That sounds odd to some....collect the addresses of people that don't choose to do business with you? I've had people tell me ....but they didn't book with me why would I bother? The greatest indicator that someone will cruise in the future is that they've cruised in the past. So even if they choose another agency over you, put them on your email and mailing list. Remember, cruises are like potato chips...nobody takes just one. If someone has booked previously with someone else don't write them off.... they are likely not loyal to anyone...yet. Loyalty is earned, and while a competitor may have won business from a client in the short term, in the long term you may end up winning more business from that client if you're persistent.
When I was at Royal Caribbean, I was privy to some amazing consumer research. My favorite study involved calling consumers 1 week following their cruise on a Royal Caribbean Ship and asking the client the following questions (answers were fill in the blank) :
- What cruise line did you sail? ________________
- What cruise ship were you on? ___________________
- What agency did you book your cruise at?________________
- What is your travel agent's name? ________________
An overwhelming percentage of consumers got the answers to each and every one of those questions WRONG, and the question with the lowest percentage of correct answers was "what is your travel agent's name?." The question with the highest percentage of correct answers was "what cruise line did you sail?", and below 50% got this question correct. The study found that people remember features, benefits and logos much better than names, and few people recall their agent experience.
This makes a strong case for cycle marketing to consumers before, during and AFTER the sale in order to keep a client. Those that aren't doing this are losing business to those that do. Make sure you're one who constantly markets to your clients via email (it's free) and via direct mail. The overall cost is tiny compared with the return on investment.
By the way....can I have your email address?
Try the system out by calling 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411).
If you've called 411 from your cell phone lately, I think you'll agree that a Free 411 service is going to be very popular , and such a service powered by Google is going to really be a boom to those in Google's Local Index (Google Maps).
All results that Google Free 411 is reading you come from Google Maps results (aka Google Local). If you're not in the results, you can be....FREE. Just go to the CruiseOne/Cruises Inc Business Center and from there select Marketing > ECommerce > Advertising > Free Listings > Google Local Business Center. Complete the required profile info, verify your location (by responding to a post card Google mails you), and you'll find that your listing should go up in a manner of a few weeks. Once your listing is up at Google Maps for your area, if you're in the top 8 results for your city, you'll be found on the Google Free 411 listings.
Please keep in mind that this is a new program from Google and they're clearly still working out some kinks. One error I ran into was that - I've been read result sets in an endless loop. I had other errors, but at the end of the day, if it's free I'm a pretty forgiving customer.
If you're not finding yourself in the top 8 results, here's a few things that may help you move on up in the local search results for your city :
- Make sure you have your actual web address in your profile. (format must be exactly as it appears in the address bar ie : http://jdoe.cruiseone.com/travel/cruises/index.do) This insures that Google will spider your site and see your local address info and find you a valid and relevant listing.
- Positive Reviews - clients who rate you positively will give your listing greater visibility...don't just have them just post reviews to Google, try Yahoo and even other review websites like judysbook.com
- If you've not already done so, make sure you create other free local listings with Yahoo, Yellowpages.com. Superpages and JudysBook.com
- If you're buying on a Flat Fee basis, first find out how much traffic the advertiser gets to the website themselves. Some good tools to determine how much traffic a website gets are Alexa and Compete.com. While these tools are far from perfect, they do give you a general idea of how popular a website is. Flat fee advertising should only be done short term (no shorter than a month) until you determine your cost per lead and find it's successfull. Don't commit long term to flat fee agreements - things can change quickly on the web and you don't want to be locked in. Legitimate companies usually allow you to cancel for any reason - but get it in writing.
- If you're buying a banner ad on a cost per thousand basis, keep in mind the following : A well targeted banner ad will get a 0.25% -0.40% clickthrouh rate. That translates to somewhere between 2.5 to 4 clicks per thousand banner exposures....and that's if it's targeted very well. Figure your cost per click costs from your cost per thousand visits(CPM) : if you're paying a $15 CPM - that's $3.75 to $6 a click. Paying just a $10 CPM and those click costs are $2.50 - $4.00. Find an opportunity to advertise at a $4 CPM and you'll be paying between $1 and 1.60 per click. My advice find CPM's of $4 or less and change your banner monthly, and whenever possible buy "behaviorally targeted ads".
- Cost per click advertising is the easiest and most risk-free form of online advertising. Advertising on banner networks at a fixed Cost Per Click (CPC) (as found on the BC under Marketing > Advertising), or on keyword advertising such as Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing makes getting solid results more predictable.
- Text based ads work better than pretty pictures. A good text ad can have a 1% -4% click through rate, while a 0.4% click through rate on a banner ad is notable. So, if you're building a brand, use banners, if you want immediate ROI use a text ad. A banner ad consisting of several text ads (looking similar to Google AdWords) is also a very strong and proven strategy in banner advertising.
- Test your creative - most advertisers will allow you to submit multiple ads and have tools to help you find out which one works best. You might be surprised to find that an ad you thought wouldn't work is working quite nicely.
Why do you think the FlowRider surf park aboard Freedom of the Seas is there? It sells youth and being cool using the dream of surfing, to far more than ever use it. Same goes for Royal Caribbean's rock walls, you can envision climbing to the top of the wall even if you're more likely to line up at the midnight buffet.
As an agent, it's easy to sometimes get stuck talking about the minutia of the cruise booking process - but remember clients want to know what restaurants are onboard, what excursions are the best and where to get the perfect margarita in Key West. Finding the balance of how to deliver the dream while communicating all the minor details that need to be discussed is an art that's mastered by seasoned cruise specialists. Seasoned specialists know that the key ingredients for the perfect conversation are strong listening skills, the ability to perceive when the client is in a hurry or when you've lost someone in a conversation and the flexibility to sometimes communicate details in writing, while preserving your voice for the more enthusiastic picture painting.