CLIA Elite Cruise Counselor
In my previous articles about personal branding, I have always promoted the idea of building your personal brand by packaging your own tours, cruises and travel events. As you build your niche, you want to flex your knowledge and expertise by using that experience by creating unique packages for your favorite destinations which will meet your client’s needs. Those major travel websites can never duplicate what you have to offer so your issues with meeting or beating their prices for simple vacations will be a thing of the past.
This is the most important way to set yourself above the standard seller of travel. You will then be able to dominate travel to a destination or event by not selling the same old cookie cutter travel packages. This is your opportunity to be able to the sell destinations that you love and to share that love with interested clients who will know that you are “the one to go to” for these destinations.
After experiencing these exclusive vacations, your clients will return thrilled. They will tell all of their friends about their trip and about you, since you actually developed this special experience for them. There is nothing better than making your clients feel special knowing that you listened and delivered their dream vacation.
So, how do we begin developing this unique travel adventure package that will make you a travel superstar?
First, sell your value. Anybody can price out major components of a vacation package by just adding together an airfare, a hotel from a major chain, some transportation and some generic tours. You sell your value by using your personal experience, expertise, connections in that destination, and feedback from others that have visited the destination. In this way you have taken the guesswork out of where to stay, how to get there and what to see during the trip. This is the type of value that you could never find on the internet plus you may be including things that your client has have absolutely no knowledge of. Generally your clients will want the full experience, which they can only get from you!
We have all complained about the low commissions we earn from the major cruise lines. Packaging added value for your cruise clients can give your bottom line a tremendous boost and at the same time give your clients a complete experience that they will thank you for. These arrangements give your cruisers a unique cruise experience. You will also create loyalty to you and your brand and at the same time nurture referrals. Along with the cruise, package the transportation to the port city, especially if you can use commissionable contract airfare to Europe, pre and post hotel reservations with city tours, ground transportation or rental cars, and never, ever forget, travel insurance. If you don’t offer these along with your personal expertise in the embarkation cities and ports of call, you are leaving money on the table.
The commissions on these extras could actually be more than what you make on the cruise! Remember, not all clients want the cheapest inside cabins so make sure you offer more deluxe balconies and mini suites.
Second, sell the special pricing advantage to your clients. With one purchase from you, they have the whole enchilada at great combination pricing. You may be adding tours or special events that are impossible to price elsewhere and the whole package will seem like a tremendous value, which generally it is!
Thirdly, work with a reliable and trusted wholesale partner. When you work with your preferred supplier for a specific destination, you build up a reputation with them as well as with the individual hotels, ships and tour operators since you are using them on a regular basis. It is very important that they understand your core business, what you are offering to your clients and how serious it is that these elements are delivered flawlessly. If there is a problem, you want these suppliers to stand with you to fix any problems, even before you might be aware of it. By using these suppliers, you can also develop commission overrides, co-op marketing funds and special rates when certain suppliers need the business.
I had an excellent example of this when clients were on their way up to Machu Picchu from Cuzco on the Hiram Bingham train one morning. The local agents got wind of a demonstration from local school teachers about their tenure and they had put large boulders on the train tracks to make their point. The train trip that day was immediately cancelled and within minutes my local agent had boarded the train, found my clients, explained the situation and escorted them back in a Mercedes sedan to their hotel in Cuzco. They had already made arrangements for their accommodations for the night and offered them a complimentary dinner in the hotel. My clients continued their train trip and additional nights at The Sanctuary Hotel in Machu Picchu the following morning after the train tracks were cleared off. Needless to say I knew the local agents had my back and I will never forget them for it. I use them exclusively.
Number four is to sell the flexibility of your packages. Sometimes clients cannot make arrangements to travel on the dates that you offer and ask you to modify them. This is a great way to build your relationships with your preferred suppliers, being able to offer the same packages on almost any date your client needs. At the same time, you may suggest an alternate tour which may be more suited to your clients’ interests. You may also be able to lengthen or shorten the trip to their needs. People will want to work with you if you can offer this type of flexibility.
Our fifth important point is on many clients’ minds these days….and that is security. Security during travel can be a serious issue for some, which starts at the airport during check in. Our professional local hosts would be critical if there was some mix-up that left your client without a place to sleep on their arrival day. Again a very important reason to have reliable travel vendor partners!
Number six is a less scary one but just as important as number five. Support at the destination is vital when your clients want to add a tour or an tickets for an event at the last minute. Having local contacts to greet clients during their arrival in the destination and offer to help with unplanned requests will make you look like a superstar. It also makes you look like a real professional to have contacts in the destinations to answer questions and help with any extra details. This adds security and enables clients to not find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
My number seven thought is to be sure you keep yourself visible to remind clients of your existence. When you have designed a package you think a potential client is interested in, just don’t wait for them to call you. Be proactive and let them know what you have to offer and why you think they would love it. Remember this is not just about the destination but a reconfirmation of your personal brand. Using your packages is the best way to prove that. People love to know that you are thinking about them. They are happy to hear from you and want to learn about what you are offering and maybe purchase it! You are not a used car salesman that people want to avoid.
Potential clients and repeat clients love to hear what you are doing and what is going on in your World. As an example I did some training with Ponant Cruises and realized I had several regulars that would love what they had to offer. Within minutes I called my client and had a two week booking to Iceland on the L’Austral, one of Ponant’s luxury ships.
Number eight includes several tips which all have to do with marketing yourself and your excusive packaged travel products. Use the many marketing tools that are offered by your preferred suppliers and destination visitor’s bureaus. You will want to personalize the material and send it to your clients that have potential interest. Again this personalized and exclusive contact will make your clients feel special. Take advantage of the excellent images that are generally provided by these companies to make your material pop! Also use photos or other material from your own trips and those from returning clients. Give your clients a perfect way to picture themselves in the destination doing some of the things that you have outlined. This is the best way to get their attention and to start getting them to ask questions.
You may want to consider taping a preview of your package and post it on YouTube to cement yourself as the expert. Social media can be very valuable when sharing exclusive and personalized photos from your packages. You wil again show your expertise before and after the deposit is made. It is also a great way for those that have already booked to brag about the specially packaged vacation that they are going on to their friends. They say that word of mouth has the strongest influence on making purchasing decisions and many times social media will amplify that influence. This is another way to keep those tongues wagging!!
Creating and selling packages does sound a bit like working outside of the box. This is exactly what you want to be known for if you want to build your personal brand. You will stand out from the other agents selling only brochure tours to build and dominate your niche market.
Give your clients new ideas and they will come running to you.