GoCruise’s Ian Warren finds uploading personal videos of ship visits to YouTube his most useful sales tool. He explains why to Katherine Lawrey
From selling bin bags to selling dream holidays, Ian Warren’s life has changed significantly since starting his GoCruise franchise in 2009. He has also turned his hand to cruise blogging – so successfully that it has earned him invites to cruise launches as part of the press pack.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall when he first went to sea aged 16 with the merchant navy. But for 30 years he worked for a wholesaler, selling non-food disposables to supermarkets, limiting his cruise interaction to holiday time.
At first he worked part-time on his franchise business while maintaining his field sales role, but since summer 2010 he has focused on cruise full time.
“I will never earn the same money,” he admitted. “But now I’ve paid my mortgage and my daughter has grown up, it’s great to do something I love – and I have a lot more passion for cruises than I do bin liners!”
GoCruise has a network of 60+ franchisees with the backing of parent company Fred Olsen Travel. “I have a trading agreement with Fred Olsen but I can sell what is best for my customers, and we’re part of Advantage, which opens lots of doors,” he said.
Ian sources his own leads, and his digital output has a big part to play in that. He has three websites: a GoCruise affiliate website, a general cruise website and a Nile cruise website. These are research tools only; customers still call him to book.
Since the number of river cruise vessels operating on the Nile has dropped from 300 to fewer than 30, bookings have fallen away, but Ian keeps the website going. “I still get the odd enquiry and I do believe it will come back. I want to be right there when it does,” he said.
To show customers a personal view of ships, he makes his own videos and writes his own blogs.
“I upload the videos to YouTube and embed them on my own site to save on bandwidth. I use a camera that fits in my pocket for all my videos and photos. I don’t tend to speak, I just add music and subtitles if anything needs explaining.”
Ian’s foray into YouTube has been a roaring success. He’s passed 350,000 views, and he can track bookings back to videos.
“A booking came through for a 120-night world cruise on Cruise & Maritime’s Magellan. The customer found me because she did a Google search for videos of Magellan. I show the ships as they are, and customers like that.”
Even without professional training, cruise lines appreciate the halo effect of his efforts, he said. “I posted three videos about Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, which totalled 75,000 views. As a result, I was invited to spend two nights on Harmony of the Seas as a blogger.”
Viewing figures for a 2015 video of MSC Orchestra suddenly spiked recently, and when Ian investigated why, he discovered most of the viewers were in Argentina, where the ship was currently home ported.
His blogs automatically post on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. He sends out a weekly email with special offers and he has a habit of booking a stand at country shows to meet potential clients face-to-face.
“It says on my website I’m available 8am-8pm seven days a week. Even if I’m on holiday I will acknowledge emails. I want my customers to know they’re not being ignored and I will get back to them.”
It’s an integrated approach, combining the benefits of digital with old-fashioned service, and with bookings up at least 20% last year, Ian has hit on a winning strategy with his cruise agent/cruise blogger formula.