January 2009








Top 5 Sales & Marketing Tips To Get You Through 2009


Contributed by Lana Dubovik, Hospitality Atelier, Los Angeles

Remember the good old days, when some of the hotel operations skeptics were toying with the idea of foregoing their sales departments for a series of ads? If you have an ineffective and unmotivated sales department, you are, in fact, better off running a smart media campaign. However, with this radical move, you will quickly find yourself out of advertising dollars and, inevitably, future business. Meanwhile, your tactic allowed your competitors to build stronger relationships with your clients, while you burned important bridges and let’s just say sent the wrong message about your ability to keep your ego in check.


To get you through this year, stay close to your sales team and give them the best “leadership by example” course, which should include the below top five sales and marketing tips:


1. Act now By now you have noticed – the phones are not ringing and, the truth is, they won’t ring for awhile. Your team needs to have a relentless in-person presence in front of their customers and a solid plan to sustain market share. You know that budgets have been cut, people are being laid off, travel expenses are under a microscope and you will only have a couple of minutes to outline compelling reasons for your client to continue sending business your way. What are the values your hotel stands by, which will help protect your existing clientele from becoming vulnerable to change? How tuned in are you to your customer needs and do you provide them with enough reasons to remain loyal? Find the answers to these questions, align with your team and act now.


2. Stay close to your customers Especially to your top customers. Think of ways to secure their return stays. The Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California, demonstrated one of my favorite examples of securing that connection by pledging to honor last year’s rates for my future stay. When done tastefully and creatively, such an offer stays fresh in the customer’s mind and stimulates the valuable word-of-mouth buzz. This year it is appropriate to tactfully increase the frequency of client contact. E-communication is always the most efficient way to reach your audience because it is the most dynamic way to speak to them in a buying environment. Just make sure that your rates and inventory are up-to-the-moment and that your “call to action” specials are displayed prominently.


3. Analyze distribution costs Review them frequently, especially if you are an independent hotelier. Trace the validity of your contracts with the GDS and booking engine providers, even with the marketing affiliations. Watch out for the automatic renewal clauses and make sure you are getting a competitive value from the partnership. Also, if what you are about to hear is a discovery, then I congratulate you on identifying tremendous cost savings for the future: The days of hotels paying a percentage of room revenue rather than per transaction fees for GDS and booking engine reservations are over. Obtain a competitive bid and do not leave precious revenue on the table.


4. Leverage marketing alliances and affiliations Rationally-priced “fire sales” and LTOs (limited time offers) generate results, but running them indefinitely reveals your non-discounted rates as over-priced and your sales strategy approach as a scream of desperation. It will be obvious to your customers and competitors, and detrimental to the property in the long run. Instead, think of ways to reinvent your product. What was good for Philippe Starck at Target and Tiger Woods with General Motors is definitely good for your property. With a little creativity and flexibility, free or low-cost marketing and merchandising opportunities with retail partners, festivals, cultural or sport venues, regional publications and radio stations, high-profile charitable organizations, even yoga studios can improve your appeal and add a timely edge to your product.


5. Be sensitive to your competition, but do not lose your own focus Would a race car driver be able to win a race, constantly looking sideways? Be well aware of your set’s initiatives and pricing tactics and be proactive--but stay on track. Competence, creativity and determination are the key to this year’s race. Fasten your seat belts, stay focused and stay together.


Lana Dubovik is the principal of Hospitality Atelier, a luxury re-branding and hotel launch consulting firm. lana@hospitalityatelier.com.

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