With the deadline to get this diary entry written looming, I sat down with my laptop. Staring at the blank screen and the blinking cursor, I realized I had no idea where to begin. The problem wasn’t that I had nothing to say–rather I had so much to say I couldn’t focus. That’s been happening a lot lately. There were just so many things on my plate that they had begun spilling out onto the table. After trying unsuccessfully to decide what to write, I came to the conclusion that the real problem was plate size. If I couldn’t get a bigger plate I would have to remove some of the things that are already on the plate and be more selective about any new things I add in the future.
I had a niche—I thought. I specialized in the Caribbean including mainstream cruise lines and nice cruise line as well as resorts and tour operators in the region. I thought it was specialized enough; but I was wrong. The Caribbean is a big place and both CLIA and NCMA (Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance) have more cruise lines than I could handle with any real proficiency as a small agency. The learning curve is just too great. This is where humility had to step in. I had to accept my limitations (hard as it is for me to admit I have any) and narrow my focus to one that I could handle more effectively.
I thought about what was needed for me to succeed, and here’s what I came up with:
- An active team of Business Development Managers who I know and have demonstrated a real interest in the success of my business as well as theirs.
- A product in sufficient demand among my current clients and with potential for growth among my current and future prospects.
- A product that instills a passion in me and one that will let me generate that passion in others.
- Finally, I chose products I could effectively incorporate into my marketing strategy.
I came away from my product “surgery” having removed all but what was necessary for the life of my business. I chose three primary cruise lines and one alternate. I also chose one major all inclusive chain in the Caribbean islands and one chain on the Costa Maya in Mexico. The choice of the particular resort chains naturally limited my scope of islands. I will maintain limited access to information on the other islands of the Caribbean through e-blast specials but I won’t be actively seeking out that info and I won’t make specific plans for marketing those.
Next on my agenda was to address how I book travel. I work with a number of booking engines, supplier booking engines, and toll free numbers and… well it was all just too much. That also needed a little weeding. In fact it had become so complicated that it was delaying the completion of my agency website. Choices needed to be made. I had to scrape some more stuff off my plate. And I did. I now have icons for only two booking sources on my desktop. One from Amadeus that gives me access to most everything I need including the cruise lines and one from my preferred resort vendor. The cruise lines website URLs are saved to my favorites to stay on top of products, training and collateral for marketing.
With my plate finally approaching a manageable weight there was only one thing to do. It was a difficult and admittedly painful decision. I terminated my relationship with my host agency. The products they specialize in were not a good fit for my agency at least not at this point in the growth of my business. They are great people, supportive, caring and professional; but my niche depends very strongly on group business and their focus leans strongly toward luxury FITs. While that is a market I very much want to break into; there is no room on my plate for that at the moment. I will continue to place business independently using my agency’s CLIA number as well as making use of the additional commissions available to me through my other host when appropriate. I am a “Certified” Specialist with my preferred resort vendor so I have been able to negotiate a good commission with them and I don’t have to share or ask for permission to use the available coop dollars for marketing my agency. In these economic times I made the tough call. I will strengthen my current base and then grow from that slowly and steadily. Now is not the time to for me shrink back but it is the time for me to concentrate more intensely on what is working well. Now that I have a little more room on my plate, I’m going out and get some more groups. Now where did I leave that fork?
Nia Frieson is the owner of LK Cruises and Tours, LLC based in Washington, DC. For more information, you can contact Nia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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