Last month we asked readers about your use of technology—everything from what type of computers you use to whether or not you have a web site to how you book travel.
If you read two of the articles that precede this one in this issue, "Designing Your Home Office" and "Use the Web to Generate Leads and Increase Sales," you'll see how much readers take the advice given.
In "Designing Your Home Office," successful agents we interviewed recommended having a laptop computer, because it takes up less space than a desktop model and also allows flexibility to work from remote locations. A full 67 percent of readers said they use a laptop; 91 percent also have a desktop. Nearly the same number of agents who have laptops take them with them when they travel to keep in touch with clients and suppliers. Those who have PDAs for the most part also travel with them, but that percentage is low, 14 percent. No surprise here: 95 percent travel with cell phones for professional use.
GDS Versus the Internet
Where readers could be listening to advice better is in their use of the Internet. For the almost 40 percent of readers who said they don't have a web site, please read the previous article and see how much business you are losing from not having an Internet presence. Especially being home-based, you can't ignore this vital link to an entire world filled with potential customers. Given how many readers don't have web sites, not surprisingly, more than 75 percent said less than 25 percent of their business is generated online.
Although many of you don't have your own web sites, you certainly use the Internet. Even though 39 percent of readers use a GDS (Sabre was the leader, followed by Amadeus, Gallileo and Worldspan; also of note, 26 percent use TRAMS), 48 percent use the Internet to research nearly all trips for clients and 29 percent book nearly all travel through the Internet. Interestingly, nearly the same number of readers book through the Internet 0-25 percent of the time as 75-100 percent of the time.
Blogs (8 percent) and podcasts (1 percent) are not widely used by readers at this point. To see how some agents are using these tools to increase sales, see the preceding article.
Kudos to the 56 percent of responders who do e-mail marketing. If you don't, why not? You have your clients' e-mail addresses and you should have a robust enough database to target certain clients for specific communications. For example, if a family cruise deal comes to your attention, notify your clients with children via e-mail. It's quick and easy, and when communications are targeted to clients they won't resent them or you—just the opposite. They'll think what great customer service, how wonderful it is to have that personal touch.
Communications With Suppliers
Speaking of e-mail marketing, we asked readers how many e-mails from suppliers they receive a day. The largest number of agents (42 percent) said more than 20, and the least number of respondents (5 percent) said five or fewer. There was pretty much a tie for the number of e-mails received in between five and 20 per day.
Do you read all these e-mails? A little more than one-third, 36 percent, said they read most supplier e-mails; 44 percent read them depending on which supplier they're from; and 28 percent read them depending on the subject line.
Only 7 percent said they don't read many supplier e-mails, and 13 percent complained they receive too many.
This shows that these communications from suppliers are useful. Ignore notifications of deals, incentives, new product developments and business referrals at your own peril.
The bottom line is that the readers who responded to this poll are plugged in to a certain extent but could be doing more to generate leads and revenue. Agents who have embraced today's technology wholeheartedly say the effect on their bottom lines is well worth the resources invested. —Anastasia Mills