Updated: Nov 3, 2021
FAMS, famils, educationals, whatever you want to call them (just don't call them jollies), have long been one of the most effective methods of providing frontline sales staff with all the tools they need to sell a product or destination. Get the basics wrong and you’ll be wasting one of the most valuable weapons in your armoury. Follow our five simple rules and your name might just go down in FAM folklore.
Credit: Belle Co
1. Be Strategic
Hotels and DMO's are under increasing pressure to deliver ROI from every dollar spent, so recruiting the right people - and the right organisations - for your FAM will be critical to its success.
Firstly, consider your objectives; are you looking to showcase something new or simply share your product or destination with more agents? Then, consider your audience; are you hoping to attract a different type of customer or more of the same? These types of questions should help guide your decision-making when it comes to who to invite.
Whilst much may have changed since the onset of COVID, we would always champion the benefits of hosting first-time visitors. Put simply, the more people who’ve experienced your product, the more advocates you'll have in-market. Assuming they've had a good time, of course. By all means invite back top salespeople to see and experience what’s new, but do try and spread the love.
How you recruit is also important. You might partner with an airline and run an incentive to win places during a fixed sales period. Or you might simply allocate places to specific trade partners whom you've identified as being critical to your success moving forward.
Either way, it’s critical that you work with your respective head office contacts to ensure that attendees are qualified to attend (ie they actually sell your product) and will benefit from the experience in the long term. The last thing you want is to waste a valuable place on someone who's remit is about to change or who's already at risk of leaving the business.
2. Be Authentic
Competition for FAM places (and support) is going to be fierce in a post-COVID world. The industry has been grounded for 18months and agents are, for the most part, itching to get travelling again. Likewise, with borders reopening, hotels and DMO’s are excited to showcase their product to help support recovery. So how do you stand out from the crowd?
Well, whilst there are always basic requirements from a FAM - such as satisfying key stakeholders and showcasing core product - taking a thematic approach will give you an opportunity to lean into specific pillars within your overarching marketing strategy. Don’t be afraid to home in on one theme (families, shopping, adventure, luxury, wellness etc) and build your entire FAM program around that.
Let's say that that your major focus for 2022 is culinary - ask each of your stakeholders to shine a light on that theme somehow. Maybe there's a food truck that attracts queues round the block, or a restaurant that's THE spot for celebrity spotting. Just weave in the institutions that make your product unique and those experiences will last long in the memory.
Credit: Merritt Thomas
If you’re planning to host multiple FAMS, then maybe consider theming each one around a different pillar. That way, you can afford to be far more targeted with your invites. Whatever your theme, make sure you communicate that clearly through all your trade comms to get your target audience engaged and enthused.
Also, have a good think about how paying visitors actually experience your product or destination on holiday. If you're a road trip destination then consider partnering with a car rental provider to include that as part of the experience. If you promote yourself as a 'walkable city' then walking should be key element of the trip. Equally, if you talk about how easy it is to get around on public transport, don't just point out the subway, get on it!
3. Be Generous
We know, you have a captive audience for only a finite amount of time, and you want to pack your itinerary full of experiences, so they go home brimming with product knowledge. The problem with that is, they spend the whole time being shuttled from one hotel or experience to the next and have no time to really absorb what's around them.
Depending on the length of your itinerary, we would always advocate for a couple of hours here and there, or even a half day, to allow agents to do their own thing.
You could provide some options or ideas ahead of time, or they might have some of their own, but this is how they will acquire a more organic and unfiltered view of your product to share with their clients.
Some might go for a walk/hike, some might shop, others might just sit by the pool. What’s most important is that you take a positive view of however their time has been spent, because probably for the only time during your FAM, they are experiencing your product exactly how their clients will. And that’s invaluable for them to take home.
4. Be Mindful
There's a lot to think about when planning and hosting a successful FAM. You'll always be dealing with a mix of backgrounds, personalities and experience, but be sensitive to the needs of each member of the group and the organisations they represent. Get to know them individually, talk about their clients and what they might be interested in seeing more of or hearing more about. That way you can help add value on the fly.
You'll probably know in advance from your stakeholders if there are representatives of key clients within your group - make sure you seat them next to each other at dinner or at least close enough so you can facilitate conversation between them. It's very easy to miss opportunities to connect, particularly when you're managing a busy schedule, but a small amount of planning goes a very long way.
Contacts made on FAMS can often make a real difference further down the road, particularly at the luxury end of the market with the often challenging demands of HNW travellers.
Whilst some of your group might be able to remove themselves from their day-to-day, you'll have others who can't. It's likely that more and more agents will be expected to work, or at least dip in and out of work, whilst travelling in a post-COVID world. So be mindful of that when planning your itinerary, particularly when there's a significant time difference. Try and build in sufficient time for guests to get ready AND check their emails, deal with clients etc
5. Be Gracious
As mentioned at the very top, competition is fierce. Be gracious to agents who have given up their time to come and experience your product. Yes, it's an incredible perk of the job (one of the reasons we all work in travel) but in this scenario they are very much your customer and you're relying on them to go away and sell your product to their clients.
Make sure you seek feedback after the event. Wait a few days until your guests have had a chance to get home and think about their experience, then send out a survey that covers everything from the quality of transport to the structure of the itinerary itself. And take whatever feedback you get in the spirit it is intended; if you don't learn from your mistakes this time, how will you deliver a knockout FAM next time?
Are you interested in hosting a group from the UK & Ireland? Rocket can help with everything from media campaigns, incentives and itinerary planning to hosting and follow-ups.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.