Rethinking Marketing and Sales Strategy amid Economic Uncertainty



As the founder and CEO of GitGo, Amy Infante joins the Innovative Hotelier podcast alongside host Robin Trimingham, to discuss first quarter 2023 financials for the hotels industry and how to adapt sales and marketing strategies to meet the current economic situation.


Highlights from Today’s Episode

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Episode Transcript

Amy Infante: It’s really important that we understand what we’re tolerating. What we’re seeing is that the toleration comes from tolerating a lack of systems, a lack of process and a lack of tools around the sales and marketing process. So I still hear today from a lot of hoteliers that they are just inundated with inbound volume and are not focusing enough time on being proactive and really building their pipeline and keeping it sustainable. Whether you outsource, whether you use your own sales team inside. Let’s not continue to tolerate that because there’s always ups and downs in every economy and it will hit you again. Let’s be prepared next time and build the tools necessary. Going out. 

Robin Trimingham: Welcome to the Innovative Hotelier podcast by Hotels Magazine with weekly thought provoking discussions with the world’s leading hotel and hospitality innovators. Welcome to the Innovative Hotelier podcast brought to you by Hotels magazine. I’m your host, Robin Trimingham. As we move through the first quarter of 2023, many analysts are predicting a good year for the hospitality sector generally. But is that going to be the case for all hotels and all hotel business categories? My guest today, Amy Infante, the founder and CEO of GitGo, interacts with hotel operators and corporations of all sizes, and she has an insider’s perspective regarding how the current economic situation is impacting corporate booking trends. And she’s here today to offer her ideas for rethinking your hotel sales strategy in a time of economic uncertainty. Join me now for my conversation with Amy. For the last 50 years, Groupe GM has been a leader in the luxury cosmetic amenities industry. The group proposes a 360 solution from manufacturing to distribution, with over 40 international brands in its worldwide distribution network. Groupe GM offers different shapes and sizes of eco friendly products in hotels all over the world. Discover more on That’s group with an E. Welcome, Amy. It’s great to chat with you today. 

Amy Infante: It’s so good to be here. Thanks for having me. 

Robin Trimingham: Well, as some of our listeners are already aware, I’ve got a bit of a background in hotel sales, so I think you and I are going to have a fascinating conversation to sort of put all of this in context, if you will. I understand that JP Morgan chases 2023 business leaders outlook survey revealed that over 60% of small and mid sized business leaders are anticipating a recession in 2023, which is kind of running counter culture to what some of the analysts have been saying. So to what extent do you feel that this will be the case in the hotel industry and why do you say that? 

Amy Infante: That’s a great question and I’m glad you bring this article up. It’s mirroring some of what we’re hearing when we’re speaking every day to businesses who are buying hotel meeting space and guest rooms. So that’s what our company, Gitgo does day in and day out. We’re speaking with thousands of years of our hotel community, and it’s mirroring a little bit of what we’re hearing from them in some caution around the economy and the effects that it’s having on their businesses, slower decision making and just a lot more caution. But on the flip side, we’re all seeing we had a pent up demand. So we’re also hearing from customers that they’re seeing a reason to get together with remote work more prominent, they’re having more reason to get their teams together and meeting in a hotel space and having some travel in is important to them. So it’s balancing out a little bit right now. I just think that it’s important to be cautiously optimistic in this kind of a scenario because sometimes what we’re hearing out there is a little bit different than what we’re seeing in our numbers. We have customers who’ve had fantastic start to the year. We’re really positive. I don’t want to be the wet blanket on the industry by any means, but we say be cautiously optimistic and scenario plan. And I know we’re going to get into a little bit more down the road on how to do that and what specifics are around that. 

Robin Trimingham: I think you’re making a very interesting point when you use the word caution, because during the lockdown and COVID and coming out of all of that, people were just completely frazzled. Businesses were frazzled. You didn’t know how to forecast. You didn’t know how to budget. You didn’t know how your own business was going to go, let alone what you could afford to expend on a meeting. Since there’s a bit of a disconnect between the cost of operating the cost of hotel rooms and what businesses are allocating in their spend for meetings and events. 

Amy Infante: I definitely see that there can be some disconnect. I think that there can at times be a little bit of sticker shock with the customers. We know in the sales cycle a lot of research is done before they even connect with a seller if they’re in that kind of early buying phase. And so I think all in all, what happens is we need to find ways as an industry to be in front of the customers, having really meaningful conversation and hearing from them what’s happening in their business and why, so that we can come together and match some of those needs. Because from an operator standpoint, at the hotel, I hear caution from hotel owners all the time as well. Their costs are increasing. The cost of labor is increasing exponentially. It’s hard to keep up and it’s hard to pass all of that on to the customer. Right. We’ve got to we have to continue to do business. And so there’s this balance continually happening. And I feel like that’s a theme for the year is finding balance. 

Robin Trimingham: Okay. So you’re making me think of another question that I’d love to know if you have a perspective on. Once upon a time in the land before COVID, every single hotel that did meetings and events and business travel, they had a certain level of customer base on the books that renewed contracts every year or rolled over every year. And you might be trying to beat your goals for last year, beat your revenue for last year, but you had a sense of comfort that there was at least this amount of business and now you could go cherry picking for more profitable business. But I would imagine that COVID and the whole situation lasted long enough that all of that more or less just went back to zero. And we have to have a total reset here of all of the business travel and the meeting and event business. You were talking about pent up demand, which I agree is a thing. There’s definitely a pent up demand for meetings and events and to some degree and business travel. How in the world would you suggest that a hotel approach figuring out what level of all of this is back to business as normal? This is our base of business travel and meetings and events and how much of it is just sort of a little surge of pent up demand? 

Amy Infante: Yeah, that’s a great question. So part of me wants to be a little bit pessimistic and say we got ourselves into that mess a little bit by not being proactive enough through I was screaming from the rooftops in 2019 about proactive sales and was getting a lot of resistance because of the volume. And we don’t have the ability to be proactive because we’re dealing with the things that are just coming in. And I think that that becomes a root of an issue of why we have fewer insights around the B2B customers in particular and what’s really going on in their world to understand, okay, this group of customers has a change and a shift. It’s very micro climate, right? Then looking at it from a macro level. And that’s where I feel like there needs to be a balance. Obviously, we all need to look and listen to the economy, but I do not claim to be an economist by any means. They’re going to show a macro level forecast for the industry and different markets. But if you’re not speaking to your customers and learning and understanding what’s going on in their world and what kinds of things will impact their ability to bring rooms into the hotel, to have those meetings and asking really quality questions during the sales process or during your prospecting and interviewing stage of those customers, you won’t have an idea of that. I mean, I don’t know any other way than to really identify what that means for your particular hotel without speaking to the customers. You can see on demand reports and things like that with your leisure travel. And I also think that some of our business travel is being lumped in with transient just all over because we’ve got some perhaps rate disparity or they’re finding other rates. And that’s been happening for years. But the reason I’m so passionate about this is this is a new thing since COVID, it’s been around for years. We have to find a way to be more proactive in our sales and marketing processes as an industry. 

Robin Trimingham: Yeah, I think you’re making an excellent point because if there ever was a time for know your customer, this would definitely be it. Because in the case of meetings, for example, there’s a world of difference between let’s have an offsite incentive learning sort of session and Oh, this is a quarterly board meeting and under SEC rules, a certain number of times per year, we must meet face to face mean that those are two completely different animals. But in the booking system they can look entirely similar if you haven’t done your investigation properly. Absolutely. I know that you really recommend that small and mid-sized hotel operations take a very measured view of the landscape going forward. Why do you say that in particular? 


Amy Infante: Well, I would say it’s not just the small to mid-sized operators. It’s all operators of properties. I mean, we work with brands and chains, management companies with varied portfolios and then individual hotel owner operators. And I think this is impactful for everyone, no matter what type size hotel you are, that you really understand what’s happening around you in your market. It is just the it’s simple. Know your market, know your customer. And I think you have to do that not just by it’s simple yet we have to have process around it in order for that to be sustainable and to ensure that we’re getting the right kinds of information that can help you forecast and understand the business happening. 

Robin Trimingham: I totally agree with you. So what’s your advice for understanding how these general economic fluctuations in your market impact your hotel sales and revenue? I guess what I’m trying to ask here is, in short, is there any way to recession proof your operation, in your opinion? 

Amy Infante: Well, I think that there’s always industries and companies and situations where people can benefit from a downturn. For example, during COVID, a lot of our customers really won by going after the medical industry and traveling nurses and that type of business and then coming out of that period of crisis. It was project based business that was real construction crew. Our economy hotels really benefited from that. Our extended stay partners really benefited from that. But even Midscale hotels did. And so I would encourage everyone to really look at the type of demand generators in the market, who’s going to win, who’s going to be affected, and what types of things you can do being proactive in your outreach. The other thing I will say is why this is so tricky in our industry is our customers are wide and vast. And sometimes when you have a downturn, like, for example, during COVID, when business travel nearly halted, leisure travel came back quickly and it changed the mix for a lot of hotels. It changed the mix of their business and what they were used to. So I think it’s really important to scenario plan around this and your front line, so to speak, to getting that information is your sales and marketing team, the team that can go out and have conversations. 

Amy Infante: One of my coaches who I absolutely adore in the entrepreneurial space, her name is Angelique Rewers, she coined the phrase Conversations create cache, and I believe that 100%. So we need to be having those types of conversations with customers, but also your research in your backyard. Read up what’s happening in the market, what demand generators are shifting, what new business is coming in, because those are the things that are going to feed the opportunity for you in the future. And it happens a lot further out than what most realize. We have a white paper out called the Rule of Seven plus. What it means is that and this was true even during COVID, we had customers seven months prior to them even engaging with us, really engaging, like talking about a real piece of business and some real opportunity. It was a seven month cycle of conversations, emails, social media impressions with those customers, and then they were like, You know what? Okay, yeah, we have business coming in the second quarter and that’s we’ve got to be way more ahead of where we think because the booking window is different than the buying cycle. 

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Robin Trimingham: You’re absolutely right. And the sales cycle has definitely changed as a result of all of this. I’m a big believer in going to visit customers and simply saying to them, Hey, I realize that you’re not thinking about doing anything today, but what about next quarter? What about next year? I’d be really thrilled to chat with you about next year. And really, there’s no such thing as a bad well-priced piece of business. So you can book something two years out as long as you work with your director of revenue and you’ve really got the thing costed properly. 

Amy Infante: Absolutely. It’s about communication both ways. Between having that commercial strategy for the hotel and making sure that the sales and marketing team are in tune and understand that so that they can feel very confident going out there proactively and having conversations. A lot of it I look at it as it’s research. When you’re prospecting, you’re really researching, you’re qualifying, but you’re having interviews, so to speak. 

Robin Trimingham: Yeah, no, that’s a great attitude to have. Let’s change the conversation a little bit here. I understand that you’re on the sales advisory board of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Can you talk to me about your work with them a little bit and how you’re working to provide hospitality professionals with tools and insights and things to help with the sales funnel and inspire marketing generally? Yeah. 

Amy Infante: So I’ve had the pleasure of being on the sales advisory board since 2019. It was the fall of 2019 when I entered, so it was a really interesting time because at that time, if you remember, we were all talking about recession or the potential of a downturn. We had no idea, right? We had no idea. Getting ourselves into. But I have so much respect for them because I think they really do a great job of listening to the industry and understanding the needs, the challenges of the sales and marketing and revenue optimization disciplines in particular in the industry. And what we try to do is exactly what you said, provide some tools, some guidance, best practices, templates and things that the industry can apply that are not so complicated that it becomes overwhelming. You can go out and you can hire really expensive consultants in the industry to give you tools and things like that, but sometimes they just need a place to go and pull that information. So we do that. On the sales advisory board. I’m really proud to be co-chairing a committee this year. That’s it’s a work group around commercial effectiveness. And so one of the big hot buttons right now in the industry is bringing the disciplines together for one common goal. And one of the things we’re working hard at is really giving some kinds of guidelines and allowing organizations to be able to measure their commercial effectiveness. And then what can they do to bring those areas into a better score at the end of the day? 

Robin Trimingham: Yeah. Well, commercial effectiveness is definitely the name of the game, which sort of leads me into my next question. Why, in your opinion, would some hotel, small ones, medium sized ones maybe benefit from what I’m going to call a done for you solution? And how would bringing in outside sales expertise be beneficial? What would it look like? 

Amy Infante: So we hear from hotel owners daily who are struggling, just like we talked about earlier, with that balance of rising costs to operate. They’re struggling with staffing. The hotel and in sales and marketing as well, finding great talent at a price that they can afford so that they can see their ROI. And so done for you. What we’ve figured out at Getgo in particular is how to sort of unlock the ability for hotels to be able to receive the expertise from talented sales individuals at scale so that they’re not spending in their market. They could easily be spending 30 to even 60% more trying to hire that talent and keep that talent is another. Retaining it is another thing. Small operators, it’s difficult. They don’t have the processes and the systems and the tools in place to really feed and set that sales person up for success. And so outsourcing allows them the opportunity to tap into not just the talent, but also the tools, processes, resources that have been built around that talent to really be able to perform and deliver results to the hotel. 

Robin Trimingham: I would imagine it would make it easier for them to get access to RFPs and things like that as well. 

Amy Infante: Absolutely. I mean, imagine the reach of a full agency model that’s out there really knowing. What’s the other piece of that is what we’ve been talking about is customer insights. So we can get there faster, quicker and know who to tap into, that type of thing that really benefits the smaller hotels and operators that could be in tertiary markets or a real tough. We have a customer who’s in a large city, but they’re not in the ideal location in that city. And so it’s not as attractive sometimes to try to find the talent. It’s hard work. Right? And so, you know, tapping into an agency that does not shy away from that hard work and has the tools and things built around it can make sense. 

Robin Trimingham: A question I’m asking everybody that I chat with these days, what do you feel is the biggest mistake that hoteliers need to avoid right now, and why do you say that? 

Amy Infante: I love this one. Tolerating the status quo. I think it’s really important that we understand what we’re tolerating. First of all, in our business, and I’ve learned this as an entrepreneur myself, sometimes learned it the hard way, but when we identify what we’re tolerating and one of the first things that a hotel operator will share with me, because they’re usually coming to me about sales and marketing and saying, What are you tolerating? It’s, well, lack of results. Well, the lack of results isn’t. I encourage everyone to go about three layers deeper than that, or even five. Sometimes the lack of results isn’t necessarily the root. What we’re seeing is that the toleration comes from tolerating a lack of systems, a lack of process and a lack of tools and maybe even a lack of technology around the sales and marketing process. And I think I’ll use an example I hear still today, even after I feel like we’ve learned a lesson during COVID about the dip in that inbound volume can happen like that. So I still hear today from a lot of hoteliers that they are just inundated with inbound volume and are not focusing enough time on being proactive and really building their pipeline and keeping it sustainable. Oh yeah, okay. I think we’re tolerating that. I would challenge we may be tolerating that and what kinds of tools and resources and systems can we put in place, whether you outsource, whether you use your own sales team in inside, let’s not continue to tolerate that. We can use that as an excuse anymore because at some point it will hit you again. There’s always ups and downs in every economy and it will hit you again. Let’s be prepared next time and build the tools necessary. 

Robin Trimingham: You’re right, because the just in time approach, which is what you’re essentially describing there, that doesn’t really allow you to forecast whether you can afford capital improvements, whether or not you’re going to have ordered enough F and B, whether you have enough staff for the next season, should you be having a job fair? You don’t have any idea about those things if you’re just focused too much on the day to day and you don’t have the long view of what’s going. On. Can you give us a couple examples of hotel operators that are successfully navigating all of this stuff? 

Amy Infante: Absolutely. So I don’t name names because we actually really respect our customers, their white label model. And that’s really what GEICO is, is a white label model for our partners. But I can give you an example of a actually a brand that we’re working with that has decided to come up with a white label model to provide outsourced sales solutions, if you will, to their hotel operators so that they can be proactive and at a very affordable rate for them to be proactive and really understand their market. Obviously, we’ve seen some great results on that because they’re seeing their star reports coming out stronger. They’re feeling supported with insight. They’re collaborating with the sales and marketing organization so that we’re bringing together some of the backyard insights because this is all remote work, but implementing those types of tools and really being mindful of this particular organization has been mindful around how that looks and what resources are available and educating their operators on it. It’s been pretty impactful. 

Robin Trimingham: I think that makes a lot of sense because all large brands operate call centers anyway, where they have people who are fielding inquiries and making bookings and all of that. You’ve really just expanded the level of service that an entity like that might be able to provide. Just to wrap things up here, can you give us a piece of actionable advice that really any of our hotel listeners could do today to improve their hotel sales revenue? 

Amy Infante: Absolutely. So if everyone looks at themselves as in sales in the hotel, then this is applicable. And it’s definitely something that any sales leader or leader, you know, that leads a sales team, whatever can do. I think it’s about arming your sales organization with good quality questions, meaningful conversation starters to gather the insights that you need at the business level to be able to help you forecast and really understand what’s going on in the market. I think sometimes we do our sales team a disservice. There’s a lot of really young, hungry sellers that are out there that want to do a great job. They just haven’t had great training. And so one of the things that I really love is when we can arm them with some quick hit conversation starters and questions that they can ask and tell them why you’re having them ask those questions. Because we want to gather insight from the customer and really understand where the customers are in their buying journey and where their business is. It does a couple of things, but one, it helps your sellers become a trusted advisor because that gives a lot of credibility. Like if you ask really great questions, your credibility increases right away. Like Robin, you’re asking great questions today that that just you get so much credibility from that. And so really, I think that is just something quick. Anybody can do that. 

Robin Trimingham: I couldn’t agree with you more. I think that taking the approach that any interaction that an employee has with a customer, with a guest is an opportunity to build a relationship by learning a little more about the person standing in front of you. Amy, I want to thank you so much for your time today. This has been a great conversation. You’ve been listening to the Innovative Hotelier podcast brought to you by Hotels magazine. Join us again soon for up to the minute insights and information specifically for the hotel and hospitality industry. You’ve been listening to the Innovative Hotelier podcast by Hotels magazine. Join us again soon for more conversations with hospitality industry thought leaders. First. 

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