Five practical ways to start closing the gap between your sales and marketing strategy.
Your sales team has a very big job. They’re on the front lines, rolling out the red carpet for a revolving door of meeting planners. Without a doubt, this hardworking team could use an assist, and skilled marketing – from communications to collateral – is the best, most cost-effective way to deliver the support they need.
If your marketing team isn’t doing its job, the negative consequences will ripple through your group sales efforts. And vice-versa.
It’s important for sales and marketing teams to double down on the basics and zero in on the practical ways they can collaborate.
To that end, we’ve gathered a few tried-and-true tactics you can employ immediately to help close that gap between your sales and marketing strategy.
1. Showcase Your Group Product Better
How marketing showcases each product in your sales collateral – from brochures to the website – is critical. Are you segmenting your products in a way that speaks clearly to your audiences? Better segmenting your product makes it easier for planners to book. After all, meeting planners are looking for different things than wedding planners, so your marketing should target them separately. It’s vital to recognize this.
One mistake hotel marketers make frequently is having one page that speaks to all types of groups – weddings, social events, room blocks, small meetings, and conferences. But does that really make sense? Think about it. When your group sales manager is speaking to a bride, he/she is selling the property – and the experience – in an entirely different way than if he/she is locking in a room block for a travel soccer team.
The same is true for meeting planners. Not all meeting planners search in the same way. Some just need a small meeting space for a few execs, while others are planning a major, multi-day conference and require a hotel capable of delivering at the highest level.
By segmenting your group product more effectively, you’ll make it easier for planners to find what they need and move forward with a booking.
2. Help Sales Close the Deal
Your sales team has an influx of group leads coming in, but the prospects don’t always answer the phone on the first call. Despite their best intentions to follow-up, they’re busy fielding that next all-important lead. Sound familiar?
This is where marketing can help. Maybe they can’t pick up the phone and call those warm leads, but they can build a steady stream of automated emails to help keep those leads warm.
These are called nurturing campaigns. And your sales team will love them. They help fill the gap between that all-important desire to respond quickly and the limitations of bandwidth. When a warm lead comes in, marketing moves it into a queue for automated email deployment over a specified period of time.
But won’t meeting planners find that annoying? Good question. According to EproDirect’s 2019 survey of 392 meeting planners, 90.2% of planners preferred to hear about hotel information and special offers through email marketing.
Best of all, the nurturing campaign allows you to highlight key property features and value during the meeting planner’s critical shopping period. The catch? You need quality assets. Without storytelling assets like photography, room diagrams, and mock setups, it’s hard to create compelling collateral to aid in these critical follow-up tactics. Arm marketing with the high-quality storytelling assets they need to deliver to help sales close the deal.
And, rest assured, your competition has all these same struggles. So investing in better assets gives you a major edge on your competition.
3. Stay in Touch with Meeting Planners
Staying top-of-mind with meeting planners in such a competitive space is hard enough as it is. That’s why not following up with past meeting planners is such a huge missed opportunity for hotel marketers.
Yes, it’s the sales team’s job to build and foster that relationship, but the real question for hotel marketers should be: how can marketing help?
Well, start with what we know about meeting planners. Usually, they book four to five meetings a year. Some are planned a year in advance, and some are planned at the last minute. Because lead time varies, marketing needs to have a year-round strategy dedicated to those past planners. They are, after all, low-hanging fruit. They know you and, hopefully, they already like you. Now, they just need to remember you exist.
The good news is… marketing already has a strategy for this.
Every month (and sometimes multiple times a month), marketing deploys an email to their past hotel guest email database. They plan out their offers and promotions for the year and they execute against that. Smart hotel marketers looking to push their group business put a similar promotional calendar in place for meeting planners. They highlight special offers, corporate group incentives, hotel upgrades, etc.
When you pair regular marketing follow-up via email with one-to-one outreach by your sales team, you’ve got a steady, year-long outreach campaign that will keep you top-of-mind with meeting planners.
4. Make the Process Easy From Start To Finish
Easy is everything for meeting planners. Remember, their job is hard. They are planning big events, trying to stay on budget, juggling a million moving pieces, and usually with a small support team. They aren’t just shopping for a great venue, they are shopping for a hotel partner that they can count on to step up and shoulder some of the load.
Why do meeting planners love booking at hotels? Because it’s a consolidated one-stop-shop. They get rooms and meeting space and activities and F&B and additional programming, all in one place. In short, they choose hotels because hotels make it easy.
Conceptually, the idea of making it easy for meeting planners should be your sales and marketing teams’ call to arms. Making the shopping experience as frictionless and enjoyable as possible requires a true sales and marketing collaboration.
5. Evaluate Your Marketing Touchpoints
A touchpoint analysis is an incredible way to get a true sense of the customer journey. Put yourself in the shoes of the meeting planner and try to book an event at your own hotel. Does your website accurately describe the hotel’s meeting space and amenities? Are you 100% sure it can accommodate the type of meeting you have in mind? Or do you walk away with more questions than answers?
Does your site favor one type of group over the other? Or is it trying to appeal to all groups and ends up appealing to no one? Is it easy to submit a mobile RFP form, or is it clunky and difficult? Are the planning tools easily accessible?
How long does it take for a salesperson to reach out? And what kind of collateral are they using? What’s the first thing a meeting planner sees? And is it up to your brand standards?
How is your team interacting with the client during the meeting or event? Are you finding ways to surprise and delight? What’s the last thing a meeting planner sees or hears from the hotel? Do they get a thank you email or, even better, a thank you basket?
Easy to shop, easy to book, easy to plan, easy to communicate. In short, that’s what meeting planners love about hotels. It’s the job of sales and marketing to ensure that your hotel is delivering.