Success isn't necessarily easy to come by, but Roger Block, president of Travel Leaders Network, thinks that five steps make it lot easier to achieve, especially for the travel business.
He discussed those steps during the Travel Leaders Network 2017 International Conference held earlier this month at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando. They are:
- Acquire more customers
- Retain customers
- Sell more products and services
- Sell at higher margins
- Operate as efficiently as possible
"Success, quite honestly, is simple if you follow these five critical
functions, and I don't care what business you're in, but it's extremely
applicable to ours," Block said.
"Every day, you need to focus on how you're going to acquire more and more customers. How you're going to retain those customers. How you're going to sell them more and more products and services, at higher margins, and operate as efficiently and effectively as possible."
Block further broke down each step to success, starting with customer acquisition.
"We all know... no customers, no business," he said. "But if that's critical to your success, what are you really doing about it every day? Are you really focused on this most critical issue, or are you getting bogged down in the daily details? Trust me, I really know it's easy to be dragged into the firestorm of the minute; but to be successful, this really has to be task one."
To ramp up customer acquisition, Block suggested agents use the proprietary lead-generation tool Agent Profiler the network provides, which comes in the form of a profile agents can customize.
His advice could easily be applied to similar programs, or even an agent's website or social media profiles: The profile should be as dynamic and interesting as possible, using things like client testimonials and pictures to make it stand out and be different. It's an investment in time and energy, Block said, but one that's worth it.
Customer retention, Block said, "is quite honestly, where a lot of us fall down."
Specifically, he cited a statistic he recently learned from Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service at Royal Caribbean International: Among Royal's customers that book through travel agencies, only 25% book their next cruise through that same agency.
"Think about that," Block said. "That means 75% of the customers left their agency. That's a lot of folks, and this is an area all of us really have to work on."
Block suggested agents take the time to make their most valuable clients feel special and create a relationship with them. Agency groups like Travel Leaders Network help with marketing initiatives, websites and more, but agents need to stay on top of their clients' minds by keeping them in the loop of things like new destinations they might enjoy or new packages available.
"You've got to let them know you care, that you want their continued business," he said.
Block's third and fourth steps go hand-in-hand in selling customers more products and services and doing so at higher margins.
While networks' negotiating teams often take care of the higher margins part of the equation by seeking out higher commissions from suppliers agents can rely upon, Block said, agents can and should have a hand in selling their clients more.
For instance, agents who sell corporate travel could tap into the "bleisure" trend and offer clients add-on days for leisure purposes, he said. Agents selling cruises should be selling pre- and/or post-cruise stays.
Block's last step to success was ensuring an agency is operating efficiently. He said Travel Leaders Network might begin asking members to volunteer certain metrics to help understand how they can do that better.
In the meantime, he said, agents should look at things like customer repeat rates and client retention rates. Money found by creating more efficiencies in a business could be used for things like higher salaries for employees, more training or technology investments.
"This is not an easy task, folks, but if we truly, truly want to become the world-class network, these are all things we need to understand," Block said.