Meeting and Events: Self-Promotion Vital for Hoteliers
Meeting and events (M&E) bookings offer a great source of additional or even core revenue for many hotels throughout the UK. Jonathan Smith, general manager from Holiday Inn Express, Oxford Road, Manchester, shares his top 5 tips on how to maximise a hotel’s service and increase new and repeat bookings.
1. Know the hotel’s strengths
Be clear about the benefits of the Meeting and Events space and the services the hotel can deliver and always strive to think outside the box. Don’t just specify the usual audio visual equipment or catering facilities, be aware of and actively promote the aesthetic benefits of the space. For example, does the venue have an abundance of natural light – beneficial as attendees won’t suffer fatigue due to lack of daylight.
Alternatively, can the hotel supply additional practical services that might act as a point of difference from their competitors, such as business desk assistance? This might include tasks such as typing up the minutes from meetings during the attendees’ stay, which might appeal to organisations with few administrative staff.
2. Know the hotel’s clientele
Once a clear understanding of the M&E offering and its Unique Selling Points (USPs) are established, investigate the types of businesses that are likely to hold such meetings or events. Make the most of the local market and be aware of significant businesses and their personal arrangements for M&E. For example, find out which companies are without M&E facilities and actively target these businesses. Customer feedback gathered via the front desk and customer satisfaction surveys can offer invaluable insights into business requirements, so respond to feedback and implement changes where possible.
Having a team of savvy information gatherers on the front desk will also help, so train staff to ask useful questions – for example are guests staying at the hotel, but using meeting facilities elsewhere? Another way to gather intelligence is via booking agents, for an additional booking fee an agent can often supply a wealth of knowledge for anything from 50 to 100 businesses, so this is also worth considering.
3. Get in front of the hotel’s target demographic
As well as gaining insights from customer feedback and booking agents, it’s a good idea to get in front of the local business community, by attending local business networking events. At the end of the day, people are more likely to buy into a business they know and trust. Why not host a networking event specifically for secretaries or PAs, in order to introduce the audience to the hotel and its facilities? After all, these are the people who often organise the M&E space.
Social media is another invaluable tool for self-promotion. Hoteliers should follow relevant local businesses and interact with key decision makers on a regular basis. Be engaging and helpful online and don’t just sell the service. For example, tweet a link to a news or trade article relevant to a company’s sector, mention the organisation’s Twitter name and advise that the article might be of interest to the company. Keep up-to-date with trends and new insights about the hotel and catering industry and tweet about these or advise on exciting networking events that are taking place in the area. This type of online engagement will help to set the hotel apart from its competitors and will be useful to the companies the hotel is following on Twitter. After all, people want genuine interaction and useful insight, not a pushy sales person.
1. Know the hotel’s competition
Research the opposition. What are competitors in the area offering and most importantly, where does the hotel fit into the market? Make sure potential customers know if the hotel uses locally sourced produce, or if it has great green credentials – things like this can be a point of difference from other hotels. Another crucial element that is sometimes overlooked is price; ensure the rates are competitive and the hotel is not priced out of the market. For example, is the opposition offering discounted rates on meeting rooms on certain days of the week or are incentives being offered to encourage repeat M&E bookings? Make sure that the hotel is aware of all offers and rates on its doorstep.
1. Offer a great service
Everything else is irrelevant and a complete waste of time if the service provided is unsatisfactory. Remember that guests and attendees still expect the basics – friendly staff, a tidy premises and rooms, equipment that works etc – when staying at a hotel. The rise of the internet and the popularity of websites such as trip advisor, mean that a poor experience isn’t merely expressed to immediate friends, colleagues etc, but has the potential to reach a global audience. On the upside this also means that glowing reviews can be viewed on the same grand scale. Remember a great and memorable service turns guests into advocates.
By Jonathan Smith