LinkedIn and CheckIn.com

LinkedIn makes it to my personal blog for three reasons this week. The LinkedIn ban in Russia, the naming of our LinkedIn Group and our experience with LinkedIn promotions of our posts.

I also add a note about why we give away Isochrones for free, but call ourselves “The Isochrones People”.

linkedinrubannedLinkedIn Ban in Russia

As much as it is a “political signal”, one must keep in mind that the rules were long known and other companies invested big money in Russia to store the personal data of Russian users in-country. Further, German and European Data Watchdogs (Datenschutzbeauftragte) also demand storage of that data in Europe (mostly a reason for big data centers built and used in Dublin).

As we are in preparations at CheckIn.com to add Russia (on demand by an airline customer), we added a new blog ad hoc to our page (not yet in our look-and-feel) to promote what we initially started using LinkedIn for. Though that already was on the back-log of things to do, relating to the LinkedIn promotions we address below.

drivetimesLinkedIn CheckIn.com Group

A few weeks ago we created a group on LinkedIn to address the non-commercial side of the business of analyzing catchment areas, things like isochrones or why travelers choose an airport against other airports. Distance is just one reason, reputation (both airport and airline), prices and frequency. Commercial and personal relations (VFR, visiting friends and relatives) and tourism can influence the decision of the travelers to choose an airport over the other(s). Where we identified an average of 10 airports being competitive to other airports in Europe and five usually having an impact on travelers, studies say that people usually look at one airport as “their” airport with maximum of two others as “options”.

That’s what we won’t discuss as “news” on a commercial level, they are to frequent to discuss on my personal blog, they are neither focused on airline network development (but part of it like MIDT). So I decided that we set up a group and I looked at other commercial-interest groups. I could have set up “Catchment Area” or “Isochrones”, but that way may have attracted people from other industries and I wanted to keep an aviation focus to the group. So I decided to name it CheckIn.com. In the long run, we may rename it to CheckIn.org revitalizing the respective website with a good cause that is currently still hosting the Airline Sales Representative Association that broke up and disbanded 2015.

Other website? Why not the LinkedIn group?

Germany Purchasing Power vs. Airports
Germany Purchasing Power vs. Airports

LinkedIn Promotions vs. Blog, Website, Mailings

As it happens, I have been a long-year supporter of LinkedIn, I do love the social networks for keeping in touch with people I know and value. I only confirm links on my social networks to people I have a relation to, be it personal (mostly Facebook) or business (mostly LinkedIn). I liked the groups on LinkedIn and the company profiles, even decided to set up a LinkedIn company page to promote our news – and a group for the stuff that’s not commercially driven. But in the past months since, I found posting on LinkedIn outside my own profile not to make much sense, neither professional, nor personal. In average, less than 10% of my network react on my posts – and that’s mostly the same people.

At the same time, any article I write here on my personal blog is being read and results in more responses (though mostly personal, not on the blog) than any LinkedIn post. And on the example of this year’s mostly accessed post on Purchasing Power & Airports last March, that one even in the past month showed as the top post by 482% to the next best one, The Numbers Game. Almost 5 times more for the Purchasing Power. Seems it is being spread on channels beyond my own “control”. Which is what social networking is all about.

licampaign_status20161128We did a promo for our company page and our group (click on the graph to see it real size). Where the group does not have the commercial focus! We have 10 members on the group, we have 51 followers on the company page on LinkedIn. Out of … how many contacts I have from events like Routes or Connect who I consider that they should be more interested in the issue? Out of those, how many have registered on our website? It’s free. It gives a very clear value: Free Isochrone Map and Facts! And even with some new followers, still the majority of users on our company profile did not register on our website.

I mailed my contacts directly (personally) with a prepared mail text (using poMMo, which I also use for many years for other such updates like the birth of my daughters). Interesting enough, about every airport I talked to keeps telling me excuses and that they “will register”. We’re not talking to buy the more complex analysis, we talk about a simply, free registration to access the incredible amount of data we provide for free. Airlines are more active than them. About any airline I so far contacted in Europe has registered. And uses the data. And the first order analyses and they support actively asking pointed questions, especially about the route level analysis we are having in development. But they take what we have now, which we believe to be more likely of interest for airports. Interesting there also: For some reason my contacts I know best and considered “save” mostly have not yet even registered. But people I know just a bit, they come and show interest. And invest. And invest again. So they like what they get, they understand the value, my “friends” obviously don’t.

Worse for LinkedIn, even on articles posted (LinkedIn Pulse), they have a lifetime of max. 3-4 days, on blog and mail, we sometimes get response weeks later. On our blog, as for the example above, even months later, the unique visits are substantial!

And then the news hit, that LinkedIn has been banned from Russia. See above…

jb_enfp-a
Need a Campaigner? Hire me!

So we decided this week that I add a blog to promote news directly on our website. We do collect ideas for a “version 2” of our website, so far we still invest. I keep looking for work as we can’t live of our work at CheckIn.com (yet) and all money goes into improvements. I will still support Yulia on CheckIn.com, but it’s her company. And we prefer to pay for developers, mapgicians and mathgenies… Anyway, side-tracked 😉

We did expect airports though to understand the insane quality they get for a fraction of what they paid so far for far less. We give the “classic” Isochrone Maps for free: As we outlined in the new News, we see them as insufficient basis for any decent route calculation. Over the next weeks, we will transfer the LinkedIn posts there and refer from LinkedIn to the posts on our own site.

RoutesEUThe Isochrones People

A question that came up this week again, was why we promote that Isochrones are not Catchment Areas, but call ourselves The Isochrones People?

During pre-launch we learned that Isochrones and Catchment Area analysis are used as equal. Isochrones are also – and will remain – the basis for our analyses. Beyond the reach of the typical isochrones, in the background we calculate something like 6-8 hours “reach” for which we calculate drive times – beyond we go into “statistical noise”. But when we talked to our supporters from airports, airlines and consultancies about “The Catchment Area People” vs. “The Isochrones People”, there was immediate understanding what we’re doing on the latter one. And similar many questions about the first… Like “isn’t that the same?”

It’s a catch-phrase, people working in our industry shall identify as as the leading source for such information. And hey, we give them away for free, so yeah, I’m happy with being one of “The Isochrones People”.

Food For Thought
Feedback welcome!

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

My Routes Sales Pitch

A post on ASM VP Nigel Mayes on RoutesOnline triggered this FoodForThought. His thoughts about a how to give the perfect routes presentation … Focusing on data. Which is a perfect example of what you see at Routes and what will not make the difference.

IcebergPrinciple
Successful Selling is Emotional

In any given sales training I attended, in many of the keynotes or presentations I gave on the topic, I focus on three facts I can boil down to one:

  1. The Elevator Pitch
  2. Successful Selling is Emotional
  3. What’s your message?

Or in one: What is your USP? The USP is the Unique Selling Proposition. It’s what makes your product different, why someone should choose to buy from you and not your competition. But more important, the new concept of the ESP: The Emotional Selling Proposition!

In my presentations, I never focus on the numbers. Say what? But with CheckIn.com you’re crunching numbers big time!!! So what?

I’ve never sold the numbers. Not selling software, nor selling airline tickets, nor selling airports, nowhere. Simply: Nowhere.

Selling is emotional. 10% of the sale is facts. Some say 15% (1/7th). I believe less.

Facts are facts, they either sell on their own, or they don’t. Not much influence on the facts.

When I sold competitive software, the data crunching was important. But not to come with facts, but how to load them emotionally? Because where I sold was, where I could establish the emotional link. Trust. Faith. Sure you got to have your numbers. You got to issue an RFP, very often under legal rules, making sure the procurement team is unbiased and takes what is best for the company. Often under stupid rules like “cheap = best”. You get what you pay for, right? But then, there’s the “finale”. If you’re in the final round, emotions jumps into the game. Suddenly the soft factors get more important. Three finalists competing. All qualified. Who fit’s my need the best???

HAM: Hamburg Airport Marketing
HAM: Hamburg Airport Marketing

The job of the sales manager. Be the face of the company.

There are three phases:

  • Phase 1: Establish the contact
  • Phase 2: Know your [Numbers / Tools / Services]
  • Phase 3: Close the sale.

Phase 1 and 3 are all about emotions. They are about Sales Management. Phase 2 is where the number crunching work is. That’s for your engineers to support your sales manager!

An attractive sales lady or gentlemen without experience, right from university sells mostly to men. Emotional. Good for the initial contact and the closing. In between, you don’t need sales, you need the engineers, the number crunchers. Phase 2 is not “sales”. But I also learned that you better call the graduate not a sales manager but either a junior sales manager or a customer manager. Face to the client. They can learn the process. They should be the face to the client (at all times). They should not be exchanged, or your client looses a big part of his/her emotional bonding to your company. But they must work in tandem with the company’s experts! And they have to learn enough of your product before you remove the “junior”.

Many companies make the mistake. Engineers trying to sell. They go for numbers, technical gadgets, hardly ever they understand the emotions that make the customer buy into them. Do I need to be able to know deicing management or shall I better understand the principles behind it and leave the fine-print to the engineers? Talking to deicing experts with 20 years experience, I caught them with emotion. With emotionally loaded facts. Want to buy? Here’s the dream, the overall picture that I know we can make a reality. Let’s call in the engineers, they can explain you in all detail how the individual puzzle piece works. Want to make the sales manager an engineer? Bad idea. Want to make an engineer a sales manager? Bad idea. Engineers are usually number crunchers. Only very few understand the emotional concepts in selling. Recently, in marketing groups there’s a hype about the step from USP to ESP from the unique to the emotional selling proposition.

shifthappensnarratedThe first-ever post on this blog was Shift Happens. As valid as it ever was! Today, most jobs and products are new. Experience helps to adapt and understand the USP. But being good in Sales & Marketing is not about expertise in the product. It’s about expert in emotional selling proposition!

A friend recently asked me for help on a new start-up. I had a look at their website. I did not understand what they’re doing. I got what business they were in. But what’s their USP? It’s been done by engineers… You got to be one to understand.

So let’s look back at my first three points. Lots of words on the website. But what’s it all about? I didn’t know. So we come down to my first point: The elevator pitch. Can you catch a potential client’s or investor’s interest in the first 30 seconds to two or three minutes you have with him in the elevator? Or on a conference floor? Three sentences. Why should he talk to you? What’s your product, what makes it different? What’s the value? “Return of Investment” is an issue. Emotion is also one! Apple sells more on emotion than anything else! So we’re back on 2.: The emotional side. And come down to the third issue: What’s your message? In three lines or 30 seconds? If you can’t boil your USP down to the elevator pitch, how do you think your prospected clients will ever understand it? If you can do it in 30 seconds, you have 19 minutes to talk about it and bring the emotion home. Okay, realistically you have two to three minutes at a Routes scheduled meeting to bring home the pitch. Rarely at once, beyond 30 seconds the risk to be disrupted increases expotentially

If you focus your sales pitch on “Know your numbers”, you miss out the 90% emotional side of selling.

My advise for airports intending to sell successfully at Routes: What’s your message? Most important thing we did at Erfurt Airport was the image video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srzk2WbTcgY

No voice. Just music. Emotion! Renaming Erfurt to Erfurt-Weimar? Emotional. Weimar transporting “history” and emotion. Everyone heard about Weimar in history class. What’s “Erfurt”?

ERF2006-15
2010: Promoting emotionally

The final point I focused on in my presentations and consulting with airports: Focus on incoming! Everybody knows, you know “your local market”. But in aviation, you have two markets. Show you know what attracts people to you. Incoming. No, I never understand how Thuringia Tourism at ITB 2010 could promote Hungarian historic composer Franz Liszt, when they just had a great number of gold medals from the Olympic winter games. The politicos in Erfurt never understood the need to focus on incoming, nor the need to promote emotionally.

Though I should have been warned: On my second day there in March 2009, Thuringia Tourism GM Bärbel Grönegres was in Abu Dhabi and promoted medical tourism there to fly to Frankfurt and get the train or a bus to Thuringia. Instead of the existing flight service via Munich. The state development agency LEG had delegations fly from and to Berlin, with train connection from and to Erfurt. We made a 99€ special available to LEG, which they never made use of. How do you want to sell the flights, if the politicians paying for them don’t use them? Result: Instead of replacing Erfurt-Munich (three hours drive, very good train connection) with the recommended Erfurt-Amsterdam, they simply decided to not extend my contract and terminate scheduled services.

So make sure you have your own PTBs behind you (the powers-that-be). State development, tourism, industry, politicians. And not just because they have to, but because they believe in your sales pitch. It’s a team effort. And a team is not a group of people who must work together, but it’s a group of people who trust each other. Emotion.

Emotions are key to successful selling. If you hire a sales manager, find someone emotional. Someone creative. And don’t make them an engineer, you likely have enough of those already, right?

Jobs-quote
This just applies as much to Sales people as to engineers…
2 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

Management Salaries

The highest paid workers in Silicon Valley are not software engineers … but “project managers”.

Reading this, it reminded me of my own experience, as well as something my dad told me decades ago: “Keep in mind that the people doing the productive work pay for all those supportive jobs.”. Including the bakers, the medical, schools, trainers, … Not talking about all those “managers” that nowadays make a living by explaining how to do things differently.

Source: https://fabiusmaximus.com/2012/09/10/american-military-force-changed-43153/
Source

Growing up with American military, there was a saying that you can’t have more chiefs than Indians. In fact, it’s a clear pyramid with given salary schemes where the general earns more than the private, but in a reasonable amount. At the same time, there were only about four generals and flag officers for each 10,000 uniformed personnel*. Today it’s seven. And they soon have more “admirals” than ships…

CaptainsvsRowerLooking at current structures in the industry, we have too many Chiefs and too little Indians. In fact, I know companies (i.e. consulting) having 10 Chiefs on a single Indian or less. Mostly secretaries, IT support and cleaning staff, often enough outsourced. And we pay the Indians badly and feed the Chiefs. Some figures in Germany make me afraid. In the last years, the numbers of people living of social security despite having a job increased year over year. Yes, they have work. But not enough to live from, they need state support to survive!

The number of retirees needing a side job to survive grew the past years from 15 to 35 percent. That means that one out of three can’t survive of the retirement plan they paid into most of their life?

German Wirtschaftswoche (“Commercial Week”) magazine reported 2015 that top managers make 54 times the salary of an average employee. This is the average. At Volkswagen they made 170 times the salary of their workers, Adidas 100 times. In the U.S., they make in average 273 times the salary of their workers the German Zeit (“time) magazine reported. 30 years ago, top managers made approx. five times that of the average employee. This is about paid managers. It’s a different issue on the owners of the company, but even those usually made about the same income as their top managers and invested the revenue into the company, their employees and reserves. When there was a “crisis”, they had reserves to dig into. Where today the managers fire their workers (same time often increasing their own “salaries”).

“Human Resources”?

automationAt the same time these highly paid managers reduced their personal risk in case of failure by insurances and contractual clauses. But imply that their mega-salaries are because of all the responsibility they have for the company and its employee and their well-being. Whereas the net income of their workers have in reality dropped many years as a result of inflation, tax and social security increases, etc. And not to forget by making “Leiharbeit”, subcontracting labor. That way, the history of working for a company throughout your lifetime became a myth, companies, no, not faceless companies, but company managers are no longer loyal to their workers. And not paying subcontracted labor a surplus for the job risk but paying them mostly even less than their own.

branson_quote_train_people
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” [Richard Branson]
My friend Erica was hired for a temporary job with one of the large global players. While they denied her any surplus for the risk of a temporary contract she was asked to not do any side jobs. Similar for me when SITA acquired delair. The same time that they both denied us any job security. Are they crazy? Companies recently start paying minimum wages, adding contract clauses that the workers are not allowed (!) to have a second job. Forcing them to live of state aid, despite a full-time job, often in combination with unpaid overtime. That is reality. Now Erica is happy to leave the bureaucrats, I was quite happy to part ways with SITA (with +400 peers). I prefer smaller companies with less hierarchy but also support and fair pay for the Indians. Recently there’s studies and case studies proving better payment proved to be far better on the motivation of the work force with substantially higher return on the “investment”.

Source: http://jampackedbear.blogspot.de/Another issue on salaries is “variables”. I truly believe a fair base salary and a fair results scheme are motivating. Unfortunately – and I hear that from a lot of friends – the “targets” set are unrealistic. Such you can rarely rely on them. The manager’s goal not being motivation, but cost savings, is also counter productive. Aside, it’s simple greed and also just aside, that’s a mortal sin.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

1 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

What is ‘Low Cost’?

An interview in ATN with Girma Wake, Chairman, RwandAir triggered a question that spooks around for quite a while now.

Wake-GirmaATN: Are you afraid that this new environment will bring more low-cost carriers or do you believe that this model does not fit into the African environment?
GW: I personally believe that low-cost carriers in the African sense will be very difficult to achieve. First, because the cost of fuel in Africa is high, second there are limited  secondary airports in Africa, we all fly from the same airports, and third there are few countries where the traffic density is large enough. If you are paying more for everything, handling, fueling, overflying etc, how can you be a low cost carrier?
So the question will have to be modified, may be not so much on the low-cost aspect of it but considers the issue of flying smaller airplanes to smaller airports covering smaller destinations bringing passengers to the major hubs. Such a model will probably work but the low-cost model as it works in Europe and America will take some time to develop in most parts of Africa.

Can a regional carrier with small airlines operate low cost? Can a long haul carrier operate low cost? Why can’t the big ones operate low cost?

InterskyJust my idea on that: I truly believe that a small carrier can operate a low cost model. In the beginning the carriers operated large narrow-body like 737-800 or A320 with some 185 seats. More and more, they also operate smaller aircraft like the 737-700 or the A319. And the time the prices were really low are gone as well. In the end you have to cover cost of operations as well as secondary cost like marketing, call center, claims and refunds, taxes and the likes. Not to forget the kerosene as a main cost block, forcing the models to slowly converge. Did I mention Intersky’s regional low-cost operations?

German DLR recently made a study on the fare levels. Comparable flights turned out i.e. an average fare incl. taxes/fees (selected days) like

Ryanair (FR) 78,78
Easyjet (U2) 97,44
Germanwings (4U) 144,33
Air Berlin (AB) 158,64
Wizz (W6) 69,99

With “low cost” and “traditional” airlines offering about the same price levels, it is about cost of operations and you got to cover your cost – low cost or “old model”.

IHS actually reports on the importance of low cost carriers for the smaller regional airports. With cost savings programs reducing services (and service), the “old carriers” loose quickly ground to the ever-expanding, young and hungry competitors. Where Lufthansa services about any German airport in the past, today Turkish Airlines offers more services to German Airports from Istanbul than Lufthansa from Frankfurt! easyJet (with a large base in Berlin) today operates more aircraft (199) than Air Berlin Group (153). And easyJet has 166 aircraft on order plus 100 options (Air Berlin Group 55 orders).

But easyJet can be booked in the GDS. There website even supports to book multiple flights connecting, which I did myself to the U.K. lately (via LGW). As I keep saying: The difference between Lufthansa or Air Berlin and easyJet is NOT that they are only bookable on the Internet (which is simply not true), but that easyJet doesn’t have legacy systems and processes – for easyJet, they focus on the business case! Where “airline sales” often gives special rates to portals and travel agency chains, easyJet does not see a benefit to sell low. They focus to sell high. So if you negotiate with them, you don’t negotiate competing the cheap fares. Also repeating myself: Anyone can sell “cheap”, you need no sales manager to do that.

And two remarks closing: Carolyn McCall, CEO of easyJet is known to understand and promote “service” as a unique selling proposition (USP). And WestJet with its Christmas Miracle had clearly a promotion for the WestJet trade mark in mind. While the “established” airlines keep diluting their own trade marks: What again has “Lufthansa” to do with “Germanwings” (Swiss, Austrian, …)? Ain’t they competitors?

Post Scriptum: ANNA.aero just announced axing of Ryanair, mostly of regional routes.

Ryanair_Cuts__2013-14

You should not rely on Ryanair for anything more than a door opener to make your airport known… And as an airport and region, you should have a strategy to sustainably place your airport on the “road map” of the global aviation network. That requires a strategy, incoming, route feasibility studies and all that common homework.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

In memoriam: Airline Sales Representatives Association Frankfurt e.V

asra

Having addressed “Airline Sales & e-Commerce” in presentations between 1994 and 2007, I became honorary member in 1999. I have tried to raise awareness for the changes our industry faces but now regretfully have to accept the official disbanding of the association effective August 1st, 2014.

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

IATA says Aviation declines. Really?

Update 2012
Update 2012

According to IATA General Secretary Giovanni Bisignani, aviation warns of a decline in global aviation. But is that reasonable? Yes, global economy suffers. But look at the global maps and you will find a clear relation between airport and decent aviation and the size of cities. Aviation is a key motivator for business, but the travel industry suffers from a major inferiority complex:

Travel Agents: Any financial consultant who at the end of the year gets you €1,000 interest a year will be decently paid, but the consultant where you spend €5,000 for a vacation shall work for free?

Airlines: Global economy needs aviation. But thanks to price dumping (and not only since “low cost”), airlines operate for years at the edge of commercial harakiri.

In December, I was asked by an airline manager, what I would change in the airline industry if I’d have a chance. What I mentioned, many of you heard from me before again and again:
Remove the price tag from the tickets! No other industry in the world provides the information about the price the seller pays for the product. Or you would not buy a car or even a yoghurt without arguing with the cashier about a discount! This is a relic from the decades when airline tickets were decently priced and the travel agent truly was an agent, receiving 9% commission. At the time, many agencies cross-financed other business with their airline sales. An Economy Class ticket for €2,000 at 9% was a nice deal… The hotels, at the time frequently not paying the commission were “negligible”. That’s “the good old days”! Gone.
But if the travel “agent”, or better the travel consultant sells today, they get no commission. Then why do the airlines show the price? It is totally outdated thinking that must be addressed.

The second thought I had in mind I mentioned last week: Airline sales is “suddenly” en vogue again. The managers promoting sales-free and sales-independent “self service” and “internet” without a strategy find themselves the most hit by the financial crisis and the recessive commerce. Because cheap flights sell themselves, but they are also the most vulnerable. Selling a product is a question about long-term relation. So better have or build a sales team with a personal reputation in their market. As they represent you.

Food For Thought. Please share yours 😉

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

Revival Of The Sales Manager

Giovanni Bisignani
Giovanni Bisignani

In the past months, IATA secretary general Giovanni Bisignani has published one horror scenario for the airline industry after another. At the same time, I have worked with an airline that had always addressed e-Commerce as a part of the sales portfolio and in the past year increased their sales force beyond the airline’s growth figures. At the same time, they announced record revenue and earnings where their direct competitors struggle to survive.

The following focuses on airlines, but is similar in other industries (i.e. hotels).

Since 1994 I address Airline Sales & e-Commerce in my annual ASRA-presentations… One concern I try to communicate ever since is the need for airline sales managers to adopt the new technologies into their product portfolio. The stronger e-Commerce gets, the more important that knowledge becomes. But just lately a friend of mine, being Manager Scheduled Flights Procurement – sitting on the other side of the table – complained that many airline sales managers have no idea what their company does in regards to e-Commerce… Say what?!

In fact there are two issues I see in need to be addressed:

Scout1. The new role of the airline sales manager
In a highly dynamic development on Airline Sales & e-Commerce, the new airline sales manager has to be fit to not only know what the own company does in that field, but he is also the scout to monitor what goes on in the market and report it.
But: Few airlines have yet build the structures and hirarchies to promote a cooperation between the IT and sales department! In many airlines, IT is higher valued than sales, so IT projects are pushed forward without sales justification. Say what?!

FirstClass2. The new value of the airline sales manager
Why is it that companies like Easyjet or Southwest Airlines operate a network of sales managers and lately increase their sales forces? Might it be possible that “traditional sales” has an impact to their revenue…? Isn’t it enough to focus on Google Adwords? And why the heck are these airlines having a sales force continue to have the higher service classes (First, Business) and fill them? Could it probably be that the sales managers can sell these “high end products”, where e-Commerce competes mostly on the price level? Exclusively on the price level?

As I emphasized in the past years: Everybody can “sell” cheap. You do not need a sales manager for that. But to sell out of season and to be able to sell at higher rates, it is reasonable to look at all distribution tools and channels: IT/e-Commerce, Yield Management, Sales and Marketing. And run them in a concerted way to assure best outcome. And hey: This is called “Sales”… Say what?! 😀

Food for thought! What do you think about this?

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

qype/yelpHolidayCheckLately major discussions in Germany and online are the various public “rating” sites. Using Qype myself and HolidayCheck for the hotel ratings and reviews, I am a mature online user, able to read as well between lines as when I read the catalogue of a tour operator…

From many of my replies here the extract: It’s hyped. So to get the right perspective, sit back and think about it for some minutes. As you hopefully know Shift Happens, we are facing an information flooding. Where in the “good old days” it was necessary to know the restaurant and hotel critics, the authors of the major travel guides, it is now necessary to also know the major online portals. But it is not necessary to search and review all and any blog entries somewhere. That is “lost in the noise”, just as it was without Internet, where the noise existed (called “word-to-mouth-propaganda”).

Where in the good old days, the books and critics published in print had the main impact to day-to-day operations, the Internet offers another advantage. If you had a bad reputation in the past, it took you at least a year to get an update (new management, renovation, …) into the next edition. In the Internet, this can be promoted much faster.
But as fast, a bad rating can be outsmarted by good customers. If you have a problem with service, it is not the rating that sucks, but you better improve the service quality and proactively market it. Like the good old “We listen to our customers”…

Everything becomes public (and published) these days. But the users resort back to “trusted brands”, of which some (like HolidayCheck) are new, but don’t ignore the value of printed travel guides. It’s a shift from “search available information” to “select”. Where information was rare, it is now flooding us: “Select” means to be able to qualify the valuable information from the noise. And for the rated company to learn, what information has impact on the customers – and which are “just another one” with minor impact.

GartnerHypeCycleDo not ignore them. But don’t let the makers of these sites qualify their importance for you. The only ones who can are your customers and you. So if approached by another of these important experts telling you what you have to do: Don’t let them unsettle you. Sit back, think about it. But keep in mind: These tools do have their value and after a hype peak and a disillusionary phase, they’ll be here to stay…

[Update: I did not move from Qype to Yelp, there’s many other such “tools” meanwhile and I was unhappy with the user management of Yelp]

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

Business Development in time of crisis

asra2008enLooking at the financial crisis, many companies reconsider their sales focus. What I addressed in my ASRA-presentation this year suddenly seems to trigger. Everyone can sell cheap. So if you are in sales, you need to focus your attention on the products that need sales support.

This week, I had quite a discussion about the validity of my sales strategy and business development. Interesting enough, my supporter was an airline that just recently anounced another increase in net earnings. Their German team has also exceeded sales targets. The offense was voiced by an airline sales manager, who’s company just published another loss for the last quarter and is expected to accumulate overall losses this year.

The focus of the successful airline is on the specialists: Tour operators, travel agencies, corporates.
Anyone not having a focus on their destinations is serviced with a lower priority. Effort is only targeted to the specialists who they pamper and invest time to visit and invite. The elephants (consolidators, internet portals) producing large but price-driven turnover are running aside.

What we wondered is the focus of many managers on turnover, volume and market share, not on revenue. That’s the managers impressed by “large numbers” and quick volume, not caring about cost or long term relations. How long has the sales manager been the same to the customer? How experienced is the sales manager? What is your strategy?

Food For Thought: Especially the aviation industry is in need for a reevaluation of values. If I hear IATA-secretary general Giovanni Bisignani anounced a drop in passengers by 4.8%, in Asia even 7.8%. The airline industry is predicted to accumulate losses of 5.2 billion dollars this year?!

So if passenger numbers are going down, a logical consequence is to focus an increase in yield!

Do I miss anything? Want to change? Interested in Business Development?
Contact me.

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

General Sales Agents

GSAThis week I addressed the issue of General Sales Agents (GSA).

In general, the GSA is a very good idea. If you cannot afford your own staff, why not share with other companies just as yours? There are two major hurdles:

1. In many cases, the GSA is considered a “second class employee”, as they only spend a part of their time on your product. My recommendation: Have the key people (reservations, sales) invited within four weeks to your location to get familiar with your product, philosophy and work style. Have them meet the decision makers personally they need to have contact to. This will not only motivate them, but also make them truly represent you in their respective markets. Repeat this frequently. Your GSA sales representative(s) usually should be invited to attend your sales meetings. I have seen results by thus motivated staff, that exceeded the results of an entire airline office in another market. And listen to them. Their prime interest is (or should be) to increase your revenue and make your product sales stable.

2. In other cases, GSAs work on a “minimized effort” scheme. Instead of sharing the resources properly, they try to tweak the last dollar out of you, until you recognize they just drain you. Ensure to have an as close contact to their sales teams as you have to your own. Ensure to have a clear manpower commitment. It is reasonable for a GSA sales person to have three or four, either similar or complementing products. I have seen cases where one person was asked to fully represent six or more products.
That might work, if the products are complementary, but that is not the common case.
Assure to have your GSA benefit fair from all sales in their region. In that case they are interested to support you to spread your distribution channels. Otherwise they will try to keep all dropping through their office, limiting the market awareness.

So GSA can be a very good thing, there are many very good and motivated GSAs out there working 150% in their client’s interests. But ensure that the principal and the GSA work on the same goals. Set targets. Find a GSA that has experience in your market. Not only the branch, but also the global region. Ethics, work style, etc. do differ.

The GSA is not a panacea. They need reasonable funding. But usually, you can pay them a base fee covering their normal operations, with marketing funds depending on the revenue they generate. But check what interest they have to sell you!

If you have questions or wish to select a GSA in Europe, ask me. And if you want to build your team and seek experts for sales, business development, reservations, etc., let me know, there are some good out there seeking a decent job 😀

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

The Fairy Tale Of The Best Available Rate

This represents the core of a quite lengthy and detailed discussion.

A hotel manager regretted the change from the RAC-Rate to the BAR (Best Available Rate) and compared it to Yield Management in Aviation.
Three misinterpretations in one sentence…

The rack-rate (off the Rack) has always been – and is – the rate, anyone “selling” a room was allowed to book at. Unconditional. That rate – in that definition – exists until today and must exist.
Many hotels fixed a rate and called it “rack rate”, published on the indoor or in the locker… But the rack rate is as variable through the year(s) as is any other “rate”. So there seems to be a misinterpretation of a definition by some…

BARWhat is the Best Available Rate? It”s one of these meaningless phrases, these politicians manqué in Marketing love. See next.

Third misunderstanding: Yield Management.
I experienced the development of yield management in American Airlines, who made this an art first (late 1980s). And it is an art! The definition for yield management was explained to us at an employee conference with Bob Crandall himself (to date a model “airline manager” to me). In short: They are there to optimize the own pricing structure to achieve the “best available selling rate”. To do that, they got tools to monitor the prices of competition, they took into account long term developments, including public holidays, regional vacation periods, congresses, events, … And they talked to the local sales teams to assure to be aware of trends – something you cannot do to date with technology only! Within two years after launching the department, it employed more than 3.000 of the best people American could find or hire and had achieved a revenue increase making that effort very valuable. I do recommend to have a look at the Wikipedia article on Yield Management.
Today, most managers believe, Yield Management is purely technical. But it is a predictive art. Many managers only look at a single puzzle piece: A good yield manager can be worth an entire sales team. But that does not say you can replace it. In most airlines, the yield management rarely speaks to sales, they stick to the “electronic reports and figures”. Stupid, they miss an essential “early warning system”…

Best Available Rate… The boss of my business training (whole sale) emphasized two rules I found invaluable:

  1. Don”t bleed out your supplier. He has to live. If he lives safely, it”s also to your own benefit.
  2. Price dumping is a Pandora”s Box. They undermine the trust in your products.

And there was a joke that at the time was historic already: “You purchase a box of these screws for 1 Dollar, you sell them for 99 cent, how could you?!” Answer: “You stupid don”t understand that. It”s the quantity that counts!”

Our industry (aviation and hotels alike) have paniked themselfes into price dumping. To date, I question the competencies of any manager, blindly following that path. In 1997, a senior airline manager (unquestioned by his peers) alleged that brand has no value any more. Customers would only purchase by price. I did argue strongly against it. And today argue no less for brand. Everyone can sell cheap. But you get no cheap loyalty with customers, you need brand loyalty!

So what is the Best Available Rate? Can that be the dumped price? Is it the best selling rate? How does it link to the Rack Rate? I don”t blame the pricing managers, they only do what their senior managements ask them and express as expectations. But maybe you should reconsider your pricing “policy”? Create one…?

Food For Thought…
Your comments sure welcome!

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post