Creating a more efficient way to win business is arguably where technology has had the biggest impact on group sales and catering. Yet, simply “automating a response” is not enough.
The response needs to accommodate the exact requirements of the RFP, it needs to be priced in a way that is competitive but profitable, it needs to not only answer all questions in full but also pre-empt and answer any follow-up questions which might be bounced back.
As such, here are our top 6 tips to help you woo and win the most lucrative group business and catering for your hotel.
1. Filter out the noise
Technology can help take automated responses from the generic to the specific, but in a way, technology has also contributed to the problem. Many of us are familiar with the phenomenon of “RFP spam” – where planners often send RFPs to a database of hotel properties with minimum filtering.
Hotels often have no way of identifying a spam RFP from a genuine expression of interest. If identifying the value of visitors is on the agenda, so too is identifying the value of an RFP. The delivery of an automated response to a spam request does nobody any favors.
2. Master speed and simplicity in RFPs
The drive towards automated responses may be in direct response to research which has benchmark status – namely that Cendyn research shows 70% of first responders get the business. The secret for hotels is to square the circle between speed and specificity. The layers of data which need to be integrated into a response are not static, and change in response to corporate, consumer and macro-economic trends.
3. Show your zeitgeist
Sustainability questions which once focused on a venue’s carbon off-setting policy, are today likely to want a statement around single-use plastic. In-room entertainment queries have been replaced by internet connectivity speeds. Availability of taxis to and from the hotel will instead be about Lyft and Uber. An interest in wellness, the current attention given to food tourism, the zeitgeist around “local experiences” are some of the consumer-facing factors in play here.
4. Put personalization in your playbook
The influence of consumer sentiment is also bringing personalization into the group sales playbook. According to Digital Marketing Magazine, 62% of guests are willing to pay more to a business which gives them a personalized service. It follows that meeting planners are likely willing to pay a premium for a property which responds to an RFP in a personalized way. Ask the right questions and reflect that you listened in the content you share back.
5. Differentiate with rich content
The opportunity for a hotel to differentiate by incorporating details about its food offering are facilitated by technology, and one area of focus is rich content. This phrase from the early days of ecommerce is now prevalent again. Food and venue photography is an art in itself, and while there is a cost to bringing in a professional photographer, the return on investment makes it worthwhile.
6. Sell the bespoke experience
Planners should know about the chef’s training, his awards and his specialty dishes. If the bartender has created a bespoke cocktail, include that. Do you have a rooftop VIP area styled by a local interior designer? Put that in the RFP. Millennial planners, in particular, want something different when a hotel gets back to them. Rates and dates work for some people but there is a shift towards decisions based on different parameters.
Want more insights on groups? Learn how to unlock the potential of group sales and catering in our new report for hotels.