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Practice Makes Perfect In Sales
November 17, 2009
How often are your sales people able to “practice” their selling skills? My son started playing volleyball and each week they work on new skills like passing, setting and spiking. Each weekend, his team has a league match for an hour. During this time, the parent coaches furiously take notes on what is good and what needs to be improved upon. From last weekend, the coaches noticed that the team wasn’t “calling” the ball (or indicating that they would handle the pass) when the other team was serving. At practice the following week, they worked on “calling” each ball to ensure proper communication among the team members. We are now looking forward to their next match when all the parents can see if they’ve improved on this specific task.
As sales managers, we are essentially on the court everyday. After a brief training program, we are placed into a competitive mode and asked to score points. How often do we refine our skills and encouraged to practice?
There are many “mystery shopper” services that hotels can utilize to evaluate their team’s selling abilities. Can you set up time with your less-experienced sales managers to role play and practice the art of selling? Provide immediate feedback just like a coach would do so their performance improves the next time they step onto the court.
Hotel Public Relations – Five Tips to get more visibility for your hotel
We welcome our new columnist, Jennifer Rodrigues, who will be telling us all about Hotel Public Relations and sharing her insights, tips and experiences on YoungHotelier.com!
By Jennifer Rodrigues, TravelInk’d
For many hotels — too many in my opinion — public relations gets relegated to the backburner or is treated as an afterthought. Hotels have a sales department; they have marketing team (which is supposed to support sales); and for more ambitious hotels, a social media program. So why bring in PR?
First, some background. I think that some of the stigma of hotels and PR is derived from a misunderstanding of what public relations actually is, and some of it stems from the blurring line between PR and marketing. Hoteliers often maintain the natural, if inaccurate, assumption that PR and marketing are effectively the same. The ultimate goal, after all, is to increase revenue for the property, and both PR and marketing are tools to achieve that end. But hoteliers tend to view marketing efforts as direct and measurable, and PR initiatives as soft and nebulous. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
To be sure, PR is not advertising. And PR does not guarantee exposure, like advertising does.
So again – why use PR? Credibility, for starters.
Unlike advertising, where a hotel can tout its perfect scores on customer service or 95% occupancy rates year over year – messages which consumers these days take with a proverbial grain of salt because they know that in advertising, the hotel’s messaging isn’t censored – PR generates stories written by trusted, third parties. Consumers are more likely to trust a journalist’s integrity because they must remain unbiased. Think about it this way: you could spend $6,765 for an ad in the New York Times or you could use PR to generate a FREE article in the New York Times that consumers are much more likely to read, believe and act upon. How’s that for ROI??
Done properly, public relations is, at its core, a highly effective tool for generating awareness and visibility for an individual property, hotel chain or brand. It can deliver a message of credibility that no advertising program comes close to. Public relations is so much more than the distribution of press releases: it’s about telling a story- a compelling story- that will generate genuine interest and enter into the consciousness of potential guests. It’s about gaining recognition and mitigating negative attention. It’s about defining who and what a hotel is, and delivering that message to the public.
And when compared with advertising, PR can be a lot less expensive. Whether you choose to do PR in-house or hire a specialist agency, the cost of PR can be much lower than a traditional ad campaign.
So how do you get started? What do you need to know when implementing a PR campaign?
Building a solid public relations strategy isn’t as daunting as you might think. Unlike marketing or advertising, PR is not as resource-intensive; there are no media buys or direct mail blitzes associated with it. But effective PR requires the ability to tell great stories – that come from the best aspects of a hotel’s operations – as well as creative and strategic thinking from people who understand the hotel market and who also understand media’s needs.
So being the helpful PR and visibility specialist that I am, I have put together five important PR rules for hotels. Follow these and an email from an editor at the New York Times might just be the next one coming into your Blackberry (or iPhone). Let’s get started…
Be Newsworthy and Think Big (Beyond your Property, that is)
This is a tough one for hoteliers to understand and follow, especially for those that have been relying only on advertising up to this point. Understandably, to you, your property is the center of the hotel universe. And it should be! But to the media and the rest of the world, while it may be important, it is not the only hotel of importance.
As I said earlier, PR is about storytelling and storytelling is only effective when people are listening. Before sending out your next press release or before picking up the phone and calling a journalist, ask yourself this – is this really newsworthy to everyone? If I was a consumer, would I truly care about this news? Be objective. If the answer is no, then it’s a safe bet that journalists won’t care either.
Let’s look at the following example. Unless you are Hyatt or Hilton, lowering your rates by 10% (though it may be a big deal to the front office), isn’t going to pique the interest of the Wall Street Journal, or from the average consumer. That rate reduction may be of interest to someone contemplating a stay at your property, but that’s a marketing function, not PR.
So here’s how to turn that bit of news into a news story that the media will pick up on. Think BIG. If you are lowering your rates, and the hotel down the street is lowering their rates and so is the hotel by the airport, then you have a news story. This is a trend and media love to write about trends. Consumers also love to read about trends. When pitching this story, tell the journalist about not only your rate cuts, but also the rate cuts of your competitors to illustrate that it’s a trend that’s actually worth covering.
That is not to say that only trend stories work. You can pitch a story that is specific only to your property but remember, it must be newsworthy. Here are a few examples of the types of stories that media like to hear about;
– Your kitchen staff volunteers one day a month at the local homeless shelter
– Your property’s upcoming 25th anniversary.
-Your occupancy rate over the last 6 months compared to other properties in your compset (if you’re doing better than your competitors’ in today’s economy, spread that message far and wide to trade publications!!).
Whatever your story, though, do keep in mind that although you are selling your property, PR should never sound like a sales pitch. Never.
The takeaway? Be aware of the difference between what is newsworthy to the general public and what is important to management. Emphasize the former and you are well on your way.
Emphasize your best assets
A big part of PR is putting your best foot forward – emphasizing the good, and downplaying the bad.
Every property has something that distinguishes itself from its competitors- in every story that you tell to the media, highlight this difference and the importance to the consumer. If yours is a historic hotel, make that known. If your hotel is preferred among business travelers, write op-eds and expert commentaries on attracting and retaining business guests. If you run a brand new boutique in an up-and-coming area, talk about being first to market and the revitalization of the neighborhood.
Know your audience
Who do you want (and need) to know about your property? Most likely, your first answer will be consumers and business travelers; the guests you want in your hotel. And while that is definitely a vital target audience and one that you must pursue, there are others too which should not be ignored.
It’s very important also to raise awareness of your property among industry experts. This means reaching out to industry publications like YoungHotelier. By being included in industry publications, you position yourself as an expert within your own industry and develop more credibility for your property and brand. Build a buzz within the industry and it could carry over into the general public.
Business media is another audience that shouldn’t be ignored. People who read stories about hotels’ financial health or day-to-day operations tend to travel (hello, business travel!), and creating awareness among this audience can pay immediate dividends.
Stories that appear in the local nightly news or in the New York Times can be few and far between, but trade and business stories can recur often and in multiple outlets. Widen your net and you’ll catch more fish.
No Comment is No Answer at All
We’ve all seen interviews with “no comment”. This is no way to conduct an interview or get a positive message across – even when faced with a difficult or sticky question. While “no comment” may seem like an easy or neutral way to get out of answering a question, to any journalist this is almost an admission of guilt. Try this phrase instead:
“I’m not at liberty to talk about this issue right now. Are there any other questions I can answer for you?”
Or provide a simple answer and always go back to your key message. Let’s look at this (very extreme) example to give you a better idea of what I mean.
Question: “Was an employee at your hotel arrested today?”
Answer: “The best source for that information is law enforcement, but what I can confirm is that the operations of this hotel have not been and will not be disrupted in any way.”
In this way, you have reinforced the strength of your property, while deflecting the question and potential risk.
Understand PR and manage your expectations
PR has its value in a marketing plan, but it shouldn’t be the only piece. As I mentioned, PR is not advertising. Though its results can be clear and measurable, it is not direct sales outreach to potential clients. Metrics like ROI and incremental cost can be applied to PR, but rarely will there be a moment-to-moment correlation between PR initiatives and sales.
When launching a PR campaign, hoteliers need to be realistic as to what results and expectations they have. No PR campaign can guarantee front-page coverage on the Wall Street Journal every month: that is simply not realistic in most instances. Instead, look for the longer-term impact and value of PR on your hotel, including how your hotel is perceived locally, nationally and internationally, and how levels of awareness of your property change in different markets.
Great public relations and increased visibility is absolutely achievable for every hotel! But whether you work with an in-house team, or outsource, there must be buy-in from management and the appropriate levels of engagement to make PR successful for your hotel.
To be sure, PR is labor-intensive – it’s not an automated process as say, sending out a blast email to a customer database. There is a lot of writing, a lot of strategizing, a lot of communicating and a lot of relationship-building with hundreds of media outlets. But these outputs can result in great outcomes if you put in the time and effort, which can continue to grow and expand over time. And in time, media will be calling you for comment, instead of you calling to pitch stories.
So what are you waiting for?
Jennifer Rodrigues, Visibility Specialist with ThinkInk and TravelInk’d, is a seasoned public relations professional with a passion for the hospitality industry, which is expressed in her role at ThinkInk’s travel division, TravelInk’d. At TravelInk’d, she is responsible for developing cost-effective and creative public relations and marketing strategies for clients in the travel and tourism, airline, lodging, cruise and meeting/event sectors. For more information on TravelInk’d, please visit www.travelinkd.com or contact Jennifer at jlr (at) travelinkd.com
Eating into SIA
Early fears coming true: Singapore’s icon carrier is losing passengers to mass, cheap flies. Bloomberg.
July 24, 2009
By Chan Sue Ling
Jimmy Lim Chin Hwa abandoned Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s coach class for budget carrier Jetstar Asia Airways Pte two years ago to save 65 percent on the cost of flying. He’s noticed more people following suit.
“Normally, the flights are half full but since the start of the year it’s packed,” said Lim, 50, a marketing manager at Unicane Furniture Pte, waiting to board a flight at Singapore’s Changi airport to Indonesia. “The bigger airlines are just too expensive.”
Losing economy-class customers like Lim adds to pressure on carriers such as Singapore Air, forecast to post its worst annual profit in two decades, as travel dwindles amid the global recession.
Jetstar Asia, AirAsia and other regional discount carriers meanwhile are adding more planes after cut-rate fares helped double their market share since 2005.
“Low-cost carriers are making it so affordable now,” said Tan Teng Boo, who oversees $200 million as managing director at Kuala Lumpur-based iCapital Global Fund.
“The full-fare carriers will have to sit down and think about reinventing themselves.”
The potential for cheap flights in Asia, where half the world’s population lives, has also attracted investments from billionaire Wilbur Ross in an Indian discount airline, and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson in a Malaysian no-frills carrier.
Asia’s budget carriers control about 10 percent of the market by seat capacity currently, according to the International Air Transport Association, or IATA. At least 20 low-fare airlines have started in the continent since 2000.
“During a recession, we also prosper because people are coming down market,” said Tony Fernandes, chief executive officer of AirAsia, Southeast Asia’s biggest budget airline. “We are no different from McDonald’s or Wal-Mart. Our goal is to fill up our planes.”
AirAsia filled 80 percent of its available seats on average in June, the best ever for that month, Fernandes said.
Jetstar Asia, partly owned by Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd, flew 15 percent more people in the first six months compared with the year earlier period.
In contrast, Singapore Air’s passenger numbers slumped 19 percent in June, the eighth consecutive drop. Thai Airways International Pcl’s numbers declined 18 percent last month, the 12th straight decline.
Singapore Air, the world’s second-largest airline by market value, Malaysian Airline System, and Thai Air, are altering networks and cutting capacity.
Singapore Air is parking planes, lowering pay, and removing 11 percent of capacity in the year ending in March.
The airline said last week it will reduce seats on some planes by 14 percent as part of a cabin upgrade.
“We are morphing our marketing,” Singapore Air Chief Executive Officer Chew Choon Seng said on July 1. “If at times like these, people want more value for money, then we adapt our marketing accordingly.”
The carrier may post a full-year profit of S$627 million (US$435 million) in the year ending in March, the worst in at least two decades, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 13 analysts.
The airline reported its first operating loss in six years in the quarter ended March.
Performance at Thai Air was “pretty bad in the last two months,” Executive Vice President Pandit Chanapai said July 16.
PT Lion Mentari Airlines, Indonesia’s biggest low-fare carrier, is buying 178 Boeing Co planes, the highest number for the aircraft maker in Asia over the last five years. Malaysia’s AirAsia, with a tagline “Now Everyone can Fly,” has ordered 175 aircraft from Airbus SAS, the largest client for single-aisle models in the region for the world’s biggest planemaker.
AirAsia last month lowered ticket prices by scrapping administrative charges. Tiger Airways, a no-frills carrier partly owned by Singapore Air, is selling tickets at 9 Singapore cents, excluding taxes, to more than a dozen destinations.
With Southeast Asian economies facing their worst economic slowdown since the region was hit by a financial crisis a decade ago, more and more companies are taking up such deals.
Singapore-based Jetstar Asia has almost 400 corporate clients now, compared with 300 at the start of the year, said Chief Executive Officer Chong Phit Lian.
Legacy carriers aren’t giving up. Malaysian Air started a “Global Low Fares” campaign in June to boost ticket sales after posting its first quarterly loss in more than two years.
Singapore Air introduced promotional fares after seeing a decline in demand across all its cabin classes, said Nicholas Ionides, a spokesman for Singapore Air.
Singapore Air has gained 19 percent this year, while Malaysian Air is little changed. AirAsia has surged 49 percent.
Eating Their Business
“Budget carriers are simply eating into their business,” said Jim Eckes, managing director of industry adviser Indoswiss Aviation. “That’s why full-service airlines are fighting back with discounts.”
The cuts will need to be deep to convince Lim, the furniture executive, to return. He flies at least 10 times a year to Surabaya, Indonesia, and pays on average S$176 for a return ticket, compared with S$500 on SilkAir, Singapore’s regional unit.
“Flying budget is just so much cheaper,” said Lim. “I don’t think the bigger airlines can match the prices offered by low-cost carriers.”
Can Airline Loyalty Programs Generate Income for Struggling Airlines?
White Paper from Carlson Marketing Analyzes Pros and Cons
- Press Release
- Source: Carlson Marketing
- On Thursday July 23, 2009, 11:44 pm EDT
MINNEAPOLIS & SINGAPORE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As airlines face new challenges seemingly every day now, the temptation exists for them to bolster their financials by selling off portions of the operations and reaping the benefits. One interesting asset that has garnered attention in recent years is the airline frequent flyer program.
A new white paper – “Spinning Off Frequent Flyer Programs in Turbulent Times” – issued by the loyalty marketing expert Evert de Boer, senior director, Global Airline Practice, Carlson Marketing, explores the pros and cons of spinning off frequent flyer programs in light of the current economic climate.
According to de Boer, there are six good reasons for selling off an airline’s frequent flyer program.
- Raise Capital
- Unlock Value
- Improve Margins
- Accelerate Revenue Growth
- Achieve Economies of Scale
- Improve CRM (customer relationship management) and Data Analytical Capabilities
Of course, if there were only good reasons, everyone would do it. He cites seven cautions as well.
- Program Delivery considering how intertwined the program is in the airline operations
- New Owners May Have a Short-term View
- Unpredictability of Future Events
- Capital Gain is a One-off
- Imbalance of Power Between the Frequent Flyer Program and the Airline
- Impact of Global Alliances
- Current Liabilities
The current economic downturn adds another set of wrinkles to be evaluated and their impact debated based on the individual airline’s situation.
- Less Capital Available to Buy the Program
- Less Travel and Lower Consumer Spending
- Higher Incidence Rate of Credit Card Defaults and Lower Credit Ratings
- Reduction in Network Size
- More Miles Being Awarded, Fewer Miles Being Redeemed
- Increased Opportunity for Arbitrage
- Less Appetite for Adjustments to the Balance Sheet
- Potential Partners Become More Wary
As the economy improves around the world, serious consideration of spinning off frequent flyer programs will once again be a hot topic of conversation. De Boer identifies likely carriers as those with “large legacies with a dominate program in a large and homogenous home market.” Unlikely candidates are “airlines that dominate a small home market and serve a high percentage of transfer traffic through their respective hubs.”
The complete white paper, “Spinning Off Frequent Flyer Programs in Turbulent Times,” is available online from Carlson Marketing at http://carlsonmarketing.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=55.
Carlson Marketing is the world’s leading relationship building company. Carlson helps global Fortune 1000 clients increase their top and bottom lines by building stronger relationships with their most valuable customers, channel partners and employees. Carlson Marketing’s two global service offerings – Brand Loyalty and Engagement & Events – are supported by six core capabilities: Strategy & Planning; Creative, Interactive & Media; Incentive & Event Management; Award Services; Technology Services and Decision Sciences.
Carlson Marketing employs 2,500 marketing professionals in 44 cities across 15 countries. www.carlsonmarketing.com
META-HOUSE PHOM PENH: “TUE 21st @7PM : DRAMA AFTER THE WAR: RITHY PANH’S ‘BURNT THEATER’
Rithy Panh is Cambodia’s most acclaimed director and a frequent guest at the Cannes Film Festival. A survivor of the genocide, his films often focus on the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. ‘S-21: The Killing Machine’ won the European Film Prize. Tonight’s docudrama (presented in cooperation with Rithy Panh’s audio-visual research centre ‘Bophana’) is an artful blend of fact and fiction, depicting a troupe of actors and dancers in the burned-out shell of Cambodia’s former national theatre in Phnom Penh. The protagonists attempt to produce a Khmer-language adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac on a stage overgrown with weeds.”