2015 is almost halfway gone and if you are a smart agency owner, you are probably thinking about getting your 2016 ducks in a line pretty soon. As we all know, business does not go anywhere until someone is interested in our product. Very few of us have a stable of high-spending, loyal clients. My own business (by definition) will turn over my client base about every ten years. So, it is imperative that you are always looking for new leads and prospects. A few weeks ago I was brainstorming with some non-travel business owners and came up with some obvious methods and some less-than-obvious ones. Here are our top 5.
- Seek those who are vulnerable. No, I am not talking about preying on the downtrodden. If you sell shoes, the moment a prospect’s sneaker begins to wear, he becomes vulnerable. If you are a tech company, your clients may become vulnerable when Google or Facebook changes their algorithm. For travel, they may become vulnerable during predicted times of the year, during particular intervals of their lives (anniversaries, birthdays), or upon returning from their last trip. Find that vulnerable moment when the prospect is likely to say “yes.” If you reach out to these prospects directly, they are quite likely to buy or at least to commit to buy. Worse case—you have moved to the top of their mind for now.
- Target their purchase behavior. Ever shop at Amazon? Ever notice the “customers that bought this also bought that” links at the bottom? Brilliant! While you may not have a website that can accommodate that, you certainly know what your other customers like and bought. Insurance, shore excursions, upgraded accommodations, or a side trip or experience. No one wants to be left out. And most people do not know what is available. Is a trip to Rome truly complete without a private tour of the Vatican?
- Poach Your Competition’s Unhappy Customers. If you have ever screwed up, you know what I am talking about. “I bought a trip from ABC and all the people in the Mexican hotel spoke Spanish and I did not understand a word, so I am giving ABC zero stars.” Yeah, it is thing. We can’t avoid it. People will go to the Internet and puff out their chests anonymously behind the protection of their keyboards. Take advantage of it. Not publicly of course, but privately. Subscribe to feeds on Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc., for your competition. When you spot a legitimate issue, privately message the person, empathize with their issues and offer yourself as an alternative.
- Publicly Engage With Your Competition. OK this seems contradictory to my point above, but hear me out. While you should not publicly reach out to your competition’s unhappy customers, it is not a bad idea to engage with your competition. Is an agency in town facing a public/social backlash over a minor (or major) error on their part? Go on Twitter and Facebook and empathize with the rival. What?! Not only will this create a positive impact about your business, but such statements often get re-tweeted and shared socially. It might even result in media coverage depending on the severity of the initial issue. The result? You will get more exposure at the expense of your rival, and potentially some new leads.
- Incentivize Happy Customers. When you do something right, a happy customer will tell a friend. When you do something wrong, an unhappy one will tell ten thousand friends on Facebook. Such is the world in which we live. While you need to engage (and resolve) an unhappy client’s issue, never forget about the happy client. Ask them to rate their experience and trip, and offer then something for it—maybe a small discount or a bon voyage gift on their next trip. Maybe it is just a $5 gift card at Starbucks. Do not require a positive review for the incentive—that would be unethical and has already been done by hotels and has backfired. But don’t be stupid and ask an unhappy customer to review you either. Find your happy ones, ask for the review (most will be more than happy), and then once done, send them a little something! The end objective is to ensure happy customers spread the word as much (if not more) than the unhappy ones.
Do you have other tips for prospecting? Leave a comment below.