lead generation campaigns for meetings industry suppliers such as hotels and DMOs, I often field calls from prospective clients who are experiencing a business slump.
Unfortunately, the slump is often a looming, immediate crisis: We need business in the second quarter! (And the call comes in from the hotel at the end of February). Next year is way behind pace! (And the CVB calls me half-way through the summer).
I realize often we are their solution of last resort. But it's difficult to really make the needle moves in the very short term.
So if the business slump is on your horizon, how can you prevent having to press the panic button? Here are my three Rs to recover your sales:
Reactivate: contacting past clients, refused business and lost business is often the first thing hotel director of sales will direct his/her sales managers to do. But what about past prospects? People who never gave you an RFP or a piece of business, but at some point in time expressed interest in your property? Are they still there? When was last time you contacted them? If there has been no contact in the last 18 months, re-activate the conversation! That’s right call them. They expressed interest in the past, there's a bit of history, so this is not a cold call. Admittedly, older data maybe a waste of your time. But if you don't try you don't get it.
Referrals: So perhaps existing clients and prospects don’t have business for your right now but why not ask them about their friends or colleagues? Asking for referrals is one of the easiest ways to extend the reach of your database. But don't limit it just to your client database.
Ask for referrals from your staff. You'd be surprised to find out that the part-time front desk agent has a father who is a senior executive at a corporation that can bring you a series of training groups. Or that housekeeper who always says hello when you pass her in the hallway is a member of a church group looking for space for their monthly revival.
Ask your suppliers. The food distributor, the audiovisual rental rep, and the linen company all have an interest in seeing you and your hotel succeed. Have you asked them if they have business or know of organizations that do?
Roam the neighborhood: whenever I go back to Toronto, my old haunt from my Sutton Place days, I am amazed at the growth of new neighborhood, with new businesses springing up everywhere. The same goes for when I drive to Montréal. I always see different logos of companies that I never knew existed. When was the last time that you and your team walked or drove around your hotel’s vicinity? Are there new businesses in surrounding buildings? This is a great source of new prospects.
By the way all of the above don't apply just to hotels. Convention and visitors bureaus and their reps would do well to look at their processes for exactly the same reason. Especially "roaming the neighborhood" for local businesses that can bring them more short-term groups.
One example is the user group conference I attended last October in Atlanta. The corporate planner was someone with little meeting planning experience, and she had no idea she could have had help from her DMO to find hotel space and organize off-site activities. I'm sure the Atlanta bureau would have loved to have heard from her! They likely don't even know that this little computer company, who has recently merged with a much larger entity, is bringing their city 300 to 400 delegates for three days in October.
We hope the above 3Rs will help spur even more creative ideas on how to overcome a slowdown in your business. And if you need any help with data cleansing or lead generation, we’d naturally love to help.
But the best way to prevent a slump? Always be prospecting, as my sales coach Colleen Francis would say. And these days this means implementing an inbound marketing process for your organization. Stay tuned for next week's installment on what this could mean for your hotel or CVB.