2013…the Year of Big Data, CRM and being Social

By Adrian Caruso*

DO you remember the good old days when airline commissions generated the bulk of your travel agency revenues?

Well times have changed with the agency community now focusing its efforts on selling increasingly complex, high-margin products such as cruises and holiday packages. This type of travel holds far more financial opportunity than air ever did.

This is an area in which agents have a big advantage over online mega-agencies. That advantage is the personal relationship they have with their clients.

Agents know their clients. They see them at footy games and churches and in the local grocery store, and have relationships with them that many online players don’t have.

But the online agents do have one advantage over traditional travel agents: a single database that aggregates the purchasing and travel history of all of their clients.

All their automation is in place. They automatically have every client’s email address. They can easily go back and pull up travellers who have booked a trip, but who may not have purchased travel insurance or car hire or day tours. They can go and see when their last holiday was, where to and make recommendation for their next holiday.

I call this the “one single big database benefit”. Online agents and suppliers can look at that single database, see its purchasing power, segment it to see what kind of products will appeal to the various types of customers and design customised campaigns to appeal to those clients.

Why aren’t agents doing this and still failing in marketing?

The first reason is that agents simply don’t communicate with their past clients. Our research shows that one in five agents make no contact whatsoever with their clients during the year while a further 45 per cent contact them only once over a 12 month period.

Your customer database is the most valuable asset an agency has. It’s not just a list of clients.
Even agents that do market, don’t know enough about their customers to target a product that would appeal to them. They just market anything to everyone on the database. It’s like shooting a gun and hoping you will hit something!

I would like to see more being done with the client data that is captured by agents, and agents being educated in how to extract information from their back and mid office system and what they can do with it.

That requires a good Customer Relations Management (CRM) tool (such as Client Base).

The future of travel marketing is CRM-based – targeted, niche marketing based on a client’s past bookings, spend, stage in life, interests and desires. But for this to happen agents need systems that are giving them all the information they want about their customers including purchasing history, preferences and interests.

A good CRM tool is the ‘must have” critical business building tool in 2013. It will allow you to start more targeted marketing to your database of customers on a more frequent basis and much more profitably.
In fact, the top agents in Australia don’t advertise. They simply use their CRM system to nurture their existing clients and seek referrals.

Finally if social media isn’t a big part of your travel marketing by now, then make 2013 the year that you make it a major part. I know of five travel agents that now only use Facebook to market themselves and two agents that filled two group cruises worth over $500,000 in bookings by spending just $1000 on Facebook ads. Now that’s what I call a return on investment.

Travel is by nature social, and millions of potential customers are interacting everyday on social networks. With over 11.1 million Australians now on Facebook (that’s over half the population) and more than 65 per cent of them going onto Facebook several times a day for at least 20 minutes, and latest research just showing that Pinterest is now the biggest influencer of travel decisions among consumers in Australia, 2013 is going to be very social.

*Adrian Caruso is founder and CEO of leading Australasian travel industry business improvement and digital marketing firm, TA Fastrack. A previous travel agency chain owner for more than 15 years, Adrian and his teams in Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland work with some of Australia’s leading travel brands. For more information go to tafastrack.com