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Wasting Time on Cheap Leads? Relationship Marketing Fills a Better Funnel

Let's face it, chasing weak leads that don’t close can be exhausting.

If you're a hospitality group sales pro, you know the challenges of being inundated with low-quality leads from mass-triggered RFPs and other referral sources. With limited time and product to sell, you want to ensure your efforts are focused on generating the most qualified leads and prospective customers possible.

That's where relationship marketing comes in.

By building relationships with prospective clients, you can ensure your sales pipeline is full of direct leads that are more likely to close, close at a higher value, and become repeat customers.

Those are the kinds of leads we like!

On the InnSync Show, Cory Falter and Teresa Winfield of Pan Pacific Seattle recently discussed how hotel sales teams could ensure better leads through relationship marketing strategies.

What is Relationship Marketing?

Relationship marketing entails cultivating a deeper connection with prospects outside of delivering sales pitches and collateral. Additionally, it includes nurturing long-term relationships with customers long after their initial purchase. 

It starts with understanding the needs of your target client, then proactively offering solutions to meet those needs. This can be achieved through email and social media campaigns, customized sales presentations, and face-to-face meetings.

By targeting prospects who are likely to yield high returns on investment, you can more quickly identify and close high-value sales opportunities.

RELATED: How Creating Content Builds Relationships and ROI in the Hospitality Industry

Why is Relationship Marketing Important for Hotel Sales Pros?

Relationship marketing is vital for hotel sales professionals because it helps them build trust, better understand prospects' needs, and encourages customer loyalty and repeat business.

Additionally, a strong relationship can help break down barriers, such as price and value, that might otherwise prevent an individual from booking their event.

Studies have shown that customers who have a relationship with a company or organization are more likely to stay loyal and return for future business.

The Basic Elements of Relationship Marketing

There are four basic elements of relationship marketing. Each of these elements should be infused into any relationship marketing strategy.

They are engagement, personalization, advocacy, and collaboration.

  1. Engagement refers to engaging customers in a meaningful dialogue so you can gain an understanding of their needs.
  2. Personalization involves customizing your solutions for each customer based on their preferences.
  3. Advocacy refers to encouraging customers to spread the word about your product or services by sharing their positive experiences.
  4. Collaboration involves partnering with customers and other stakeholders to create mutually beneficial outcomes.

By leveraging these four elements of relationship marketing, you can develop better relationships with prospective hotel clients and close more deals with high-value customers.

Relationship Building with Content

One key to successful relationship marketing is to get creative with your approach. This can be accomplished through content.

Content-driven marketing can include informative blog content, social media campaigns featuring customer testimonials, personalized videos from the property’s staff, live streams of events at the hotel, and more.

By offering unique experiences to your prospects, you can create a deeper connection that will increase sales.

These tactics help establish trust between your property's brand and prospects, increasing the likelihood of a direct inquiry.

Teresa says, "Direct inquiries from the website are golden because these are prospects who have been on your website, liked what they saw, and reached out. The likelihood of you winning that business is pretty good."

RELATED: Content or Paid: Which is a Better Hotel Marketing Strategy?

Examples of Relationship Marketing in the Hospitality Industry

We love building - and helping our clients build - relationships here at Lure Agency! Relationship marketing is infused into all our strategies.

Here are a few examples:

Stonewall Resort

This full-service resort located in the rolling hills of West Virginia needed to attract new group business to close a revenue gap left by the pandemic.

We created a comprehensive content marketing plan to help build relationships on behalf of the sales team through the value-added blog and video content.

The results: email open rates improved by 93.7%, click-through rates improved by 47.1%, and direct inquiries improved by 123%.

"This strategy was a lifesaver for us, especially given the more rural location of Stonewall. We didn’t even come close to a fraction of this business conversion when using other channels. The human touch, real people connecting with real people," Juli Petit-Davis, Director of Sales & Marketing at Benchmark, says. "We have also been able to manage with two salespeople instead of the 3.5 people due to a more qualified lead."

The Bowden

The Bowden, an event and wedding venue located in northern Texas, had a revenue retention problem, mainly due to the impact of the ongoing pandemic. Corporate meeting business vanished quickly, so they needed to tap into other types of business to help mitigate the flurry of cancellations and lost opportunities.

Leveraging search intent and online sentiment, the Lure team uncovered other social group opportunities, such as the celebration of life and flourishing worship services, despite ongoing restrictions imposed due to the pandemic. A pivot was required to capture an entirely new business segment.

Highly relevant and educational content was created, which helped build authority and trust with a new audience who had not heard of the venue before.

A cold outreach strategy was used to reach and influence new prospects with critical insights, takeaways, and solid reviews.

The results: after 12 months of execution, the average email open rate was 35%, inbound lead inquiries increased by a whopping 216%, and annual revenue grew by 23.7%.

Wingspread Retreat & Executive Conference Center

This exclusively all-business executive retreat and conference center needed help to recover from a flat line of revenue over the past couple of years. We executed a multi-layer marketing strategy that attracted and built authority with meeting planners through written and video content.

The result: direct qualified leads increased by 140%, and email open and click-through rates improved by 40.6% and 17.9%, respectively.

General Manager Eric Bates said, "2022 has been the most successful year in Wingspread's history. Lure Agency provided some great marketing traction to help tell our story and connect us with the right clients at the right time. I have no doubt that's why we're doing so well this year. Thank you so much for your partnership!"

How to Use Relationship Marketing Strategies to Attract Higher Quality Leads

As a hotel sales professional, you can leverage relationship marketing to attract higher-quality leads by creating content that resonates with your target customers at any phase of the buyer's journey.

  • Invest time in creating content that speaks to the needs of your prospects and deliver it contextually.
  • Share your expertise, provide valuable information, and offer helpful tips through blog posts, social media posts, and videos.
  • Develop an email marketing strategy and use targeted campaigns to reach out to prospects.
  • Use customer reviews, testimonials, and success stories to build trust and authority in the marketplace.
  • Focus on building relationships with a personal touch by adding a human element to your communication.
  • Finally, track key performance indicators such as open rates, click-throughs, and conversions so you can measure the success of your campaigns and adjust accordingly. 

Converting Prospects into Customers

Knowing your target audience's needs, interests, and pain points is essential.

Take the time to get to know them and understand how your hotel can meet their needs. This will help you create content that resonates with your customers and prospects and will help build trust.

Finally, think beyond traditional relationship marketing tactics. Consider utilizing email campaigns, webinars, live streams, and other creative tactics to engage with your prospects and offer unique experiences.

By taking a thoughtful approach to relationship marketing and offering creative solutions to meet the needs of your prospects, you can attract higher-quality leads that are more likely to book an event at your hotel.

The goal is to create a channel for more direct business. With the right strategies, you can make your hotel stand out in a competitive market and win more business.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can be an invaluable tool to help you track, segment, and target your customers. CRMs allow you to store customer data in one place, manage relationships at scale, and capture insights into your customers that will help inform your marketing strategy.

Examples of CRM software include:

- Sharpspring by Constant Contact

- HubSpot

- Monday

Understanding how relationships make a crucial difference in your hotel's success is essential. With the right tools and techniques, hotel sales managers can increase direct bookings and drive more business. With the help of relationship marketing, hotel sales managers can attract higher-quality leads by providing content that resonates with their target customers and utilizing innovative strategies to engage them. 

Common Questions About Relationship Marketing

What are the benefits of relationship marketing?

Relationship marketing helps you understand your prospects' needs, build trust, and convert more leads into paying customers. It also allows you to create a more personalized experience for your customers, which can help set your hotel apart from the competition.

How do I measure the success of my relationship marketing efforts?

The key performance indicators you should track include open rates, click-throughs, and conversions. You can also measure customer satisfaction by collecting feedback from customers who have booked events at your hotel.

HOT TIP: Don't discount "dark social" leads. Dark social is a form of relationship marketing that involves sharing content through private channels, such as email and messaging apps. To measure success here, you should look at the number of referrals, shares, and other engagement metrics. The point here is to utilize self-attribution to really find out where the opportunities are coming from.

What are some examples of relationship marketing tactics?

Some effective relationship marketing tactics include blogging, social media outreach, video content creation, email campaigns, webinars, live streams, and more. By strategically utilizing these tactics to engage with prospects, build trust with them, and create unique experiences, you can stand out in a competitive market and attract higher-quality leads.

How do you ensure customer loyalty?

Ultimately, the goal is to create insanely happy customers. The kind that trip over themselves to recommend you at every opportunity. Word-of-mouth marketing is still by far the very best marketing channel. And it's the by-product of a well-executed relationship marketing strategy.

If you're not delivering an exceptional experience every time, you need to drill down and find the root cause and fix that immediately.

Can you recommend customer relationship management (CRM) software?

Yes, there are many CRM software solutions available. Popular options include Salesforce, Zoho CRM, Hubspot CRM, and Pipedrive. Research each opportunity's features to determine which is best for your business needs.

Does traditional marketing still work?

Traditional marketing strategies are still effective when used strategically. For example, print or television ads can help you reach a wider audience and create awareness for your hotel.

Print materials such as brochures and postcards can also be used to create a memorable impression of your hotel.

How do you manage negative customer reviews and customer feedback?

Negative customer reviews and feedback should be taken seriously. Respond to each comment quickly, apologize if necessary, and thank the customer for their input. If appropriate, offer a solution to the problem or ask for follow-up information so you can investigate further.

What are your recommendations for nurturing current customer relationships?

Be sure to keep customers updated on the latest news about your hotel, whether it’s a special offer or an event. You want to lead with value. 

Additionally, create loyalty programs that reward frequent customers and ensure they know them. You can also send personalized messages for birthdays and other important occasions to show you value their patronage.

It’s important to note here, you should not always be trying to “sell” your product or service. The ultimate goal is to reinforce the relationship by passing along tips and trends while asking for nothing in return. That goes a way in relationship building! 

In conclusion, hotel sales managers should use relationship marketing techniques to attract higher-quality leads. By leveraging CRM software, measuring performance, utilizing traditional and new media tactics, managing customer feedback, and engaging customers with loyalty programs, hotels can build lasting relationships with their clients that drive long-term success.

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