Finding new customers costs more than retaining the ones you have.
Keep your customers in your hotel, happy, and spending.
Did you know that a sale to an existing customer costs between one-sixth and one-seventh the price of a sale to a new customer? And yet, three times as many companies cited customer acquisition as their primary marketing goal as those who cited customer retention.
We all need new customers. We all need to share shift customers. Focusing efforts only on the sales coming through the front door is not only leaving money on the table, it’s throwing extra money into the pot after you have already revealed your hand. Don’t put all your eggs in this proverbial basket…. follow these tips to retain existing business (and not have the hotel across the street pluck them from underneath you!).
- Do check in periodically with everybody with whom you have ever done business. Research proves you can expect to lose half your customers over a five-year period if you don’t make regular contact. This contact can be as simple as an email, direct mail, or as impressive as a personal call or visit. Every hotel in our portfolio MUST have a strategy in their 2014 Sales & Marketing Plan to follow up on all repeat accounts at least quarterly/bi-annually. Have you looked at your trace companies who held meetings or had groups in your house within the next 4 months LY? If not, print that list today and start dialing. You may have already lost the business to another proactive sales person at a competitive hotel!
- Don’t wait until there’s a problem to make contact. Customers who only hear from you when they complain begin to view you as a public relations flack. The best customers become friends over the long haul. It’s good policy to call a friend once in a while just to say “hi.” People do business with people they know and like. You don’t have to be best friends, but you must be able to carry on a personal/professional conversation, keep good records about the personality, and know the likes/dislikes of every customer in order to have the edge. You want them to remember YOUR name in addition to the name of your hotel.
- Do start a local loyalty program. Offer discounts or special privileges to your repeat customers. Run the math and you’ll see what a good deal this is – you’ll almost always make more money on your repeat customer, even with a discount – not to mention you’re rewarding your loyal customers by offering them something special. Many of our hotels already have a brand rewards program in which customers participate. What about a locals club – or a repeat customer club….. call it “Dittos” or something clever and have your own list of benefits for booking and rebooking.
- Don’t treat everybody the same. In the real world – there are customers and their are customers. Some companies just will get better deals than other companies. It all boils down to history, performance, and room nights. Higher producing accounts always get lower rates. Offer incentives to lower producing accounts in the form of seasonal or tiered rates based on production. Once they reach a certain number, their rate is dropped a few dollars. Remember my blog about making contact with customers in non-demand time periods…. are you thinking of a Back To School, Veteran’s Day or Thanksgiving card for clients. Out of the ordinary breeds familiarity!
- Do ask for feedback. A recent Harvard Management survey found that “80 percent of companies believed they offered above-average customer service. Just 8 percent of customers of those companies agreed.” The last thing you want is a good customer who’s silently seething over something you don’t know about. Be prepared to handle any complaints you find quickly and in good faith. Ask your customer…. what did we do good? what do we need to work on perfecting for your next event? How many times have I asked you to add these types of questions to your Account Assessment sheets? How many times have you asked your prospective customers what they like (and dislike) about their current hotel? Asking these valuable questions is the basis for your sales pitch!
- Don’t take loyalty for granted. It’s your job to continually remind your customers why they keep coming back. This is even true – maybe even especially true-of your die-hard customers who’ve been coming back for years. Those are your best brand ambassadors, so never even think about giving them less than you would a brand-new face. If you don’t think your competition covets your best customer – think again. The best compliment you will ever receive is when your loyal customer tells a competitive sales person, “No thank you – I am happy at the XYZ Hotel.” Customers don’t always buy for price – they buy for service and dependability and YOU.
- Do embrace social media. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest have made customer engagement exponentially easier and cheaper than even 10 years ago. Whether you’re sharing news, soliciting feedback or simply chatting, these platforms give you a free conduit to your most engaged customers. Have a plan. Make a road map. Write strategies in advance. Designate one person to be the social media ambassador. YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO ALL SITES! Pick one (or two) and start small. Remember – these are not means to book business…. these are marketing tools to assist in driving customers through familiarity. Keep it current, keep it fresh, keep it soft sell! Link, link, link, link, like, like, like, like to vendor partners where your customers are also surfing.
Happy Making Customers Happy!