Event planners are busy people, meaning they need the help of hotels to make memorable events come together as efficiently as possible.
In fact, the annual global edition of Cvent's Planner Sourcing Report noted that 37% of respondents said they organize 50 or more events per year — and 16% plan more than 100 events per year.
While this can be stressful for planners, it also creates an opportunity for hotels to ease that anxiety, create collaborative partnerships, and form lasting relationships. How? Through the use of relationship marketing.
5 tips to utilize relationship marketing for hotels:
1. Communicate efficiently.
Cvent found that nearly half (44%) of planners cited communication issues as the main reason for not submitting an RFP to a venue.
According to event planner Lynne Goldberg of Boca Entertainment, one of her biggest challenges when working with hotels is not having a dedicated go-to person.
“Many hotel chains have a person who is trained only to sell the space," Goldberg says. “This person follows through, answers questions in a timely manner, negotiates whenever possible, tries to accommodate the planner, and entices the planner until the contract is signed and deposits are given."
Usually, this is when the problems begin, especially as planners are often passed off to other people who aren't completely familiar with the original contract terms.
To alleviate these issues, Goldberg recommends that hotels have at least two people who can follow the event from booking to execution. This way, planners won't get frustrated by having to bring new people up to speed every time they call with a question.
2. Offer a great value.
Note that while event cost is a major determining factor for planners, non-cost factors matter, too. Hotels need to anticipate a planner's overall needs to win their business.
In fact, over 70% of planners said they'd need at least 6% in cost savings before considering a switch to their second-choice venue.
Goldberg recommends finding something that makes the client want to book your hotel over others, such as an extra perk that will enhance the planner's — and the event — experience.
"Planners love getting their clients something special, so when a hotel makes me look good, I want to bring the hotel more business," she says. "For example, one of the hotels I work with always tells my client they will offer them a free room night or a free upgrade on the dessert or appetizer."
Speaking of appetizers, food and beverage is a key opportunity to increase value. Cvent's report found that planners expect F&B budget allocations to go up, which may give hotels a chance to surprise and delight planners in this all-important category.
Lauren Grech, CEO of LLG Events, says hotels should start with realistic F&B packages for events and a proper cost per person based on region, event level, and experience level — instead of adding vendor services to try to be more enticing.
“Hotels are trying to include florals, photography, videography, ceremony arches, and more into their proposals instead of reducing overall food and beverage cost per person," she says. "We do not need additional vendors, since as a planner, we are most likely going to source our own vendors or use our own network."
One way hotels can reduce these costs, particularly for large events, is basing F&B packages on consumption rather than standard packaging, suggests Liz Carroll, senior project manager at Sequence Events.
She says, “I've worked on large conferences where we've had around 600 guests, but the hotel has been flexible to allow the breaks to be catered for 400 or 450 guests, knowing that not every single guest will eat every single snack. This helps save on budget and also creates less food waste."
3. Create inspiring spaces.
Cvent found that space and layout are the true deciding factors for 45% of planners, tying cost as the most-cited influence. But how can hotels stuck with the standard ballroom compete with properties that offer more inspiring spaces?
While Carroll says a simple space can sometimes be a good thing, as it offers a clean canvas to work with, that's often not enough. Many planners seek out unique venues and want layout tools that can help them determine before booking if the space can accommodate their needs. To that end, it's very important that hotel sales and event managers are extremely familiar with all of their property's event options and spaces.
"If a hotel doesn't have suggestions for how to leverage and maximize its space, it can feel like the property is not adequately prepared to host my events," Goldberg says. “Creating a layout, only to find out that it cannot work in the room because a hidden door is in the way, is beyond frustrating, and I cannot tell you how often the hotel representative has no knowledge of the ballroom."
Grech also notes that hotels can get creative by moving away from the ballroom altogether and considering where else onsite — or offsite — might make for a great event.
“I suggest offering an outdoor event space, especially in a sunny, remote location," she says. "Whether it's renting out the patio of the restaurant or privatizing the spa area or sectioning off an area of the beach, there are plenty of ways to get creative with your existing spaces and provide key differentiators to your hotel."
4. Offer tech-driven solutions for group reservations.
Surprisingly, almost 50% of planners say they manage room blocks manually.
Not as surprisingly, 59% would prefer a tech-driven solution.
This proves the value of room block technology in regard to making life easier for planners. It allows them to track block pickup and make adjustments without contacting the hotel — saving your team time as well.
Hotels not yet using this technology should consider how the investment can pay off in the long run and potentially leading to more bookings.
5. Train staff to be professional.
More than 59% of planners will not return to a venue due to a lack of professionalism among hotel staff. While this could be attributed to a number of factors, one likely culprit is the RFP process.
In fact, when it comes to dealing with RFPs, planners want better attention to detail (32%), speedier responses (20%), and more trustworthiness (16%).
So how can hotels level up?
"By being more transparent," Grech says. "They should start putting all of their event capabilities on their website — an outline of suggested floor plans for the different types of events they offer; the capacity for both indoor and outdoor events; an outline of the costs associated with having an event there; and providing previous event photos in the form of a portfolio, highlighting the specific event types that they specialize in at the property."
These details should be provided to the planner before an RFP is even submitted. That way, planners can decipher from a hotel website if the venue meets their basic event criteria.
Says Grech, "The more transparent you are ahead of time, the more qualified of a lead you will receive through an RFP; therefore, it will be a more efficient use of the routine."
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