Simple But Effective Marketing Strategy – Savvy GM Puts Hotel In The Direct Path Of Incoming Traffic


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I am am constantly encouraging hoteliers to use every distribution channel at their disposal to get the word out about their hotel in order to book more business direct.

John Clancy, GM of the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Hammond, Louisiana did just that this week when he posted this impactful invite on a message board that caters to football fans at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

What’s so savvy about this approach?  Texas State will play Southeastern Louisiana University two weeks from now and instead of keeping his fingers crossed that fans will book at his hotel, he put his hotel directly in front of football fans who will most likely be traveling to the game.

“I am the General Manager of a Brand New LaQuinta Inn and Suites in Hammond and I am offering a Special “Tailgating Rate” to any and all fans that are traveling to Hammond for their games with SLU.

All you have to do is call and make your reservation with the hotel desk clerk, tell them you are a Bobcat Fan coming in for the game and you want the $79.00 Tailgating Rate. Its that easy.

We are a new hotel and we are just trying to get our name out there. I tried to go through the universities with no luck…so I decided to take it straight to the people that really matter…the FANS!!

If you are traveling in we would love to have you stay with us!!!

LaQuinta Inn and Suites….42627 Veterans Ave Hammond La 70403….phone # is 985-345-4742.

Good luck with y’alls season!!!”

Nice job John and I hope your hotel sells out!

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.


Is It Time To Stick A Fork In Hotel Deal Sites?


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Madigan Pratt published a story on his blog entitled “Pros and Cons of Deal Sites” that begs the question “what’s the bottom line – what’s the deal?”

Pros – Deal sites do create awareness but what is the value of a “deal customer” and is this the type of customer that a hotel can convert into a “loyal customer” or is he/she just a deal shopper?

Is a deal a “deal” for the hotel when you calculate that deal sites return $.25 to $.50 cents on a dollar on a hotel’s BAR?  Don’t sign me up!

Cons – At the end of the day when you sort through your conversions is a deal shopper a long-term customer or one who will be off shopping the next deal?  Should your hotel be more focused on providing value and not deal distribution?

I conducted a search for “deals” in my city on Groupon, Kayak, and Travelzoo and the following are my deal findings.

For the return on Groupon, I got deals for Cabo San Lucas, Las Vegas, Ontario, Canada, Toronto, Canada, Alajuela, Costa Rica, Cabarete, Dominican Republic and so on. Not what I expected and not even close to what I wanted.  In short there are no hotel deals for in my immediate area.

Kayak had four deals…two were car rentals and two were hotel deals.  One hotel deal featured an ADR that ranged from $159 to $289.  I don’t consider that to be a deal.  The other featured a two-month booking window where prices ranged from $103 to $206.  Same holds true for this as referenced above.

I conducted a similar search on Travelzoo and the return featured 14 deals of which one out of 14 were hotel deals.

Five quick thoughts for hotels;

  1. The cost of doing business with deal sites like Groupon can severely damage a brand’s image, especially if your hotel is in the Upscale Luxury category. By discounting the price your hotel becomes further susceptible to a reduction in perceived value by your customers.
  2. As Madigan pointed out in his blog, are deal shoppers here today and gone tomorrow or is there any real opportunity to convert them into a loyal customer?
  3. Most hotels that offer deals are lucky if they break even. Remember, you’re only making about 25% of what you’d normally earn if your deal discounts the original rate by 50%.
  4. While daily deal sites can generate attention to your hotel, that intense spotlight only lasts for a few days. After that, you’ll may be dealing with deal-crazed customers who may want more than what they paid for.
  5. I often hear hoteliers complain that OTAs don’t share customer information.  Don’t think for one minute that deal sites will share their buyer’s contact information or email address with you anytime soon.

Your thoughts?

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

Severed Heads Found In Front Of Primary School In Acapulco



Just when you thought it was safe to travel to Acapulco, think again.

Mexican police have found five severed heads in front of a primary school in the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco.

It’s unclear whether the gruesome discovery is related to extortion threats that led about 140 elementary schools in the city to close temporarily earlier this month after teachers and parents decided it wasn’t safe enough to start classes.

State police say the five heads were found early Tuesday in a sack, along with a handwritten message threatening three alleged drug traffickers.

The heads all appear to be of men. But some of the five headless bodies found elsewhere in the city a day earlier were too badly burned to immediately determine their gender.

Some Key Benefits Of An Effective Online Reputation Management Strategy



We’re digging through data as provided on hotel review sites and related studies and are finding some very interesting information that can be helpful to your hotel, if you have a reputation management strategy in place. If you don’t read on.

My friend Adele Gutman VP of Sales and Marketing with HK Hotels has all four of her hotels in the top four positions of TripAdvisor’s New York hotel ranking.  Because she does such a spectacular job with her online reputation management, in addition to her passion of creating a remarkable experience for guests, her hotels now earn more than 50% of revenue through direct website bookings.

What are some of Adele’s reputation management takeaways?

  • “Reputation creates demand.”
  • “Everything you do is reputation management: from hiring and training staff to the type of linens you order for the guest rooms.”
  • “Imagine the reviews you want, and then become the hotel that inspires them.”

Here’s what Forrester Research is saying the benefits of reputation management.

  • When considering two properties, travelers say the presence of management responses would sway 68% in their favor
  • 79% say a management response to a bad review reassures them
  • 78% say a management response to a good review makes them think highly of the hotel

So what’s your strategy for your online reputation management?

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

Google’s Flight Search Take Off



Google debuted its long awaited flight search Tuesday.

The new search, powered by the data and algorithms it got when it bought ITA Software for $700 million in April, can be found directly at

Trying out Google’s take on flight search, one can see why traditional flight search engines feared the deal. Google has clearly integrated ITA’s smart algorithms that make sense of ever-changing airline inventory with its massive search infrastructure.

The site’s defining feature? Speed. Results from flight searches show up almost instantly—which comes as something of a miracle, given how accustomed we’ve all become to ten second-waits to find a cheap fare to Boise, Idaho.

Currently, booking a flight requires you to click over to an airline’s site, which isn’t always seamless since you may have to repick the exact flight when you hit the airline’s page. The flight search also gives you the option to limit a search to only one airline, but in the case of choosing Virgin America, Google seemed to have no data.

Despite those limitations, one can only assume that there have been better days inside companies such as Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak, and Hipmunk.

Etiquette Is A Simple Balance Of ‘Give’ And ‘Take’…”First Converse, Then Commerce”


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When was the last time you attended a networking event and you were approached by someone who was more interested in pitching his services and closing a piece of business with little regard of who you were or what you did?   Most likely the last networking event you attended.

Dictionary defines etiquette as conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority in social or official life. With this definition as a guiding principle, etiquette is even more important in a networking situation than in others because most who are in the “taking” end do not even realize that their behaviors and even attitudes are making it hard for those at the “giving” end to be gracious about being considerate.


Etiquette is the lubrication that makes things move smoothly. Ignoring it can create unnecessary friction and hurt. Practicing the right etiquette will not only get what you want, it will also help you position yourself in a differentiated way in the eyes of those who are at the “giving” end!

Your thoughts?

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

It’s About Product Positioning And Not All About Price!


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I talk to Sales Managers at hotels on a regular basis and one of their most commonly asked questions is “What will it take for us to win this piece of business?”

“Well you can lower the rate to $99, give me a 1 per 20 comp, waive the attrition, and throw in the Presidential Suite for me and the family for the week!”

OK, let’s get serious and break down the question to its simplest form.

“What will it take” are four words that should send a chill up the spine of every customer who is posed the question.  Why?  Because it’s “old school inside the box sales 101”.  It’s “let’s go down the price path” which gives you and the customer nothing more to discuss than price point.

Now close your eyes…take a deep breath…exhale…and repeat this sentence…“What do I need to know that will allow us to provide you with the best deal possible?”  Now open your eyes.  See, you feel much better now don’t you?

“What do I need to know” are words that say “I need to find out what you’re really looking for so I can best position and offer that’s a win-win”.

You see it’s about product positioning and not all about price.  Here are some thoughts that will help you to position your product and close more deals.

Find attributes about your hotel that your customer can hang his hat on.  You need to find deliverables that inspire, motivate, and encourage the customer to seriously consider you as a candidate for the short list or a contract.  Remember that price is only one part of the equation.  If your hotel can’t stand up and deliver after the contract is signed, price means nothing.

Here is how Boca Raton Resort positions their resort…”Designed by legendary architect Addison Mizner (I don’t have a clue who this guy is), Boca Raton Resort, The Waldorf Astoria Collection (that’s selling sizzle) has reigned as an icon of elegance for more than 80 years (that’s staying power, reliability and consistency).  Today, the resort remains faithful to its glamorous past (here’s the hook), but radiates a vibrant new energy (not a musty 80-year old resort on the beach) and offers infinite amenities to provide each guest with the perfect getaway” (there’s something here for everyone).

If you’re the ABC Airport Hotel, you still have attributes that are particular to your market niche IF you take the time to look for them with a new attitude.

Let’s examine an analytic model of competitive market equilibrium in the presence of switching costs?  But seriously you need to understand your competitive set and the perceived “switching cost” for a customer.  Switching costs or switching barriers are terms used in microeconomics, strategic management, and marketing to describe any impediment to a customer’s changing of suppliers.  This is essentially what you are dealing with every time you sell against your competitive set.

Reinvent the customer experience.  There are so many things that have changed in this world over the past 12 months and those changes have directly or indirectly impacted both you and your prospective customer.  What’s important to your customer today may not be the same thing that was important to him 12 months ago.  Look for those signs, rethink the customer experience, and take advantage of it.

Position your product relative to the market leader in your competitive set.  Publicly or to prospective customers, always put your hotel on the same level as the market leader in your competitive set.  It elevates your hotel in terms of customer perception and allows you to sell without the need to “look over your shoulder”.

Find support for your hotel in and outside of your four walls.  Right now there is a customer checking out at your front desk who can attest to the great experience that he had while attending a meeting at your hotel.  Are you in your office pushing paper or out polling a potential army of supporters?  It’s actually kind of a fun exercise especially if you can find someone who is not rushing out the door to catch his next flight.

Share your success story about how you are positioning your product or services?

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

Brick House B&B Earns Certificate


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It’s great when a hotel receives a 5-star rating.  I only assume it’s a more challenging for a B&B to receive the same.  Here’s a PR piece on one such recipient.

Brick House Bed & Breakfast Awarded 5-Star Certificate

Westfield, NY, August 31, 2011 — Brick House Bed & Breakfast has been awarded the 5-star Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor for Business. Now in its sixth year, Brick House B&B retains its number one ranking for B&Bs in the area. “Earning the 5-star certificate shows our commitment to our on-going guest satisfaction and value,” says Randy DeVaul, owner of Brick House.

“We’re grateful for the recognition and appreciate our gracious guests, but we also know this award is not earned in a vacuum,” states DeVaul. “We share in the total experience of our guests.” That guest experience includes the interaction with the people and businesses in the community, as well. “We can send guests to restaurants where we know they will get great food and visit wineries where they can engage with personable hosts.” Add the museums, art trail, antiques, live performances and other festivals and events, guests interact with the whole community during their stay. All of that energy and experience goes toward ensuring guests enjoy their stay and feel welcome.

“We appreciate everyone who has a part in our guests feeling welcome and at home,” states DeVaul. “Westfield is a great community – rich in history and rich in hospitality.”

Brick House Bed & Breakfast is open year round. With five guest rooms and private baths and the ‘extras’ provided by the owners, the ‘return guest’ list continues to grow. And, there have been guests from 47 states and 14 countries. DeVaul’s goal is to have guests from all 50 states and more international visits. To keep it honest and qualify as a visiting state or country, the guest book must be signed by a current resident of that place, not from guests who may have lived there in times past.

For more information on Brick House Bed & Breakfast, visit

Prospecting Is Like Eating Brussels Sprouts


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As a kid I remember racing to the dinner table one evening hungry enough to eat a horse but my ravenous appetite quickly went south when I caught a whiff of what I considered to be the nastiest vegetable known to man…Brussels sprouts.

My head twitched, my nose wrinkled, and my lips curled as my mother rolled her eyes and said…”Eat yah vegetables Twome if you wanna grow up to big and strong like yah fatha.”

My father, a handsome and very successful executive, took one look at my pale and pouty face and said…”You know son, prospecting is a lot like eating Brussels sprouts. They don’t necessarily smell good but they’re good for you.”

Prospecting for new clients is a necessary function of the sales process so before you turn your nose up to prospecting and decide to dig in you’ll want to make some assessments and creat a game plan to make sure that your initial call will be a quality contact and not “dialing for dollars”.

Here are some thoughts and strategies that will help you to become more successful at prospecting.

Assess your current situation and ask yourself the following questions;

  1. What is my territory or market segment?
  2. Is my brand easily recognized by my prospective customer?
  3. Who is my competitive set and how are they selling against my brand/product/services?
  4. Am I experienced and successful at prospecting?  What are my strengths/weaknesses?
  5. Do I continually have enough leads to generate business or do I have to supplement leads with additional prospecting?
  6. How much time do I have to devote to prospecting and can I commit to the process long-term?
  7. What are my sales goals?  Are these numbers realistic and achievable?

Prospecting Strategies

  1. Seek out a mentor who is successful and holds to the same high standards that you do.
  2. There’s gold in your backyard.  Start digging near your office first.
  3. Ask your existing customers for a testimonial or to refer you to other prospective customers.
  4. When networking be a good listener, ask open-ended questions, and get a business card.
  5. Qualify your prospect ranging from a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best) and don’t pursue those that fall below 7.
  6. Create a script that gets you past the gate keeper and in touch with someone who writes the check.
  7. Resist selling on the first call.  It’s an opportunity to get to know your prospect and to identify if your product or services meets his needs.
  8. If there is light at the end of your call do whatever it takes to arrange an appointment before you hang up.
  9. Don’t bad mouth your competitive set but be ready to share why your company/products/services are better.
  10. Don’t end your day with a prospect that says “No”.
  11. Oh, and eat your Brussels sprouts.

Here are some links and resources to help you with your prospecting.

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

It’s Emotion And Not Price That Keeps Customers Coming Back!


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I recently interviewed Adel Gutman, VP of Sales and Marketing with HKHotels & Hospitality and was impressed, to say the least, how she and her staff emotionally immerse themselves in their clientele.

Look at their reviews and you’ll agree that emotional “connection” is not lip service.

Holding on to a new customer has never been harder than before…or more important. Research shows that the key to attracting customers isn’t price. It’s emotion.  People stay faithful to brands that earn both their rational trust and their deeply felt affection.

One of my favorite hotels hardly advertise, rarely tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook or has a rewards programs.

When I book with them I receive a personalized email, not a canned one, that welcomes me back and suggests that they look forward to my return.  At check in an additional hotel representative often comes to the front desk to greet me.  When I arrive at my room there’s a welcome message from housekeeping informing me that they are available whenever I need them.  Guest room rate…$129.00.

Frederick F. Reichheld, author of the widely read The Loyalty Effect: The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits and Lasting Value, showed that making loyalists out of just 5% more customers would lead, on average, to an increase in profit per customer of between 25% and 100%.

Is it safe then to assume that no matter how hip your hotel or how comfortable your bed, the key is to emotionally engage your customers?

I visited a new concept restaurant a couple of weeks ago and ordered a meal to go.  When I got home and opened the container I found that it didn’t contain the meal I ordered.  I was not a happy camper, especially since my last meal was a bowl of oatmeal.

I hopped into my car, headed back to the restaurant, and marched up to the check-out counter to make things right.  The cashier looked at my receipt, looked up and called me by name, calmly apologized for the inconvenience that they had caused me, and asked me if I would like the kitchen to prepare the correct order.

My blood pressure subsided slightly, my to go box came out quickly, and I was presented with a $25 gift certificate for my troubles.  In addition, the cashier asked for my telephone number, and shortly after I returned home I received a call from the floor manager apologizing for the mishap and invited me to enjoy a complimentary cocktail upon my return.

How could I possibly write this off as a bad experience when now I am emotionally bound to give them another chance?

So what are your thoughts about emotion vs. price?

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.