Reprinted from HotelExecutive.com
As marketing is so often driven by trends, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest, the hottest, the most cutting-edge means of delivering your property or company’s message to an audience. But for some audiences, newer is not always better.
This particularly applies to those decision makers who choose the travel options for businesses and groups. These professionals are often pressed for time and don’t want to bother with the more intricate forms of marketing. A pared-down approach to selling to them, therefore, can win a big lift in bookings and revenue for a smart hotel that implements a few basic principles. When marketing to group travel bookers, there are a lot of good, basic strategies of message conveyance that have withstood the test of time and repeatedly proven successful.
So when it comes to business and group marketing, what are these key concepts to embrace? What can a hotel marketer do to reach these profitable segments?
No matter how advanced means of communication become, at the end of the day one of the most effective and durable marketing strategies is one that’s been around since humans learned to speak – word of mouth. Even the most convincing and intelligent advertising push can’t compete with a friendly, informed recommendation from a trusted source.
So a hotel should put itself at the top of the recommend list. Word of mouth for business travelers usually comes from other businesses and business associations, therefore it’s wise to establish good relationships with those entities. Hoteliers should cultivate these relationships, building a network of local partners.
A local chamber of commerce with its collection of business members, for example, is an excellent ally. Sooner or later, a branch office or partner of one of those member companies will likely have a conference or will need to send its employees to the hotel’s area and being involved with the chamber will position the hotel beautifully to capture these travelers as guests.
The same goes with local corporate entities. A hotel should make itself known to these firms. When the relationship develops, let it be known the types of amenities the hotel offers business travelers. And don’t limit these relationships to only big, multi-branch companies; word of mouth often transmits from colleague to colleague. A friend of the local architect, for example, might work at a larger firm considering a weekend team-building retreat in the area. The further a hotel spreads its partnerships and the more effort it spends maintaining them, the better the chances for securing word of mouth referrals.
Lastly, don’t only depend on those partners for recommendations. Make the effort to craft package deals to appeal specifically to them. Why simply accommodate them and send them on a standard tour? Anyone who travels – particularly in a group – is looking for an experience they can remember and tell stories about. Working hand-in-hand, a hotel and an outside business can dream up a fun, interesting and memorable experience for a group coming to town. The more partners a hotel has, the richer and more varied a set of such experiences it can create and no hotelier should neglect this opportunity.
Show up at the shows
Trade shows and industry exhibitions provide excellent opportunities to target the business segment. Especially at the larger shows, there are thousands of business-related attendees, and quite a few decision makers among them. What better place to demonstrate what a hotel has to offer to business travelers? Setting up a booth adorned with pictures and literature about your facility, as well as the surrounding area and its attractions, can provide direct and invaluable exposure to the decision makers that may one day be booking travel in your area.
Of course, not every property has the budget to buy such floor space and stock it with material and representatives. If money for these sorts of activities is limited, consider a more scaled-down presence – perhaps there is a way to circulate the hotel’s brochure to conference attendees, for example, or hang a display in a strategic location at the show.
Either way, whether it’s a notable presence in a standalone booth or via a set of pamphlets distributed during to attendees, hotels have a lot to gain by participating in trade fairs and similar events. There’s business to be had here – don’t be shy to chase after it!
Get your message to the media
Newspapers, magazines, web sites and blogs all need fresh content to publish, giving hoteliers the perfect opportunity to offer up this info about their property. There are many media outlets that focus specifically on the hotel industry or business travel, and they are what the professionals that book business travel read for ideas. Partnering with these outlets raises a hotel’s media profile, and increases the chances of it being one of the accommodation possibilities those would-be bookers read about and consider for upcoming conferences or group accommodations.
Make the effort – or get your PR representatives to make the effort – to not only get your hotel in the media, try to craft your message too. The more you can customize the message for businesses or groups, the better your chances of attracting them. Make it a point when dealing with the media to talk about your conference facilities, for example, or the group tour operators your hotel partners with.
Don’t underestimate the power of media to influence decisions. Like any marketing, presence in a magazine or on a web site lifts a hotel’s profile and familiarizes it for the reader. As well, because a property is being featured by a trusted third-party source – ie. the news publication that the person already reads and trusts – the recommendation will be worth more to the reader, than an advertisement in the same publication would be.
Be social on social media
On the subject of media, there’s a good, basic way of marketing to groups using a sophisticated modern tool – social networking. As anyone who’s used any of the most popular social media sites knows, any group can craft and maintain a page or account dedicated to its particular interest or hobby. Like in trade fairs, this provides a superb opportunity to target a very specific and identifiable potential group customer base.
Because these groups create pages to inform and entertain, a hotel should consider being one of the contributors doing the informing and entertaining. A gang of ski enthusiasts, for example, would find it interesting if you provided usable tidbits of information about your local ski mountain, or related a funny story from the history of the nearby lodge. This type of outreach positions your hotel as one of the authorities on the group’s activity in your area, and increases the chances of booking the group as guests should they decide to make an excursion there.
This is also why a hotel should post its specials and seasonal offerings on such pages. Groups are always looking for ideas and new worlds to conquer; feel free to help by providing them with the info that they’ll need to book.
Big groups, big revenue
There’s one major reason hotels place a great deal of importance on corporate clients and groups: quite simply, they are the biggest revenue earners for a given property. Nearly every hotel has some feature or facility to offer businesses or groups, be it a state-of-the-art conference room or a nearby local attraction. And in order to market this feature to this audience, it’s just a matter of identifying what’s most “sellable” among those and promoting it the right way.
Your hotel has something to offer, and businesses and groups can benefit from taking advantage of it. So start getting the message out! It’s simply of getting back to the basics of marketing, and if you do it effectively, more big, corporate clients will soon start coming through your front door.
Jennifer Rodrigues, Visibility Development Manager with ThinkInk and TravelInk’d, is a seasoned public relations professional with a passion for the hospitality industry, which is expressed in her role at ThinkInk’s travel division, TravelInk’d. At TravelInk’d, she is responsible for developing cost-effective and creative public relations and marketing strategies for clients in the travel and tourism, airline, lodging, cruise and meeting/event sectors. For more information on TravelInk’d, please visit www.travelinkd.com or contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more news about PR and marketing in the travel industry, follow TravelInk’d on Twitter @TravelInkd and visit the TravelInk’d Facebook Fan Page. Ms. Rodrigues can be contacted at email@example.com Extended Bio…