The holiday season is upon us. Last week it was the Veterans Days Sales. Now it is the Pre-Thanksgiving sales and soon it will be the Thanksgiving Sale, then the Christmas and Holidays sale, the after Christmas sale, the New Year’s sale, then the clearance sale, and on and on, and on. Is it any wonder our clients want a “deal”? Retailers have trained the consumer to think price. Look at Wal-Mart the largest retailer in the world; their slogan is “Always Low Prices, Always.” Even the large online travel companies are always touting how to save money. How often do you see supplier ads on television or in the travel section of your paper with prices starting at $399 or $599?
Of course all of this “deal bombardment” makes finding that ideal customer more difficult. There is nothing worse the picking up the phone, giving your best greeting and then hearing the person on the other end say, “What is the best deal you can get me on such and such a trip”. The best way to counter this call is to look at the message you are sending your client when you market to them. Does your website promote price? Can you now blame the client? When discussing agency sites, I often hear two questions–“Will I be able to have a booking engine?” and “Will I be able to put up my own specials and promotions?”. We are all frustrated by the shoppers, yet we are also guilty of promoting ourselves on price and not value.
You have to break this cycle. When that client calls and asks for the deal, do not start by saying, “Let me see what price I can find.”, but ask, “What type of vacation are you looking for?” Is this a honeymoon, romantic getaway, family vacation, once in a lifetime dream trip—you know all the right questions to ask. Find out why they are traveling; and then you can expand from there and better qualify the client making your research easier and obtaining important information you can use to market to them in the future.
Do you email market? When you send out the emails are they full of specials? If it is effective for you, why are you upset when a client calls looking for a deal? Email marketing can be an effective form of marketing, but promote your experience and service or a great location you have visited. Do a travel newsletter with tips. Send specials when appropriate, but don’t do it on every email.
How do you find that perfect client? If you have an established client base, review the top 20% of your clients and review the information you have collected on them. Can you discern a pattern such as age, family, senior, destinations, etc? Chances are you will discover a pattern; and by finding this common thread, you know where to focus your marketing efforts.
If you are new to the business, determine what the ideal client would be for the niche you sell. Are you are selling honeymooners, seniors, adventure travelers, families? Once you figure it out, you need to look for these clients. For honeymooners there are florists, bakeries, caterers, wedding consultants, bridal shops, etc. if you are focusing on family travel, then maybe Boys and Girls Clubs, preschools, little leagues, Boy and Girl Scouts, etc.
While driving home the other night I heard a commercial for Forbes Traveler. Not once was a price mentioned in the entire ad. They promoted the exotic destinations they offer and the knowledge and experience of their staff. Even though this is high-end luxury travel, this type of marketing works for r all types of travel. It is just a matter of directing or “training” the client away from focusing on the price and having them focus on the experience. We all sell a product that is not on a shelf in some mega-store. It is incumbent on us to create the excitement that comes with spending time with the family on the beach or for that couple saving all their life for that once in a lifetime trip. You are selling memories—not products.
A great exercise, especially at this time of year, is to see how price conscious you are when you shop personally. When looking for that new computer or TV, price is always a concern, but usually you are more concerned will it have the features and options that you want. Right? If it has the features, you will probably spend more than you had planned. After all, you want what you want. Do you think it is a coincidence that all TVs don’t have the same features? The same holds true for travel. If a client wants to go to Hawaii and goes every year and stays in an oceanview room, chances are they are not going to want that $399 special with the hotel two blocks from the beach and the room overlooking an alley complete with trash dumpsters and the air conditioning compressor.
While price may bring them in or make them call, it is not what they really want. By promoting price you have set the bar in the consumers mind. Now you are at a disadvantage because you need to explain how what you used to catch them, really doesn’t matter.
If you are tired of being a game show host (Deal or No Deal, The Price is Right, Let’s Make a Deal) then change the focus of your marketing and sales technique. Your phone won’t ring as often, but when it does, it will be the calls you want to take!
Tim Richmond is a 20 year veteran of the industry and owner of Craig’s Travel in Southern California. The agency is affiliated with Nexion and TSI and specializes in customized vacation planning. The agency is 100% leisure. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.craigstravel.com