Making Business Connections in a Social World

By Scott Watson Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, M3 Accounting + Analytics | April 06, 2014

For those of us who have been a part of the business world long enough to remember life before the Internet, the new, connected world can sometimes be overwhelming. Connectivity has afforded us the opportunity to reach people whom we may have never interacted with previously, and as sales and marketing professionals, provides us a unique opportunity to harness technology to make real connections with potential customers.

By now, most of us have incorporated social media into our personal lives to keep in touch with family, reconnect with old friends, offer reviews of our favorite restaurants and get feedback from fellow commuters to assist us in navigating rush hour traffic. But when it comes to business and leveraging the power of digital connections to establish relationships with potential clients and customers, many more seasoned professionals draw a line between the online world and the physical workplace. In the hospitality arena, where guest experiences, vendor relationships and cooperative alliances are the lifeblood of the industry, erasing that line can generate tremendous benefit and enhance the connections that we work so hard to make in the physical world.

The truth is, the connected world is so much a part of where we are now, in all aspects of life, that there is no turning back at this stage of the game. We no longer write the overnight rate in a leather-bound ledger on the front desk, reach behind us to grab the room key from a wooden cubby-hole and have the guest sign the guest ledger before ushering them off to their room, while explaining which bath they will share other rooms. Things change, and today they change at breakneck speed. With that said, it certainly doesn't mean that those of us who began our careers with card files and a Rolodex, pre-cell phone and pre-Internet, must sit back and turn over the reins to those who have grown up with technology. On the contrary, now is the time to step up to the challenge and learn to take advantage of the tools that are available to us in this new, connection-based economy, where value is created by the relationships we establish and maintain.

Whether it's a sales manager trying to book a conference group; a revenue manager trying to make sure that room price maximizes demand while balancing perceived worth of a room; or a vendor, like me, trying to communicate the value of a product or service, it's a time-tested truth that people prefer to do business with those who they know, like and trust. In days gone by, people preferred to trade with the shop owner down the street or dine at the local eatery, where everyone gathered to hear and share the latest town news. These same principles can be applied today in a virtual world, where technology broadens the net and enables a person to connect with nearly anyone in the world whom they choose. It's all about using the tools, making the contacts and fostering these relationships with an honest, human approach.

There are many opportunities and platforms upon which to connect in today's business world, which is one of the reasons why this topic becomes so overwhelming, even for the tech savvy. Let's start with three of the top social networking platforms and take a brief look at how you can begin to build a presence and take advantage of the digital networking mixer that we have at our fingertips.

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Coming up in June 2019...

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.