How to Rock TBEX and Walk Away with New Friends & Business Partners

Speed Dating floor at TBEX in Toronto

Speed Networking floor at TBEX in Toronto

Whenever I’m on the road and meeting a travel blogger who is just starting out or wondering how to take their blog to the next level, I always recommend they come to TBEX – and not just for the sessions.

For TBEX, like many other successful conferences out there, one of the things that keeps people coming back year after year after year is the opportunity to mingle with people in the same profession, trade ideas, and form relationships (a.k.a networking).

At a conference for solopreneurs I attended earlier this year (past TBEX keynoter Chris Guillebeau’s Pioneer Nation), one of the most highly tweeted and repeated main stage talks focused on how the hottest new online business training website came from a relationship struck up at a conference over a mutual love of the esoteric Italian amaro Fernet Branca.

While the speaker, Chase Reeves, happened to be in the right random place at the right random time, the truth is that you can make your TBEX experience jam packed with these business-changing, core relationship-building moments with some advance preparation.

Every successful business, whether a blogging couple team or a multi-national corporation, has someone in charge of “business development,” which, at its core, is building relationships your business needs to grow and thrive through networking. But the difference between the multi-nationals and most bloggers is the amount of advance thought and research that goes into those relationship-building moments.

So whether you’re still at home packing or you’re already building relationships with fellow bloggers with sunset drinks on Santorini or bumpy car rides in Crete, here are 5 ways to walk away from TBEX not just with some new friends and contacts, but the ones you want and need to grow your blog or business.

BloggerBridge Part 1: Let Your Profile Reflect You

Have you set up your BloggerBridge profile already? If not, now is the time. If you have, it’s time to take another look.

Your profile is a static image of both you and your work, but that doesn’t mean it should just be a third person description! It’s the first opportunity people have to understand your personality, and, in the case of bloggers looking for work, your writing style.

Above all, one of the most important things it should do is tell others why you are at TBEX and what you’re looking for. This tweak alone can bring in tons of business opportunities.

After you explain what you’re all about, include:

  • whether you are looking for new destinations to travel to or information on travels you have coming up. BloggerBridge has a way for you to include these as well.
  • if you are available for contract social media, photography, or blogging work, and if so, what type you are looking for.
  • if you are a company, what you are looking to get out of TBEX and speed dating in particular, so bloggers know if they should approach you and about what.

BloggerBridge Part 2: Find the People You Need to Meet

While many have long used BloggerBridge just to set up speed networking appointments, it’s capable of so much more. I won’t recap the excellent recent sessions on how to go about performing searches, but it’s something that you should set aside 10 minutes or an hour (or honestly as much time as you can spare!) to do before TBEX so you know who is going to be there that you want to get to know.

For experienced bloggers:

  • Search by country to find company representatives from or bloggers who specialize in places you plan to visit soon and send them a message. Ask bloggers who have visited both what they recommend and if there is anyone on the ground you should definitely be in touch with.

For new bloggers:

  • Search for other bloggers with a similar focus as you (whether a country or a type of travel like ecotravel or family travel) and use the number of years blogging feature to find someone just a couple years ahead of you. Check out their site, and if they seem like a good match, ask if you can interview them about their experience for your website or just grab a coffee or drink and chat about how they got to where they are today.

For companies:

  • Don’t wait for good bloggers to come to you. Many bloggers who would make great guests or regularly contributors to your site are extremely busy and not able to take the time to seek you out. Search for bloggers who specialize in your area and reach out and ask if they are available for a trip or some blogging work.

You can also look up people you see tweeting on the #TBEX hashtags through BloggerBridge and send them a direct email.

Research Your Speed Networking Partners

After years of speed networking at both TBEX and ITB Berlin, where TBEX also organized a blogger speed networking event, the biggest factor that I’ve seen affecting how useful the event is for both companies and bloggers is how much homework they do beforehand. Here are my recommendations: 

  1. Look up each of the people you’re going to meet on BloggerBridge, and from their profile, decide what you want to discuss with them and what your goal for the meeting is.
  2. Take the time to make a small one-page sheet or PDF you can show on your phone about what you can offer as a blogger (including relevant stats) or company to the people you’re going to meet. Give it to the other party to look at when they first sit down.
  3. When you arrive, first ask the other party what they are looking for, so you can fit that into your goal for the meeting and make the most of your short minutes.
  4. Leave the meeting with a specific agreement, whether it’s to send more information about something or work out appropriate dates for a trip.

Maximize Your One-on-One Time During

It’s always a pleasure to use TBEX as one-stop shopping to catch up with travel friends that you don’t often see, but there are several parts of TBEX that are particularly great for cultivating new connections:

  • short pre-BEX tours
  • lunches at TBEX
  • evening events and parties
  • long post-BEX trips

Looking at the TBEX schedule is dizzying, and if you’re not spending time in Greece before or after the event, it can be hard to figure out times to meet all these people you’ve identified on BloggerBridge to connect with. Use seated times like tour bus rides and meals for one-on-one chats during.

When you’re looking for people to connect with on BloggerBridge, ask if you can chat over lunch, or chat up people who attended the same pre-lunch session as you who asked interesting questions or who are on your “to meet” list after the Q&A so you naturally walk to lunch together. This works just as well for the walks to a bus on a pre- or post-BEX trip.

If you’re in town after TBEX and not on a post-BEX event, organize a dinner out or at your apartment if you have one with some great people you met. Tell them to bring friends. You can have more face time with them and other people you didn’t get a chance to meet during the event.

The Devil is in the Follow Up

There are several great posts here on the TBEX blog about follow up, but the most important thing is this: do it quickly.

In the short days of TBEX, we all meet so many people that no matter how great the conversation, it’s easy to fall off someone’s radar. To keep that from happening:

  1. In the time between speed dating and the evening event, write quick emails to all of your speed dating partners for the day, thanking them again for their time, reiterating what you discussed and rearticulating the next steps.
  2. When you get home, tweet at people you spent time with during the day, or email if you had a really great connection.
  3. In the week after TBEX (since the post-BEX trips make it hard for many to do it right away), go through all your business cards and add people on Twitter and LinkedIn, with a note with your LI invitation on how nice it was to meet them and any follow up about a future meeting or work opportunity.

Author Bio: Gabi Logan is a travel journalist and blogger who specializes in blogging/ghostblogging, content management and social media management for travel companies and destinations. She also coaches travel writers and freelancers of all stripes.


Painlessly Prospecting for New Travelers to Grow Your Travel Brand

A lot can happen in 60 seconds. Every minute of the day, Facebook users share 2.46 million pieces of content. Twitter users tweet 277 thousand times, Google receives over 4 million search queries, and YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video. That’s a whole lot of new content in just one minute.

tommartinThe competition for travelers’ attention, especially repeat attention, is incredibly high and growing literally by the minute. That’s why it is so imperative to establish a digital footprint that extends far beyond your own corporate website or blog. The key to winning the Invisible Sale is to create propinquity — or the opportunity for repeated interactions— between you and an unqualified traveler. In the buzz of all that content being created, you have to make sure your a prospective is seeing your brand.

The art of generating helpful, relevant content that is strategically dispersed throughout the websites and social networks favored by your today’s digital planning travelers is creating what I call your Painless Prospecting platform. As your unqualified prospects move through your platform and run into you and your content repeatedly, they begin to qualify themselves through their actions and interactions with you and your content.

As you set about establishing Painless Prospecting platform, there are three legs you’ll need to focus on:

1) Home Base

Everything you do online and offline is designed to drive prospects to your Home Base. Your Home Base needs to be a website, a blog, or both. If your company has multiple brands, you might have multiple Home Bases. Regardless, your goal is to always drive prospects back to your Home Base, where you can use your content and tracking technology to qualify prospects and drive them down the appropriate sales funnel.

The single most important thing to think about when crafting your home base is how well it functions. In your website, you want to create a funnel-optimized, mobile friendly, qualified lead-generation machine that is committed to achieving only one goal: the constant creation and qualification of convertible leads for your brand.

2) Outposts

In the simplest terms, an outpost is a place where you and your content show up from time to time and where your prospects congregate. A good example is submitting a guest post on a popular travel blog, authoring an article for a magazine or some kind of review penned by an influential travel blogger. You create and post the content there, but you’re not investing a lot of time in doing so because your goal is to generate awareness. You’re trying to leverage the platform owner’s audience to create awareness of you and your product or service, and give prospects a simple way to follow you back to your Home Base.

3) Embassies

Similar to outposts, embassies are places where you find and interact with prospective guests, but in a much deeper and engaged manner—embassies are where you’ll plant a flag and plan to spend a good amount of time interacting with the people you find there. Embassies are the place you’re going to meet people, introduce people to one another, and get introduced to people.

Unlike outposts, effective embassy management requires plenty of work and a hefty time investment on your part. But that effort should translate into significant value in the form of new leads, reputation enhancement, or opportunities to connect with resources that enhance your ability to grow visitor usage of your brand or destination. You’ll have only a few embassies in your platform, so you need to select them strategically to maximize the effectiveness of your prospecting platform.

Your Ever-Changing Prospecting Platform

Keep in mind that your prospecting platform is not a static digital footprint. It ebbs and flows as you, or your company, emphasize different products or services. As you move in new directions or target new audiences, any propinquity point can vacillate between serving as an outpost or acting as an embassy. This might be due to a change in your strategy, a changing business climate, or just a realization that a particular propinquity point is under- or over-delivering based on your current effort level.

As you embark on this journey to build your own Painless Prospecting platform, know that you will make mistakes along the way. Failures will occur. Platforms or outposts will end up not making sense or not generating a big enough return on your time and investment to justify continued involvement. That’s okay. Failure is the price of learning. The key is to fail small while simultaneously setting yourself up to win big.

For more information on creating a painless prospecting platform for your own company, join me at TBEX Europe in Athens when I’ll present Propinquity: Leveraging the Secret Science of Relationship Formation to Grow Your Sales on Friday, October 24th at 10:45am or pick up a copy of The Invisible Sale.

Author Bio:  Tom Martin is a no nonsense, straight-talking 20-year veteran of the advertising and marketing business who favors stiff drinks, good debates and helping travel brands grow their businesses. As an internationally recognized digital marketing keynote speaker, blogger, founder of Converse Digital, and Author of The Invisible Sale, Tom marries his two passions, marketing & technology, to teach companies how to leverage digital marketing channels to achieve and sustain sales growth, enhance brand perception and painlessly prospect for new customers. Follow him on Twitter at @TomMartin.


The Importance of Diversifying Your Writing Business


Writing is a craft; freelancing is a business.

When I speak publicly about freelancing, I recite this sentence at least a dozen times per lecture. Like a personal credo. Or a mantra.

The statement is neither complicated nor controversial. Writing, the creative process of stringing words together to form sentences, is a form of artistic expression. Freelancing—essentially, writing for cash—is an exercise driven by capitalism. You do it to make consistent money over time.

Matt VillanoI usually go on to draw comparison between how we freelancers are no different from any of the small businesses we frequent in our hometowns—the local dry cleaner, the local butcher, the local coffee shop. Like these businesses, we provide our customers with a product or service. In our cases, the customers are publishers and other media outlets, and the product is the written word (and the service is content creation).

When you think about the business of freelancing in these terms—as if each and every one of us is a small business owner—it’s easy to understand why businesses that diversify make the most money: The more products you offer, the more products you can sell, and the more sales you likely will make.

Sure, businesses (again, we) can specialize in one or two products, but simply having supplemental (or, in some cases, complimentary) products ONLY IMPROVES THE BOTTOM LINE. Put differently, the more products you can add to your portfolio, the more successful and less vulnerable to market fluctuation you will be.

Now let’s go back to my mantra. Writing is a craft; freelancing is a business. And, since most of the folks who come to TBEX (myself included) are bloggers, let’s substitute the word, “Blogging,” for the word, “Writing.”

What does this mean for us?

For starters, if we want to make REAL money, it means we need to get serious about ourselves as businesspeople. As much as we might like the process of researching and writing our blog posts (who doesn’t like traveling for a living?), this alone is not activity on which anyone can hang a long-term business.

Instead, to succeed as businesspeople, we bloggers must approach our profession as something more—as freelancers. This, in turn, means it is IMPERATIVE that we diversify to guarantee the survival of our businesses. Put differently, it means we must do more than blog.

There are plenty of reasons for diversification:

  •  Blogging doesn’t pay big bucks.
  • The more bloggers there are, the fewer opportunities there are to earn money blogging.
  • If the travel industry takes another hit, there’ll be even fewer opportunities to earn money blogging.
  • For sanity’s sake, after hundreds of posts on the same general subject, it’s nice to write about something different for a change.

Some of us fundamentally understand the benefits of diversification, and already have branched out into photography, traditional journalism, marketing partnerships and more. Some of us sell our influence on Twitter and other social media sites. For the rest of us, unless we’ve got income from somewhere else (a sugar daddy, perhaps?) diversification is essential in order to survive.

I contend that the easiest and most sensible strategy for diversification is to add corporate writing and sponsored content into the mix. As travel bloggers, we already know what it means to work closely with brands. Heck, some of us likely have penned guest blog posts FOR big companies—bylined or not.

Even if you haven’t worked closely with big brands, you undoubtedly can identify big brands with which you’d want to work. The rest is as simple as cold pitching and selling yourself.

I’m not going to divulge my secrets to diversifying successfully here in this post—for those insights you’ll have to come to my session. The bottom line: For long-term success in this business, in order to earn the kind of money you’ll need to sustain your career into the next decade, diversification is a must. Remember, writing/blogging is a craft; freelancing is a business.

Author Bio:  Matt Villano also serves as senior editor of the Expedia Viewfinder blog. His talk, titled, “In Search of the Cash Cow: Corporate Freelancing and Sponsored Content,” is scheduled for 10:45-11:45 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13.


Travel Bloggers & Tour Designers Working Together


Making a living is tough, making a living writing is even tougher. Last year, I had a spark of inspiration that birthed an idea that I thought could help others. At first I didn’t want to tell anyone; I was so sure that someone else would take the idea and use it.

Eventually I decided to call a couple of colleagues to ask them what they thought about the idea: starting an online education resource company that teaches people how to start their own online tour company. I got feedback. I processed new ideas. And today I’m ready to share the revised idea with all of you.

Speed Dating floor at TBEX in Toronto

The Background

Last year, at the very first Travel Exchange with the National Tour Association, two large and established travel trade organizations NTA & UMA came together on one showroom floor for five days of education, booth displays and business appointments. I had been attending this convention for the past 25 years, and had made good friends and accomplished a fair amount of business over the years. I was the Chairman and CEO of the National Tour Association and managing our conference for that year, having volunteered my way to the top with my entrepreneurial spirit. As I stood looking over the showroom floor and what our team had created I realized that what I was looking at was not going to be sustainable if we keep doing business in the same way every year. It felt bitter sweet.

What I discovered during my term as Chairman and CEO is that everyone is being taught to work for somebody else, but many wanted to own their own business and work for themselves. Travel and Tourism Schools, Colleges and University are educating the next generation to either work for a hotel chain, become a travel agent or learn how to be a tour guide. No one was teaching how to become a tour designer. I found that no one was creating new tour companies, and if they were they did not have a place to gather and collaborate. In the industry, travel and tour companies are either passed down from generation to generation or they are bought up. Hundreds of thousands of home based travel agents are looking for ways to generate more income so they can make their own hours and travel. And, writers are looking for ways to generate revenue from their blogs.

I started thinking about the common ground between all these things.

The Idea

My idea was to cultivate the next gen of online tour designers and teach how someone could start their very own online tour company — how to do it and how to work with a tour designer to create, manage and market tour experiences online. I started Entrepreneurs in Travel, with the first class (of 10 students) completing the eight week course in June 2013.

Also in 2013, I met Rick Calvert at a DMAI (Destination Marketing Association International) and learned about what TBEX is and what travel bloggers are doing within our industry. It got my attention! I started wondering if travel bloggers might want to learn how to become tour designers. The concept had some merit but really wasn’t being won over. Creating, managing and marketing your own tour company is a lot of work involving different skill sets, but what if. . . .

What if there was some way to bring travel designers and travel bloggers together to create, manage and market tour experiences. It all sounded simple to me, bloggers have engaged readers that connect. They want to write and make a living doing it. I am a tour designer. I create and package tour designs all day and support my family doing so. I package and sell tours to tour operators who, in turn, sell the tour to their clients. That tour operator could be you – selling tour packages to the readers of your travel blog who eagerly follow and engage with you about the destinations you love and recommend.

I wondered: What if there was a place online where travel bloggers could come and connect with tour designers to create, manage and market experiences around the world.

Testing the Idea

Believing the idea had merit, and that bloggers and tour designers could work together to create income producing activities, I decided to build that online place. With my association background and the new tour designers from our first EIT courses, there are now around 100 tour designers that are collaborating online. If you are a travel blogger wanting to create a luxury tour to China, or a food blogger wanting to travel through Spain on a culinary tour, or wherever your interests may take you, you may be interested in a soft launch opportunity to try out this idea. I am starting to gather a select group to start this soft launch and I hope it’s something that interest you. If so read on.

I tested this idea out with a blogger who wanted to create an Eco adventure experience to Costa Rica. I shared with her that I could put her in contact with a tour designer that I trusted that created experiences into Costa Rice and that he could put the entire trip together for her. The tour designer would and she would write about it and offer the tour on her blog, making a portion of the profit when the tour was sold and completed. She asked if other bloggers could write about it and offer it on their sites. I said of course, and they could create revenue in this way as well.

How Does it Work

As a tour designer we are asked to put together quotes all day long. We aren’t paid for putting together quote, we don’t make any profit until the tour is completed and people sold. So putting together a tour for a travel blogger to market is done at no charge to the blogger.

So where does the money come from? Most of the tour packages you see in catalogs are marked up 100%, and in that mark up is where the tour designer and blogger can generate revenue. The tour designer can provide a customized product to the blogger to promote, with plenty of margin for everyone to make it worth their while.

What’s Next for Travel Bloggers

I know travel bloggers love to write and travel, and need income to make that all come together. But how do we all meet, collaborate, create, market, and manage risk together knowing their must first be a level of trust between us. Let’s see if we can make that happen.

Author BioJim Reddekopp was born and raised in Hawaii and has worked in the visitor industry for over 35 years, working in every facet of the tourism industry. He has served in a variety of leadership positions within the tourism industry and is a Past Chairman & CEO of the National Tour Association. He launched Entrepreneurs in Travel as a way to fill a need in the tour designer business. Bloggers interested in learning how they can work with a tour designer to create a revenue stream are invited to contact Jim for more information.