretty pictures of destinations on Instagram, without giving any insights into how much it would cost to go there. Marissa credits her success to posting deals, so she is surprised she doesn’t see more travel agents do this.
The power of Instagram reels for travel agents
Marissa has also seen a lot of success with Instagram reels. Her advice is, “whenever they come out with a new feature on their Instagram, get on it, get on it. Get on their stories, post polls, post engaging content, post reels, videos, whatever.”
Instagram has moved more towards video, so you can have a lot of success by using reels. Marissa says that reels get her over a hundred views within seconds of posting it. So, she has been trying to create her content as reels and make it funny, educational, or engaging.
Balancing a full-time job and a travel agency
Marissa used to balance working on her job and travel business during the day, but she recently started a new job that’s more high level and needs more focus. Now she only works on her job from 8 AM to 4 PM, and from 4 PM to 9 PM she’s available for her travel business. She always takes Sundays off, and if anyone contacts her on a Sunday, she’ll reach out to them on Monday.
Because her business is based on commission, Marissa is very conscious that if she doesn’t work, she won’t get paid. You need to be disciplined and dedicated, but most of all, she says, “you have to love what you do. You have to love it. And that’s why I feel like being a travel agent is such a rewarding job because I love to travel.”
More from this episode
- What is the difference between being an independent travel agent or working with a host agency? Marissa explains the pros and cons of each.
- How is the commission split between the travel agent and host agency? And is the commission always the same, or does it vary between trips?
- Do people usually ask for custom trips, or do they take advantage of the deals Marissa promotes in her marketing?
- Why is it important to know your niche and focus your marketing on their needs specifically?
- Should you have a content calendar or a specific strategy around posting?
- As a travel agent, is your work done once you’ve booked everything? Or is there still a lot of involvement with clients while they’re on their trip?
- What tools does Marissa recommend for staying organized and keeping track of everything?
- How did she manage to have success and grow during the pandemic? She shares how much she managed to sell during this time.
- Marissa’s advice for you if you’re considering becoming a travel agent.