Author Archives: Groups International

Real Working Hours

railway-station-clock

We live in an hour-centric society. Everything is measured in units of time – children go to school to learn for a certain number of hours. Millions of people are employed on a per-hour basis. Professionals show up for work for a set number of hours. And when asked how to produce results, the default is to “put in more hours”.

No one is immune to this – it’s the default mindset that modern-day society has instilled in us. Working professionals stuck in a 9-5 are the obvious example. Less obvious, are the freelancers who charge per-hour for their services. Even amongst the lifestyle designers and work-from-home crowd, it’s usually all about the number of hours they put into their business. For some reason, people feel obligated to put in the maximum number of hours possible – even if it’s to their detriment.

Hours are a Bad Measure of Results

Truth time: the number of hours we put into something has no correlation to the amount of work actually done, or the amount of “value” produced by that work. It is entirely possible to spend 40 hours on something and not produce anything that achieves your outcomes (email comes to mind here), or spend an inspired 5 minutes and produce a work of brilliance.

One of the most important productivity concepts is the idea of separating outcomes from output. You want to mentally decouple output (hours) from outcomes (things actually done).

If you work 9-5 in an office, it doesn’t mean that you’re sitting there working for 8 hours straight. You have your lunch break, meetings to attend, time on the phone, time on email, time discussing things with your team… and all the other things that magically turn what should be 8 hours of work into maybe 1-2 “real” hours of work.

This equally applies to those of us who work from home. We have gym time, picking up the kids from school, breaks for lunch, breaks to run personal errands and social activities to attend. And because of the “flexibility” we give ourselves as a result of working from home, these distractions are more common than in an office.

The question is – what can we do to minimize the impact of all this on our productivity?

Get the Most For Your Time

The solution is to focus instead on our outcomes, and to maximize the results of actual work time.

For example, it is better to work at 100% for 4 hours than at 10% for 8.

The way to achieve this 100% is to create a segment of hours where you are able to work uninterrupted, with all the tools and resources you need, and completely focussed on the task at hand. Basically, you want an intense work session where things get done without excuse or unnecessary delay.

Here are two techniques for achieving this.

1. The Silent Cockpit

Silent Cockpit

We’ve talked about this concept before. The Silent Cockpit is a concept from aviation where the takeoff sequence below 10,000ft in an airplane is done in silence – nothing is permitted to interrupt the pilots during this time.

In the context of knowledge work, this means setting aside 1-3 hours for yourself either very early in the morning or very late at night (when the possibility of external distractions and interruptions drops drastically) and working on your most important task(s). The key is to do this when no one else is up and about and you aren’t going to be interrupted.

A lot of writers and bloggers use this technique to write for an hour as the first thing they do every day – ideas are freshest in their mind, and they haven’t started to accumulate other thoughts yet, so creativity comes easily.

2. Better Energy Management

Physical Energy Yoga

Physical energy is the foundation of everything we do (read The Power of Full Engagement for why or watch this video). Simply put, the more energy we have, the “harder” we can work when we need to. In the context of knowledge work, it is more important to be able to sprint than to run a marathon. This is because of schedules and interruptions – no one today can go through an 8-hour marathon of work without at least one interruption, so it is better to be able to sprint for the 20 minutes, 40 minutes or an hour before we are inevitably interrupted.

How do we optimize our physical energy for work? By simply getting our general health in order. This means sorting out your nutrition, your exercise regimen, and getting enough sleep. Thanh and I actually fall on different ends of the spectrum when it comes to nutrition and exercise philosophies – he loves eating raw, vegetarian foods and doing cross-functional training. I love eating red meat, minimizing grains and lifting barbells. Both approaches work for us in terms of optimizing physical energy for work. Instead of debating the (theoretical) merits of a given diet, nutritional or exercise philosophy, the best thing to do is to pick an approach that you are comfortable with and test it out – then you can re-evaluate based on results.

Focus on Outcomes

The number of hours you put into a task or activity don’t really matter. Instead of tracking your day by hours, track it by outcomes instead. Concepts like Agile Result’s Rule of 3 really do work. Simply put, pick the things that you want to get done and focus in on them intensely until they are done. If you find that it takes you less time than you thought, congratulate yourself, take a break, and then if you have the energy left, pick some more outcomes to work on.

This is a huge inner game shift that most people have trouble implementing. The key is to really let go of the need to measure things by hours – in terms of real world results, it really doesn’t matter.

If you’re an OmniFocus Premium Posts customer, have another read of the bonus PDF on Organizing Principles – that goes into this concept much, much deeper.

Next Action

  • Recognize that 8 hours in an office isn’t necessarily as productive as 4 or 14 hours at home.
  • Make the most of the hours you put in: silent cockpit and energy management.
  • Make the inner game distinction of outcomes over output.

This article is courtesy of Asian Efficiency and you can view the original article here.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels and their sales managers grow their business and generate more revenue.

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10 Sales Tips, Strategies And Other Nuggets For Sales Professionals

Resources

It’s Friday so I thought it would be a good idea to gather some of the articles that I have read this week and shared them with you.  I hope you enjoy them and that you will take some of the author’s wisdom and successfully apply it next week.  Enjoy!

The One Skill You Need In Appointment Setting – Sales skills – this is the one skill that you will need in order to be more effective in appointment setting. This does not necessarily mean the skill to make your prospect buy anything from you, but more along the lines of them needing something from you. If you have good sales skills, it becomes easier for you to deal generate B2B leads. And this is not something that only your sales and marketing team should have.
Read more

How to Keep Your Sales Team Motivated to Succeed – If you work in sales long enough, you’ll eventually have a bad day where you just want to throw in the towel. Over the last few years, I’ve seen many good days and a few bad. One thing I’ve noticed is that depending on the organization; the number of bad days is often directly related to your manager. Read more

Twelve Common Words That Are Costing You Sales – The right words can help us make the sale, while the wrong words can blow it for us. The challenge is, often what we think are the right words are actually the wrong words. Read more

Attack Your Sales Pitch with Tips from The Shark Tank – Developing a sales pitch is both complex and time consuming. What may work for some buyers might not be right for others. Time is money and whether you’re selling a product, service, or a full solution, you need to captivate your audience immediately. Read more

The Social Era Demands Social Selling is a new ebook outlining how sales organizations can leverage social networks to grow business. Shifting the conversation from social marketing to social selling, the ebook explains how salespeople can attract prospects, retain customers, and grow business in the social era. Download the FREE e-here

The Shadow Problems Behind the Problem in Sales – The obvious problem in sales is the first one that comes out during that initial first contact or within the more formal fact finding meeting. And much of the marketing is geared to those plentiful small business problems.Sales Training Coaching Tip:  99.1% of all businesses worldwide have under 100 employees so most firms are small businesses. Read more

The Five Golden Rules of Customer Experience – “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” It’s a rule most of us learned early in life, probably from a parent or teacher trying to resolve a playground squabble. Few would disagree that this maxim is a basic tenant for human decency, no matter how old you are or what conflict you’re facing.
Read more

Why Selling is About Service NOT Sales – If you think success in sales comes down to the product or ideas you offer, you’re wrong. Read more

If You’re Talking, You’re Not Selling – Good sales people talk less. Poorly performing sales people talk more. But the level at which this occurred was very striking. The poor performers used about 7 words for every word the customer spoke. For good performers it was almost the reverse–they only used about one word for every 7 words spoken by the customer! Read more

Networking – How Well Do You Know Them? – It is often said that it is not who you know that matters, it is who knows you. Well I would like to extend this statement by saying that it is not only who you know and who knows you, but how well do you know them and they you? Read more

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels and their sales managers grow their business and generate more revenue.

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TimeTrade – An Appointment Scheduling Solution To Help Your Business Grow

TimeTrade

TimeTrade

I am always looking for ways to help you to become more productive and to manage your time more efficiently and effectively and I stumbled upon an online solution while reading an article about networking that can do just that.

It’s TimeTrade, an online appointment scheduling tool for business, that I invite you to take a look at.

It’s always a challenge to arrange appointments with your prospects but in sales, trying to get together with a prospect invariably means spending a great deal of time emailing or calling a prospect over a certain period of time.

Here are some cold hard appointment setting facts.

Out of say 100 prospects only three will agree to an appointment.  It will take you approximately two to 10 calls and/or emails and up to three months of calling and leaving voicemail messages BEFORE the three will agree to meet with you.

That’s a lot of time!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could provide your prospects with a way to make an appointment that is based upon both of your schedules?

That’s where TimeTrade comes in.

To get started with TimeTrade, you can sign up for a thirty-day free trial and select a “Professional” account for yourself or a “Workgroup” account if there are more associates who will be using the solution.  For this exercise I will review the Professional account and how it works.

After you have provided some basic contact information, you are ready to create an email through TimeTrade that you can send to one or a number of prospects. TimeTrade provides tutorial videos that can help shorten your learning curve and after you have viewed them you will have a pretty good idea of how the system works.

Your Dashboard

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 12.28.02 PMHere is a snapshot of your dashboard where you can send an email invitation, configure your personal information, appointment rules and connect your calendar with Outlook, iCal and Google calendar and a Help section that includes support forums, support topics and general information.

Step #1 – Sending an Email Invitation

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 12.36.13 PM

Click on the Send an Email Invitation button and you will be redirected to the purpose for your email invitation.  In the drop down menu you can select a number of options that describe the purpose of your invitation.  There are several options to choose from but basically you can invite your prospect to join you in a telephone conversation or a face-to-face meeting.  For this invitation I will use the phone call option to let the prospect know that I am following up with him based upon a previous conversations about one of my training workshop that we discussed last month.  I enter a description based upon the above and click the “Next” button at the bottom of the page.

Step #2 – Compose an Email Invitation

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 12.43.00 PM

In the Send To field you can type or cut and paste up to 40 email addresses. Since one of your objectives is to get the recipient to connect and make an appointment with you make sure that you have enough time blocked out in your calendar if you elect to send emails to a number of different recipients.  Keep in mind that if for some reason you are not available or can not handle a flood of responses, you could potentially lose a prospect.

In the Subject field simply type in the subject matter behind this email.  It could be anything from a follow up on to a recent email campaign or to discuss a prospect’s site for their next meeting or event.  Whatever the subject matter, make it compelling so the recipient will open your email.  Here are four email fails that you should avoid.

In the upper right-hand corner choose the duration of your call or meeting from the drop down menu, provide the day(s) and time(s) that you are available, and choose the additional options as provided in the the options field.  When you are finished with these five steps and have composed your message, click the send button.

Once you have sent the email you will be redirected to an activity page that will show you the results of your email invitation, when it was sent and which recipients have or have not replied to your invitation.

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 1.18.58 PM

There are other appointment scheduling tools that are available such as Genbook, FullSlate, Acuity Scheduling, BookFresh and Appointron that also may be viable options to help you to better manage your appointment scheduling needs.

What appointment scheduling tools are you currently using?  Are they providing you with the type of client engagement that you anticipated?  Feel free to add your thoughts!

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels and their sales managers grow their business and generate more revenue.

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Filed under Email marketing, Technology solutions, Time management

“Sight Beyond Sight” – Guest Experience Analysis The Secret Weapon For Hotels

A few days ago in the office we were talking about what competitive advantage means for hotels, when someone said that in today’s market hotels need “sight beyond sight”. In our team we are all children of the eighties so we immediately recognized the reference to the Thundercats.

sword of omenThe Thundercats had something called the sword of omens that allowed them to see things the naked eye couldn’t detect. That was their competitive advantage. Time and time again they’d win the battle because of the insight the sword had given them.

All hotel managers could do with a sword like that, right? Well actually, hotel managers can get sight beyond sight if they want it. But I’ll get back to that (and the Thundercats) later. First, I want to consider how the competitive advantage for hotels has evolved, using the year 2000 as a point of reference for comparison. Why 2000? Because that was when TripAdvisor was founded.

The Secret to Success before 2000

In the pre-TripAdvisor world, guests had less information available to them to differentiate one hotel from another, so booking decisions were often made on the basis of the following three factors:

Star rating;

Brand; and

Travel agent recommendation.

People chose hotels based on the star rating, or the brand, because, in the absence of any better information, those factors at least gave them a general idea of what to expect. Or they chose the hotels their travel agent was familiar with, or was pushing. Guests had to put their trust in stars, brand names and travel agent recommendations because they had little else to go on.

So if we were to summarize competitive advantage in the pre-TripAdvisor years it would be “Prestige + Positioning = Success”.

But then TripAdvisor came along and all that changed.

The world begins to change

The dynamic of the industry had already started to shift, but with Tripadvisor’s introduction of mass user-generated content, the factors on which guests had previously based their decisions (and the factors that gave hotels their competitive advantage) started to pale in significance.

People rarely think about a hotel’s star rating anymore. Now they define hotels in terms of the experience that the hotel offers. For example, is it a boutique, country, adventure, eco, luxury, business or budget hotel?

Brands remain relevant, particularly in the corporate market, for travelers seeking a consistent experience across the world (be it Beijing, Bogotá or Bristol). But guests no longer choose brands because the experience at non-branded hotels is unknown. With all the information now available, tourists can get a good idea of what experience they can expect in any hotel, pretty much anywhere.

Finally, travel agents (be that the traditional model or online) remain an important means of accessing clients, and facilitating the transactions with them, but they are not a differentiator for guests when making their booking decisions.

Information – the new differentiator

So, if those factors no longer provide the key to success, then what does? Information. It’s the information that’s available to guests that will set hotels apart from the competition.

If a guest is trying to pick a hotel, they will probably make their decision based on what they see online. Hotels can do a lot to help themselves. They can, and should, make interesting content available on their website and on social media sites.

But no matter how much content the hotel creates, there’s no escaping the fact that it is now the guests who create much of the publicly available information about a hotel. And that’s just the kind of information that influences other prospective guests when making booking decisions. A 2012 Deloitte survey found that over half of guests read reviews before booking.

So what’s a hotel to do? They can take back some of the control of the message by responding to reviews. But smart hotels will know that the best way, in fact the only way, to influence what guests say is to give guests the experience they want at an appropriate price. (Because no matter how good the experience is, if it isn’t in line with the price paid guests won’t not be content.)

A Sword of Omens for Hotel Managers

So, and here’s where we get back to the Thundercats, hotels need to have “sight beyond sight”. They need to see what’s behind those reviews. Monitoring the reviews will give hotels an idea of guest sentiment, whether they’re happy or not, and some clues as to why. But it won’t give hotels the kind of deep insight they need to ensure that going forward they’ll have satisfied guests who will rave about their hotel to others.

Why not? Because satisfaction is made up of a mixture of perception and expectation. To understand exactly why guests are satisfied or not, you need to know whether the perceived quality of the experience matched the guests’ expectations (both in terms of what experience they were looking for and what experience they expected for the price paid).

To have that kind of insight, hotels need to take an intelligent approach to collating and analyzing guest feedback. They need to know what’s important to guests, and also whether the experience they’re offering guests is in line with the price paid. Simply aggregating ticks on pieces of paper won’t cut it.

Like the lovechild of Stephen Hawking and Heidi Klum

To conclude, I’ll return to another TV show that is discussed often at Hotel Trail HQ – the Big Bang Theory. If you’re not  familiar The Big Bangwith it (and if you aren’t where have you been for the past five years?), it’s a show about a group of genius scientists and their attractive, but somewhat less intelligent neighbor, Penny.

In one episode, one of the scientists, Leonard, speculates about what his and Penny’s children might be like. He imagines they’d have his intelligence and her good looks. Well, to have a real competitive advantage, that’s what hotels need to be like. Inside, they need to take an intelligent, analytical approach to the information they gather about the guest experience and, on the outside, they need to make sure that the experience is as attractive as possible to potential guests. When a hotel does that, it will certainly stand out from the crowd.

Caroline Doughtery

Guest contributor, Caroline Doherty, is Director of Marketing and co-founder of Hotel Trail (www.hoteltrail.com). Hotel Trail provides hotels with a simple, affordable and intelligent turnkey solution to monitor and improve guest satisfaction.

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The Importance Of Follow Up – A “No” Strategy That Can Lead To A “Yes”

businessman-saying-yes-ID-100105082I read “Why 8% of sales people get 80% of the sales” written by Robert Clay with Marketing Wizdom that emphasizes the importance of follow up.

As a sales manager, you are tasked with contacting prospects on a daily basis in an attempt to educate them on the value proposition that your hotel has to offer but did you know that studies reveal that only two percent of sales occur when two parties meet in person or over the phone for the first time?

The two percent that are in a position to book your hotel have already conducted some prior research and already know what they are looking for.  One would assume that research included your hotel’s location, your brand, amenities and other identifiers that were made available through your hotel’s website.

That means that 98 percent of the prospects you meet or contact for the first time are not in a position to say “Yes” and will only book once a certain level of trust has been established by you.

Anyone who believes they can go into a sales situation armed with “101 sure fire sales closes” and make sales is seriously misinformed … and about 20 years behind the times. Professional sales people get to know their prospects; understand their issues; solve their prospect’s problems; and provide irrefutable proof. They build relationships and trust by engaging in on-going dialogue (otherwise known as follow-up). They don’t just peddle their products and services with an armoury of closing tricks.”

There are a variety of reasons why a prospect isn’t in a position to pull the trigger at your hotel and that’s OK because there are just psychological and transactional realities you must become aware of and recognize.  For these reasons, your follow up is key to your success in eventually winning over the prospect.

According to Clay, “Research shows, amazingly, that only 20 percent of sales leads are ever followed up … in other words 80% of potential opportunities are lost without trace simply due to lack of follow up.”

If you want to change that, read on.

Here are some stats that should open your eyes as to the importance of follow up.

  • 44 percent of sales people give up after one “No”
  • 22 percent give up after two “No’s”
  • 14 percent give up after three “No’s”
  • 12 percent give up after four “No’s”

Simply put, 92 percent of sales people throw in the towel after being rejected four times and only eight percent of sales people put themselves in a position to ask for the order a fifth time.

That means that eight percent of the sales people are getting 80 percent of the sales.

Consider developing a “No” strategy

Think of it this way.  If you contact a prospect on five different occasions, he will most likely say “No” four out of five times so if you design a strategy that includes a fifth contact at some point in time you will have a better chance in either solidifying your relationship and/or potentially booking business in the future.

Where are your “No’s” and how can you begin to transition them into a “Yes”?

How many leads come to your hotel direct, via an eRFP channel or through another source?  When you can’t place the business in your hotel for whatever reason, what happens with that lead?

The first place you need to look is in your hotel’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Once you have identified those who said “No”, you will need to develop what Clay calls a ‘Five No’s’ strategy that will help to put you in a better position to convert that prospect over a period between nine and twelve months.

If you struck out once, the idea is that you will have to contact that prospect over the suggested timeframe four more times.

Your contact strategy should include a compilation of telephone, email, handwritten note, and an invitation to visit your hotel for breakfast/lunch/dinner/site inspection/FAM trip (whatever the budget will allow).

First, send a compelling email that contains a personal message from you and a call to action that is designed to produce a response.  Before you construct your email, read about these 4 Email Fails That Hotel Sales Managers Must Avoid.

Example:

Hi Bill,

This is Mary Jones from the ABC Hotel.  

We were unsuccessful in placing your annual business meeting at our hotel and would welcome the opportunity to work with you again in the future.

The ABC Hotel has (insert your value proposition here).

I will follow up with you again in the near future but in the meantime, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

PS (insert a call to action here)

Mary Jones

Follow up the email with a personal call and make sure that you have something of value to discuss with the prospect other than just calling to check in.  If you follow the prospect, on say LinkedIn, you can glean something from his profile or his company’s page that can spark an intelligent conversation.

Feel free to leave a voicemail message that refers back to your previous email along with a call to action at the end of your message.

Follow up your call within 30 days with a handwritten note and another call to action.

Follow up your call with an email or other form of communication and invite the prospect to personally visit your hotel using any of the suggestions referred to above.

Your turn.  What other strategies would you include in this campaign?

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels and their sales managers grow their business and generate more revenue.

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Filed under Best practices, hotel strategies, Sales Strategies, Sales Tips

The Characteristics Of A Good Leader

I asked members of various groups on LinkedIn to share their thoughts on what they believe are the “Characteristics of a Good Leader?”  Here are the results.

Regulthafus Andrikus A good leader has an exemplary character, excited about their work, confident, tolerant of ambiguity and remain calm, composed and steadfast to the main purpose, keeping the main goal in focus, is able to think analytically and committed to excellence.

Ken Vincent I believe, Tom, that in the purest sense and definition management and leadership can be separated. However, I’ve never known a good GM that didn’t have some leadership talent too. Of course, one can manage the mechanical tasks of being a manager without being a leader but to me that is not management in the full sense. Managing a hotel, or company, is more about managing the people than the paper and that takes leadership. One can learn the mechanics of waiting tables too, but that doesn’t make him/her a good waiter.

Nic Marks Facilitative, autonomy-supportive, listening, clear, consistent, human, humane, positive.

Create the conditions for a happy high performing team/organization and the rest will take care of itself … too many images of “heroic” leaders for me … Tony Hseih of Zappos.com says a leader should be like a gardener – not an action hero.

Kapil Notra To me, a leader has the following 2 distinguished qualities:
1. Ability to create more leaders
2. Ability to take decisions

Ronald Rocha Good, I would like to include also:
1 – Server
2 – Share responsibilities and victories
3 – A leader IS and do not need a JOB Position to STAY as a Leader.

Nandakumar R Should have Integrity, be supportive to his subordinates and stand by them.

Suzy Aya Honesty, respect and good communication

Tom Taylor All of these are great characteristics and we could fill a book with words/descriptions that describe leaders. But, in my opinion, the one most significant characteristic of great leaders is their ability to get others to “take action”. Talk is cheap, but action is fundamental to organizational success. If we study the best of the best, they have this incredible ability to get others moving, taking action and achieving goals/objectives. These are not titled managerial positions, but incredible shakers and bakers – leaders of people. I am so amazed how great leaders impact others and help their organization become “best in class” in their industries. Just my opinion after studying great leaders for 35+ years.

Tom Sand I like what Tom has presented. I would add:
Strategy Development – Determining business direction in a changing environment and setting the course to achieve competitive advantage.
Financial Management – Making business decisions that result in meeting business unit profit objectives and increase value to shareholders.
Stakeholder Management – Building and maintaining the working relationships and communications required to achieve business goals.
Transformative Leadership – Creating an environment that enables change and brings out the talent and commitment of employees.
Human Resource Management – Ensuring the availability of a diverse workforce that has the knowledge and skills to perform in changing, competitive environment.
Operations Management – Producing products and delivering service to meet or exceed customer expectations at a reasonable cost.
Project Management – Accomplishing large-scale projects in a timely manner to produce desired business results.
Managing Personal Growth – Continually learning and growing through self-awareness and focusing on personal life goals.

Jeff Golden I would add social and emotional intelligence and multiple ways to communicate ideas.

Bruce “Brew” Harrell Courage, loyalty, knowledge, effective communication skills, emotional intelligence, confidence, willing to listen, solution oriented, ability to develop and communicate effective vision, action oriented! In the USMC we used to summarize leadership this way: 1. Never, eat, sleep, or drink before your Marines do! 2. Never ask them to do anything you cannot or will not do! 3. ALWAYS lead from the front! 4. Treat them with RESPECT! 5. Be fair……..NOT a bad leadership summary, at all, and it works in business! OH yeah, don’t forget endurance! Great leaders get there early and leave late!

Chris Irish •Listening to differing views and then making a decision and accepting responsibility.  Trustworthy, they follow through and offer transparency to those they work with and for.

What would you like to add?

Tom Costello is the President and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a hotel consulting and sales training company that helps hotel owners and their sales teams grow their business and generate more sales.

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How Can Hotels Reach Out To The New Breed Of Transactional Web Users To Impact Their Wedding Revenues?

1876-mediumBenjamin Franklin once famously said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” But, unless you are a tax accountant or a funeral director, how do you grow your business in challenging economic times?

Weddings are what I like to think of as a recession-proof life event.  Even in times of economic struggle, people continue to tie the knot; albeit perhaps in a smaller, less lavish way. Idealistic young couples still want to show the world that they are in love and, with the increase in divorce rates, second time (even third time) weddings are increasing year on year.  Civil partnerships are now firmly on the map and the rise of the “pink pound” when it comes to weddings has been well documented.

A drop in corporate bookings due to the current economic circumstances has led hoteliers to look to weddings to supplement their C&B business.  But in an increasingly competitive marketplace, how are hoteliers reaching out to newly engaged couples?  And, more importantly, how are they converting these couples into wedding revenue on the books?

User behavior online is changing as the web has moved from simply an information resource to a place where we transact daily.  We purchase flights, book hotel bedroom accommodation, shop and pay bills online every day.  According to the UK Internet Advertising Bureau, the Hospitality & Travel industry is a leading adopter of digital marketing, accounting for 10% of the entire digital advertising spend in the UK during the first 6 months of 2012.

In the realm of weddings, a recent survey we conducted suggests that 90% of couples will go online and google wedding related terms before they ever set foot in the door of a hotel.  Yes, they are researching online, but how about going further? We know that over 60% of couples set a wedding date before they decide on a venue.  How can hotels better leverage their digital marketing experience in bedroom bookings to grow their business in the niche and sometimes more complex wedding vertical?

WeddingDates is an Irish-based software company that has “married” the transactional nature of the web with the demands of the 21st century couple.  We provide hotels with software that allows couples to check availability for their chosen wedding date online.   This cleverly designed application makes it easier for couples to “transact” on hotel websites and to submit enquiries more easily via an interactive calendar tool.  The enquiries that come via the calendar are for dates that the hotel has available to sell and thus are more qualified, more targeted, more valuable, leads.

Our hotel customers are reaping the benefits.  Conversion rates of 10% are not uncommon and we give hotels the ability to track and measure the impact of the software very quickly and see the additional revenues hit the bottom line.  For one 5 star hotel, our software generated 276 leads which led to 30 converted wedding bookings and revenue of €900,000 in a single calendar year.

While hotel websites have been thoroughly optimized for bedroom booking conversion, when a user goes to a weddings or events page on a hotel website, that’s usually where the interactivity stops.  Some photos, marketing text and maybe a download brochure link is what faces a bride (or groom!) when planning the happiest day of their life – not exactly an inspiring start!  Online enquiry forms have a tendency to be way too lengthy and generic (many use the same form for meetings and conferences as they do weddings and events) I don’t know about you, but I have never been a “delegate” at a wedding!

Hotels need to realize that wedding bookers want to be communicated to in a different way than corporate bookers and tailor their website accordingly.  With increased choice in the marketplace, an alternative venue is only a click away.  While you may have a stunning wedding property, we consistently hear back from brides who say the major influencer in their decision was the ease of communication with the venue or the staff member that gave them the show around.

For hotels where weddings are a key part of the revenue mix, even a slight uplift in the number of weddings per year can make a big difference.  WeddingDates customers report a 20% increase in enquiries and an improvement in enquiry quality, when they install our software on their websites. And in economically-challenging times, a 20% uplift in revenues can have a major impact on keeping the wolf from the door.

NDawe_Ciara_Crossan_120111_0029_CROPGuest contributor, Ciara Crossan, is the Founder and CEO of WeddingDates a software company that assists venues increase their wedding revenue by filling unsold inventory.  Operating with top venues across Ireland  and the UK, WeddingDates system provides real time revenue reporting and competitive benchmarking for their sector.  WeddingDates has won Best Online PR in 2011 in the Irish Social Media Awards and Ciara has been shortlisted for the UK based Women 1st SHINE Awards in the category of Outstanding Entrepreneur in June 2013.

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