Written By: Jackie Friedman, President, Nexion LLC
Many small business owners, including independent travel professionals, spend a lot of effort to attract new customers and do not spend enough time leveraging their current customer database. As you’ve probably heard before, studies show that it is five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain one. While thinking about what you need to do to acquire new customers and building your client base is important, it is equally important – if not more so – to have a strategy and tactics in place to keep your current clients coming back.
With that in mind, here are six ways you can leverage your existing database when marketing to your clients:
Keep your customers close, and take time to get to know them. People do business with people they like and trust, so developing relationships with your clients goes a long way. View your customers as relationships and not transactions. Yes, this takes more work to conduct business in a personal way versus transactional. Think of it like this: would you trust your hair or taxes to just anyone, or have you built a relationship with your stylist and accountant and keep your business with them year after year?
They should definitely hear from you more than when you are just looking for a credit card number for final payment. For example, find out what’s important to them when they travel, what’s on their bucket list and what hobbies they tap into while on vacation. Include this information in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program, so it’s easy to sort and identify when you’re ready to market to them.
Schedule times to touch base. Whether it’s through your CRM, Outlook calendar or other means, be sure to schedule regular “touch points” with your clients. Send them links to articles or photo galleries to get them excited about upcoming travel plans. Do you know they like Thai food? Offer to make them a reservation to a great Thai restaurant. Is Alaska on their bucket list? Send them a few details of fun, cool sites to experience there. You get the idea. Just keep it relevant with something related to a current trip or something they’ve expressed interest in for the future, which you’ll know, since you have it documented in your database CRM.
In addition, leverage your database to keep track of key dates, such as birthdates, anniversaries, graduations and more. These are other touch base times that can be scheduled easily through your CRM.
Be a hero. Always contact your clients when they return from traveling. Don’t be afraid to hear if something didn’t go right; it gives you the opportunity to do something about it. Indifference can be a travel professional’s worst enemy. If a customer shares a challenge with you, be prompt to resolve the issue. Better yet, don’t wait for clients to bring challenges to your attention; be proactive and follow up with them quickly after they return from a trip or vacation to see how things went. Knowing what they didn’t like, as well as what they did enjoy is great information to have and will help you with future bookings for them. In addition, after resolving any issues, be sure to document in your CRM, so it’s not just a piece of information for that transaction but becomes part of the client profile.
Pay attention to when clients book. Again, your database is a wealth of information and can be quite enlightening on your clients’ travel trends. For example, have they typically booked their holiday vacation in July during the past few years? Chances are, they’re thinking about this year’s holiday vacation now and will be ready to book in July, so plot this on your calendar as a good time to reach out to them to “start planning your wonderful next vacation.”
Listen actively. The art of listening and asking the right questions to qualify a client are very important. Also, never assume a client is fully qualified, as situations change over time. Keep the conversation going, and ensure your clients know your level of expertise.
Here’s an example: Once a year one of your clients books a family trip. However, by actively engaging with this client, you also find out that he takes two “guys-only” golf trips a year that he doesn’t currently book through you, which could be an opportunity for future bookings for you. As you’re speaking with clients, ask them if there are other times they travel beyond what you’ve planned for them. Not only could you receive more leisure sales, this is also a way many travel professionals get small corporate accounts – simply by asking and actively listening to the clients’ needs.
Leverage your best clients. As you get really good at retention marketing, leverage your best clients and ask for reviews and/or testimonials. Also, schedule a meeting at least once a year just to talk as part of your contact plan. You can say, “I’d love to spend 30 minutes with you to talk about your latest interests and what you like to better serve you as travel opportunities arise.”
When you show that you have your clients’ best interests at heart, and they believe that you care about them and their travel experiences, your retention rate will go way up. Do the little things that will add to their overall travel experience, even when you’re not paid to do so, because your ultimate payment will be repeat business. It’s all in the caring, attention to detail and attributes that you possess as a travel professional!
I’ve also asked some of the Nexion members to share common things they do to retain customers and how they use their database effectively:
Says Anne, “The best way to get repeat business is to make oneself irreplaceable. I determine who in my database is most desirable, such as focusing on larger spend and frequent travelers. I offer service above and beyond, and develop good communication with these clients. I also send approximately five percent of my take-home commission on that client to show appreciation – anything from gift baskets, to books for their children or dinners on the beach, airport lounge access, etc. I consider this my main marketing budget. The relationship is key, and my biggest selling feature is that I am there for the client pre- through post-trip. I always contact clients one week before travel to review all documents, tell them what the weather forecast is for their destination and include packing or traveling tips to make their trip more enjoyable. I also ask that they contact me by text and given them my number if they need assistance while traveling, while ensuring they have 24/7 back up, including insurance contact information. I know I sound like a mother, but the relief that someone is watching out for them has my clients coming back time and time again and referring their like-minded friends and family. Of course, I never ignore my young millennials, who will be my future big spenders in years to come. I am 100 percent referral-based.”
Says Virginia, “I write a weekly newsletter that I email to my database. It’s actually a letter, telling them what’s going on in my life and giving them the link to my blog and my group travel offerings. It keeps me in their mind, even if they only book once every three years!”
Says Gina, “I keep in pretty tight contact with my top clients via email, phone and social media. I make the experience and relationship as personal as I can.”
Says Ria, “A lot of our repeat business stems from the satisfaction of the level of service. We send helpful destination info, fun facts, packing lists and health and safety info, along with our traveler docs. They know that OTAs don’t care enough to do this. These small touches make the different and build confidence, which keeps them coming back. In addition, social media and phone calls go a long well. I listen well, and keep notes. Perhaps they are new grandparents, are heading south for the winter, just moved, recently married, changing jobs, etc. When you call and ask them about how things are going since retiring or how they like their new car, if shows that they are more than just a customer. It reinforces the trust and confidence.”
Says Holly, “Quite simply, if I say I will do something, it gets done immediately. One thing they love is that I look at their flight reservations every day to catch any schedule changes early or look up better seats. I stalk them when they fly, in case of any delayed or cancelled flights. Basically, I’m on top of their booking, watching out for them, seven days a week.”Remove Flags
As you can see, doing a few little things to leverage your customer database goes a long way in retaining your best clients. Here’s to your success!