Monthly Archives: July 2012

Hotel Loyalty Programs – Are Your Customers Feeling The Love Or Asking For A Divorce?

According to a study released by The Chief Marketing Officer Council, “The Leaders in Loyalty: Feeling the Love from the Loyalty Club“, 54 percent of the consumers surveyed let it be known that thanks to the barrage of irrelevant messages, low value rewards, and impersonal engagements, they aren’t feeling the love.  In fact, they are thinking of asking for a divorce.

The study suggests “The reality of today’s loyalty landscape is that too many rewards, points or perk programs out there are still only as sophisticated as those early trading stamp programs.  They dish discounts and free stuff to repeat buyers and gather about as much insight from the customer as those first shopkeepers exchanging place settings for swollen stamp books.”

Here are some key takeaways that customers didn’t like about loyalty programs.

  • Too much spam and junk email topped the list of negatives at 44 percent
  • Too many conditions and restrictions at 38 percent
  • Rewards that lacked real value at 37 percent

Other prevalent complaints included members having a hard time redeeming points or rewards, program membership lacking value, and communications and services not being personalized or target specifically for members.

So how does your hotel loyalty program stack up against some of the other major hotel brands?

Starwood Preferred Guest – The chain now offers the chance to earn lifetime elite status. Also, road warriors who log more than 75 nights a year can use their own 24-hour check-in/check-out window.

Hyatt Gold Passport – Hyatt is rolling out new benefits that allow members to earn or spend points even when they’re not staying overnight. Just stopping in for a massage at the spa or a dinner in the restaurant at certain properties can help boost your points balance.

Hilton HHonors – Members can now spend points at an online marketplace that sells everything from sporting and kitchen equipment to restaurant vouchers and admission to shows.

GHA Discovery – The two-year-old program, whose members include Kempinski and Omni Hotels, rewards loyal guests not with free room nights but with a range of cultural encounters

Marriott Rewards – Buy airline tickets, pay for car rentals, or purchase travel insurance with a combination of Marriott points and cash. A new auction program lets members bid for special experiences.

The Leading Hotels of the World: Leaders Club – Members can enjoy perks, even when they’re not traveling, at hotel restaurants and spas in 13 cities.

Now let’s change direction and say you’re dissatisfied with the perks of your current loyalty program and you decide to jump ship.

What’s the affect on the brand for your defection?

In a new study released by cg42, “Hotel Group and Loyalty Program Brand Vulnerability Study“, the study measures the frustrations of existing US frequent travelers who are also primary users of these hotel loyalty programs and their properties, and quantifies their potential impact in financial terms.

The major hotels that were included in the study are Carlson (Club Carlson), Best Western (Best Western Rewards), Wyndham (Wyndham Rewards), Marriott (Marriott Rewards), Hyatt (Hyatt Gold Passport), Choice (Choice Privileges), Hilton (Hilton HHonors), Starwood (SPG), and IHG (Priority Club).

The fundamental question the Brand Vulnerability study seeks to answer is “How vulnerable are each of the top hotel groups to loyalty program member and associated spend loss, and what are their specific areas of vulnerability?”.

The answer?

According to the study, “An in-depth analysis of the frustrations experienced by primary, frequent-traveler members of the top hotel groups and loyalty programs in the US reveals that there are real consequences to being a “vulnerable” brand: combined, these 9 hotel groups are projected to lose over $10B in traveler spend in the next 12 months. The top 3 most vulnerable players ranked by Brand Vulnerability Score (BVS) – Carlson, Best Western, and Wyndham – are in fact projected to lose nearly $2B in traveler spend out of the $10B overall figure, in the next 12 months – with Carlson projected to lose $423M, Best Western, $443M, and Wyndham, $901M”.

Tell me about your experience, good, bad or indifferent, with your hotel loyalty program.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.



Filed under Hotel Loyalty Programs

My Rant – You Can Thank DC For The Mess We’re In!

Most of the hospitality industry continues to struggle and if you think your economic conditions will change if Obama gets re-elected or Romney takes over, consider this.

Increased spending for health-care, proposed tax increases, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle unable to curb spending could send the economy into recession, according to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, if not over the precipice.

A look at today’s federal deficit clock shows that the outstanding public debt is $15,883,015,621,824.60 and continuing to grow by $3.9 billion each day.  Our individual debt share is a whopping $50,719.22.

At the State level, spending and public pensions are pushing finances to the brink of collapse and the drumbeat of the number of cities filing for bankruptcy grows louder every day.

And the effect on hotels?

According to a PwC report, occupancy will grow from 60.1 percent to 60.9 percent this year, ADR growth is projected at 5.1 percent, up 1.4 percent from the previous year, but RevPAR is growing more slowly from 2011-2012 than it did from the previous year.

We can agree or disagree with reports and projections as compiled by PwC, STR, PKF or anyone else you’d like to throw on the pile, things don’t look good now and for the foreseeable future unless things change at the Federal, State and local levels.

The longer it takes for our government officials to get on the same page, the longer we’ll remain in a holding pattern.

Let’s just hope the plane doesn’t run out of fuel.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.

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Time Management – How To Work Smarter Not Harder

In the world of business, no matter how successful one becomes, time is one thing that there is not enough of.

The majority of successful salespeople that I know and have worked with practice disciplined time management by spending the majority of their time on tasks that make them money andlittle time on things that are a waste of time.

In the field of sales, there is not enough time in the day to complete all the work that needs to be done and as a result, time management can be one of the keys to producing consistent results.

There are a few very clear and practical tactics that you can deploy to not only improve productivity, but to also help to decrease stress at the same time.

Here are a 11 tips that will help you to get a better picture of how you’ll have to manage your time in order to be successful in the world of sales.

  1. Plan your day before you leave your office or before you hit the sack.
  2. Block out the time from 8:00 AM through 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM through 5:00 PM to call prospective customers.
  3. You won’t waste your time when cold calling on Thursday.
  4. Don’t let anyone or anything distract you from these time tables.
  5. Have a plan “B” then return to plan “A” as soon as possible.
  6. Avoid the water cooler.  That’s what Happy Hour is for.
  7. Learn to say “No”, don’t over commit, and outsource when you can.
  8. If you must take a call during your sales time, limit it to two-minutes max.
  9. Check and send emails before 9:00 AM, between Noon and 1:00 PM, and after 5:00 PM.
  10. Write your To-do list on a pad of paper and prioritize your list down to the five most important tasks needed to be completed.  Find a software program as an alternative.
  11. Reevaluate your time management system regularly.

By applying the time management tips and skills in this chapter you can optimize your efforts to ensure that you concentrate as much of your time and energy as possible on the high payoff tasks. This ensures that you achieve the greatest benefit possible with the limited amount of time available to you.

Time Management is just one of the areas addressed in my new workshop for hotel Sales Managers – ‘Mapping the Course‘.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.


Filed under Sales Strategies, Sales Tips, Time management

The Key Ingredients Of A Successful Salesperson – Plan, Approach And Mind-set

As a salesperson, your goals are to become as personally and professionally successful as possible.

Successful salespeople have a true commitment to their company, products or services but more importantly, have an unwavering commitment first to their customers and then to themselves.

Here are some ideas that I want to share, and when put into practice, will help you to become a more successful salesperson.

Plan your day the night before -It is safe to assume that if you don’t plan your day the night before, then when you arrive at your office you’ll be more apt to spend “much of your time reacting instead of acting”, according to motivational author Jack Canfield.  You might be able to sleep better at night knowing that you have a plan in place and ready to go before you hit your desk.  More importantly, it will be much easier for you to avoid distractions that will keep you away from achieving your goals.

What to do with your day after you’ve planned it Seems like an easy answer but can you effectively manage your day if you can’t manage your time?  Time management is essential.  In the world of business, no matter how successful one becomes, time is one thing that there is not enough of.  All of the successful salespeople that I’ve worked with practiced disciplined time management and they spent the majority of their time on tasks that made them money and little time on things that were a waste of time.  (Next week I’ll address Time Management – How to Work Smarter Not Harder)

Research and read every day – The importance of reading and researching your market every day cannot be overstated.  I read the online version of my local newspaper, along with a handful of national new services, and I pay particular attention to each Business section. There are opportunities that present themselves in companies who both rise and fall and when you read between the lines, your product or service might provide a solution that’s at the right time and place.

Do your homework before you pick up the phone – Like reading daily, it is equally important to research the company and individual who you are about to speak with.  Thanks to Google, you can find out as much about a company, their products, services and the prospect you are about to speak with as you want and you just might uncover a clue or two that will help you to break the ice before moving to your sales pitch.

Conscious repetition – Do you use the same old cookie cutter opening statement every time you contact a prospect or do you mix and match your delivery to fit who you are calling? The oil and gas company your about to call has a much different corporate culture than does the medical instrument manufacturer who is next up in your call rotation.  Each prospective customer is a different animal so you need to tailor your message that speaks to their needs and not yours.

Are you in a “helping” or “selling” mode? – Most salespeople have adopted the principles of ‘sell’ and ‘close’ because that’s the way they’ve been trained.  When you approach a prospect over the phone or in person with this mind-set, there is a high probability that he will be able to sense your intentions. When he does, it won’t make any difference what you are selling and at what price point, you’ll be out the door as quickly as you came in.  Think of changing your thought process to “how can I help this guy” and see what a difference it makes in your close ratio.

Don’t look and sound like your competitors  Before you meet face-to-face with a prospective customer, you’ve uncovered some ‘buying signals’ that suggest your prospect is interested in learning more about your products and services.  Let’s assume that there will be other competitors that will be invited to the table vying for the same piece of business.  If all of you are pitching the same value propositions such as “We’re the biggest and best”, “We’ve been in business for 20 years”, “We’re the leaders in our space”, then your prospect has no other alternative than to choose one of you based upon price.  Avoid this situation at all costs!

Build relationships across the customer organization  If you want to get a leg up on your competition and close more sales you must develop a business relationship with both the decision-maker as well as others who the decision-maker is directly or indirectly connected with. Successful salespeople never are satisfied with just one point-of-contact within an organization and are continually look for ways to build relationships and credibility with other members of the network.

Endeavor to develop your business and personal skills  When was the last time you ran into Joe the sales ‘expert’? Joe has tons of experience and knows his product inside and out. In spite of this, many of the Joe’s of this world consistently underperform because they do nothing to expand their skill set or learn anything new. When was the last time you ran into a Joe who is now working for another company?  Joe “left” that company because he was passed over by a more successful salesperson who consistently sharpened his axe (business and personal skill set).

Following up with customers – Hotel salespeople are great at staying in touch during the sales process but virtually never ‘check in’ with a you after the sale is closed.  They’ll be happy to include you in an email blast (this is called a shot gun approach or ‘trolling for leads’) but can’t quite find the time to pick up the phone and ask you how your event went. Successful salespeople understand that the customer/salesperson relationship doesn’t end with the closing of the sale. Following up with customers will ensure a higher level of satisfaction, generate repeat business, and foster relationships that may turn into referrals.

Make one more sales call before you turn out the lights – We all have good call days and bad call days.  When you’ve heard your fill of “No thanks” then make it a point to make at least one more call or keep calling until you get a “Yes” before you call it a night.  It will do wonders for your psyche and may move you that much closer to making your quota.

And now a moment for a motivational quote or two.

  • If you are not taking care of your customer, your competitor will. – Bob Hooey
  • Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect. – William Clement Stone
  • Forget about the business outlook, be on the outlook for business. – Paul J. Meyer
  • You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise. – Patricia Fripp
  • A smart salesperson listens to emotions not facts. – Unknown

Plan, Approach, and Mind-set is just one of the areas addressed in my new workshop for hotel Sales Managers – ‘Mapping the Course‘.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.


Filed under Sales Strategies, Sales Tips

10 Tips To Help Make Networking Work For You

Last week I posted a story about networking on LinkedIn that surprisingly got a lot of attention because it focused on an idea that is often overlooked by many networkers and that is ‘mutual benefit’.

As I suggested, networking is not marketing, sales, or a numbers game.  It’s a relationship game where the objective is to help others get what they want before what you want.

So what is networking?

Networking is a social activity where groups of like-minded individuals come together to share information about themselves, their area of expertise, provide and receive business referrals to/from other members, and serve as a resource for others.

Business networking serves many purposes: sales, general marketing, recruiting, job-hunting, knowledge exchange, and business development and out of all of these, business development is the one that it supports best.

Meeting new people in person is one of the best ways to market yourself, your company, products, and services and it’s an environment where you’ll have the opportunity to expand your contact list, particularly when you meet someone that will be of benefit to one another.

So how do you make networking work for you?

  1. Choose the right group – You’ll want to find associations, conferences, and groups where your prospects meet.  If you work for a company that provides products and services to local individual business owners, you’ll want to find groups that are located in your immediate area.  I have a friend who’s in commercial real estate so he belongs to a group that mainly consists of builders and developers of industrial buildings and retail strip centers.  Think of geography, size, sector, social, political, trade, academic/technical, etc.  The more relevant your targeting of groups and contacts, the more fruitful your meetings and referrals will be.
  2. There’s always an opportunity to network – Almost any person that you meet, whether it be a member of your networking group or the person in line with you at Starbucks, has the potential to become an opportunity to work with in the future or introduce you to someone who could make a difference in your career.
  3. Understand the difference between networking and prospecting – Don’t view someone you meet at a networking function as a prospect but someone you’re attempting to build a relationship with.  Ian Blei draws this simple distinction between the two.  “Networking is a part of your overall Marketing Strategy, which obviously includes many other facets. Prospecting is a part of your overall Sales Strategy, also including many other facets. They’re not interchangeable at all.”
  4. It’s about quality, not quantity – It’s important that you make quality contacts and to focus your attention on connecting with individuals who you’d like to work with and help out in the future.  I worked with a guy who thought that coming back to the office with the most business cards was more important than establishing a connection with others at networking functions.  He quickly earned a bad reputation and function attendees avoided him like the plague.
  5. Volunteer – Look for opportunities to volunteer on a committee or, even better, start your own committee that will benefit the members of your group or start a “group” of your own on a social network like LinkedIn that is specific to your industry or area of expertise.
  6. Make a great first impression – Once you’ve decided to approach a group member you’ll want to ask them what they do for a living before you talk about yourself and your company.  Eventually the conversation will turn to you and what you do for a living.  This is where your response, your “elevator pitch”, should be short and simple and contain enough information where the member requests more information about you.  If you’re in hotel sales it could be something like “I put heads in beds”.  Short and creative tag lines will make a great first impression.  From this point you can expand your pitch to include additional details that will provide “value” to whom you are speaking with.
  7. Be different – What separates you from the rest of the members and attendees at the networking function?  The “difference” must be something appealing that others will find interesting.  If you can’t come up with a twist then find someone who has created some sort of spark when you first met and work it into your own “difference”.
  8. It’s better to give than receive – Make sure that you think of others  first (mutual benefit) before you think of yourself.  If you are perceived as a “giver” and not a “taker” you’ll quickly become a trusted resource to others.  Good deeds attract others and that’s one of the keys to successful networking.  The referrals will come…be patient.
  9. Make sure to follow up – You have a card that has all the information that you’ll need to conduct additional research, if necessary, but what’s more important, to follow up with the member in a timely fashion (the day after you made the connection).  Send an email thanking him/her for their time, include a reference about your conversation or a remark that was made, then ask permission to continue to stay in touch.  If you receive an email response to your original correspondence make sure you keep it in an accessible file or database so you can continue to expand the business relationship.
  10. Social Networks – The four social networks that you should include in your networking arsenal are LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Blogging.  There are a number of like-minded groups on LinkedIn that you can join and as a member of the group make sure you contribute on a regular basis.  Twitter can connect you with followers who you can share your knowledge and insight with, even if it’s only 140 characters.  If you’re in sales, you can create a video of your pitch or industry insight and post it on YouTube.  Lastly, if you like to write there’s no better place to separate yourself from your competition than through your own blog.

You network to meet people, both online and offline, so that you can build relationships, provide assistance, receive referrals, and generate new business. Whatever networking avenues you choose, make the most of them.

Is networking working for you?  What other tips would you like to include?

Here are other articles about networking that may be helpful!

Networking is just one of the areas addressed in my new workshop for hotel Sales Managers – ‘Mapping the Course‘.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.


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Filed under hospitality news, hotel blogs, LinkedIn, Networking, Sales Tips, Twitter