Written By: Scott Koepf, Vice President of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
Increasing the retention rate (repeat business rate) by 5% can increase the value of a customer at least 25%!”
The Loyalty Effect – Reichheld & Teal
It should not surprise anyone by saying that travel advisors work on a low margin. However, what is surprising is the lack of focus on the ultimate solution to that situation. As the quote above indicates, the path to increased profitability is not about constantly finding new customers, but to instead create loyalty in your existing customers. New customers will also grow in the best way possible – by word of mouth from loyal clients.
So, how do you increase that “repeat business rate” which will increase your sales and profits? Many will say it is by providing excellent customer service. I will argue that customer service is only part of what will create loyalty. As I have said before, ‘good’ is not good enough. Even exceptional customer service will not necessarily create loyalty, but it is the starting point. It starts with in-depth qualifying of the customer so that you can provide the right advice to help them book their dream vacation.
Loyalty starts by delivering an exceptional product and in the case of a travel advisor, it is not the vacation or supplier that is the product, but you and the experience your customers have working with you. All the best marketing in the world can’t overcome a mediocre interaction. Therefore, go back through all of the previous articles that talk about each aspect of sales and customer service and make sure you are offering a systematic, unique and inspirational buying experience!
If we assume that you do indeed provide a memorable and astonishing customer experience, then how do you make sure customers stay loyal to you? Let me answer by walking through the seven “C’s” required of all successful retention marketing. Eight C’s…my three daughters (Cori, Charlene, and Cassie) are obvious proof that I love alliterations!
Commitment: It all starts here, and the other “C’s” are a waste of time without this one. You have to want to increase your repeat business rate. You might be thinking that everyone wants this, but the difference is that most travel advisors never make the commitment to a marketing program that will result in more repeat business! Make a commitment today to fully create a retention marketing program and do everything you can to increase its effectiveness. Read on to discover how!
Customer Centric: (Please note the double C’s which is cool, but no special Scrabble points will be awarded.) All marketing needs to be designed and planned from the customers’ perspective. Today, almost all travel marketing is product focused, price focused or simply unfocused. The shotgun style of blasting emails or postcards is dead. It is not only ineffective but may actually drive business away due to sending unwanted or irrelevant messages to your clients. Research done by Click Tracks has shown that a personal, customized approach to marketing and messaging can result in a 5 to 1 sales lift! Carlson Marketing reported that the best way to deliver customer relevancy is to fully integrate your customer data into your overall marketing plan and leverage it at every touch point throughout the customer’s journey. This simply could not be done unless a CRM system is your foundation. Customer centric programs need to use real time data about each customer. As Reichheld and Teal said in The Loyalty Effect: “The result of treating different customers differently is an increase in the amount of trust toward, mutuality and alignment with, and commitment to the retailer by the customer over the long term.”
Consistent: When surveyed, customers say they change retailers or service providers primarily because of indifference (68% to be specific). Therefore, the solution is a fully scheduled communications plan that guarantees your best clients hear from you – consistently. An occasional postcard sent only when the supplier has some co-op or random emails that only come in spurts will not work. Setting a schedule with consistent, personalized messaging is important.
Creativity: If you have mailboxes full of junk mail or spam, it is simple to understand the value of creativity. Junk mail has been around a long time and a postcard with a pretty picture simply does not make it through the clutter anymore. And your email box is no different with so many emails bombarding your clients – both legitimate and spam. Catching the eye and interest of your client is both an art and a science. Theme approached messaging vs. price and product is proven to be more effective.
Cross Channel: (Once again a double C – Yes!) Being relevant to customers also means reaching them in the best way possible. Sending only email or only postcards or only brochures is not nearly as effective as all of these combined. In the study by Jupiter Research called The Road of Relevance, they state the following: “By integrating email marketing with other channels, more relevant interactions are created because the customer receives insight from every touch point. That is how you lock in loyalty. Cross channel marketing can include emails, ezines, single supplier direct mail, multi-supplier themed direct mail and more.
Coordinate: The use of multiple media channels needs to be coordinated. Today much of the marketing in travel is done in a vacuum. Each supplier pushes their marketing options through the agency channel with little or no knowledge or understanding of what their competitors are doing at the same time. Without a coordinated messaging approach, the customer is bombarded with confusing and inconsistent marketing such as two competing cruise line postcards arriving on the same day as emails from a tour company and/and an all-inclusive resort. You can coordinate the messaging that you send to customers by delivering with a customized approach that is tied to their individual interests.
Comprehensive: (Turnkey is really a better word, but I need the alliteration to reign!) You are an exceptional travel advisor. You know your clients and you know your product, but the thought of also becoming a marketing genius may be overwhelming. Even remembering to do any marketing at all may be a challenge. The first C – Commitment – requires you to understand the value of retention marketing and integrate it into a business plan. A Comprehensive approach is designing a system designed to address all of the C’s and be extraordinarily easy to use.
Confidence: If you have read this far, you are clearly committed to growing your business as well as your knowledge of marketing. Applying this knowledge, understanding the value of marketing, and integrating all of this into a business plan is a recipe for success. Having a concrete retention marketing plan will improve your repeat sales and boost your confidence.
‘C’s the day’ and charge ahead with the 8 C’s to Repeat Business!