A fellow travel agent and I were brainstorming group cruise ideas recently. We hit upon wine-themed cruises, and she mentioned her area had many wineries. This prompted me to look at MY area and, yep, there are a lot of wineries near me, too! Between the two of us you would think that we’d have a good chance of getting at least two wine-themed cruise groups going. Statistically, that may be true, but statistics never promised anything.
My colleague hit upon one basic truth I had forgotten about: “You just need to find the right Pied Piper.”
This brought to mind my list. I have a list in a manila file folder in my office on which I list all my group cruise ideas. I detail people I should talk to, contact information, potential on-board event schedules – it’s become something like my bible for group cruise ideas. At the back of the List I have a sheet that lists everyone I’ve contacted about a group cruise, who’s either turned me down, or the group wasn’t a success for whatever reason. This secondary list is divided into categories based on the types of cruises I was working. I like understanding my failures – it helps me better plan for my successes, and this is nowhere more visible than the List. So, during my discussion with my colleague, I got the List out and started thumbing through it. I realized that her statement was really true – it’s a matter of finding the right person to finish the connection and make the magic happen.
For instance, under my culinary cruise theme category, I had the names of several different chefs and foodie types in my area that I thought would be good prospects for a Pied Piper. They all decided not to for one reason or another, but I eventually found my Pied Piper for a culinary-themed cruise on Holland America a few years ago. If I plot each name onto a timeline, I spent nearly a year approaching potential Pied Pipers for a culinary themed cruise, revising my presentation, coming up with potential onboard events, and vetting each person before we talked. It was a huge investment of time, but one that eventually paid off. I kissed a lot of frogs before I found my Prince, to borrow an analogy.
It’s easy to get impatient when results from your marketing efforts don’t have an immediate effect. It’s easy to get frustrated when you feel like all you do is work, work, work, but the expected return hasn’t happened. You put in time and effort to make a proposal and nothing happens. But, remember the timeless axiom: “Good things come to those who wait.” To put a spin on that, good things come to those who try. My failures List? It’s not the end of the road for those prospects. I still touch base with them every once in a while to see how they are doing, remind them of what I do, and gauge interest in a group cruise with them once more. Think of it as a dating relationship – you wouldn’t go and marry the first person you meet before you got to know them, right? (Mail order brides excepted.) There’s a period of courting, where both parties spend time together, getting to know each other, and fostering the relationship. It works the same way – sure, there are a lot of frogs, but there’s usually more than one prince in the bunch. Some of them just don’t show up right away.
Don’t let the lack of sales or responses to your proposals get you down – people will act on things when they are ready to do so, and the best thing you can do after initial contact is remind them you’re still there, and you’re still the best option for them. Doing so will help you realize there are more Princes than you think!
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a six-year industry veteran and owner of Exclusive Events At Sea (http://www.exclusiveeventsatsea.com) and Journeys By Steve (http://www.journeysbysteve.com), based in Springfield, MO. In addition to producing special events on board cruise ships, he specializes in vacations to the British Isles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.