New customers are not the path to success in the travel business.
Well, of course we all need some customers, but do not build your business plan solely around getting new ones. Instead, focus on retaining your old ones with repeat business. With satisfied repeat clients, you will have mini evangelists for your business all over the globe. So what are some tips for creating that satisfaction besides just sending them on a trip that went well? Here are a few suggestions:
- Give them stuff. I am not talking the thank you gifts, but periodic (possibly random) gifts. One year I bought 100 “pleather” Zagat guides about Europe branded with my agency and gave them as holiday gifts to my top clients. Sure they were expensive; but they were keepers and got my clients thinking about… wait for it… Europe. But it does not need to be that expensive. An advertising company I work with in my town hands out very inexpensive koozies with their brand and a saying on the bottom, “good ideas come from a pen, cocktail napkin, and a shot of Patron.” Cheap, but effective.
- Refer business to them. Not all of your clients have a public facing career, but if you are doing your job correctly, you should know. If the opportunity presents itself, refer people to your clients. I do it all the time and it is a successful tool to make sure your existing clients know you care. More often than not, I am not a client of my client, so I do stop short of giving them a ringing endorsement. I will usually say something like, “Hey, you said you were looking for a new primary care physician—I know it is a personal choice, but check out this client of mine and see if it is a good fit for you.” I made the introduction, but did not put my reputation on the line for lack of any personal experience. This exercise builds trust!
- Consult for free. OK, this is a touchy subject. I am not suggesting that you establish a fee-free model. But with any good relationship, it needs to start somewhere. An initial free consult may be a good start. But even if that is against your business plan, consider offering them free tidbits of advice when needed. Do not get into a habit of nickel-and-diming them for every conversation. If they have a passport question, offer them a basic answer and thank them for calling you—after all, you were at the top of their mind. However, if it morphs into a long, drawn-out process, you are entitled to a fee.
- Follow up. Following up strictly to ask for new business or some information to complete a transaction is dangerous. If you know your clients as you should, send them a birthday card, call them and wish them a happy anniversary, or maybe call them as a milestone date (child graduation, anniversary, mortgage payoff, etc.) is approaching and just wish them all the best. I bet for the little amount of effort, there is a lot of return.
Building a successful business is all about building trust, not about buying or finding as many leads as possible. If you show your commitment to your customers and demonstrate your willingness to help, it will build that trust factor and translate into continued business from a satisfied customer.