Marketing & Management Strategies That Strengthen Community

By Rani Bhattacharyya Community Economics Extension Educator , University of Minnesota Extension- Center for Community Vitality | April 28, 2013

The time, effort and investment that property managers and marketers put towards differentiating their property from those operating just down the road can be endless. It often times becomes frustrating and tiresome since rates change so often for special events, holidays, as well as for peak and off seasons. At the same time, national slow but steady economic growth conditions make differentiation crucial in keeping rooms and tables full. With domestic travel expected to increase this year according to American Express' Consumer Travel Report for 2013; guests looking for those weekend getaways will be discriminating and sensitive to price and value considerations when making their travel and hospitality purchases. The same report also suggests that travelers are looking for comprehensive packages that will allow them historical, biking, and sail/cruising opportunities with which to explore undiscovered parts of the country. To maintain your destination's competitiveness then; is it possible to co-market with your local competition instead of compete with them?

In this article I will highlight three marketing partnerships that lodging properties are developing here in the Midwest. When reviewing each partnership, I will briefly try to highlight the original issue that prompted the formation of each and then how co-marketing has helped drive visitors to each member business. In closing I will also suggest key points for property managers to consider when planning or developing their own partnerships.

Why Marketing Partnerships with Communities

In an effort in market creatively with very little if any marketing budget, business members in the marketing partnerships cited below are trying to find ways to promote lesser known destinations in a more comprehensive and value added way to their visitors. They are achieving this through specialized referral services to guests concerning eating, dining, and recreational opportunities offered in the region which provide educational experiences to visitors that focus on what makes a community unique for its residents. Supporting businesses that provide such learning opportunities is especially important in our rebounding economy because:

... to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses employ about half of the nation's private sector employees, create more than half of nonfarm private-sector GDP and generated 65 percent of the net new jobs between 1993 and 2009. Such small businesses represent a disproportionately large share of the travel industry. Supporting more than 3.9 million workers, small businesses employ more than half (53%) of the total workforce in the travel industry. By contrast, small businesses employed less than half (49%) of the workforce in the rest of the private sector. Small businesses in the travel industry employ a higher percentage of workers than the rest of the private sector in 44 of the 50 states.

- (U.S. Travel Association, 2012)

Marketing partnerships in your community can not only strengthen your community's customer service, but also help it thrive by supporting businesses that are driving force behind the nation's economic growth.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.