Innovating & Differentiating Helps You Own Your Cruise Clients - Part I
by Ming Tappin
Adam Goldstein on stage at Cruise360 presenting 10 Lessons to Grow Your Business.
Own Your Clients - become friends with them and they’ll be loyal. We cruise with ours.
Be outstanding in your field! Specialized departures draw attention - try a tulip time cruise with your local horticulturist group?
Specializing in a sector can be rewarding - weddings at sea are big business.
I would like to dedicate the next few columns to growing your cruise business, as inspired by Adam Goldstein's keynote speech at Cruise360. The points he made resonated so strongly with me that I feel compelled to share them with all of you - with a bit of my own elaboration.
Own The Customers
We all want to believe that our customers are loyal to us, but truth is, many clients will switch agencies without much consideration, and surprisingly, it is not always about price. One of the top reasons why people switch agencies is that they were indifferent to the one they were working with. Sure they received attentive service and good deals, but there was no emotional connection or attachment beyond the sales transaction. With this in mind, we need to own the customers, otherwise we are leaving the door open for them to go elsewhere.
I cannot stress enough the importance of building client relationships. If your clients only ever hear from you during deposit and final payment time, you will only be remembered as someone to process the sale, and you can easily be replaced. Taking the time to get to know them on a personal level will cultivate their loyalty. I know agents whose clients will follow them to the ends of the earth because of the solid trust and relationship they have with each other. I have also met agents who have become personal friends with their clients and are now invited to their dinner parties and social events. Who do you think those clients are going to call every time they want to book a cruise?
Innovate and Differentiate
Are you always promoting the "deal of the week" that comes from the cruise line e-blasts? How does that make you stand out from the other agencies selling the same thing? The most successful agents promote cruises outside the box. It's no longer enough to offer standard promos - every agency has access to those - but make that cruise extra special, and you will pique more interest. Adding air, hotel and tours is a good start. Now you have an inclusive package that looks after all the details and is much more appealing. Or, collaborate with a community icon to host a cruise, with additional exclusive benefits onboard. Or find a special interest group and organize a theme cruise with guest speakers and activities. Promote specialized departures with exclusive features and extras only available through you, and watch those bookings come in.
Some individual agents and agencies have also chosen to specialize. It can be a cruise sector - river, expedition or luxury. Or it could be a specific region – S.E. Asia, Galapagos or the Baltic. Or you might want to be a specialist for a certain cruise line.
Specializing has great benefits - you concentrate your learning efforts in one area and your knowledge will show through. It further identifies you as being the expert and it drives customers to you over other agencies. Just as you would be confident to have your car serviced at the manufacturer's service centre, people are confident to buy from, and are loyal to, an agent who specializes in that area. Directing your sales towards your chosen cruise line also helps you grow your commissions and overrides faster. Additional marketing funds, BDM support and even special rates will come your way once you build volume.
In the next column we will look at branding yourself and projecting a professional image.
Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 38 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of www.yourcruisecoach.com.