This week's MAC Chat features our interview with Vicky Garcia, ACC, SVP, Sales and Marketing of Cruise Planners..
Cruise Planners celebrates with RCI Executives after winning 'Home-based Partner of the Year' in February at the China Grill Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale
For more information: http://www.cruiseplanners.com
Cruise Planners was recently recognized in the Entrepreneur's Top 500 Franchise list. Congratulations on being recognized as one of the most innovative Franchises for 2010!
Thank you Patti. It truly is an honor that we take very seriously as Entrepreneur puts so much into this and truly looks a myriad of factors when recognizing Franchisors. They look at overall company financial statements, growth, Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) strength, overall sales, attrition and so much more. We at Cruise Planners continually look at ways to improve and stay ahead of the pact in terms of innovation and tools for our agents to grow their businesses – BOTTOM LINE. Awards are great, but at the end of the day, “We don’t succeed unless THEY succeed” (period).
Can you tell us more about your ground breaking marketing techniques?
Ahhh, would love to….I honestly can’t say I’ve worked for anyone before like Michelle Fee (CEO & Co-founder of Cruise Planners). She lets us go crazy---truly think outside the box! We have an incredible senior management team with amazing “horsepower” whom are motivated by each and every triumph. We are VERY competitive and passionate and that drives us to continually challenge ourselves to over promise AND over deliver! Okay, so back to your question. Over the years, we’ve continued to bring new, cutting-edge tools to our Cruise Planners agents, however most importantly, made them TURN-KEY…therefore EASY to use. We found that if it’s remotely complicated, people will not use it, no matter how wonderful the tool is.
So, we have CPpod, our Print-on-Demand portal that allows our agents in under 6 Steps to customize a 1:1 personalized DM postcard and have it printed AND mailed within 24-48 hours. Just imagine sending a postcard mailing to a repeating group with their picture on the cover, addressed personally to EACH member (by name), inviting them back for this year’s cruise….oh, and with a personalized URL (pURL) inviting them to register for the group via our proprietary Group Registration Tool, called RegisWeb. RegisWeb, is exclusive to Cruise Planners and allows our agents to build a link specific to each of their groups, with a custom landing page and secure password registration whereas the group participant can sign up to join the group right there and enter legal names, ages and credit card information themselves. Honestly, some of good “group producing” agents compare it to having their own assistant in-house as it lets you know via email and web-based management portal via live registrations, and lets the agent download manifests, as well as email them to the cruise lines and/or group leaders….and so much more. I could go on and on… We’re are also about to launch a tool that allows our agents to segment their client lists by psychographic/demographic data to identify true buying potential, based on their own buying patterns, outside of what they may/may not have purchased from us already. This is something that the suppliers have expressed a lot of interest in with us, as it truly refines how we market to a consumer in ways that they want to marketed to. We’re really excited about this new tool.
How does Cruise Planners contribute to their agents' success?
Funny you ask. As I mentioned earlier, “We don’t succeed, unless they do”. Unlike other companies, we do NOT focus on selling cruises/travel from our headquarter office. We truly NEED our agents to sell, in order for us to grow. So every single program or initiative is based around that as our core value. Just last November, we launched our Cruise Planners University (CPU), the first and only virtual university with CLIA and Supplier training programs built in as a requirement to certification. It has different tracks, similar to an actual university. We launched with our Freshman track with over 45 required courses. Sophomore launched last month with close to that as well. In addition to CLIA, we’ve hired third party experts to write/deliver content for us as well, such as industry icons Mike Marchev, Stuart Cohen and travel law expert, Jeff Miller. In addition, we’ve contracted an actual certified social media expert to teach on this ever changing/ever-growing/ever-important topic, and commissioned Adam Lapsevich of Digital Design Video to create a video for our agents to be able to personalize and upload to their sites…not without a course on how to do that either. Again, we don’t want to just throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks…we are there to show our agents how to maximize these incredible tools. And we have the best of the best onboard to lead the charge with this incredible program, my counterpart and industry icon, Terri Burke, MCC, CTC, Sr. VP of Relationship Marketing.
Aside from CPU, we also have a “Coaching “ program that assigns a coach from our experienced HQ team to agents, based on their level of sales and experience. This has been well-received and is just another way for us to help our agents grow their business as it allows them to share with like-producing agents which is often a good benchmark and motivator.
Once an agent decides to join Cruise Planners, how do they get started?
Once they join us, they are immediately welcomed onboard with not only a phone call with a walkthrough of our initial set-up, they soon attend one of our 6-day classes in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. which starts off with two optional “FREE” CLIA courses. (Yes, so right from the start they are earning CLIA credits with us). The six days are intense as we have all members of the management team come to present to the class vs. just having a corporate trainer, as we truly do feel they’ve “joined the CP Family” and we want to get to know each and every one of them. We include ship inspections throughout the week as well, which gives that experience, plus again allows the agent to earn points towards their CLIA accreditation.
Aside from all of this, we set them up with the cruise lines, and have their business cards ready to customize right on CPpod. If that’s not enough, we have a 1:1 postcard ready to go which is an “announcement” that they are now a Cruise Planners agent in the area and has a pop-out business card built in…so again, it’s turn-key and ready to go in 24-48 hours.
Cruise Planners has won Royal Caribbean's 'Best Home-based Partner' for the third year. Congratulations!!
OMG, Patti…this one is our absolute favorite and most appreciated recognition of ALL. Royal Caribbean is an amazing KEY partner and we are so proud to not only win this for a 3rd time, but to be the ONLY recipient of this award is such an honor. We have such an incredible respect for the sales and overall management team at Royal Caribbean…they are truly the best! The product and support is amazing! They work closely with us and KNOW ALL OF OUR TOOLS….I emphasize that because they take the time to do it, and know what we can do to go to market for them and get results. They “get-it”…It’s a true partnership and we are so proud that they see our dedication and passion---this is a relationship business and we work really hard to perform for them as we value our relationship. It’s a two-way street and we couldn’t be more thrilled to own this accolade! (I don’t see it ever being anyone else’s….LOL----told you we were a passionate & competitive bunch!)
Thank you Vicky for that great interview!