It was a year ago today that I officially hung my shingle as a cruise consultant. One year! I now consider myself past one major hurdle. Business experts will tell you that about half of new businesses do not survive their first year in operation. Based on where I am today, I see myself already ahead of the game.
I have shared my trials and tribulations of my entry into this business since the beginning of 2009 in this very column. There have been morale swings, a slow economy, negligible sales, and more. There has also been service to my community through my involvement with the Meals on Wheels program and to my Chamber of Commerce as an ambassador.
Since my last entry, I was named as Volunteer of the Quarter for my service to my chamber. I held a grand re-opening and official ribbon cutting ceremony where over fifty people were in attendance. They were able to experience a mini land-based cruise line buffet complete with an ice sculpture. (Well, the water failed to freeze in time so the caterer just used the mold as a centerpiece.) Five days later I had a prime location at my chamber’s annual business expo where over 500 people were in attendance.
At my ribbon cutting ceremony, I presented a photo-op sized donation check to Meals on Wheels for $750. They have since hung this check in the hallway where every volunteer congregates before picking up their deliveries for the day. The volunteer coordinator has also asked me to give her my brochures to hand to all of the volunteer drivers.
At both my ribbon cutting and the business expo, I placed a fishbowl in front of a piece of luggage which I purchased at Costco for $38. A business card was required to enter for a chance to win the suitcase and some other travel related trinkets. I also ran a different raffle. This one was for a $200 on-board credit if they booked a balcony stateroom on a seven night or longer cruise before the end of the year. For this raffle, I required more detailed information than is typically on a business card. If they never sail, there is no cost; yet I have gained valuable marketing information.
Several people at both events were interested in taking a future cruise, and I have spent most of the time since these events entering all my new contacts into my CRM. I also sent out a follow up snail mail letter. While everyone is using email, I like to stand out by being different. I firmly believe that people still like receiving physical letters.
On another note, I find myself standing on the high dive as far as charging fees are concerned. My toes are hanging over the edge, but after a few quiet (scary) weeks, a call came in and I folded on the platform by doing research on their requested cruise without mentioning a fee. At the time of this writing, I have not heard back from this client, and the option has expired. I have just started to create a ‘menu of services’ and hopefully it will encourage me to make the jump—calls or no calls. I remind myself that I should not diminish the value of my services by not quoting a fee.
I am quite confident that my marketing efforts now are going to pay off in droves as far as name recognition as the economy improves. I just need to be prepared for when it does.
Chuck Flagg is an independent owner/operator with Cruise Holidays in Canton, GA. For information contact Chuck at email@example.com or by phone at 770-355-9569.
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