10 ways to build successful group sales promotions

Group sales are both essential and fantastic for a property’s business. You could spend the next year studying and gabbing about theories, applications and everything in-between. As a hotel marketing consultant, this is one topic I relish, so without further ado, here are 10 steps to put you on the right track.

1. Set your objectives.

We’ve all heard of SMAC principles (specific, measureable, achievable, comparable) as an approach to business management. Start by stating objectives and defining them holistically. Take your time with this one because if you start off on the wrong path, changing course is that much harder.

2. Identify the competition.

Do your research. Understand the properties you compete with for groups. Note this may be a completely different set than what you use for STR analysis. Understand not only what they are offering to their customers, but also their exact terms and conditions. Learn too, if you can, what is working for them and what gaps or opportunities may exist.

3. Refine your prospect list.

Be as detailed as possible. The more you know about your prospects, the better your promotions will look and sound towards meeting their precise needs. Your prospect identification should include geography, industry (SIC code), meeting size, seasonality, past booking history and any personal attributes you can glean.

4. Understand what makes your property special.

Take an honest appraisal of the selling points. Do not focus solely on the features of your property, but more importantly, identify the benefits of meeting at your property over all others. Prospects buy benefits, not features, so market accordingly.

5. Define the promotion and bundle the elements.

Now, with your homework done, it is time to build your promotion. Be consistent in your approach. Evaluate all the items in the promotion in terms of their benefits to the target prospect list and how the promotion stacks up versus the competition. Remember to evaluate pricing against the cost of the program. Importantly, check the operational implications of any offer before you release it.

6. Brand the program by giving it a life of its own.

Now it’s time to be creative. Give your promotion a name and a theme. Have some fun with this one while also remaining in vogue with the times. Understanding the seasonality of group bookings goes a long way towards correctly steering you in this regard.

7. Train your team.

Start by developing an elevator speech: can you give the gist of the promotion in 10 to 15 seconds? If not, it is probably too complex. Don’t forget to let everyone on property know the promotion is on and where to obtain the complete details (for example, the website or an internally distributed PDF).

8. Generate awareness.

It’s now time to let the world know about your program. Examine all possible media opportunities. Focus on ways to get close to the customer or prospects. It’s best to think of this as a spectrum campaign, encompassing direct advertising or marketing vehicles as well as relationship channels like social media.

9. Monitor progress to learn and modify as you execute.

Monitoring means learning from the field. Just as a general needs reports from his or her troops, so too do you need to know how the promotion is working in the field. Don’t wait until the promotion has expired to get results. Be flexible, and if the response is not meeting objectives, be prepared to adjust tactics part way through in order to achieve your desired response.

10. Measure your results.

Solid metrics allow you to evaluate a return on investment. And don’t forget to learn from the “soft information” as well. Remember, you’ll be at it again next year or even next season.