Everyone whose income is even remotely related to travel is concerned. While it is true that consumers who just lost 30% of their stock investments may not feel like taking the “trip of their lives”, there are opportunities out there. I have three tips to discover the business that you already have that will keep you afloat in a rocky economy.
Step 1 – Have a “Where is your business coming from” plan
Business does not just happen. You need a marketing plan inclusive of projected revenues and their source; and you need to regularly compare your projections with your results year-to-date.
We do a 90 minute conference call each week were we send results to everyone related to marketing and sales showing last week’s sales and year-to-date figures all broken down by projection by category. Now those of you that know I work for TRAMS may be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute, you do not work for a travel agency.” But the truth is that good, sound business practices work across all industries, and are a must for any long term, successful business.
Step 2 – Incremental business
Over 22 years of working with agencies, I have to give credit to the travel professional. I think you are the most creative group of entrepreneurs and business people one could ever hope to work with. I regularly see agents put together the most creative programs that result in new business. Whether it is a niche group (single parents, snow boarders, baseball fans, etc.) or niche destination, the industry’s creativity never ends. And frankly that is why suppliers have and will continue to pay you for your creativity and the business you deliver.
My real tip for incremental business is “keep it close to home.” I am not referring to physical distance, but rather keep your business close to things to which you and your clients can relate. For example, a creative agent got into bike touring and then put together a series of groups that took bike tours together. She led the group and had great success all around. So find some things you like and make a niche for yourself.
Step 3 – Repeat Business
While I am amazed at the creativity agents display with pursuing new business, I am equally dismayed at the lack of attention often paid to repeat business.
First, consider that survey after survey shows consumers overwhelmingly approve of working with an agent. I see satisfaction rates over 98%. So I have to assume that you do a good job for your clients, they like you, and would continue to work with you.
Second point is one to which we can all relate – travel is fun. Sure there are a few challenges now and again (I am sure no one loves the rude airline check-in people and paying $15 per bag!) but let’s face it, travel is fun and something we and our clients all look forward to experiencing. If I ask you to describe the most fun you have had in the last 12 months – 99% of you would describe a trip you have taken. And none would describe an average day at work.
So if consumers love working with travel agents and consumers also love the trips that agents send them on, one would expect a very high repeat business rate. Right? Well the truth is one hundred eighty degrees apart. Most agencies have a repeat business rate of under 30%! That means that over 70% of consumers are not going back to the same agency.
Why? The answer is simple. While agents have done a great job with clients and relationships, they have historically not done a great job marketing to past passengers to get them back working with the agent for their next vacation.
Does marketing to past passengers work? Absolutely. When agencies concentrate on past customers, I have seen 85% and higher repeat business rates. What is the key to these successful agencies? They all have serious Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies to identify travel opportunities of interest to their clients and then they actively push or market those travel options to those clients for the repeat business.
One of the best agents I know recently did a large group with a radio personality that moved some 450 consumers. I asked her if she made a lot of money on the deal and she told me with a big smile, “actually with all the components of this deal I made very little if anything. But the good news is I now have 250 new clients that will know us and I guarantee you I will get a ton of their business in the future.”
And yes this agent has a strong CRM and past passenger marketing strategy. Hope you do too.
Lee B. Rosen is both the General Manager of Sabre Leisure and founder/president of TRAMS, Inc. Sabre is the world’s leading reservation system with annual revenues of over $3 billion. TRAMS provides technology, marketing and training services to over 11,000 retail travel agencies.
TRAMS’ has three main products: TRAMS Back Office System, ClientBase CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System and CBMS (ClientBase Marketing Services) Services.) ClientBase has quickly been accepted as the agent’s desktop information manager as well as integrator to booking engines and remote information systems.