Imagine a crisp fall day, you are strolling around a beautiful orchard in a light sweater and come upon a gloriously large apple tree. Any variety you like. Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp. You stroll up to that tree, pluck the closest apple you can reach, and take a bite. More than likely, it’s not ripe. Why? Because the apples at the top of the tree ripen first, the fruit growing within reach must be nurtured longer, left to ripen the longest.
Low hanging fruit isn’t exactly what we’ve come to think it is. We’ve been led to believe low hanging fruit is the business that’s easy to come by, the quickest to capture. Worst of all, this widespread notion seems to suggest that we can just grab the business and move on to bigger or harder to capture clients.
While low hanging fruit may be reachable—or maybe let’s say attainable—what it is not is the easiest. These are the guests that have shown interest, but they are also the ones that must be nurtured. Why put forth the effort? Because low hanging fruit are careful. Because you have to put effort into capturing their business, and they fully understand what you have to offer, and this means they will be lucrative. Today and, very likely, in the future.
So which guests exactly are your low hanging fruit? How do you identify them? Right now they may be hard to see, near invisible. They are the 7.5% of guests who found your website, maybe poked around for some details, then 72% picked up the phone and called, but maybe they weren’t quite ready to commit. Maybe this guest said, “Let me talk to my wife,” or “I need to get together with the friends who are coming with us to be sure this works,” or “Let me see if our dates are flexible.” Without a system to track these guests, they frequently disappear.
With a lead management system in placed, however, these “not-booked” guests turn into your low hanging fruit. Reservations agents gather details about their stay, their interests, and their travel needs. Then within 24 hours of their first call, agents follow up via telephone. This results in 7 additional bookings. Forty-eight hours later a follow-up email goes out to the remaining guests. This converts another 11 guests. Three or four days later another email goes out, which brings in 3 more bookings.
Out of 1,000 web visitors, you will convert just 1.72% on their visit to the website. Of those who call, 5.5% will book on the first phone call. By incorporating not-booked inquiries into your process and nurturing this business, you will gather another 2.1%. IN other words, you will convert more business during the follow up than during the initial website visit. These 21 additional bookings will likely also have a higher stay value than those booked on the website. If we consider them equally, nonetheless, and assign each booking a conservative $1,000 stay value and we assume that a property achieves 1,000 website visitors every other day, the nurtured low hanging fruit brings an additional $21,000 in revenue and the annual revenue achieved is over $3.8 million.
With proper follow-up, using both online and offline tactics, you could be converting additional millions of dollars. Recouping marketing dollars that have already been spent on each of these not-booked guests. And the benefit extends to the guest. This level of follow up resonates with them. Your service profile improves with these carefully handled touch points.
In order to fully embrace low hanging fruit, three things must happen.
1). Recognition that all direct channels matter, but they are not created equally. The phone channel will bring in the highest percentage of reservations; however, having your offline and online channels work together will, ultimately, achieve the greatest results.
2). Systems must be put in place to nurture guests along their path to purchase. Some might be inclined to say, “I’ll just spend more on marketing to drive those extra bookings,” but the point is that you could be achieving millions more in revenue with an investment in the demand you already have.
3). Understand your guests. What’s keeping the low hanging fruit from booking? What do they want or need in order to come around? Reservations agents who learn to gather this essential information will be high performers, elevating all-around sales, perhaps even exceeding all of these averages.
Wouldn’t it seem absurd to an apple farmer who has a substantial investment in each crop to leave the apples that aren’t quite ripe? To let them fall off the tree or go to scavenging critters? This is essentially what properties do when they let those guests who have called in just disappear without checking back, testing for ripeness. Survey your investment and understand that some will convert right away, others will not, but they all matter to the success of your operation.