Partnership Marketing: Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends...

By Andrew Freeman President, Andrew Freeman & Company | October 28, 2008

As business becomes increasingly competitive and aggressive, and consumers become more sophisticated and informed, finding ways to extend your brand with unique and creative solutions becomes increasingly necessary. Partnership marketing, a valuable and often underutilized tool, offers a powerful solution, providing a means to gain significant exposure to potential new guests and new markets, as well as increase the benefit of what you provide your current guests.

What is partnership marketing? Traditionally known as "cooperative advertising," partnership marketing is a grass-roots approach to making marketing dollars last, and extending your brand to people and market segments you didn't have direct access to before. Partnership marketing is aligning yourself with other like-minded organizations and businesses to reciprocally expose your brand to one another's customers and provide added value to your own existing customers.

Who are your partners? Partners may include local civic organizations, such as your local convention and visitors bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, hotel and restaurant councils, and other key city groups you can be involved in as a supporter. Also look at industry organizations, such as Meeting Planners International (MPI), Hotels Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) or American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHMA), which have similar messages and objectives. Every key manager on property ought to be actively involved in a civic group. If you're not already participating in the civic and industry organizations, you're way behind. These are the most direct sources for partnership marketing.

More creative and strategic possibilities for partnership marketing are close behind. Most fully realized opportunities come from partnering with a key cause. Cause-related partnership marketing begins by identifying what your brand stands for and determining where you can make an impact, then aligning yourself with a community or charity organization that has a mission consistent with your own as well as one that can refer potential business to your hotel.

Be sure that no matter the cause - protecting the environment, improving education, fighting disease, eliminating poverty - the reason you choose to partner with this cause is to extend the reach of your marketing dollars as well as to match the sensibilities of your customers by utilizing the level of reach this particular organization can offer. Giving back to the community and supporting worthy causes are justifiable reasons in their own right, but you also need to incorporate the social and financial return on investment in what is ultimately a business decision.

Other creative opportunities for potential partners can be found by looking at your vendors. Not just your existing vendors, but vendors who are creating products that could complement and enhance your brand. As you look around, you'll see possibilities with all sorts of potential partners who can take elements of your brand and extend it or add a level of excitement and press-worthiness:

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.