Friday, February 28, 2014

Increasing the Lifetime Value of Your Customers

The easiest way to grow your business is to increase the average lifetime value of your customers. That's the focus of this final part in our three-step marketing plan to get and keep customers. There are three things your marketing plan should cover to increase the average lifetime value of your customers :
  • Increase the number of trips per year
  • Improve the average profit per trip
  • Keep customers active longer
Increase the Number of Trips

The easiest way to increase the average number of trips is to talk to your customers and ask them, "Where should you be this month"? Those words are carefully chosen.

Most business travelers will admit that there are customers they really ought to visit in person; or suppliers they should see face-to-face; and company facilities they ought to visit more often. The reason they don't go is that the trips are so time consuming and such a hassle that they routinely postpone trips until some crisis arises and they can't put it off any longer.

So instead of asking the customer if she has any upcoming trips which she has already decided to take, ask instead if there are any places she really ought to be and why not use your service to conveniently get there and back?

Stop talking and wait quietly while your customer thinks about the answer to your question. After a few minutes, the customer will give you a trip he or she didn't even know they were planning to take!

Improve the Average Profit per Trip

Surprisingly, this has nothing to do with raising your prices. This is all about an add-on sale. If you were selling suits, you'd know all about add-on sales. Man comes in to buy a suit. Walks out with a suit, two shirts, three ties, a belt, six pair of socks. Average profit per sale just grew sky high.

But what can you add-on to a jet charter? How about a stop along the way? How many times do you take a customer round trip from here to there, non-stop? Most of the time, right? In fact, non-stop travel is one of your best selling features.

But on the way back from that morning meeting, are there any customers, suppliers, prospects, or employees the client might want to stop and visit? Not only would your revenue go up, but so would your margin on that extra leg. 

The next time a customer books a round trip, why not ask them if there's anyone they'd like to stop and visit on the way out or back? Then watch your average profit per trip soar!

Keep Customers Active Longer

Quick story. I took three charter trips with an operator over a 2-year period. Operator never once called me and thanked me for my business. I never got a card, letter, email, anything. (Well, to be honest, they did send me receipts for my credit card payments.) I was pleased with the service and had no complaints. But I also felt no loyalty! The fourth time I needed a trip from that market, I called one of their competitors.

Some customers stop flying with you because their circumstances have changed and they don't need, or can't afford, business aviation anymore. It's more likely, however, that the majority of the customers who have gone silent have switched to your competitors.

To keep customers flying with you, and away from the competition, you need a way to stay in touch. Use whatever works best for your skills and your budget. Call 5 customers a day. Send them a personal note. Put together an email blast. But for heaven's sake, stay in touch with them and let them know you value their business and would be honored to have more of it.

In Case You Missed It

This was part three of our series on writing an effective marketing plan for your air charter business. Part one was all about getting customers to raise their hand and say, "I'm interested. Tell me more." Then in part two, we had ten suggestions for getting customers from "Hello" to "Sold."

I'd welcome comments and questions on any of these three posts. Thanks for reading them!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Automatic Refill Service, Anyone?

Have any air charter operators taken a page from CVS and Walgreen's and created the functional equivalent of automatic refill service?

Imagine you have a charter client who is an outside board member for a public company. Four times a year, on predetermined dates (set well in advance), she needs your jet to take her from your base to New York, remain overnight, and return the next day.

If you were operating a CVS pharmacy, you'd have her on automatic refill. But what happens with our industry?

Does anyone call up the customer a week before the next board meeting and let her know you have already put her trip on the board and you are calling to confirm the standard itinerary?

Or, like the pharmacy procedure of old, do we make the customer call us and order a refill?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Getting From "Hello" to "Sold"

In last week's post, we talked about the first step in your 3-step marketing plan, which was getting prospects to raise their hand and say, "I'm interested. Tell me more." In effect, that steps ends, and this one begins, with "Hello."

I can't turn you into a professional sales person in one post. What I can do is give you some rules of the road to help you be more effective at moving prospects from Hello to Sold. 

None of these ideas is original to me; I don't know for sure where or when I learned them.  I wish I could give credit where it's due. The odds are pretty good that the idea, hint, or knowledge came from: Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone, Jay Abraham, Bob Proctor, or Brian Tracy.

10 Rules of the Road to Bring Prospects from Hello to Sold
  1. Spend $100 and get a couple of professional sales training programs from Nightingale Conant. I'd start with The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy; and Your Secret Wealth by Jay Abraham. They have different styles. Brian is more systematic in his sales training. Jay likes to tell stories and uses them to teach his points. 
  2. Stop listening to your car radio; and don't play music in your office. Instead, listen to the sales training material you just bought. Play each set 10 times. You'll always hear something new. Or something that went over your head or made no sense all the other times will now sink in.
  3. Telling is not selling. People listen to about 40% of what you say. But did you know that if you ask someone a question, you have 100% of their attention? Teach yourself to ask one question after every two sentences or statements.
  4. Get comfortable with silences. When you ask that question, stop talking and wait patiently for the answer. At first, the silence will kill you. The prospect is thinking about the answer to your question. If you break the silence, you will break your prospect's train of thought and you will never get it back. The thought you lost is always the one you needed to close the sale.
  5. Build rapport. Establish a connection with the prospect. Be interested in them, instead of trying to be interesting. People buy emotionally, and they are more inclined to buy from someone with whom they find it pleasant to work.
  6. Discover the True Need. Prospects raise their hands so you can solve a problem or give them a benefit. They don't need to buy a jet, or a jet card, or book a charter flight. What they need to do is go somewhere to do something. Find out where and what and you've got the true need. (By the way, unless and until you've built rapport, they won't tell you their true need.)
  7. Suggest Solutions to Satisfy the True Need. Paint a word picture. (If you get Your Secret Wealth, listen to the story about the pony.) Your natural inclination will be to tell the prospect the features of your service.  Don't make them figure out the benefits. Tell them! {Feature}  Our jet flies 400 MPH so that {Benefit} you can be home in time for dinner.
  8. Ask for questions and concerns. At this step in the sales process, they need facts, data, and information to justify the emotional decision. Questions and concerns mean you've MADE the sale! Tell them the truth, and panic not. They are talking themselves into it.
  9. Ask for the order. Incredibly enough, sales are lost because the sales person never asked for the order. If you want to eat, pay your mortgage, cover payroll, and put the kids through college, get over your fear and ask for the order.
  10. Never tell them how much it costs until they scream, "I want it, I need it, I've got to have it!" Well, perhaps not literally scream it. But if you discuss price before you've: built rapport; discovered the true need; and suggested solutions to satisfy the true need, you will lose the sale. Guaranteed. That's because the price must be in relationship to the benefit. And if you haven't got the true need, and haven't been able to suggest solutions to meet the true need, you can't possibly have shown the benefits in relation to the investment.
On point number 10, I know what you're thinking. You want to know how to handle the situation where the customer wants to know how much it costs and I won't let you tell them. The way you handle that is to say, "I don't know. I can't tell you what it costs because we haven't yet figured out the solution to your problem. But if you will spend just a few more minutes with me, once we are in agreement on the best possible solution to your needs, and the benefits you will receive, I can give you a definite price so you can evaluate it against the benefits."

These 10 Rules of the Road are the second step in your 3-step marketing plan. Copy and insert these rules into your plan. Then make sure everyone in your organization reads, understands, and follows them. I'd recommend you review these steps at each staff meeting until they become habits. And I'd print them out, laminate it, and carry a set all the time at the office. Spot check your staff throughout the day to be sure learning has occurred.

If you'd like some coaching along the way, give me a call at 800.769.6082. Thanks! Mike Ryan.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's Hell To Plan...and Heaven To Have One!

If you're in the business of getting and keeping customers, which according to Peter Drucker is the essence of a business, it's useful to have a written plan for doing that. Unfortunately, many air charter operators don't have a written plan to get and keep customers. The most likely reason is that most air charter owners got their formal education in the military; or hold a degree in engineering or aviation. None of those three areas would prepare you to write a plan to get and keep customers.

In this post, I will begin teaching you a three-step process to write an effective plan to get and keep customers.

Step One: Get people to raise their hands!

The purpose of this part of the plan is to make a list of all the activities you or anyone on your payroll can do this year to get people to show an interest in you, your company, chartering a plane, or business aviation in general.

Note carefully that the goal is to get them to show an raise their hand and in effect say, "tell me more...I might be interested."As soon as anyone raises their hand, you have achieved the goal for this part of the plan.

Do not concern yourself now with what happens after they raise their hand. That will be covered in Step Two of your plan.

To write Step One, all you need is a white board or a flip chart. Make four columns. Label the columns: Activity, Frequency, Person, and Budget. Bring the list to your next staff meeting and ask everyone on the payroll, no matter their job title, to start filling in the chart. Ask them to update the chart, over the next week, as often as they have an idea. Put the chart out where everyone can access it.

Tell them that there's no requirement to fill in all four columns. If, for example, a mechanic has an idea for an Activity (such as giving a talk at a Rotary Club meeting) he can put that idea on the chart. If he wants to suggest something for the other three columns, that's fine. But what I really want you to do is to get everyone in your company involved in thinking of things someone can do to get people interested in your services.

After a week, you'll have quite a list of practical ideas. Then you need to sort through them and make some decisions about frequency, person responsible, and budget.

I would expect quite a few ideas to require no budget at all. Elbow grease, yes. An investment of time, for sure. Some extra effort, definitely. But you won't need to spend money. For other activities, you may not be able to start unless you spend some money.

Once you've made your decisions, give everyone on the payroll a copy of the plan. Before doing so, review the plan with each person who has been assigned a responsibility. Make sure both of you have exactly the same expectations about how much and what, by when.

In my next posting, I'll tell you what's involved in Step Two, which is getting from Hello to Sold. By the way, if you'd like to get a quick start on Step One, call me at 800.769.6082 and I'll email a list to you of 10 activities along with suggested frequencies, budgets, and the title of the person most likely to be responsible.