As another calendar year winds down and we enter the holidays, bookings may temporarily slow down, but there is still a lot of work to be done in preparation for 2016. As I’ve said before, there is no rest for the weary travel agent.
What work you ask? As an example, have you reached out to your past cruisers? Or past clients that have yet to cruise? What about that list of potential clients that you’ve been accumulating? (You do have one, right?) ‘Tis the season to reach out and touch everyone. However, I’m not talking about mass email blasts or generic formulaic marketing. This is the time of year to get personal, and reach out to past, current, and potential cruisers. It may be too late to get them thinking about a holiday escape onboard a cruise ship this season (unless they have deep pockets), but it’s the right time to get them thinking about taking a cruise a year from now (while taking advantage of today’s prices and wave season offers). Or just reach out and get them thinking about booking something with you for 2016.
If your client database is daunting, and you don’t have anyone to help, you may need to prioritize your client database. Who already has a pending booking with you? Who hasn’t booked 2015 or 2016 travel with you yet? Who has cruised in 2015 but hasn’t booked a future cruise with you yet? Which potential clients have expressed interest in cruising? These are all clients you want to reach; in what priority will be up to you,
Past & Current Clients
I recommend sending a handwritten note to each client, thanking them for their past business and offering to help them with their 2016/2017 plans (it’s not too early to starting thinking about 2017). Depending on the amount of information you have collected about your clients, reference upcoming milestones (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations) they may want to celebrate. Above all, be sincere and do not hard-sell.
Your client database may be less thorough when it comes to potential clients; you may only have a name and email address in most cases. When you have a physical address, send a hand-written note. If email is all you have, work with it, still keeping it personal and individualized. Reference any information or notes that you have about their likes and interests, where you met them (i.e. networking event, bridal show, etc.). The catch is not to make a hard-sell marketing pitch. Alternatively, suggest an informal meeting in the new year (or a chat by phone if they aren’t local), to get to know each other better, and see how you may be able to better serve them.
If your client database is daunting, hand-writing a thousand plus note cards may not be feasible. Decide how many cards you can hand-write between now and the end of the year, and prioritize which clients will get those hand written notes (hint: if they spent a good deal of money with you on their 2015 travel, they should be getting a handwritten note). For the rest of the clients in your database, at the very least send them a New Year’s card (strategically mailed after Christmas, so it’s not lost in the pile of Christmas cards they received). You can buy boxes of holiday cards, sign each card, hire your kids to address the envelopes (penmanship counts), and be done with it; or, for those of you that subscribe to SendOutCards, you can do a mass mailing that still looks personalized and handwritten (nowadays, you can even upload your own handwriting font).
In 2016, I would suggest breaking up your database into quarterly or monthly segments. Send a portion of your clients a note or card, and don’t leave it until the next holiday season. Then, when December 2016 rolls around, when you will have been reaching out and touching them already, a simple seasonal card (be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc.) will be an easy addition to the mix. And it won’t look or feel like marketing.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.