What is a travel agent’s #1 challenge? Sure we hear a lot about product training, knowing destinations, learning technology, sales skills, and more. But the real answer is simple and almost completely universal: More, good leads.
In fact when pressed, I have yet to have an agent not admit that if they “just had more good, qualified leads interested in buying from me,” everything else would fall into place.
So, what is the answer? How does an agent really get “more good leads?” I know there are lots of places to generate new leads, but the fact is the best place to get leads is from your existing database.
A recent “Marketing Expert” speaker at an industry function talked about the key to growing your business is a high “repeat business” rate. He even showed a chart where if you can have a 90% repeat rate, you only need 20% new business to grow a net of 10%. I wanted to jump out of my seat as the average agency has a repeat business rate of under 30%! So using this consultant’s numbers you would need 80% new business just to have a growth of 10%!
We all know repeat business is cheaper to obtain and thus more profitable. Also add to the fact that survey after survey shows an extremely high consumer satisfaction rate in working with travel agents.
So if consumers are so happy, and repeat business is the most profitable, how come agents have such a low repeat business rate?
Unlike major travel providers such as cruise lines, the finances of a travel agency dictate a relatively low marketing budget. So we have to be creative in how we drive our existing clients back to us. Travel agents “know” their customer the best. They know when they booked, what they were looking for, what they liked, who they traveled with, when and where they went, and all the other factors that come into play when a consumer makes their vacation decisions.
How important is this data? A recent marketing executive for a huge consortium recently pointed out that the information agents have about their customer is at “at least twice as effective” as any other information for marketing purposes. The key words being “at least”.
Putting together the pieces, suppliers have marketing budgets and want to be the most effective with their marketing spend. Agents can have the most important data for target marketing, and agents need to drive past passengers back in order solve their #1 challenge and to have “more good leads”.
Suppliers have the funding and will finance the agency marketing of their products. That is if – and only if – the agents have these all-important marketing details in a usable format within a usable system.
A “usable format within a usable system” excludes a manual entry system. Nobody has the time to manually enter the key marketing data elements. Manual systems are for accounting purposes only.
The key is to have that rich marketing data flow electronically from the reservation system you choose (typically a web-based system) to your processing system. (Here comes the pitch for my new company Leisure Pops.) Leisure Pops, in addition to Pop’ing what you have turned on when pertinent, also moves data for you. Think of Leisure Pops as your assistant that can type really fast. Leisure Pops will take the reservation details from wherever you make your reservation and pass them to your processing system – where you can use them for your marketing program that suppliers will now underwrite because of the rich data that you now have.
Yes proper data flow – and the systems to do that – is the key for solving travel agents #1 challenge of how to get more good leads.
Lee is the founder and was the CEO, GM and exclusive stock holder of Trams, Inc. for over 20 years. When Lee sold Trams to Sabre there were over 11,000 agencies using Trams Back Office and over 40,000 travel agents using ClientBase. Lee oversaw all aspects of the business including company strategies, product development, marketing, training, support, industry relationships and operations. Lee’s work at Trams included extensive industry speaking experience and advisory boards participation.
After selling Trams to Sabre, Lee stayed for three years and continued to run Trams operations as well as was promoted to running all of Sabre Leisure worldwide.
To learn a bit more about Leisure Pops (and you should) check out the website and the PowerPoint presentation. TRO had an interview with Lee right after Leisure Pops was launched, you can find it here.