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When the Crystal Ball is Cloudy; 
Marketing Plans for 2004

Carol Verret / July 2003
It amazes me that so many of the hotels I encounter do not have effective marketing plans, especially in difficult economic times. The old saying applies "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

Many of those hotels that do have marketing plans have the sales department spend endless hours composing plans that are initially read, put on the shelf and never reviewed again. However, Sales often develops these plans in a vacuum, without the input and buy-in of the other department heads in their development and execution.

This is a direct result of the role of sales during the boom years – basically sales concierges who were expected to receive inquires and service the business. Reservations and the revenue managers took care of the rest. Demand was so high that the role of the sales department within the hotel was diminished, relegated to a secondary function.

While times have been difficult for at least two years now, the cultural attitudes of managers who assumed their positions during the boom years haven't changed much. The only change is the frustration that those same managers feel when the sales department isn't producing. Without a vibrant and well-thought out marketing plan that includes every profit center of the hotel, this frustration will continue and revenues will continue to disappoint.

A friend of mine and perennially excellent General Manager, Tammis Anderson, actively involves all of her department heads in the development of the annual plan. The Hassa Yampah Inn has consistently posted stunning revenue increases in all of their profit centers every period for the past two years. Not bad and enviable for most hoteliers in this economic climate. How does she do it?

Every year, the department heads "retreat" for a few days off property to ponder this year's results and the opportunities that may present themselves in the coming year. Her sales department is expected to be active "sales hunters" as are the rest of the department heads responsible for the various profit centers. Then an amazing thing happens -- she holds them accountable for the goals that have been agreed upon. They actually monitor the Marketing Plan to ensure that it is being executed and adjust it periodically based upon changing market conditions.

Another client of mine has had me facilitate a marketing plan seminar and another asked me to facilitate a retreat to assist them in the process. Times are tough -- avail yourselves of all of the input that you can get.

It is not just the document but it is the thought process that goes into its development that is important. It is the process of thinking through where the property is now and where you want it to be that's important. A few steps of this process are critically important to begin the "thought" process:

Compile Info on the Market -- Over the course of a year, I suggest that sales maintain a file of articles and information relating to local economic conditions, those in your feeder markets and info on economic trends. In addition, any projections or press releases for your top accounts and targeted accounts and their industry sectors. If you haven't been keeping a file, log into the archive section of your local paper and conduct key word and company name searches.

Use the Info to Spot Trends -- For example, while it appears that the tech sector in Northern California, while not in robust health, has been removed from "life support." It would also appear that a period of consolidation is in process, i.e., Peoplesoft and JD Edwards. Then there's Oracle. What could that mean for your property? Government subcontractors involved in re-building Iraq are also prime and likely to be so for a few years. Copy and distribute any and all of these articles to everyone involved in the Marketing Plan process.

Use the Info to Decide Upon a Realistic Budget -- Don't set your valuable department heads up for failure by formulating a budget that is way beyond reach. Use the projected trends for hotel revenue in the nation and your region as a guideline. You can certainly beat the averages but use them as a guideline for percentage increases and to justify the projections that you are making.

Formulate the Marketing Plan Before Your Budget -- This allows you to allocate sales resources according to opportunities. For example, if you have been allocating a large amount of you marketing and sales dollars to the corporate market, re-allocate them to other market segments where that may have greater potential, at least in the short term. How would you know this prior to analyzing the market segments and identifying your opportunities? A client hotel of mine has seen its corporate business steadily drop over the past two years -- hasn't everybody? In analyzing their Market segment reports, the government market was still strong. By re-allocating sales time and promotional dollars, they have seen an increase in this sector by 14% YTD over last year.

This is just the pre-work that should be done prior to sitting down with your team. Remember the old SWOT analysis? It is still the most useful exercise to engage in with your staff prior to identifying and composing the Opportunities and Challenges sections of the Marketing Plan. Who out there can tell me what SWOT stands for?

Once the gathering and analyzing data process has been completed, it is then very easy to write a targeted concise marketing plan that will be a living working document for the upcoming year. Focus on the details very carefully for Q1 and Q2 and broadly for Q3 and Q4.

In this volatile market, no one's crystal ball is that clear to predict what conditions will be like a year to 15 months from now. A living, working Marketing Plan is always a work in process.

Carol Verret, Owner of Carol Verret Consulting & Training, is a twenty-year veteran of the hotel industry. She arrived in Denver in 1984 in the midst of an economic downturn and quickly established herself as an expert in sales and marketing in hotel turn-around situations, applying her formula for REVPAR improvement. To learn more about Carol Verret, Consulting and Training, visit her web site at  Comments and feedback are appreciated and can be communicated via phone at (303) 618-4065 or email at [email protected]. Be sure to subscribe to Carol's free monthly newsletter: ResultsWoW Customer Service by sending an email to:[email protected] Put Subscribe in the subject line. 

copyright © Carol Verret, 2002-2003

Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 618-4065
Web Site:
Email: [email protected]
Also See: Partnership of Sales and Technology; Using Tech Tools to "Sell" the Hotels / Carol Verret  / July 2003
Back to the Basics? The Basics of Hotel Sales Have Changed! / May 2003
Creating Sales "HUNTERS": The Skill Sets Required in the New Hotel Sales Environment / April 2003
Heightened Security Requires New Strategies in Hotels Sales / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Mar 2003
Revenue Recovery - Building The ‘A’ Team in Sales / Carol Verret / January 2003
Contingency Marketing Plan – War In Iraq! / Carol Verret / November 2002
Playing the Rate Game - Positioning -- Positioning -- Positioning! / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Rate Game - Playing to Win / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Challenge of Marketing Independent Boutique Hotels / Carol Verett / August 2002
Hotel Sales in a Limited Service Environment - The Rules Have Changed / Carol Verett / August 2002
The General Manager’s Role in Sales -Chief Marketing Officer of the Hotel / Carol Verret / April 2002
100% Market Share Penetration is Not Good Enough / Carol Verett / January 2002
The Key to REVPAR Recovery –  New Business Development / Carol Verett / December  2001
Trash the 2002 Marketing Plan - And Just Start Over / Carol Verett / September 2001
How to Use Consultants Effectively –  A View From the Other Side  / Carol Verret / August 2001
How Soft Is Your Hotel's Economic Landing?  / Carol Verret / Aprl 2001
The ‘Value Proposition’: Marketing Yourself to Prospective Employees / Carol Verret / January 2001
Generation Y:  Motivating and Training a New Generation of Employees / Carol Verret / November  2000
Why Customer Service Seminars Don't Work / Carol Verret / October 2000
Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Sept 2000 
FAT, DUMB AND HAPPY – The Seasonal Boom and  Bust Cycle / Carol Verret / August 2000
Surf's Up - Ride the Wave or Miss the Boat -The Effective Use of Technology in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / July 2000 
Measuring Effectiveness of  Hotel Sales Departments / Carol Verret / June 2000
Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results / Carol Verret/ May 2000

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