What do Apple, Starbucks, New Balance, Fiji and Nestle all have in common? These companies realized what Zenith pioneered years ago. Product placement in hotels works! I’m sure you have undoubtedly heard about the attention that is spent at grocery stores studying customer traffic and the focus patterns that shoppers have when they are comparing products. This is why many store brands are placed right next to major labels on the shelves of your local market. Well, a similar premise applies to the hotel industry. Those complimentary Starbuck coffee packets are not there by accident. Extensive thought and research goes into every detail when designing a hotel room, because guestroom products and appliances offer a way to reach an audience that may have been otherwise unreachable due to previous brand loyalties. For example, I am an Android guy; I constantly promote Android over the iPhone, but when I travel the docking station in my hotel room is for the iPhone. It may have a cord that works with the Android, but every time a guest goes to use this docking station the Apple brand is strengthened. In my case Apple has forced me to rethink my phone decision many times just because of this one simple and subtle marketing campaign.
So, how can you take this model created for product promotion and use it to boost your events revenue? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not placing flyers in the rooms of every local hotel. The percentage of guests that look at the in room directory is much less than you think in fact statistics say it will be seen by less than 5% of occupants; even less if housekeeping gets ahold of it. That means if a 500 room hotel is booked solid you will be seen by little more than 20-30 guests. Those numbers just don’t justify the cost and time it takes to put a campaign like this together. Save your money; use your flyers elsewhere and instead focus your efforts on the methods below.
To help identify the best ways of engaging a hotel in your event marketing I turned to Robert Goehring. With over 25 years experience in the hotel industry and a former Group Coordinator and Revenue Analyst for the prestigious Starwood Hotels & Resorts chain, Rob knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to events and hotels. His advice is “target the staff.”
An Entry Level Approach
Start with the concierges. They are not travelers, they are locals and usually very involved socially. Which means not only are they potential attendees themselves, but also know a lot of other potential local attendees. Their benefits are not just limited to locals though; they also have direct access to hotel guests with ample free time and disposable income. How do you enlist these minions? “Don’t just walk in and give them a stack of printed flyers,” Rob cautions. “Do you know where those flyers go? They don’t go on the top of the desk and they aren't handed out at check in. That stack of flyers goes right into a filing system along with all the other flyers they received that week. Most likely never to be seen again until they are thrown out. Sadly, this is the reality.” Instead, Rob suggests organizing a meet-and-greet with all the head concierges. Sell them on the idea that when their guests attend your event they will receive a quality experience that will in turn reflect positively on them. Sell them on your event and make them believe their guests will enjoy the experience you have to offer. Do it right and they will spread the word to all the other concierges on staff. Then and only then give them a small stack of advertisements that they can distribute to interested guests. Taking the time to converse with this group will boost your flyers effectiveness and reduce your marketing costs. Rob also recommends giving them a few business cards for a staff member or volunteer that will be at the event in case they have any questions or special needs such as VIP access requests.
Make Sure You Accurately Describe Your Event
Go For The Group
Another good angle is to get involved with the hotel’s group sales staff. More than 60% of a hotel’s occupancy is group guests. Cultivating a good working relationship with a few sales people and hotel event managers could result in them buying blocks of tickets for the recreational portion of a groups stay. According to Rob, there are usually no more than 3 or 4 people in the group sales process and keeping them apprised of upcoming events and even having a recurring meeting or luncheon will keep you in the forefront of their mind and greatly increase the chances they will push your event when meeting with groups potentially coming to the hotel.
Take It To The Next Level
The deepest and most symbiotic relationship you can have with a hotel is to involve them in your event by helping them rent rooms. Whether you will be offering VIP packages that include rooms or just recommending a place for talent and crew to stay its a good idea to sit down with a group salesman and negotiate a cut rate for a block of rooms. Not only will this save your out of town attendees money that they can later spend at your event, but you can also negotiate transportation and possibly even a location where your guests can meet, register and/or distribute VIP passes. Getting this out of the way prior to arriving at the event will help keep your gates from bogging down when a bus full of attendees arrive. This process requires more attention than just conversing with a few people, is more involved than the others and it scales with the size of the event, and takes more time to coordinate, but will really showcases your event in a good light and make the hotel more comfortable when you come to them with future events.
I would like to thank Rob Goehring for taking the time to sit down and discuss this topic with me at length.