How to Create a Marketing Plan that Qualifies for NCL’s NCF Commissionsby Dori Saltzman /
Last week Norwegian Cruise Line announced it will begin paying travel advisors commission on non-commissionable fares starting next year. To qualify, advisors must submit a marketing plan showing how they intend to increase their market share of NCL bookings.
(While Norwegian Cruise Line is the largest cruise operators to go without NCFs, it is not the first. Virgin Voyages, Viking and Explora Journeys have no NCF fares.)
To help advisors take advantage of the opportunity and support Norwegian Cruise Line’s move, Travel Market Report reached out to Norwegian to get clarity on exactly what they’re looking in an agency’s marketing plan.
Two Vital Components
According to NCL, the NCF marketing plan must contain information on the incremental marketing activity that travel agencies intend to invest in and operate in 2023, along with the next booking percentage increase (in Q1 2023 over Q3 2022) that they agency is committing to.
In order to determine both these requirements, agencies must first determine how many Norwegian Cruise Line bookings they made, specifically in the third quarter of this year. From there, the next step is to figure out how much more they feel they can do.
What kind of volume can the agency handle? Can they take on new bookings or do they need to switch some of the volume of bookings they’re already doing with other lines to Norwegian Cruise Line? Can the agency afford to take on a new Independent Contractor or employee to handle more volume?
Once, agencies have decided, number one, how many NCL bookings they can take on, they need to decide what percentage increase they will commit to.
From there, it’s all about what are they going to do to get there.
This second piece is critical to the marketing plan NCL wants to see from advisors.
“Include details such as timing, marketing activity (email, social media, etc.),” writes NCL in a FAQ about the new policy.
In other words, advisors need to include information about the specific tactics they plan to use to achieve their sales goal.
Will they do an NCL-specific cruise night? Will they do weekly or monthly NCL-focused email blasts? Can the agency increase NCL bookings by building a large group and then promoting that?
When deciding which marketing activities to include, use what’s worked for you in the past.
Do you know you get bookings from social media posts? Create a social media strategy focused on NCL.
Have email blasts resulted in bookings? Put a focus on that in your marketing plan.
Have you gotten bookings after a presentation at the Chamber of Commerce? Schedule one in your marketing plan.
If you don’t know what’s worked for you in the past, this is a great time to dig into your data and see where your business comes from.
The more specific agencies and advisors can be with their marketing plan, the better.
It's not enough to say vaguely you intend to do social media to promote Norwegian Cruise Line or that you'll do a webinar or Facebook Live. Specificity, along with a calendar of planned out activies, will allow agencies to follow through on their marketing plans.
Specificity also demonstrates to Norwegian that you've put time and thought to your marketing plan and not just thrown a few ideas down on paper.
Keep in mind, even though the percentage increase the agency is committing to is for Q1 of 2023, NCL wants to see a marketing plan for all of 2023. The timeline of marketing activities and timelines should be broken down by quarter.
To give advisors an idea of what this second piece should look like, we’ve included a sample below.
- Second week of January – Facebook Live with BDM discussing Norwegian Prima and Free at Sea. Plan to invite 100, with expectations of about 50 attending.
- Twice a month (January-March) – Instagram & FB Reels highlighting the destinations Norwegian Cruise Line visits and the excursions offered -- theme will be "Want to Cure the Winter Blues"
- February 14th – Romance-focused social media posts and e-mail focused on romantic cruising with NCL
- Once per month email blast with booking incentive (either a current NCL offer or free bottle of wine with all bookings)
- Targeted email each quarter to all past NCL clients with special booking incentive (TBD)
Consortia-member agencies can also look to their consortia’s marketing department for help in creating a marketing plan that meets Norwegians’ criteria. (Hosted travel advisors do not need to create a marketing plan; it will be done at the host agency level.)
Here are some Travel Market Report resources you can use to help determine which marketing activities you want to invest in.
- How to Sprinkle the Oprah Genius into Your Marketing Plan
- A Guide to Marketing for Travel Advisors
- Legacy Travel Drives Sales Leads with Video Marketing
- How to Use Local Radio to Build a Group Booking
- MasterAdvisor 59: Using TikTok for Your Travel Business
- MasterAdvisor 56: How Travel Advisors Can Use Instagram Reels