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My name is Kim, and I love cruising. But even if you hate cruising, this post is for you.

by | In the Magazine, Kim Walsh-Phillips | 0 comments

I feel like I need to get this out of the way up front because so many people either love or hate one of my vacation passions of getting out on the sea. This post is more about leveraging something from another industry to improve our own business.

After having tried many of them, my cruise line of choice is Royal Caribbean. Both as a customer and as a super fan of their business practices.

And I’m not alone.

According to their 2016 Financial Report, Royal Caribbean brought in $8.496 Billion Dollars and it continues to increase year over year.

As many industries around them struggle, RC continues to grow. And whenever you see a rising card in a flat hand, it’s wise to take a hot minute and see what they’re doing right and what you can learn from it. So in a true sacrifice of love, I’ve been cruising at least twice a year to see what I can learn. (No sympathy cards needed.)

Every year we take a week-long cruise with the kids and a shorter cruise without. The Tall One and I recently celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary with our annual kid-free vacation. We wanted to try something different this year and took a cruise to Cuba with stops in Key West, and Cozumel. It was on this trip that I discovered one of RC’s most brilliant business practices.

Royal Caribbean is a freaking genius when it comes to making us feel like spending money is an accomplishment. Freaking genius.

First, they’re masters at getting you to join their reward program, and have successfully enrolled over 11 million people as Crown and Anchor Members. Second, they make you feel good right away about spending money with them as you only officially become a Crown and Anchor member once you have sailed once with them. (Notice, they refer to a purchase as “sailing with them.” Brilliant positioning of a purchase as an experience… not spending money.)

You’re sent a congratulatory card after your first cruise to “Welcome you to the club.” As in, now that you have cruised, you’re part of a special community that others can’t have access to until they take their first trip. (Smart!)

Then as you continue to spend money, they continue to reward you with awards and congratulations. We returned from dinner one night while aboard to find two pins on our bed congratulating us for achieving “Emerald” status.

They also give extra perks for your level of membership, like a welcome gift (two bottles of water which are like gold currency on a cruise ship), discounts to the spa, specialty dining and free drinks.

While all of the recognition and perks are great (keep them coming RC!), their absolute genius comes in the way they let you know what others are getting… so you aspire to reach their levels.

Get to the Diamond Level and you also get access to special lounges, full-on concierge service, gifts, events every day and more.

We like to cruise in a bigger room and typically book the “Suite Level” which comes with its own perks and benefits. (More on how RC is a master in getting you to upgrade and spend more in a future article.) One of the perks we took part in on this last cruise was to attend what they call a “Top-Tier Event.” (Even how they name events is smart!) Anyway, we went to the event where they shared how many members they have overall in Crown and Anchor (again, 11 million!), how many of them were on this ship, and then they recognized those at the event at the different levels of membership, making each feel special for having reached their level of “success.”

They then brought up the members with the most points of anyone in the room to get an extra special award and be recognized. The awardees had their picture taken with the Captain, a bottle of Champagne was gifted, and the crowd cheered.

Royal Caribbean has gotten us to celebrate and cheer for ourselves and others… for spending a crap ton of money with them. So freaking brilliant!

So the question is… how can you do this in your business?

  • Special Recognition after people make their first purchase.

At my firm, Elite Digital Group, we send a welcome gift to our private clients after they first become a client. It is personalized and welcomes them to a “family.” We’re about to start mailing a special welcome to our newest Power Professional Members as well. (Watch your mail, members!)

Do you think this makes a difference? Here’s a FB post from a few days ago that I loved!

How do you welcome your newest customers?

  • Rewarding Engagement.

For our private clients, we recognize them with features in our monthly newsletter, highlights in our blog posts and social media content. We also send them a special “Money Card” once they’ve received their 100th lead through social media.

Recently, we started recognizing the most engaged members in our Powerful Professionals Group by highlighting those who have contributed the most to our private Facebook Group.

How do you recognize your most-engaged customers?

  • Special Perks.

We do a pretty good job of giving special treatment to our private clients. Besides the welcome gift previously mentioned, they’re also gifted a membership to Powerful Professionals, receive access to any of our courses and events at no cost to them, and are invited to join us for a private reception at any of my speaking engagements they may be attending.

For our members, they currently receive discounts on any of our new course offerings and events, are first to get access to any new program offering, and are gifted free trainings and other bonuses. We’re working on an extended benefits program that in my not-so-humble opinion will be the best our industry has ever seen.

What do you do differently for your customers than you do for your leads?

  • Awards for Spending.

While for years we’ve done special things for our long-term clients based on their spend, such as doing a complimentary bonus marketing campaign or service offering, speaking at an event without charging my normal day rate, etc, we don’t have anything formal in place. And we have nothing to recognize our top-tier spend members. But we should.

Royal Caribbean has inspired a new client and member recognition program that will be announced soon.

What do you do to recognize your top tier spenders?

With continual growth year after year on Royal Caribbean, they continue to be a great example of how to make your customers feel special and encourage them to continue to spend. There is a lot we can learn, but more importantly DO to grow our own businesses.

What is one thing you do now or plan to do to recognize, reward and encourage your customers?

About Kim Walsh Phillips

Kim Walsh Phillips is the master of helping successful professionals reach 1 million dollars in revenue.  She is the CEO of Elite Digital Group – a direct response social media agency, Elite Capital Advisors – lead generation for financial advisors, and Powerful Professional – a community of professionals who lead by example.  She is also the co-author of the best-selling book with Dan Kennedy, “The No B.S. Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing.”  To snag a free copy of her Client Attraction Blueprint, visit

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