Wow. Has it already been a month? Then I guess we’re due for an update. As I mentioned last month I’m focusing my 2012 marketing on groups. My goal is to get four new groups organized in 2012 for travel in 2012 or 2013. I have made some good headway in this area, but there is still work to be done. Plus, I still need to monitor and work on the existing groups already confirmed and on the books.
As I last reported I had three potential groups in the works, so I’ll update those first.
First possible group – Vision for Chile. I met with the Head Visionary and we’re currently moving forward with a donation/referral program at this time. This involved setting up a dedicated landing page for the organization so they could link to it, post it on Facebook, etc. It’s a simple concept, refer supporters to me, and after they travel (assuming they book with me) I make a donation back to the charity. In the meantime the Head Visionary is talking to his board members and supporters, getting feedback on doing a future group cruise as a fundraiser. So we’ll classify this group as being in a “holding pattern” for now.
Second possible group – The Battle of Franklin Trust. This one is still in progress. I’ve been in communications with the group leader (a New York Times bestselling author) via email and phone. Hopefully we’ll be meeting in person in the next few days. In the meantime I’ve already blocked the group space and created a group website for his review. I’m fairly confident this group will move forward; it’s just a matter of getting the final details hammered out so we can start promoting it on Facebook, and through other marketing avenues.
Third possible group – The Wounded Warrior Project. I can now move this into the confirmed column since there are three rooms booked and fully deposited. This is the group where three travel agents (including myself) are the pied pipers. We’re calling it The Cruise to the End of the World (yes, we’re having some fun with the end of the Mayan calendar) and it will be a fund-raiser for the Wounded Warrior Project. We are offering 50/50 commission splits to other travel agents, so check it out and shoot me an email if you have any questions.
I plan to keep plugging away–my goal is to secure four new groups in 2012. Once the Battle of Franklin Trust group is secured, that gets me halfway there. To reach my goal I need more pied pipers; I need more group proposals. Finding them continues to be a challenge. I continue to attend local networking events – as many as I can fit into my schedule. I attend morning networking groups, mastermind lunch groups, evening social mixers; all with the intent of making connections and building relationships. During all of these events, I am sure to let people know what I need – well-connected people who would make a good a group leader, and charities looking for different ways to raise funds. I also have a presentation coming up on February 21 with a networking group. I will focus the presentation on how to lead a group, ideas for types of groups, traits of a good group leader, and offering a referral program that pays for referring a group leaders/pied pipers.
As I continue to look for new groups I can’t lose sight of the groups currently on the books. Once I confirm a group, there is much to be done. The next step is to launch a marketing initiative. This is a collaborative effort between me and the group leader, and includes a group website, designing email blasts, newsletter inclusions, printed flyers or postcards for distribution, and coaching the group leader on how to use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to build excitement and encourage bookings.
So the coming weeks will be a juggling act between marketing existing groups and beating the bushes for new pied pipers who can feed new groups into the pipeline.
In the meantime, my challenge to you is this: come up with a list of potential pied pipers from your own community, and consider delving into the world of organizing group travel yourself.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships N Trips Travel as well as niche operations trading as Kick Butt Vacations, focused on college students; Kick Butt Events focusing on fundraising; and Your Kiwi Specialist specializing in anything New Zealand. You can reach Susan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.