Sell Dreams

As a professor who studies the marketing discipline as a passion and job requirement, I like to think that I am up on its fundamental tenets. However, it is always refreshing when I see marketing principles in action. A conversation with a business owner recently offered one of those moments.

I met the owner of a travel agency at a business networking meeting at which I made a presentation. As she told me about her business, she said that she owns a travel agency, but what she sells are dreams. Wow! What a powerful statement, but it is a mindset that is often lost on marketers and businesspeople in general.

We tend to define our business and careers by the industry sector or category in which we participate. I just realized I was guilty of it in my first sentence of this post! But, the value we add to the lives of customers and others does not reside in a sector or category label. Rather, the value comes from the impact we have on those people with whom we interact.

If any industry deserves sympathy for the rampant change that has taken place in the past 10-15 years, it is travel services. The transition of travel and lodging purchases to a self-service model online, 9/11 and resulting terrorism fears, and the recession have walloped virtually all businesses associated with travel. But, the travel agency owner said her business has succeeded for 20 years because she has never lost sight of what she does- selling dreams. Yes, travelers may be able to score lower prices buying directly (but not always). The agency’s expertise, network of contacts, and personal service bring comfort and assurance to the process of planning travel.

Define your business and personal brand by the value you deliver. It can be a differentiator between you and competitors stuck on defining themselves by industry and product. Sell dreams!

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