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SIMON LAVIN: WDA:.

Companions 2 Travel do not own an entirely unique service. A number of similar sites exist offering a comparable service. Companions 2 Travel therefore needs to 'hone down' and understand their unique selling proposition and 'differentiator' at an early stage.

Market testing this proposition is also important since the idea was spawned by 'personal' experiences.

Companions 2 Travel states that they need to attract 20,000 subscribers in the first year. Simple maths means an increase of 100 members per week. Having defined and tested the USP (unique selling point), the site will need 'active promotion'.

The company is small and still growing, meaning presumably budget is limited. PR can be a cost efficient alternative compared to traditional media, such as TV and radio, which are often cost prohibitive.

On a regional basis, the site has significant PR value with potential to generate a large amount of coverage.

To establish the site as 'foremost in its niche', Companions 2 Travel first needs to define what that niche is (or should be). Reference to understanding their USP and market testing it is critical in defining this. Only once these are clearly identified and carried out can appropriate channels of promotion be considered.

One early consideration should be associations and partnerships with other suitable brands in the travel trade, with a shared or similar customer base.

One example could be developing online banner campaigns on established travel sites. By approaching 'respected' travel companies, Companions 2 Travel would benefit from shared brand credibility, reaching customers already interested in travel.

By definition, a companion service 'matches' people wishing to travel from a destination to another destination, together.

While it is encouraging they have international members as far afield as Namibia this could in fact make matching people more difficult.

Strategically they could seek to establish a critical mass of members in the UK or regions during the early period.

In summary if I could offer two pieces of advice they would be to:

Define, understand and test the USP and 'differentiator' of their offering.

Focus on a UK or regional market to obtain a critical mass.

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 16, 2005
Words:356
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