The Reset Button: Innovation for Hotel Sales in 2010

February 2, 2010

While demand probably isn’t coming roaring back in 2010 it is returning.  It’s time to shake off the ‘battle fatigue’ of 2009 and hit the ‘reset’ button for  2010 to take advantage of the positive opportunities that present themselves going forward. 

“In a recent AP-GFK poll, 72% of Americans said they’re optimistic about what 2010 will bring for the country. That’s a dramatic difference from their same poll answer where almost 75% of them thought 2009 was a bad year for the country.” (Margie Fisher, Small Business Trends, 01/02/10) At the same time, many business thought leaders believe that innovation will be key to plugging into this sense of optimism and converting it to business success.

There are good reasons to feel positive this year.  “… according to latest Pegasus View report. 2009 actually ended with more net bookings made from global distribution systems and alternative distribution systems than in December 2008 ….” (HotelNewsNow, 29/01/10) United Airlines on Wednesday said it sees a definite improvement in demand for business and premium travel. (Washington Post, 01/27/10) 

Even hotel industry leaders were feeling positive at the ALIS conference last week. “I am shocked at the last eight to nine weeks that I have had no bad news, and I’m seeing an increasing amount of good news,” said Laurence Geller, president and CEO of Strategic Hotels & Resorts. “…  I am astonished at the level of business and the level of spending that’s coming back. I’m pleased with what I’m seeing in group pace for the entire portfolio.” (Hotel News Now, 01/28/10)
Innovation isn’t about sweeping change. It can be series of small initiatives that enhance the sales effort.  A few positive innovations can add up to a big difference in how you locate and develop new business – how you attract and engage them. 

Develop a Strategy for Innovation:  Don’t’ get too hung up on the plan and develop analysis paralysis.  A bad plan well executed trumps a good plan that never gets off the ground.  What kind of prospects are you looking for?  Who are your current ‘great’ customers and develop a strategy to find more like them.  How many large accounts or ‘whales’ are you working – what is the mix of smaller accounts or ‘tunas’ that you can locate and get to close faster than the ‘whales’? How do you attract them in innovative ways – what’s the ‘bait’?

Try New Ideas -- don’t be Afraid to Fail!  Generate many ideas on small innovations that you can enable now to get the attention of your prospects and clients.  They don’t have to carry a high price tag and if you generate enough ideas, some will succeed and others not so much.  For example, how about developing videos and using them on the social network profiles to engage customers?  Embed a video in an email of the hotel team assuring the prospect that if they book their business at your property, the entire team will service their business well.  Include the GM, front desk team, the chef – let your imagination be your only limitation.   A Flip video cam is all you need to enable a video strategy.  A company that manufactures and markets office furniture decided to have a little fun and developed a video of their sales team playing musical chairs using their office chairs – a little fun never hurts and their customers loved it! 

Enable a Mobile Strategy:  Many web sites and eblasts are not mobile friendly.   It doesn’t take much to ensure that you are sending TEXT versions of your HTML eblasts that are more easily read on mobile phones.  Experiment – see if your open rates increase with mobile friendly content.  If your content sends the reader to a landing page ensure that it is mobile friendly with short concise offers that are easily accessible. 

Attracting Business – Not Pushing Product:    Your online presence and property profile on social networks are like an online store – some will pass by and not look over, others will look over and smile, others will walk up to the ‘window. ‘When they walk into your store, they may be just ‘looking’, when they begin to interact with you and share what they are looking for, you have an opportunity to take them offline and begin the dialogue.  You have effectively ‘attracted’ a potential client – they check out you and the hotel before they ever engage you one on one. 

We have entered the ‘culture of engagement’ – prospects look to engage with hotels and sales people that set themselves apart  from the other 100+ hotels that approach them every day. The innovation challenge – what five small innovations can your team think of to engage new business prospects? 
Join me and the i-Meet team for a FREE webinar sponsored by i-Meet on social networks -- "Attracting Customers not Pushing Product – The Role of Social Networks" on Friday Feb. 5.  Click on the link below for more info.

Carol Verret Consulting and Training delivers sales training with an edge and measurable results as well as revenue management training that drives incremental revenue and market share.  She also provides consulting services in these areas.  She has provided keynotes and seminars both nationally and internationally to hotels, management companies and related associations as well as having articles published in national and international publications.  Check her out on the web site, the www.hotelsalesblog and on LinkedIn and Twitter.  
She can be reached at (303) 618-4065 or at .