The following exchange recently occurred between my sister-in-law Kathy and her son Lance. “Mom, I’m bored. Got nothing to do,” Lance sighed. “Really?” Kathy responded. “Well let’s see. We have cable TV, DVDs and videos; stereo; PlayStation; weight room; basketball hoop; computer; internet; volleyball; board games, and maybe 250 books.” Lance just stood there, a little glazed. “A 5 minute walk, you have 2, no 3 friends. A 5 minute car ride and you have another 2 friends,” she emphasized. “Maybe you could go to your friends house and be bored there too.”
Sound familiar? In a world filled with an almost infinite variety of “things to do” sometimes too much choice can lead to boredom. As a result, it is easy for group leaders to say “been there, done that.” Allen Kinney, President of Great Day! Tours, has frequently mentioned he needs to travel farther from Cleveland to find “something new” for his clients. We all live in the same world. Here are a few suggestions to help you meet your sales goals by helping your business stand out from the competition.
Start with existing clients. With group leaders and tour operators finalizing next year’s tours in August or September, by this spring, hopefully you will know what you are selling next year. If you are working with student tour operators, finalize your fall and all of the next year even earlier, perhaps no later than last December. Student tour operators sell next school year this spring before school ends and in September when the new school year begins.
Anyone who attends the fall and winter marketplaces such as National Tour Association or Heartland Travel Showcase, knows operators are planning the next year early in the current year. During those appointments you need to have a basic idea of what is happening at your property next year. This is important during the marketplace and any follow-up. Don’t forget clients are still booking dates for this year too.
Speaking of follow-up, when a tour operator calls, what should you do? Of course answer the phone, but more importantly, be sure you know what you are selling in the next six months to a year from now. Do you have an advertisement in a magazine with a reader reply card like Group Tour Magazine or Packaged Travel Insider? When the magazine sends you the lead information, follow-up as quickly as possible. That follow-up usually takes the form of a mailing your profile sheet with phone call a week or so later.
What does this mean, know what you are selling next year or next school year? Do you have a special program, traveling exhibit or event planned for the new year. Get the word out as soon as you know the basic details. This would include a theater or sports schedule, special traveling exhibit or event such as Tall Ships in July or the Gaudi, Picasso, Dali exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art in October. These type of special programs provide ideas operators can use to build a “new” trip to Greater Cleveland. Do you have a new program such as hotel/attraction package, food vouchers, renovated hotels or restaurant, new exhibits or displays. Highlight these in your promotions.
As mentioned above, timing can be just as important as what you have to sell. Always keep your profile sheet up-to-date, including your calendar of events. Consider adding a “What’s New” section on the first page of your profile sheet. Don’t forget to keep your web page current as well. Be sure any marketing partners, your local visitors bureau and the State of Ohio also know what’s happening at your property in the months to come. And don’t forget the value of timely press releases or advertisement in trade magazines.
Whether you are dealing with existing clients or developing new accounts, product and timing are important to help any business stand out from the crowd. And when clients have so many choices, those companies who “answer the phone first and know what they are selling” typically get the business. To meet your sales goals all suppliers need to be “ready to sell, when an operator is ready to buy.”