What Sets You Apart… Your Brand & Using This to Grow

By Cindy Bertram

As the business world continues to evolve in new ways, one segment continues to grow. Branding. This even comes into play when it comes to business owners. As professionals, we all have different areas of expertise, and today the “one size fits all” travel agent professional no longer exists. When building clients and sales, focusing on our particular specializations is even more critical. Whether we realize it or not, we all have our own brand. Making sure that our individual brand reflects what we do best and what we’re know for is a way to grow our respective travel businesses.

Think about brands that stand out 

When the word “brand” comes up, one of the immediate things we think about are products and what they’re known for – what makes them stand out. We all have certain brand products we like and buy. Why? Because they fit our needs, and we’re loyal to those products.  When shopping, when we go to a store (or even online) and can’t find that particular brand available, we might run to another store (or another online site) in search of that particular brand product because we love it. 

Professionals and their own branding

The same holds true when it comes to professional services. We depend on referrals from other people we know for certain services – a hairdresser, an attorney, a physician, and a CPA, are just a few. 

A great example is the CPA I’ve been using for the past 8 years.  I got to know Tom through someone I knew. I reached out to him, we chatted and I really felt he “knew his stuff.” What really stood out about Tom was he had the business side along with the numbers side. I’ve been extremely happy using him as my CPA. How do I describe Tom when I mention him to others who are looking for a terrific CPA?  I’ll say, “If you need a great CPA, call Tom because he’s got the business savvy besides knowing the numbers side. Most of the time CPA’s are strictly number crunchers, but don’t understand the business side. Tom knows both!”

Thinking about our own branding

We might first struggle with our own branding. But it gets down to what we want to be known for, and what we do best, along with our specializations. One tactic is to ask a few people who know us with some key questions.  Ask them, “What do you think I do best, what are some strengths you know I have, and what areas come to mind as far as my travel specializations?”  From there, jot down their ideas, review them and then come up with your own particular brand. And then run that by a few more people too.

Also consider what travel companies do as far as their own branding

When it comes to the travel and cruise line companies whose products we sell, they have their own brands. As the travel industry continues to grow with new products as well as existing companies’ growth, their own branding has evolved. And we can learn from them as well.

Insights from Susan Shultz –Gelino, Director of Sales, American Cruise Lines

Susan Shultz-Gelino, Director of Business Development for American Cruise Lines, has been with them for over 20 years. Susan has been expanding the Line’s Group Sales efforts and also continues to successfully lead the company’s growing Sales Department year after year.  I was able to talk with Susan recently about the successful growth American Cruise Lines has had, along with getting her insights on a few key areas, including branding.

First I asked Susan, “American Cruise Lines has a very successful history when it comes to the American cruising marketing.  What key things have been a critical part of your branding over the years to be successful?  How have you been able to ‘separate yourself’ from others in the cruising marketing within the USA?”  Susan said, “American has grown to become the largest cruise line in the U.S. with over 35 itineraries to 25 states, and is the only U.S. line with 3 distinct ship styles. American also builds all its own ships here in the U.S. and they are all U.S. crewed and flagged. So the line has a wonderful inherently all-American theme.” 

Susan then explained, “The advantages of building our own ships gives us a huge flexibility with itineraries—opening up a great range of marketing opportunities. We cruise to so many places the other river lines can’t, as we are not limited to rivers. This gives us many more destinations to cruise where we can still offer the beloved river cruising style so many travelers prefer.  We have the gorgeous paddlewheelers and modern riverboats for rivers and small fully stabilized coastal ships that can cruise the country’s protected coastlines from Maine to Florida in the East, and Puget Sound to Alaska in the West. American is able to explore so many fantastic U.S. locations while still providing the small ship destination-focused cruising river cruisers love.” 

The expansion into modern riverboats 

Susan and I then talked a bit more in detail about a new part of their brand, with the launch of American Cruise Lines’ first modern riverboat, the American Song, which just debuted earlier in October. I asked Susan, “How did the concept for modern riverboats come about? And how does this complement your brand and existing fleet, which includes authentic paddlewheelers and coastal cruise ships?”

Susan shared more and explained, “American’s modern riverboats are the first ships of their kind in the U.S. Europe has had beautiful modern ships for years, so it is very exciting to finally offer this beautiful style here at home. Our modern riverboats are not meant to replace the beautiful iconic paddlewheelers—American has four lovely paddlewheelers already in our fleet— but the new modern riverboats offer a stylish new