If you are reading this and have someone else in your office, do me a favor and stand up and face them. Put your right hand to their left hand. Tell them you are going to press against their hand when you say, “now.” Say “now” and start pressing for five seconds. Did they press back? I bet you they did. Remember you only told them you were going to press against their hand. The fact they pressed back is indicative of how resistant we all are. Without receiving any further instructions, most of us will instinctively push back against change.
With that in mind, imagine learning that the branding you have been invested in for nearly a year is going through a complete rebranding at the franchise level—name, logo, taglines, you name it. In late April, the home based franchisees of SeaMaster Cruises learned that we would take on the branding of the Cruise Holidays. Our logo, website, business cards, 4-color magazine would all be dropping the SeaMaster Cruises name.
From an economic standpoint, this makes sense. Cruise Holidays has a much larger marketing budget than SeaMaster Cruises. After the change, our combined 140 home based agents and 100 or so store fronts provide an attractive partner for our suppliers. However, change is never easy. I signed my franchise agreement just over a year ago, and it has been hard to let go. While there was certainly a monetary investment, there has also been a huge emotional investment in the name for me as well. The customer is seeing a smooth transition, but the back end (the end they don’t see) is frustrating. Nothing ever moves quite as fast as promised. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It also helps that I have come to realize more and more that I am the brand and my franchise is just the back end facilitator of what I do for my clients. Think about the real estate agents you know. Do you know them by their name or by their agency affiliation?
Clients and prospects are not being serviced by Cruise Holidays, but by me. With that in mind, I am making a concerted effort to bring the focus on what I can do for my clients and what value I offer. I am also doing what makes sense if you look at recessions throughout history. I am increasing my marketing budget. I am investing heavily in collateral which I feel will have a long shelf life. I feel business is doing so well that we are able to take on a new “employee”—my daughter: (She works cheap!) She is quite proud to show off her new business cards that include the statement: “My Mom and Dad sell Cruises!”
I am planning an official grand re-opening/ribbon cutting ceremony. Though I have no store front, I am able to use the facilities of my Chamber of Commerce. As an ambassador, I have voluntarily attended nearly every ribbon cutting, ground breaking, new member coffees, breakfast meetings and business after-hour events as possible since the beginning of the year. Instead of using the boardroom at the chamber available for free for anyone without a store front who wants to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony, I am renting their larger facilities. We are putting on a mini cruise ship buffet. The proposed menu includes Moroccan turnovers, red pepper frittata bites, black olive tapenade, Mexican wedding cookies, chocolate truffles, chocolate covered strawberries and more. I am particularly impressed with the caterers we are using, as they are known for their fabulous table displays. There will be information from different suppliers, ports, a slide show of our personal cruises and a strong promotion of an upcoming group cruise we have for sale.
The idea is to have those in attendance celebrate our “grand re-opening/name change/ribbon cutting”, and book a cruise with us. And when someone asks them who to turn to for cruise or travel advice, our name will be at the top of their mind. Will it cost a sum of money? Yes. Is it risky? Yes. Is there a pent-up demand to travel? We believe so.
In addition to working the press and our current contacts, we are using Twitter and Facebook to build up interest in our event. I wish you could join us. I will let you know how it went with my next update. And now as I end this column, please note the new name, I am Chuck Flagg, your personal cruise counselor. Goodbye Seamaster Cruises!
Chuck Flagg is an independent owner/operator with Cruise Holidays in Canton, GA. For information contact Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 770-355-9569.
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