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How to Drive Your Next 50 Bookings…For Free

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“Forget social media, this is easier…”

Before I explain how you can drive your next 25 or 50 bookings for free, let me tell you a little story.

As we all know, Africa is a hotbed for diamonds.  And while mass corporations run the majority of mines and fields these days, it wasn’t always that way.

Instead, the early days were like California Gold Rush.  In particular, people from across the country were packing up, leaving their families, and traveling thousands of miles in the quest to strike it rich.

From east to west, north to south, the rumors began to spread that men and women of all ages – and all economic backgrounds – were making serious cash digging up – and selling – diamonds.

Tempted by the possibility of riches, a young farmer named Alfred packed up, kissed his wife goodbye, and set out to make a name for himself.

He traveled far and wide.  Searched high and low.  But no matter how hard he worked, the diamonds eluded him.

Broke, thousands of miles from home, and feeling like an utter and complete failure, Alfred threw himself into a river and ended his life.

They Were Right Under His Nose

Shortly after, the man who bought his farm was riding his horse on the property.  While crossing a stream one morning, he noticed a shimmer in the water.  Thinking it odd that dirt – or a rock – would shimmer, he hopped off his horse to investigate.

And while doing so required him to dig neck deep in freezing cold water, that shimmer ended up being a fist-sized diamond.

As it turns out, Alfred had been living on one of the largest diamond fields in all of Africa.

Been in Business for a While?

If you’ve been in business for a while, odds are you’ve had hundreds – if not thousands – of people contact you interested in visiting for their next holiday.

But for whatever reason, only a fraction of those people actually booked a stay.  Which is totally normal.  Except for one small thing:

If someone was interested in visiting your property one, three, or five years ago…there’s a high likelihood they’re still interested in visiting today.

And here’s why.

The Timing Was Wrong

When a prospect doesn’t buy, it’s easy for us as business owners to blame ourselves.  Or to blame the marketing department for producing a “bad lead.”  In reality, however, odds are the timing just wasn’t right.

Especially when you:

  • Run a ranch or wellness resort that’s hours and hours from the nearest airport
  • Run an international retreat where long flights – and time sucking boat / overland travel – are required to get your to destination

If your business falls into either of these categories, odds are you have hoardes of “leads” who would love to come visit you…but just haven’t been able to fit into their schedule yet.

The good news: Times change.

Meaning, by consistently following up with these people, you’ll eventually catch them when the timing is right.  And this is doubly true if they still open your emails and/or engage with your content on social media.

Why?

Because with how over-marketed to people are these days, almost no one interacts with a company or brand they have zero intention of doing business with.

Finances Weren’t in Order

This is another big one.  Similar to the issue of timing, not everyone can drop three, five, or ten thousand dollars on a trip without batting an eye.

So if a week or two at your retreat costs a couple thousand bucks, or your ranch / wellness resort charges $400 per person per day (or more)…

…its highly likely some of the people who’ve contacted you over the years just couldn’t afford it at the time.

The good news?

The economy is strong, and people’s finances change.  They get promotions, bonuses, and their businesses take off.

Meaning, just like the timing issue above, it’s likely many of the people who couldn’t afford you in the past would have no problem paying today.

But they can’t book with you if you’re not following up with them (noticing a pattern here?).

Preferences Changed

Let’s face it: Our tastes as travelers change.

Kids get older and are able to ride horses.  Surfers get better and want heavier, more advanced waves.  Yogis go vegan and want a retreat that serves pure organic vegan food.

Meaning, while your destination might not have been a good fit for someone a year or three ago, it might be a perfect fit today.

However, the onus is on YOU to make sure they know why your destination is such a good fit.  Which means, just like above, you need to be following up with your old leads.

They Love You!

Last but not least, assuming most of your past guests leave with a big fat smile on their face, it’s safe to assume a solid percentage of them would love nothing more than to come back and visit you again.

Sadly, most businesses (travel or otherwise) believe the key to driving new revenue is to bring new customers and clients in the door.

But as studies have shown, it’s anywhere from 5x to 25x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to sell something else to an existing customer.

Meaning, your past buyers are your #1 best source of new bookings.

The Instant Activator Email

So the question becomes:

With hundreds if not thousands of leads in your database, how do you find – and sell to – the ones that might be interested in making a booking?

Easy: You ask them.

How?

By using what I call the Instant Activator email. The Instant Activator email is an extremely short email in which you ask your leads and buyers if they “might” be interested in booking the type of trip / activity you offer in the near future.

So, for a surf charter, we might ask:

Dave,

Are you considering shredding the Ments this summer?

Or, for a dude ranch, we might ask:

Wendy,

Are you and your family considering a horse riding vacation this spring?

Now, this email by itself will not drive the bookings.  Instead, it’s designed to get some sales conversations going.

Because if someone a) opened your Instant Activator email, b) read it, and c) replied to it, there’s a fairly solid chance they do in fact have an interest in booking the type of trip / activity you offer.

Which means, once they reply back to you, all you have to do is chat with them to see if there’s a good fit.

Sales 101 stuff.  Simple.

Conclusion

In conclusion, don’t get caught up in the hype.

While Instagram, Facebook ads, and SEO are critical to a long-term marketing strategy, it’s your hottest prospects – and previous customers / clients – who are most likely to book a trip with you.

So the next time you need to drive an influx of bookings (aka cash-flow), forget about ads and social media…

…and dig up the diamonds in your backyard first.