Watching "Jeopardy" gave Liz Fisher, a SeaMaster Cruises (www.cruisesbyliznpaul.com) franchise owner in Mandeville, LA, a brilliant idea for how to creatively present cruise documents purchased by clients as gifts. "I had been watching with my five kids, and the people had won a cruise after spelling something like 'Jamaica.' We thought it was such a great idea."
Soon after, she had a client who wanted to surprise his wife with a cruise for a 40th anniversary. "The next thing I knew I was at the hobby shop buying a bag of letters," says Fisher, who also bought small jewelry bags. She filled the bag with letters that spelled "cruise." Because they were scrambled, however, the man's wife had to experiment with creating various words before figuring out that the correct word was "cruise." The bag with the letters was the first part of the present, the wrapped cruise documents, part two.
The wife later told Fisher it was the best present she had ever received. A home-based agent for SeaMaster since 2005, Fisher now uses the idea for all types of document presentations. "Definitely, people love the creativity of the idea," says Fisher, who adds that repeat business is solidified once the clients have such a great, fun experience the first time around. And they tell their friends, increasing her referrals.
But even if the presentation isn't designed as a surprise gift, just receiving their documents in a creative way can be an unforgettable event for clients. "When I give documents to my clients in person, I make sure they are packed in a memorable way," says Bonnie Schwarz, owner, Travelwbon (www.travelwbon.com), a home-based agency in Orlando, FL. She says it's all about customer service from start to finish. She often ties a bow around the documents and presents them with a bottle of wine, or she encloses the documents in a small basket with wine, cheese, crackers and other goodies.
Surprise baskets are highly popular with clients and offer flexibility in what agents do. Buy the baskets cheaply at a craft or discount store. Trim with streamers or other colorful decorations. Tie on your business card. Fill the baskets with supplier giveaways, brochures from tourism offices and a few gifts, customized for the client's specific trip. Some ideas for what to include are an onboard cruise credit, a spa treatment voucher or a beach towel.
But many trips don't have "documents" to present, right? It's true that many suppliers have adopted electronic documents. That doesn't mean you can't present e-doc receipts, an updated itinerary or other perks to send off the client in style. From left: Liz Fisher of SeaMaster Cruises; Bonnie Schwarz of Travelwbon; pam Forrester of The Magic for Less Travel; and Susan Kelly of Travel Magic
Consider delivering your creative gift basket by courier to the client's workplace. It creates a "buzz" as other employees can't wait to see what's been sent. And think out of the box. "Once I was able to find a ship made out of cardboard that I used to deliver the documents in," says Schwarz. "My customer really appreciated the extra step."
Putting Magic Together
Although presentation is important, so is the quality of information. As a home-based agent specializing in Disney, Susan Kelly, owner, Travel Magic (www.travelmagic.com), Basking Ridge, NJ, says Disney's product is excellent but multifaceted, which can overwhelm some clients. She takes pride in weeding through all the details, simplifying and explaining all the pieces of their Disney vacation.
"We pull it all together in a final customized, pocket-size booklet that's designed to provide more answers than questions," Kelly says. She makes sure clients know what the park hours are, what to do in each park, what rides may be closed for renovation during the client's vacation and information on deals or special events.
Also selling Disney, as well as other vacation products, is Pam Forrester, co-owner, The Magic for Less Travel (www.themagicforless.com) in Pittsburgh, a home-based agency with 40 home-based affiliate agents and a sizable Internet presence. For Disney packages, her agents create mini-packs or luxury pixie-dust packs; the latter might include a Disney gift card, a choice of a subscription to a vacation planning service called Tour Guide Mike or one of the Disney guidebooks.
She also fills her final document packs with Mickey-shaped confetti. It's a small thing, but she says clients love it.
Fun for All
For a creative group sale, Fisher takes a poster and cuts out puzzle pieces. Then the client who is buying a cruise for their entire family can send each person a letter with one puzzle piece and set a time and place to put the pieces together. When the pieces begin to reveal a cruise ship, Fisher says the group becomes frenetic and gleeful as family members realize they're going on a cruise; then the client presents each family member with cruise documents.
Whatever you do, recognize that document presentation is just one step along the timeline of a booking. By staying in touch, you build future business. "I try to keep the clients excited from the moment they book until they leave," says Forrester, who does that by sending an e-card or e-mailing an itinerary feature, a link to a good article or details about a restaurant. And when it comes time for final documents or a trip send-off, agents say: Create a presentation that wows!