You've heard the idiom, I "couldn't see the forest for the trees." Are you working your SMERF (Social, Military, Educational, Religious, Fraternal) market harder, not smarter, by missing the obvious? Who are the SMERFs among you? Let's improve your group sales by examining SMERF business opportunities that hit you where you live.
Here are six clever ways to gain SMERF group business locally:
1. Religious communities:
Do you attend church or belong to a spiritual group? Many religious and other spiritual groups enjoy a weekend getaway allowing them to practice their faith in a neutral environment. The fall and spring are prime times for women's groups to hold retreats by offering them an opportunity to meet away from household responsibilities not too far from home. Market the perfect, peaceful setting and meeting rooms that you offer. Your community is rich with people of faith seeking a venue to rejuvenate.
2. Military connections:
Do you know someone in the military? They can be great for making SMERF sales connections. Military groups host events when service people return home to help them and their families adjust to the changes that have taken place. Visit your local military offices and develop relationships with new contacts. While government cutbacks and increasing competition for business are impacting those who serve this sector, there's still a chance these connections could work out for your venue.
3. College contacts:
What fraternity or sorority did you belong to? Old contacts are often the best contacts.
4. Local schools:
Within your local community may be colleges, universities and a plethora of opportunities to reunite people that have moved on to other states and careers. Call the educational institutions to get a list of contacts for the different groups within the institution who may be interested in a meeting venue that is nearby. Your own alma mater, thought not local, is also a great place to go for groups that would be interested in your hotel.
5. Hobby groups:
What are your hobbies? Scrapbookers, writers and artists among other creative types are always looking for venues that give them space to work outside of their daily routine. You have the space. They are hobbyists who need a different atmosphere to continue the flow of creative juices.
6. School activity groups:
What local school groups would be interested in an overnight stay and place to practice or meet? Bands, choirs, parent groups and boosters enjoy meetings that bond them. Staying over night allows them opportunities to practice later, to meet later and to bond as a team.
Here's where to find resources for group business:
You do not have to go far for resources on your local SMERF opportunities. Your local convention and visitors bureau, chamber of commerce and realtor are all good places to start. They will likely have lists and contact information for schools, colleges, churches and clubs that are local to the area. You can also do a little Internet research under your zip code. After you discover the SMERF groups you want to target, dig a little deeper and research their interests and needs as well.
Create a marketing action plan:
Discover the SMERF groups local to your community and SMERF groups that are part of your own life. Research who they are, what they need, and how to contact them. Then, create packages at your resort that would best fit the needs of each group. Focus on one group at a time for targeted effectiveness. Then, contact the decision makers. Visit in person to follow up. Be hospitable by bringing something with you like Chef's favorite cookies-something that is memorable.
Work your SMERF marketing smarter. Discover who the SMERFs are, access your resources to get a complete picture, and personally touch your prospects with a resort package that will perk their interests. Become your local community's hero: make your venue a "go to" place for local folks to become enriched, enlightened and rejuvenated! SMERF group business will increase and your resort's reputation will elevate the place you live.
Written by Sherry Cummins.