Mr. Rosser

Sales & Marketing

Does Your Distribution Strategy Further Your Brand? Or Harm it?

By Drew Rosser, VP of Business Development, Whiteboard Labs

Doesn't it feel good when you read or hear about a new promotion or discount on something, be it your local pizzeria for a two for one deal or some big discount on a flight to an area you frequent or a good deal at a great hotel and when you go to buy it all works out? When you call, everyone is in the know that you talk to at the establishment or central reservations office and the Web site spells everything out clearly and it all just works. Yippy!

Oh, but how many times has this euphoric feeling fallen short? Pizzeria..."dude I have no idea what you are talking about", airline..."I'm sorry that flight is not available for the times you need", hotel...promotion isn't available online, you call and the agent has no idea what that promotion is and cannot find it anywhere or it comes with so many restrictions that it is nearly impossible to actually book. Clearly there is a major disconnect between marketing, operations and execution of that marketing plan.

For any distribution strategy to truly be successful there needs to be a plan in place but also a methodology surrounding that plan that takes into consideration the method of communication, implementation of the strategy and execution. The best thought out marketing strategy will fall horribly short if there is no communication between the marketing department, revenue management and the operations/distribution team. All must be on the same page and have a clear understanding of what, when and how to make the plan a success.

There are two very basic but important marketing 101 items to consider when establishing a distribution strategy for your hotel or chain.

  1. TRIM (target, receiver, impact, method)

  2. Message

Let's break it down further:

Your target is your goal. What are you trying to accomplish? Increase penetration into a certain demographic, sell more honeymoon packages, attract more families...you get the picture. It is not good enough to just want to increase revenue or RevPAR. You need a plan and an execution strategy.

Who will receive the marketing message? Is this going out to just travel agents, families, business travelers, extreme sports enthusiasts, meeting planners?

What impact do you want the marketing and distribution strategy to have? Increase awareness that you are a family friendly establishment, a great destination for honeymooners, you just expanded your meeting space, change the perception out there because you did a room renovation.

What method will you implement to get the strategy out there? Print, email, radio, SMS, PPC, banner ads, OTA's....etc.

Once you have these parameters in place you now must work with operations and distribution teams to implement a flawless execution strategy. Please make sure that your CRO has all the details of your promotion. The agents need to be able to SELL IT! What I mean is please make sure they are trained on the promotion and have access to it from the call center interface provided by your CRS. Make sure your Web site is updated with the promotion specific information. Your booking engine needs to have the promotion bookable either as a public rate or possibly by using a promo code that gives access to that rate. If it is an online promotion from an external ad make sure you direct the user to that promotion and not just to your booking engine. Plus track it, track it, track it.

The other notable thing is do not over complicate it with too many restrictions and black out dates. That just creates frustration and animosity. If a guest has to jump through too many hoops, arrive before 1:00pm but no later than 6:00pm, pay in advance and can only stay on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night, with a two night minimum, only available on the third week of the month then I would rethink it that idea.

The bottom line is to communicate with all departments and use your distribution channels to maximize your ability to capture the results of your strategy. Do test calls, test the booking process on your Web site, look to see how you look on an OTA site.

Message:

The important point is stay true to what you are. Make sure that the promotion and message around it is targeting a demographic and group that fits well with your product. Vegas tried to sell itself as a family friendly destination. The Mouse is just too difficult to compete with and frankly the traveling public just didn't buy it. Not to mention the place just isn't wired for that type of guest. Logistically it just does not fit. Under-agers are restricted from too many areas so that creates all kinds of issues in terms of what parents could do. I love Vegas for what it is. An escape from reality with fantastic hotels, entertainment and great people that make all of that happen....for adults. So stay true to what you are. This is no time to confuse or disillusion a guest. If anything you want to create a repeat customer along with some very positive word of mouth and social networking marketing by these guests.

Also use technology to your advantage. Need to boost your weekend business then target your local driving market with some clever weekend packages. Sort your email database by zip code and let these people know what you are offering. Include a link to the package and make sure it goes to that package. Track your clicks against bookings. Need to fill some rooms due to a Group canceling? Work with some OTA's on a promotion. However, make sure you have parody on your site as well. Send a SMS message to your loyalty members and drive them to book from their mobile device. Be creative but smart.

Drew Rosser joined Whiteboard Labs to focus on iHotelier CRS sales. After the sale of iHotelier to TravelCLICK, Mr. Rosser became the Director of Operations for the iHotelier division of TravelCLICK. He started in Orlando, Florida, then moved to Atlanta, accepting a position at Holiday Inn's Corporate Flagship Hotel as the Assistant Guest Relations Manager. He was Guest Relations Manager at another Holiday Inn property in the Atlanta area. Mr. Rosser sits on the Boards of Linx Technologies and Force 10. Both are technology based and deal with enterprise level systems. Mr. Rosser can be contacted at 713-333-9944 or drosser@whiteboardlabs.com Extended Bio...

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