In 2009, Rick Scadlock reluctantly signed up for Facebook. Today, Scadlock, a Nexion Travel Group member and owner of Rick’s Cruise Adventures, Rancho Mirage, CA, is a Facebook junkie.
He's successfully leveraged that social media platform to sizably grow his travel business, keep clients engaged and sell more groups -- and also build those groups into bigger groups.
At the 2019 CoNexion conference at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida late last week, Scadlock shared his secrets to social media success in promoting and selling groups.
Approximately 500 agents attended his General Session NEXtalk presentation, designed to help advisors learn from another front-line advisor's expertise and experiences.
Do Firsthand Research
First, Scadlock always does advance research on a great destination to take a group – and often it’s where the clients themselves have said they want to go.
He doesn't just read about it, he goes to the destination personally and experiences it firsthand before selling any group travel there.
While on those research trips, he takes photos and posts them on Facebook but also vividly describes the experience using engaging titles and captions for those posts.
That way, customers can not only see the beauty but also learn about the benefits of going to the particular destination.
Use Facebook Teaser Posts
After he returns home and while the photos are still fresh in the minds of consumers, he does a Facebook teaser post, saying: “You know we’re putting together a great trip to Scotland and Ireland next year,” for example.
Scadlock then continues in that teaser: “If you would like an invitation with all the details about this trip, just write in the comment section below, and we’ll make sure you get all those details.”
Use Private Group Pages
Most valuable Facebook resource for agents? From Scadlock's perspective, it's private group pages.
“I love group pages, and I have group pages for just about everything,” he told the advisors. Most valuable from his perspective is the group page he has set up for past guests who have traveled with his agency.
That’s where he can stay connected and engaged with them after the trip ends and “we’re friends who come back and share experiences of the great trip that we had in the past.”
Use Events Pages
He also considers event pages on Facebook as a great tool. He uses them for invitations. He chooses a compelling graphic along with the details of the trip and outlines the benefits of booking early.
Then he posts this link to people he chooses to invite. As a priority, though, he first posts that link on his private group page for past guests.
Create a Group Facebook Page for Every Hosted Group
He also creates a group Facebook page for every group he is going to host. Then he loads that page with announcements, photos and everything about the upcoming trip, including shore excursions.
“It’s a great way to talk up sales, because it’s a great way to choose the excursions that I’m going to put together with preferred suppliers," said Scadlock.
Tap into Facebook Messenger
Another useful tool, he said, is Facebook Messenger. He keeps a folder on his computer with files of whatever trip he’s promoting; that includes deck layouts, cabin plans, photos of places where the group will set out on excursions and so on.
“And when those topics come up in a regular flow of conversation, I’m ready to post those, increase sales and take my business up to another level," Scadlock notes.
Expand Your Horizons
Last year, he took another step, after getting requests from clients for European river cruises. But he'd never been on a river cruise, so he took one for research. He then used the process as explained above for posting photos and contacting all his clients.
Outcome? “I didn’t fill up the whole ship but I was able to fill about 60 or 70 cabins on AmaWaterways,” Scadlock said, to claps and comments of pleasant surprise from the CoNexion agent audience.
Consider Paid Targeted Ads
Despite those excellent results, he didn't sell out the entire ship. So, Scadlock tried another Facebook tool – targeted paid Facebook ads, which he calls “very powerful.”
He created an ad focused on the demographic he desired for the river cruise and spent “a whopping $60."
The next day, a woman from Kentucky contacted him, noting that she was looking for just that type of vacation not only for herself and her husband but for five couples.
"They all booked and within a week, I had sold out that ship," Scadlock stressed.
Give it a Whirl
He says that agents not on Facebook should “give it a whirl,” based on the success he’s had. His advice, whether it’s a group tour or cruise, is “don’t be afraid to start small.”
His first group only had four people, but by using the steps shown above, Scadlock revealed: “We’ve grown our groups to be at least 100 people and up to 200 people on every sailing.”
When it comes to photos used on Facebook, he again emphasized the importance of using very carefully selected photos with enticing titles and captions. Describe the experience. Paint a picture. Describe the benefits your customers might have by traveling with you.
Plus, as noted above, use private group pages to keep in touch with all past guests, as Scadlock believes: “It’s a really powerful tool to communicate your future trips and also to get ideas on where your customers might want to travel to.”
Scadlock is still harnessing the power of social media, and says he's continually learning new things.
But while things change in social media, he's had the most successful year ever in his travel career, and “I hope you will learn the tools of social media to take you to the next level as well.”