Smart hotel marketers are using new, affordable marketing automation tools to close more group and meetings business.
Marketing automation technology is one of the biggest advancements in the marketing world over the last ten years.
And hotel marketers were among the early adopters.
The vast majority of hotels use basic forms of marketing automation to improve relationships with leisure segment guests: automatic booking confirms, post stay surveys and reservation recovery emails have been deployed by hotel marketing departments for many years.
But now, thanks to new, more affordable and simplified software, marketing automation could very well be your group sales department’s new best friend and the catalyst for driving more meetings and events to your property.
Marketing automation can send the right message at the right time to the right meeting planner or group lead. And keep your sales team informed as your target prospects engage with your website and marketing materials!
First, here’s a simple explanation of how marketing automation works for hotel sales and marketing departments:
1. A small piece of code from your marketing automation vendor or agency is embedded in your hotel website’s code. This code allows your marketing automation platform to monitor every visitor who comes to your direct hotel website.
2. Each visitor’s behavior, actions and referral source is now tracked, collected and viewable via your marketing automation platform.
3. You can trigger automatic actions to occur when a visitor or lead meets a specific condition. This can be anything from an email being sent, a retargeting ad being delivered or an alert being sent to a salesperson.
Now, let’s take a quick look at a few of the specific things marketing automation can do to accelerate group revenue:
1. Engage New Group Prospects
Once you get a meeting planner’s email address (usually submitted via an RFP form), marketing automation can ensure that every new lead receives an instant personalized response. Surveys have shown that a surprising number of inbound leads are often ignored… simple marketing automation eliminates this risk by sending these new leads a welcome email that summarizes your hotel’s entire group experience, gives them easy links to see venue photos and images of past events, contact information and bios of sales managers, sample group itineraries, virtual venue tours, etc.
The purpose of this email is to give the meeting planner a reason to interact with your website. From there, marketing automation tools can track their behavior on your website and collect data to refine future campaigns.
2. Create a Steady Drumbeat of Awesomeness
Meeting planners love to book venues they trust. And one way to build trust is by communicating consistently in a selfless, helpful way. Hotel marketers can use marketing automation tools to establish a steady “drip” of stories, photos and content that helps prospects understand the destination better and do their job more effectively. But under no circumstances should the content be self-serving!
Your content “stream” does not have to be restricted to email or digital content. Direct mailing personal notes and helpful material often breaks through the clutter and differentiates you from the thousands of emails your prospects receive each week!
Creating this cadence of content will establish you and your property as a trusted resource and position you as THE leader in your destination!
3. Segment Messages By Group/Event Type
Based on where meeting planners are located and/or what they click on in your onboard/welcome email (and subsequent visits to your hotel website), marketing automation software can determine if they are planning a family reunion, a corporate retreat or a large customer conference. Were they looking at a virtual tour of the largest ballroom? Or, spending a lot of time on the activities pages?
Marketing automation can separate each prospect into smaller buckets and send more customized marketing campaigns with relevant images and copy that match their interests.
4. Perfect Timing…
Meetings and events often follow a pattern throughout the year. For example, many associations generally hold annual conferences in the fall or winter. Meanwhile, the more price-sensitive SMERF market (social, military, educational, religious, fraternal) tend to meet off-season (usually holiday months or summer) when there are more discounts to leverage. Marketing automation can schedule campaigns to be released at the right time, with season-specific images and copy, to target group planners way in advance leading up to their site selection.
Even better, marketing automation enables hotel marketers to send increasingly specific messages as each prospect’s behavior intensifies. For example: if one of your meeting planner leads spends 20 minutes on your website two days in a row, she probably should receive different (and more urgent) calls-to-action than the planner who has not visited in months!
Retargeting is another form of marketing automation used by many hotels to drive leisure business from consumers who have visited the hotel website before. Similarly, if a meeting planner’s visit to your hotel website doesn’t result in an RFP, you can set up retargeting advertising campaigns (typically through display ads) to follow them and remind them what makes your venue a viable option for their group. The idea is to stay top of mind and get them back onto your site, so that you’ll have a second chance of converting them. You can make your retargeting efforts even more effective by personalizing each with the information you have already collected, for example: dynamically populating your retargeting ads with the actual event dates provided by the prospect.