Ask Dr. Jana | How to Stay in Front of your Customers and Continue to Add Value

March 27, 2020

Q.

Dear Dr. Jana,

We’re in the travel business and recently our revenue has fallen off the cliff.

I know (from previously attending AUCBG’s programs last year) that CEOs need to make quick decisions to ensure their companies make it through turbulence; however, can you suggest some innovative projects that companies, like ours in the travel industry, can do to stay alive and be prepared when people do want to travel again?

Thank you, Liam

A.

Hi Liam,

The travel, entertainment/sports, arts, and hospitality industries have taken a body blow. I know it’s little comfort that “you are not alone” and what you are facing is not the result of your making bad decisions; the current turbulence you are experiencing is due to externalities, as we discussed in the AUCBG program.

I do hope that you maintained some reserves, the proverbial “savings for a rainy day”, that will help you get through, but appreciate that the recent floods, bush fires and droughts have considerably diminished savings and some companies have much less cushion than usual.

After assessing the impact of externalities on your business, I recommend you next figure out how to stay in front of your customers and continue to add value.

Dr. Jana

 

Maintain a future focus but keep your customer front of mind

After you have completed The Five Steps To Increase The Odds Your Business Will Make It Through, your focus needs to be on your customers, supporting them and staying ”front of mind”. But your customers are part of a larger set of people who have become concerned about traveling – in fact they have been told to “stay home” and work from home, if possible. With so many people being laid off, flights grounded, and state borders closed, people are more concerned about paying their mortgage than planning their next vacation. Leisure and business travel has come to a near stand-still.

My advice is to focus on where you want to be 3 – 6 months from now when people will want to travel again – but probably not on cruise ships. (I’d put that product on the back burner for a year or two, until cruise ship stories become distant memories.)

In the interim, try and position your company “front of mind” with your ideal customers. Think what your customer need, want and value and figure out how to deliver it to them. For example, if a key customer segment for you is “older or retired” people, perhaps you can sponsor or get involved with delivering meals on wheels and do some PR around that. If “families” are a key customer segment,  maybe you host an on-line family travel planning activity where families look at a curated set of places you have identified, and then work together to plan their next vacation. Maybe you can sponsor a TV travel show or a Facebook travel show to stimulate interest in places to drive within your state.

Add value to your customers now

Think about what your customers value. Do they value help planning their next trip?  Or do they value an opportunity to relive their memories from prior trips. If the latter, maybe you send an e-mail to all your customers, tell them you are going to host weekly on-line sessions on Zoom  for 10 customers at (specific times, and details about how to sign in) that will focus on  “memories of Italy, or Paris, or London”, etc. Tell them to invite a friend (who could be a prospective new customer for you).

Your task would be to set up, market, and host a whole series of “sharing our best memories” for groups of 10 customers who went to a particular country. Have them send in their 3 – 5 favorite photos which you can pop up on Zoom while they tell their stories and reminisce. People who need to stay at home will be looking for distractions, and reliving past happy experiences can provide a little “oasis” in their lives. It will also remind them of all the fun they had traveling. There’s nothing to stop them from planning their next trip with you – even when they don’t yet have a specific date.

 

My point for you – and every other CEO – is to figure out how to stay in front of your customers and continue adding value to their lives. Keep building your brand with your current and new customers. Create “stickiness” so they remember you when life gets back to the “new normal” and they want to travel again.

 

Ask Dr. Jana your questions on company survival and growth. Submit your questions via email to Dr. Jana and she’ll answer in her next ‘Ask Dr. Jana’ column.