Written By: Craig Satterfield
I think that all of us try to plan new marketing ideas especially around the first of the year. Hoping our plans don’t fall to the floor like most New Year’s resolutions do. Planning your marketing strategy to sell to the great number of people who have never cruised has got to be easier than trying to shed that 25 pounds you feel you no longer need!
We all love to work with our repeat clientele. I know I do. They know you and you know their travel style. You have all of their details and credit card numbers. You just find out what they want to do and go get it for them. Quick booking and easy money. Not all bookings are like that. To keep your business growing you need to harvest new clients and those that have never cruised are many in number. It makes sense to develop a plan to find and book first time cruisers. So many are thinking of taking a cruise since they probably have heard from friends that have cruised in the past and loved it. Remember most people are excited about the idea of taking that first cruise. Planning a strategy to develop new cruisers takes a little planning and time but finding new folks that want to cruise will pay off later in repeat and referral business.
CLIA tells us that over 85% of all cruise guests are very satisfied with cruising and will go back again and again. The efforts to develop these potential cruisers are well worth it. CLIA has also revealed that the cruise industry is growing. The cruise industry has grown 7% between 2017 and 2018 with a total of 28.5 million passengers worldwide but North America has grown even more at 9%. That’s 14.2 million passengers who are your neighbors and friends!
With those potential numbers we would be crazy not to spend some time developing our first time cruise marketing. Did you know that your repeat and referral clients that you hope will book with you for the rest of their lives totals only 30% of your total bookings? That means that 70% of your true blue devoted clientele is booking elsewhere. A sobering statistic and the only thing you can do is to provide your best service and keep in touch via email and phone on a regular basis. I imagine doing this is like constantly loading new clients into a mental horn of plenty!
So now to I start filling this horn of plenty. It always sounds easier to do than it actually is but when you get started it becomes easy and will come naturally to you. It has been proven that the Millennial generation like to do a lot of research on line but when it comes to something important like a vacation, they want to work with an expert. Here is where you come in. You need to walk the walk and talk the talk of a travel expert! You are a catalyst in the conversation about travel. Talk about travel wherever you go. People get excited about your sense of enthusiasm. Who doesn’t like to talk about where they have visited and where they want to go or what they want to do.
Since you are in sales, you are a social animal, so don’t hide the fact that you sell travel for a living. I keep photos of places I have been on my phone get potential new clients excited about travel. I wear an Aloha shirt or T shirts that I have bought in Alaska, the Caribbean and Mexico or ones from the ship. It always brings out a comment or a question about the destination orthe cruise line. I never talk only about the deals or the destinations that I want to sell. I take the conversation to the destination they are interested in. It is amazing how the destination or cruise ship will sell itself! Be informative on Social Media too, not just sharing last minute deals or cheap packages and cruises.
Consider becoming a video star by posting your travels on YouTube and any other media you can. Your potential new clients will share interest in these with you. This is a perfect opportunity contact them. It is great to dream about traveling and cruising the World but what about actually booking travel with you. Start asking questions to get them thinking about them actually going on vacation. Get them thinking about being in that airplane seat or deck chair. Ask questions that can be answered with “YES”! This way you can start painting a mental picture for them visualizing the trip they really want to take. Would you like to take a cruise to the Caribbean? YES. Do you enjoy traveling with friends and family? YES. Mention the words romantic, exploration, pampered and luxury to help paint the picture.
Listen to what they are saying with your full attention. This is how you will learn their buying patterns so you can adjust your pitch accordingly. You know you are doing a good job when your new clients are asking questions as if they have already booked the trip. Others take it much slower and you can pique their interest by revealing things about the trip a little at a time.
Once they are booked, get them involved in registering their information on the cruise line’s website or by showing them the various opportunities to book shore excursions either via the cruise line or third party operators. Show them where they can enter their immigration information and to download and print boarding passes and luggage tags. Show them where they can find information on spa deals, specialty dining and drink packages. Give them packing ideas, the benefits of arriving in the port city the day prior to the sailing, and what to expect when they check in at the pier.
Proving that you are an expert by your actions will remind your guests that they were very smart in working with you and will plant the seed to continue on the next vacation. Remind them that you are available if they have more questions. When they return, remind them that you have many great ideas to share with them for future travel. Also remind them that you appreciate and encourage referrals from friends and family.
In using these easy suggestions, you can start the new year developing a new and profitable group of guests that will speak highly of your expertise and friendliness and keep your phone ringing.