ASTA seminar provides tips for boosting sales By Katherine Nichols / December 13, 2002 Share 1 -- HONOLULU -- Cruise expert Tom Ogg had one question for the audience of travel agents attending his seminar at the ASTA World Travel Congress here: "Is everyone in the room making enough money selling cruises?" A "yes" answer might have triggered the shortest seminar in ASTA convention history, but the room full of cruise specialists shouted "no," prompting Ogg to reveal a number of outside-the-box tips for boosting cruise sales, including the following:• Purchase and learn ACT 2002 or a similar program that enables you to manage your client database.• Build your own Web site. "Anybody can do it," Ogg said. The key, he said, is to get your niche in the cruise market recognized on a search engine like Google. Ogg's Cruisereviews.com site gets 115,000 hits per day, he said. Ogg recommended www.bruceclay.com as a resource to learn about keywords competitors are using.• Embrace e-mail marketing. It has the highest response rate and can be delivered free to thousands of potential clients -- but Ogg recommended agents avoid sending unwanted messages.• Develop a network of referral agents, and pay them commission.• Establish yourself in the online market. Break into usenet groups and turn around the anti-agent sentiments that are pervasive on newsgroup sites. Get on chatboards and establish yourself as an expert.• "A cruise is something that requires a lot of sophistication to sell," said Ogg, adding that nothing works better than personal contact. Translation: Don't sit at your desk.• What's your area of expertise? Put on a seminar to local service and home clubs.• Publish your own newsletter. Distribute it at your local coffee shop. Offer to come to the shop on Tuesday nights to talk about cruising.• Target symbiotic businesses. Ask to distribute your newsletter in stores with similar demographics: jewelry stores, formal-wear stores and tanning salons. Offer to share clients with those businesses. It's not competition.• Don't forget the fax broadcast. "Don't discount it because it didn't work a year ago," said Ogg. If you generate one that's personalized, it will get read and saved, he said.• List your business in the Yellow Pages.• Radio advertising is not as expensive as you might think if you focus on your demographics. Remind listeners that prices change and bookings should be made now.• Small magazine ads will work if they are specific and there aren't any similar ads in the same publication.• Rethink your client gift ideas. Wine is nice but unimaginative.• Get your clients to refer their friends to you.