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Capture the Group Market

When marketing to the lucrative group, meeting, and conference markets within the greater travel industry, it is paramount that you cater to the needs and preferences of the professional meeting planners. These are the individuals who need to be convinced, and they are generally very busy. Therefore, whatever information they are presented needs to be fluid and transparent. Most planners are very focused on an RFP (Request For Proposal) process that quickly assembles the correct information, and government planners are required to follow an especially systematic process with a strict bid system. If you make this process difficult for planners, you will lose very valuable group bookings to your competition.

Consider the following points in securing both small and large group reservations and establishing or strengthening an exceedingly profitable facet of your business.

Rate Haggle


Don’t engage in this. You will lose. Simply give the best available, bottom-line price up front and let the chips fall where they may. Also, be sure to tell planners up front about any hidden costs or fees to avoid billing and/or budget issues down the road. The planner is almost certainly in dialog with a number of different hotels and resorts. If you turn establishing rates into a difficult process, the planner will assume further trouble down the road. They will take their business elsewhere. Don’t haggle.

Complete RFP’s


Always complete RFP’s in their entirety to avoid creating extra work for the time impoverished planner. Do not leave holes in this process or offer unclear information that will require a call back. You may never get one.

Be Honest


Always be upfront about any potential inconveniences such as construction, remodeling, etc. Sell room capacity accurately. Dishonesty in this regard may lead to winning the bid, but you will ruin your chance for return business and will earn a negative referral. In short, don’t oversell and under deliver.

Communicate


Be certain that communication flows freely and accurately and that the appropriate staff is available to the planner when they are on site. Be sure to immediately communicate any changes that occur that may affect the group negatively or positively. Poor communication is a nightmare for a professional planner and will hurt your chances of winning the bid or earning return business.

Educate


Do extra research on the group. Review their website, mission, vision, etc. Enquire about the company or organization culture. If it is a government group, take care in understanding the bid system. Most importantly, ensure that all staff is educated about the group in order to improve service and promote recognition and gratitude. Your efforts will not go overlooked and your service will be recognized as going above and beyond expectation.

Sell Your Region


For many meeting and conference groups, the trip is also a pseudo vacation in which members will often bring spouses and even children along. Cater to this fact. Don’t just sell your property; sell your entire region. Provide information to the planner about local activities, restaurants, entertainment, and site-seeing opportunities. Also consider starting spouse programs and child care options as these services could very well be the tipping point in securing lucrative reservations and solidifying a substantial share of the group market in your region.

Many of these suggestions seem obvious and even fundamental. However, focus sessions conducted with numerous professional planners, each with 10+ year’s experience, concluded the contrary. Time and again these individuals run into the same problems and hurdles when attempting to plan and book a meeting, conference, or retreat. Make the process easy, give them what they want, and you will stand apart from the crowd. And standing apart is, generally, a very profitable thing to do.

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Sell Your Region

Every vacation begins with a mental image of warm sandy beaches, snow capped mountains, bright city lights, or the rolling hills of wine country. Each vacation starts with the dream of a destination. It is a destination, or rather the impression of a destination, that people are seeking as they plan their much needed escape. In general, it is not the lodging that travelers are drawn to, but the region in which the lodging exists. No one goes to New York City to stay at a hotel; they stay at a Hotel while they visit New York City. In trying to draw guests it is paramount to align yourself with the region in which you are located. You need to sell your accommodations by selling your locale. This can be done by considering the following tips.

Describe Your Surroundings


Although your website should certainly describe accommodations and amenities with great clarity, it should also be resource for describing the surrounding area. The fact that you just painted the walls and purchased new sheets may be a source of pride for you, but website visitors just simply don’t care. They want to read about the great restaurant next door, the beaches around the corner, majestic views from the balcony, and how quaint and unique the local shops are. Your site should eloquently describe, and have relevant links, to these surrounding businesses and activities. Give website visitor’s what they want and you will be successful.

Partner with Local Businesses


Consider creating affiliations with local restaurants, businesses, and services. Especially in a highly competitive area, many businesses will be happy to offer discounts for regular referrals. Then, build packages around these business relations and offer to schedule the activities for your guests. Convenience sells. Utilize it. Create a dinner and sleigh ride package, a stay and ski package, a massage and brunch package; whatever works! If a website visitor can plan an entire vacation from your site, bookings will benefit and referrals will come flooding in.

Align Your Brand


Each region has a brand image of sorts. Mexico stirs visions of sun, surf, and palm trees. Italy induces dreams of cobble stone streets, wine, and romance. Few visitors envision budget lodging while day dreaming about Aspen, even if that is what is in their price range. Your brand image must be aligned with your greater regional image. Failing to do so will cost bookings.

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The Peabody Ducks: Branding with Feathers

In 1933, the General Manager of the famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis placed three ducks in the Grand Lobby fountain of the hotel. What was intended to be a silly prank became an instant sensation with guests, both young and old. “The Peabody Ducks” were there to stay.

In 1940, Bellman Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, joined the Peabody Hotel staff as the official “Peabody Duckmaster”. Pembroke went to work training the ducks to perform the now world-famous “Peabody Duck March” from their Duck Palace on the roof, down the elevator, through the lobby, and into their fountain. In the evening the ceremony is reversed to the delight of dozens of spectators.

Over the years the Peabody Ducks have become truly famous and are now inseparable from the Peabody Hotel itself. They are featured in the hotel logo and marketing materials, the hotel gift shop is filled with duck souvenirs, and virtually every review written acknowledges the feathered procession. They are truly a Peabody staple.

In 2003, The Peabody conducted a national search to replace the late Mr. Pembroke with a new Duckmaster. Amazingly, the effort earned national media attention when it was picked up by CNN, CBS, and the Wall Street Journal. Countless blog posts, YouTube videos, and articles have been inspired. Website links have been earned, news stories written, social media buzz created, and exceptional brand awareness fostered all for the price of bird seed. Remarkable!

As human beings, our memories are linked to emotion. In a world of routine, that which is surprising stands out. In a lifetime of hotel stays, Ducks make more of an impression than nice sheets and a mint on the pillow. Children who view the duck march will bring their children years later. People relaying stories of their vacation will certainly talk about the red carpet walk. Families will return at the request of their kids. Referral business, the bread and butter of any venture, will flourish without effort.

Much can be learned from The Peabody Ducks. Specials, great amenities, clean rooms, packages, friendly service, etc; these are all important for sustaining a successful hospitality business. However, to truly rise above and beyond the competition, you need something special. Perhaps one of the most profitable activities a business owner could engage in is some creative thinking. A single “Peabody Duck idea” could be a gold mine for decades.

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Copy Writing for Personality Types

Copy writing is truly an art form. It is the art of communicating. It is the art of influence and persuasion. Copy writing can turn a skeptic into a believer and a reader into a customer, or it can repel just as easily.

Common knowledge within the sales and marketing world holds that the majority of purchase decisions happen at an emotional level. Therefore, if you are writing sales copy that fails to communicate with the reader on an emotional level, you will not be successful in selling much of your product (you may even convince them to go with your competitor). It doesn’t matter if you’re selling vacation accommodations, vacuum cleaners, or a political candidate. You MUST speak to your target audience at their level and with a style that triggers positive emotions.

In order to communicate in this most effective manner, you must first identify who the members of your target audience are at a foundational, personality level. What appeals to one group can be viewed as negative by another. Words that excite individual “A” may have little or no effect on individual “B”. You must know to whom you are writing before you begin.

In regards to personality, there are many different “systems” that categorize people into groups and subgroups. In this particular article, we’ll work within the DISC model which labels the four main personality types with descriptive titles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance. We’ll take a basic look at each of these groups, who they are, and how to write copy that appeals to each.

Dominance | “Get to the point”


Sales people, managers, military, entrepreneurs, and most people that are in positions of power and control fall within the “D” or “Dominance” category. They are problem solvers that love a good challenge almost as much as they love authority and power. These people are go-getters with lots of energy and short attention spans. They want copy that is direct and to-the-point. Stay on topic, focus on the business at hand, and avoid the joking that other groups might appreciate.

Some words that will spice up your copy in the eyes of a “D”:

  • Results
  • New
  • Improved
  • Best
  • Win
  • Now
  • Challenge
  • Success

Influence | “I like your product, now let’s talk about you”

Ministers, teachers, customer services reps, and therapists all fall under the category of “Influence”. These individuals love chit chat, people, and relationships. They are very outgoing and like to leave time for socializing and having fun. They are optimistic, big picture people that will want to know about you as much as about your product. Investing in developing a relationship with this customer base will take you far.

Because they are so in touch with people and feelings, copy writing that induces a good memory will be effective. Questions such as “remember the excitement when you______?” or “how do you feel when______?” will prove useful. By initiating feelings and memories, you will establish a personal bond with “Influencers” that will certainly pay off.

Words that will help form a bond with an “I”:

  • Socialize
  • I Feel
  • Popular
  • Imagine
  • Fast
  • Fun
  • Excitement

Steadiness | “How will this benefit me? What guarantees do I have?”


More than 40% of the population falls into the “Steadiness” category. These individuals need to be approached with logic and will need to think through their decision carefully. “Steadiness” types will need to be shown how a product will benefit them and will also need to be given a sense of security in their purchase decisions. Softly presenting your case with good logic and a money back guarantee will be very effective on an “S”. Also, because this is the largest group, copy writing in this manner makes the best default style.

Words that will influence an “S” in a positive manner:

  • Proven Process
  • Guarantee
  • Promise
  • Take Your Time
  • Value
  • Benefits
  • Think About It

Compliance | “Prove it”


Bankers, mathematicians, accountants, scientists, engineers, and architects are all examples of the “C” or “Compliance” category. These are individuals that will only be persuaded with facts and hard evidence. Numbers and stats are a great tool in promoting your product with this group. Push quality and standards backed by cold, hard data and you’ll convince them. Disorganization, jokes, and “new and improved” lingo will not impress.

Words that will sell to a “C” type individual:

  • Facts
  • Results
  • Proven
  • Analyze
  • Tried and True
  • Accurate

Now the difficult part is figuring out how to best use this information to customize your copy writing for most effectiveness. If you manage and market a vacation lodging business, you might pay more attention to who or what the majority of your guest are. Much of this will depend on your niche or your region. Las Vegas will serve a completely different demographic than Yellowstone National Park. Do you accommodate mostly business travelers, eco tourists, hunters, etc.? Once you know your guests or clients or customers, you can start generalizing them into personality groups and marketing to them more successfully.

Unfortunately, most often when we write copy, it’s intended for a wider audience. All four of these groups are going to be reading it and judging you or your product accordingly. When that’s the case, try to deliver to all parties. Add short, bulleted lists and highlight in bold some of the main points throughout your tasks in order to “get to the point” for the Dominance personas. Make the text personal and nostalgic for the Influence individuals. Make sure to mention your money back guarantees, packages, and specials for the Steadiness group. Also, don’t forget to sprinkle your text with great statistics and guest reviews for the “prove it” people in the Compliance category.

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Local Affiliations = More Money

Everywhere we look in our modern, capitalist society we see countless business affiliations. Use a Visa Credit Card and earn frequent flier miles on United Airlines. Order a Happy Meal and receive an action figure from Disney’s latest big screen production. Buy a new Volvo and enjoy Sirius Satellite Radio. Affiliations are business arrangements that are made for mutual benefit, and in the corporate world this has become a basic and effective marketing technique. Among small businesses, affiliations are much less common.

As a general rule in the hospitality industry, guests do not travel simply to enjoy exceptional lodging. They have come to tour wineries, to ski, scuba dive, or to explore the city. Therefore, creating relationships both online and offline with non-competing, tourism-oriented businesses can be exceptionally profitable and mutually beneficial for both parties. Know your region, know what your guests have come for, and give them what they want.

Contact local private businesses such as restaurants, scuba shops, tour companies, or whatever is applicable to your region. Often times the owners of these businesses will be excited to offer your guests a discount in exchange for regular referrals. In turn, when their customer’s inquire about lodging, they are sure to refer these potential guests to you.

Take your affiliations a step further and create packages that can be promoted on your website. Create a couple’s massage, dinner, and suite package. Partner with a local rafting company and provide accommodations, a whitewater trip, and picnic. If you don’t have a fitness room, approach the local gym owner about a guest discount. Provide tickets to the nearby museum or stadium. Also, enjoy free marketing by making certain your arrangements are being promoted on your affiliate’s sites as well as your own.

When people are on vacation, they don’t want to hassle with details. Be creative. Price your packages with a mark up on non-lodging activities and profit from more than just your rooms. Convenience is a big selling point and guests will be happy to pay extra to avoid the hassle of planning. If an entire vacation can be planned from your website, bookings will soar and referrals will abound.