Agents 'must specialise to get cut-through', says Harmer

Agents 'must specialise to get cut-through', says Harmer

Agents should be more like Aldi, Lidl, Waterstones, the SNP and UKIP if they want to stand out from the crowd.

Addressing delegates at the Advantage Travel Partnership conference in Bodrum, Turkey, director of Clia UK & Ireland Andy Harmer urged them to specialise in order to "cut-through from the rest of the noise".

He said: "One of the benefits of specialising is you get cut-through over everything else your competitors are doing. Customers need to see something different about what you offer and those specialists have a clear focus and are seen as experts which customers like."

Harmer referenced the SNP and UKIP for doing so well in the recent general election because both parties had centred on clear messages - "the SNP on ending austerity and leaving the UK, and UKIP on foreigners", he said.

Harmer said the likes of Waterstones had survived the recession by promoting itself as an absolute specialist bookseller, staffed by true experts, which meant customers were still prepared to go to the high street for the best advice.

He said agents need not specialise completely to prosper.

"You can still be a generalist as long as you have a clear, consistent, single specialist message," he said.

"The Conservatives achieved a resounding win in the Election because despite having many policies, they had a single message they repeated the entire campaign: "Long-term economic planning" which gave the country confidence that they were the right party to continue Britain's economic recovery.

He said John Lewis were similar.

"They sell absolutely everything but have a single message about exceptional customer service which gives them cut-through over other department stores," he said.

In his own sector, Harmer said cruise lines were doing a better job at differentiating their lines and even their ships, citing P&O Cruises for pinning its cut-through message for its new ship Britannia on its food heroes, despite there being many other features onboard.

Finally, Harmer warned agents not to be caught somewhere in the middle ground, neither specialising nor being a generalist but with a clear single message.

"Just look what's happened to Tesco," he said. "They're not seen as the cheapest nor the best quality. They sell multiple brands of every single product meaning they are not the preferred retailer for any of them and supermarket rivals like Aldi and Lidl have taken considerable share.

He said: "If you focus on a number of set suppliers you not only get the best prices but also the best relationships and support."


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