Know your clients, sell more travel
Pity the poor storefront agency doing millions of dollars of business.
That may seem like an odd statement, but consider this: The “traditional” travel agency, that relies on perfect strangers walking in off the street to make its living, suffers a very real disadvantage. On the one hand, the nature of its business means that it’s hard to get to know its customers. On the other hand, even if the owners would like to get to know their customers, the sheer number of them makes the task difficult.
Obviously, a lot of successful storefront agencies do get to know their clients and have developed systems to assist them in that effort. They almost certainly know a fair bit about their best customers.
But as a small, home-based enterprise you enjoy a tremendous advantage over your bigger competitors. You can really get to know all of your clients.
First of all, why get to know your clients? This is a business not a social club after all. You want to sell things to your clients, not become their best friend. True enough. But really getting to know your clients will enable you to sell them even more. And if, in the process, you become friends, well what’s wrong with that? It’s just another reason so many “traditional” agents are heading home – to have a more satisfying person-to-person working experience.
Getting to know your clients is not quite like getting to know your friends. It’s a more professional and targeted process. You get to know your friends over time, almost accidentally. Getting to know your clients is – or should be – a much more deliberate process.
You will also want to know things about your clients that you don’t know about your friends – unless, of course, your friends are also your clients. (And that, by the way, is a goal you should set for yourself.)
You want to know everything you can about how and where they travel. Their likes and dislikes. Their must-haves and their can-do-withouts. Their budget guidelines and their cost/value equations. In short, you want to know everything you possibly can to be able to tailor the perfect cruise, or tour, or hotel, or resort for them.
Getting to Know Your Clients One at a Time
I am a big believer in making the process of getting to know your clients a formal and professional one. Those of you who have my home study course have already studied the Client Profile Form. (At least, I hope you have.)
The Client Profile Form provides a sort of “road map” to the most important information you will want to have about each of your clients and it is an excellent start on capturing that information. If you don’t have the Client Profile Form, it’s easy enough to develop your own. Just think of all the things you’d like to know about your customers and add them to the list. If you miss any, you’ll surely discover them along the way and you can add them.
You can fill out the Client Profile Form over time, as you go along, as your customers come to you for different things. Or you can do it all at once. I would like to urge you to adopt the second course of action.
If you are hesitant, think about your doctor. A good doctor will “take your history” on the first visit. She may even request records from your previous physician. This is a professional way to do business, and why should you be any less professional in conducting your travel marketing business? Sending a client on the wrong cruise may not be as life threatening as giving them the wrong medication, but believe me they’ll holler just as loud.
So if you haven’t “taken a history” from your clients, do it soon. It will position you in your clients’ minds as a true professional and send the unmistakable message that you are serious about earning their business. It will also put some psychological pressure on you (the good kind) to get serious about promoting and building your business.
Getting to Know Your Clients All at Once
Once you have a good supply of Client Profile Forms on a good supply of clients you will start to notice patterns. You will notice, perhaps, that most of your clients prefer cruising vacations and that most of the cruisers prefer the Western Caribbean. Or you may notice that you have a surprising number of golfers in your customer base. Or that the majority of your clients are over 50.
These little nuggets of information are trying to tell you something. They are trying to tell you where to focus your efforts. They are suggesting areas and travel products you should get to know more about. They are telling you what areas of your business are not very productive and which you might want to consider scaling back on or dropping altogether.
If you have gathered all this information, you’ll be in a position to take advantage of special opportunities. When that great deal on a cruise and golf vacation comes along you won’t be sitting there saying, “Gosh, I know I must have some clients who’d go for this, but who?” Instead, you’ll be able to develop a list of hot prospects in short order and make some serious money.
Getting To Know Clients You Haven’t Even Met
Those of you who are familiar with the course or who have been reading my emails and blog posts know how keen I am on the concept of specializing. If you have specialized in your business, then you already know certain very crucial facts about your customers because you almost demand that they fit a certain profile before you let them become customers. You also know that there are a lot of folks out there who fit your profile who aren’t customers simply because you haven’t met them yet. And because you know so much about them, it’s relatively easy to find them. All it takes is a little creativity.
Even if you don’t specialize, you can still take advantage of hot sellers among the client you do know. For example, if you’ve had great success with a certain all-inclusive resort package, look for common traits among the folks who bought that package. All retirees? All young, recently divorced singles? This gives you an idea of the type of people you haven’t even met yet who are good prospects for that product.
Getting to know your clients is an on-going project. To be successful at it you need to be organized and professional and above all you need to record your data. Don’t say to yourself, “I must remember that Jim’s an avid golfer.” Write it down. Better yet, write it down on Jim’s Client Profile Form.