Part 1: [Group] Content is King
Let’s say you go to your favorite online store to buy something new. You expect to have several options to choose from and you’re trying to find the best option that fits exactly what you need, at the best price.
Now imagine you’re presented with several product options…some have plenty of details, images and specifications to make an informed purchase decision, while others have limited details that would require you to spend more time researching to verify if it’s what you want.
Since you have several options to choose from, you don’t want to spend a lot of time researching or validating purchase options—which one do you consider?
The same concept applies to your hotel’s online presence for groups. How thorough are your property details compared to other hotels in your market? Are you presenting yourself in the best light for groups and planners to make a well-informed decision, fast?
And, is your hotel showcasing its details in the right places? It’s all about where you can attract group audiences that have a high level of intent, otherwise you could be wasting time, effort and money.
Digital marketing can be a difficult and expensive investment for hoteliers endeavoring to stand out from their comp set. Ideally, you’ll want a way to grab meeting planners’ attention as they’re searching and sourcing hotels for their next program.
Online ads and paid placements in e-RFP systems are often a crapshoot, often resulting in an influx of RFPs for planners whose programs aren’t a good fit for your hotel—wasting your and the planner’s time in the process.
So what does a hotelier do?
In part 1 of this article series, we dive into hotel marketing for those targeting the revenue-generating group and event business. The group travel industry is evolving, and thankfully, so has the way we market to and book groups, meetings and events. Consider these tips and best practices to help shine a brighter spotlight on your hotel for group audiences.
Marketing to groups is evolving, here’s how to stay ahead
A shameless but sincere plug
If you haven’t heard, GroupSync is quickly becoming the leading online hotel marketplace for searching, sourcing and booking hotels for groups. It’s designed to help planners find and book the best fit hotels for their programs, while reducing sourcing complexity for both the planner and hotelier.
To help hoteliers get the most out of GroupSync, there’s unique options that allow hotels to go beyond the basic and customize their GroupSync presence by offering need dates and incentives to planners as they search hotels. Hoteliers can also control their profile page by adding extensive, group-centric property details—such as taxes and fees, buyout opportunities, facility guides, restaurant menus and more.
While we may be biased in how great GroupSync is, the fact remains that it’s a game-changer for the way groups, meetings and events (large and small) are booked. And we’re just as surprised as you to see it take this long to become a reality—a solution to a decades-long industry problem.
The question is, how do hoteliers evolve as well, and what steps can they take to not only make more sales, but do so more efficiently?
High-quality, group-centric content
The adage “content is king” is just as relevant to hotel marketing as it is to other companies’ efforts to promote their products and services. You’re selling yourself in a hotel marketplace chock full of competition.
So how do you stand out? The key to effective online hotel marketing is being where your audience spends their time, while putting your best foot forward with high-quality content that presents your hotel as an ideal option for groups.
Most hotels provide their basic information through Northstar Travel Group or their brand’s property management system. These databases then serve up the content to leisure travel websites and e-RFP distribution systems. The same content is viewed by many different types of buyers, from meeting and event planners to individuals going on vacation. The details being marketed may not resonate with a meeting planner if they’re family leisure-centric and vice versa. Details and relevancy matters—hoteliers will want to present the appropriate content to the appropriate customer, at the ideal time.
If hoteliers have the opportunity to take control and customize their content, they can provide curated details to their intended planner and group audiences. Whether your content is under your direct control or managed through your hotel brand’s property management systems, creating a strong, relevant online presence is key to maximizing your visibility and attractiveness online.
Groups and planners need relevant hotel details
By providing thorough information about your hotel, you’ll not only increase your opportunities to bid on business, but you’ll also provide a better booking experience, for you and your customer.
If your hotel details are informative and readily available to a planner, you save time by reducing the amount of back-and-forth communication. A planner can make an informed decision, and you have more time to attend to the business of the day.
Tell an accurate and better group story
As an example, GroupSync receives its hotel content from Northstar Travel Group. While the information provided is enough to help planners as they source properties, many basic hotel profiles may not contain the deeper, specific details or documentation that helps planners make decisions easily and quickly. While savvy hoteliers see GroupSync marketplace as an opportunity to make a great impression and attract more business.
Here are ways to strengthen your profile with differentiating details that influence the decision-making process.
- Make sure your property information is accurate and up to date, whether directly on GroupSync or through your brand’s property management system. GroupSync is integrated with these systems and updates hotel profiles on the platform daily.
- Create a description of your hotel that’s directed toward planners and groups.
- Upload materials into GroupSync that demonstrate creative ways a planner can host events at your facilities.
- Include sales brochures, facility guides, floor plans, restaurant and banquet menus and other materials that illustrate what makes your property unique.
- Outline your various taxes and fees so a planner has a full picture of possible costs.
- Display a complete list of your meeting spaces along with their square footage.
Use any sort of documentation to spark a planner’s interest in your property as long as it doesn’t include a list of competing hotels, such as a Convention & Visitors Bureau guide. Save promotional or time-sensitive information for your hotel profile’s Offers section in GroupSync.
Add and manage group-centric property images
GroupSync offers the option to add an unlimited number of pictures to enhance your profile, which you can reorder by priority. These options vary according to your hotel brand’s property management system.
Consider what a meeting planner needs and wants. Hint: It’s probably not the same sleeping room shot from 10 angles nor a photo of kids splashing in the hotel pool.
- Upload photos that capture attention and illustrate how your hotel benefits groups, such as an exterior shot, the hotel lobby, a sample sleeping room, indoor and outdoor meeting space, your fitness area, the business services center and a selection of successful group events.
- If possible, arrange images in the order you would want the planner to see your hotel.
- Tag each image according to content—buyers can filter properties based on these identifiers, such as #meetingspace, #outdoorfunction, #recreationarea, #groupactivity, #teambuilding and other group-specific tags.
Highlight your hotel’s upgrades and renovations
If your hotel has been around for a while, planners want to know the last time you refreshed the property. Within GroupSync, you can note recent or upcoming renovations and upgrades.
- List the dates your hotel last renovated sleeping rooms or meeting space.
- Note any planned renovations to entice buyers sourcing for future dates.
Describe upgrades the way you would during a site visit to demonstrate the benefit for a group, such as “You can buy out the newly added bocce court for team building or after-hours events.”
More business for less
Hotels of all sizes are having to do more with less. But smaller hotels are especially burdened by the vast quantity of RFPs for simpler meetings. The more information you make available the less back-and-forth between you and the planner.
You can’t tell a customer often enough how great your hotel is and what you have to offer.
An enhanced GroupSync hotel profile not only provides upfront information for planners searching and sourcing properties but also allows you to include it again in your response to their RFPs.
This completes part 1 of our 2-part article series. For more info on GroupSync, options to enhance your property’s profile, or to see what your current GroupSync profile looks like, connect with us here.
Click the following to read part 2 of our article series, ‘Promoting Need Dates and Incentives’.