Vacation Side Travel – on the hunt
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been on a mission to find effective tools to use in my business, namely, CRM, social media and proposal-building solutions. Believe me, there are tons of them out there and this process ended up being much more involved than I originally anticipated. In fact, I don’t feel any closer to finding the perfect fit now, than I was when I started!
I spent almost 5 of the 10 years I worked for Dell on finding and integrating tools into the sales team’s processes which would result in increased productivity, better sales effectiveness and higher customer satisfaction. It only stands to reason I’d be able to do the same for my own company, right? Well, one of the biggest factors, which I didn’t take into consideration, is cost and budget. Mine happens to pale in comparison to the budget of a fortune 50 company. In addition, the travel industry has a very unique set of requirements, not to mention my own. Here’s some of the stuff I considered and even a few of the solutions I tried, along with the conclusions I came up with:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Having a CRM and keeping track of customer data is both important and can be very powerful. From keeping us on target with things we need to do from preparing client documents, wishing someone Happy Birthday or sending a “thank you” or “welcome home” card not to mention the marketing piece which I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. Without question, the most widely used CRM in the travel industry is ClientBase so naturally, I checked it out. My host agency happens to offer the web based version for free, too. I’m still using the tool and plan to continue learning it and hope that it grows on me. I’ve also tried Open Travel CRM and ClientEase, both of which I’m still on the fence about. Truthfully, I think ClientBase has the most features and is the most customizable of the CRMs I’ve tried but I plan to make a decision over the next several weeks and will let you know what I decided.
Social Media Manager (SMM)
I decided to continue using a tool which I fell in love with over the last couple of months called Market Me Suite. It’s inexpensive, with a free version and is perfectly suited for small businesses. I love the fact that you can add multiple FaceBook profiles, pages, groups, LinkedIn profiles, pages and groups as well as multiple twitter accounts and Google+ soon. I’ve tried HootSuite, Frends+Me [ST1] and a few others but Market Me Suite integrates everything together in a meaningful way to small businesses which is great.
Quotes and Itineraries
I’ve also been checking out tools like Proposable, Travel for Agents and iZento for quotes and itineraries and honestly, find myself going back and forth between them, depending on what kind of trip the client is looking to take. For example, Travel for Agents is awesome for FIT travel with specific cities in the itinerary. I’ve been asking if they plan to expand and they do…eventually. Proposable is totally manual but does offer digital agreements and correspondence between you and your client; and iZento seems promising but lacks a place for pricing details. It’s meant more for creating a nice itinerary and schedule.
What tools do you use in your business? Did you stick with the most popular or did you test on all different types of solutions?
Steven Talbott is the founder of Vacation Side Travel, a gay owned-and-operated agency located near Nashville, Tennessee specializing in gay & lesbian (LGBT) tours, cruises, vacations and travel. Through their division Gay Travel Experts, clients are offered an expert travel concierge, unbiased personal assistants who help research and plan travel.