Wednesday, January 12, 2011

10 Realities That Can Rescue Your Community From Group Sales Obsession -

I started my 40-year career in community/destination marketing working in “group sales.” I was very good at it but I escaped. I didn’t do it alone. I had help on the “inside.”marketing_vs_sales

I’ve been clean now for nearly 40 years thanks to learning that “sales” never works in isolation like many who are still addicted will have you believe including many who operate or consult for convention hotels and conference centers.

People want to know our secret. How were we able then to rapidly grow three different communities as destinations for visitors including securing their fair market share of the 1 in 10 visitors attending conventions and meetings without holding those communities hostage to “group sales” addiction.

The “intervention” that ultimately brought so much success in community/destination marketing came from an old friend who successfully manages major convention hotels. His job, he told me, was to worry about “today,” and my job was to worry about “tomorrow.”

Disguised by my “holistic” approach to destination marketing, including pioneering the use of research and branding/image, is the fact that in developing three community destination marketing organizations largely from scratch one of my first priorities was to establish a strong group sales effort.

People want to know my secret. How as I able to grow all three destinations to “fair market share”for “conventions and meetings” without staying addicted to “group sales.”

After all, when I started my career, community/destination marketing organizations were known simply as “convention bureaus” and “group sales” was their only activity.

Here are 10 realities that show how our holistic approach to “marketing” enabled us to achieve greater “sales” results than other destinations could:

  • It’s always both/and, not either/or. Marketing includes sales and sales requires marketing. Sales is just one of several important marketing activities and overall marketing is a blend of activities, including but unrestricted by, direct sales. Overall marketing includes diagnostics/measurement (aka research), branding (aka image), earned media (aka public relations), paid media (aka advertising), and post-arrival circulation (aka point-of-sale sales).

  • Other marketing activities lower the barriers for direct sales. An example is that burnishing Durham’s image by reclaiming assets like Research Triangle Park and dispelling the myth of Raleigh/Durham as one place overcomes barriers that misdirect customers, rob the community of a rotation and otherwise neutralize sales results. Without marketing to clear the way and open doors, sales is just pounding your head on cement.

  • Sales is about “harvesting interest” while other marketing activities “plant the seeds and grow the interest” that creates the harvest. Other marketing activities plant the community’s story and get it on lists for consideration by visitors and planners, inhibit over-development of product and cannibalization, provide a platform so hotels and other businesses and facilities can harvest their share and stimulate post-arrival circulation to optimize spending and yield for the community outside the hotel.

  • Good sales decisions must be informed by other marketing activities. Uninformed by other marketing activities, direct sales can lead to “big game hunting” for subsidy-laden, mega-events and other poor sales decisions. Informed by research and other marketing activities, sales is less “ego” and more bottom-line driven.

  • Sales may deliver “heads in beds” but good marketing is about optimizing yields with “feet on the street.” While it may be the sole focus of hotels and meeting facilities to harvest “heads into beds,” it is the community and destination marketing organization’s job to put as many “feet on the street” as possible and that requires optimizing the attraction of both overnight and day-trip visitor potential as well as promoting circulation.

  • Knowing where you started and benchmarking progress is pivotal to arriving at successful sales. Research as a means to target and qualify prospects is not only integral to optimizing group sales but also to benchmark community-wide against fair market share, diminishing rate of return and when to diversify to other segments.

  • Pitting sales against marketing for resources is very limited, zero-sum thinking. Sales is about the “trees” but it takes overall marketing to first identify the right “forest.” Sales is product focused, “I have this facility and I want you to book it.” Overall marketing is focused on creating and retaining a customer base from which group sales can harvest.

  • Sales can afford to be generic, overall marketing is about being distinctive and place-based. Uninformed by other marketing activities, direct sales tends to focus on what is generic or similar with the competition. A marketing blend focuses on what’s distinctive and emphasizes place-based or unique attributes.

  • Selling of a “community-destination” is more about primary marketing while booking a hotel or meeting facility is secondary. While sales is a good technique to harvest potential for hotels and other meeting facilities, it must be blended with other marketing activities to draw interest in the community/destination overall which is almost always the first decision groups make.

  • Sales is prospecting, qualifying, presentation and booking, Sales promotion is micro-marketing. Even group sales require the use of sales promotions which are microcosmic blends of other marketing activities.

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