Alumni relations a powerful service ally

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“We’ve got spirit, yes we do, we’ve got spirit, how about you?!”

Remember this simple, enthusiastic cheer from high school sporting events? There was and is nothing like being part of something and showing your loyalty. When we join an organization and become part of something, most of us are motivated to contribute and want to feel like what we do matters. We are proud of “our team” or “our department” or “our division” and will rally around strong and caring leaders.

And, even when we leave that organization, perhaps to move on to bigger and better or different things, many of those positive feelings remain. We retain pleasant memories of our employment and most of the people with whom we worked. We make lasting friendships and build personal networks from those experiences.

Your former crew members are a powerful market target. They already know the message and product. They “bought in” to what the organization was all about when they joined. They do not need lots of advertising messages and persuasive literature to familiarize them with a yacht or vessel. Your crew members, past and present, could and should be one of your most valuable conduits for new business.

‘Who’ is solved; now the ‘How’
So how do you refine service levels to this powerful group?

This point really hit home for me when contacting one of my former employers, a resort company, for whom I have tremendous respect and enthusiasm in addition to wonderful memories. This would be the first time I would introduce my family to a place that was so meaningful to me, and I was excited. I wrote a personal note to the general manager with the hope that he would acknowledge my contributions as a former employee and show me some level of recognition.

I was not looking for a discount or preferential treatment. What I wanted was a “welcome back” and appreciation for a “family” member that had returned, with lots of extra dollars to spend.

Instead, he apparently handed the letter off to an assistant, who sent me a form letter, directing me to call the general toll free reservation line, just like everyone else in the world. My loyalty diminished, and sadly, my memories tarnished.

All sorts of opportunities to have someone personally address my stay and encourage me to increase dollars per day spent were immediately lost.

What if they had only instead offered a friendly “welcome back” message, and perhaps helped with my arrangements. Considering that crew leaders and owners probably spend lots of time and dollars figuring out how to reach new guests, why do some totally miss the opportunity to take advantage of this target market? This one was easy and would have had no cost. It’s Relationship Marketing 101. Effectiveness in hitting target markets doesn’t have to always be the result of costly shotgun approaches, when often the best targets already consider themselves part of the relationship.

Ample opportunity for megayachts
The megayacht industry employs hundreds of people in both short- and long-term roles. Some are seasonal and some spend a lifetime with one vessel. Some crew members stay within the yachting industry but move to other destinations or types of vessels. Some move into other industries with meeting, business and entertainment needs for the yachting industry.

Each of these employees has families and friends and business associates. Word-of-mouth is one of their favorite advertising mediums and they love to talk. Boating people are usually people people.

Let’s learn a lesson from major universities around the country. Alumni relations are critical to fund- and fan-raising success. Highly paid officers are hired just to manage the relationships with former students and harvest dollars from loyal graduates. Why wouldn’t the megayacht and related industries do the same? Former employees are such an easy sell, and you know who they are.

How can the megayacht community score big with employees as a target audience?

How should crew leaders service those who used to be in service?

How can former employees be reached and what will motivate them to become guests themselves?

Six winning strategies

Consider these winning strategies for big hits on the service scoreboard that drive sales effectiveness:

  • Thank them. When their employment ends, send a thank you note for their time with you. Let them know their time with you was valued and you want to stay in touch.
  • Secure accurate contact information and keep track of them.
  • Invite them to come back, take a trip, and refer new crew members, family members and friends. Tell them you want their business. Give them some preferential or easy way of making the connection.
  • Send personalized letters or other mailings on a frequent basis to update them on new routes or ports, upgrades or renovations. Make it easy for them to spread the word and tell others once they get your message.
  • When they do come back, welcome them. Train your existing employees to recognize former crew members.
  • After they leave, thank them again. Keep building the relationship and momentum, and the dollars.

Loyalty can drive revenue

Your former crew members are in a unique position to refer business. It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just that they may not think about it and don’t know the latest. Out of sight, out of mind.

Since thousands of dollars are spent on guest loyalty programs and statistics prove how much more profitable loyalty dollars are, why would we neglect doing the same with former employees, who know the product even better than loyal guests?

Catch the team spirit. Pay attention to your alums and welcome back dollars with familiar faces. Everybody wins with team spirit as a powerful service ally.