When it Comes to Your Client List, Size Matters
By: Sandy Saburn, CTIE

Your client list is one of the most powerful tools in your business. It consists of not just current clients, but past clients and prospective clients as well. Many would argue that it is the most valuable asset you have.

I’ve heard successful entrepreneurs say that if you took away their business but let them keep their list, they could build back their business in a matter of months.

And yet, many travel advisors aren’t maximizing their list.

it is amazing to me how many travel advisors don’t even have their list in one place. They have some in the system they use for invoicing, some in a spreadsheet, some in an autoresponder, and some just jotted on pieces of paper.

Let’s take a step back and talk about what your list is and what you use it for.

Your client list consists of anyone who has worked with you in the past, is working with you now, and who may work with you in the future. Of course, there may be times when people are removed from this list, but generally, it just grows over time.

To get the most advantage from the list you need to not only have a list of clients and prospects but ideally, you have them sorted in some way that makes sense. That’s one of the reasons I love the marketing codes in ClientBase: you can clearly identify the client’s travel preferences, how they found out about you, and so much more. It really allows you to drill down so you can segment your marketing.

You certainly don’t have to use CB but remember the more you know about a client the better equipped you are to market to them. Effective marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Once you have your list in a system that works for you, remember you need to constantly add to it. When it comes to your client list, size matters. List building activities are a vital part of building a business. Over the years I’ve been in travel I’ve seen agents get comfortable with the client list they have and then see their business start a steady decline because their clients either stop traveling or slow down as they age.

There are lots of ways to list build and that’s a topic for another article. The point is that you need to be aware of how many people are on your list right now so you can monitor that number and make sure it is going up.

That always leads to the next question: how many people is enough? Well, it depends. For a service business offering personalized service like travel, your list doesn’t need to be as large as an e-commerce site. But I can also tell you that the larger the list, the larger the income IF – and this is a big IF – the people on the list are a match with your target demographic. A travel advisor with a strong list of 700 clients will outperform an agent with similar skills and market strategies who has a list of 350.

Quality is just as important as quantity. You can’t go to one consumer trade show and add 200 people to your list and feel your list building work is finished for the year. You will probably only interact with 2% to 3% of those people – at most. List building should be an ongoing activity.

To determine a good number for you, I would look at the number of clients you worked within your best year. If that was 100 (average of 2 per week), then I would aim to have at least 5 times that number on your client list. You may work with far fewer clients than that and need a smaller list. This is especially true if you work with luxury travelers and have a higher professional fee.

If you are working with mass-market clients and don’t have a fee, you will need a bigger list because both of those things lead to higher client turnover.

So, how many are on your list right now? If that number makes you feel good, that’s great! If you think, “Wow I have a long way to go” that’s OK too. At least you know where you are. There are lots of ways to build the list and now is a great time to do that. We are seeing a steady increase in bookings and people are anxious to travel. That means it is a great time to get more people on your list.

Remember, the first step is to get a good system in place for where you are going to store the client information. Once those systems are in place, let the building begin!