|Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
Recently, one morning, I stopped in at the New York offices of Ensemble Travel Group to visit co-presidents Libbie Rice and Lindsay Pearlman. It was the first time I’d met them together; they were named to their posts in January, succeeding former CEO Jack Mannix, who’d departed the previous June to start his own company.
After chatting with them, I have to say that Libbie and Lindsay have my vote as a team that will really lead Ensemble well. They’re both experts in the industry and seem to perfectly complement each other. They also both seem to really like each other, which helps when you’re leading a 43-year-old group of 850 agencies spread across both the U.S. and Canada.
One of the key messages from Libbie and Lindsay is that they’re keen on having their agency members engaged with their clients through the entire sales cycle and they’re prepared to give them the tools to do that.
Most importantly, they add that the cycle isn’t just those few weeks or months when you plan an itinerary and accept payment from your customer. It’s actually an 18-month period, which accounts for the average time between vacations for the average traveler.
To plot out how you should be engaging your client over that year and a half, let’s start with the 18th month. It’s very important not to hit them up with travel deal promotions as soon as they’ve returned from their trip. They’re not in a planning mindset while they’re still unpacking their evening gowns and bathing suits, and they might even feel a disconnect with you if your office doesn’t seem to know that they’ve just completed an expensive vacation. Even though it may be easier to launch your e-mail promotions to your entire list, do cull through it and pull out those who fall into the above category.
Now, we’re back at the beginning of the cycle, those 15 months that lead up to the time when your clients will again decide to travel. This is when you must still be engaged with them, and in an inspiring manner, say Libbie and Lindsay. Don’t hit them over the head with discounted deals; rather send them literature that will make them want to start traveling all over again. Being in touch with them during this time helps you to retain their loyalty. Remember, they may not necessarily return to you just because you sent them on their last vacation. But, after you’ve hopefully booked their next trip, you’ve got to use those three months or so prior to their departure to again keep them engaged. Better yet, continue to sell to them. The anticipation of travel is one of the best parts of a vacation. Keep them inspired about their upcoming journey but also sell them add-ons, such as travel insurance, luggage, and guidebooks—anything they’ll want to make this their best vacation ever.
This all sounds quite logical when it’s all laid out so simply. But I think it’s a great way to set up your sales processes so that you make the best use of your time to earn the most profits possible and to retain the loyalty of your customers. And they’ll end up having a better experience because of it.
Watch for more from Libbie and Lindsay in the months ahead; they’ve planned the Ensemble Travel Group International Conference for October in Las Vegas and it will be interesting to see this new dynamic duo in action.