This past year really shook up the hospitality industry. Hotels were used to non-stop group booking requests and sold out hotels. COVID-19 has affected sales teams’ strategies, requiring them to hunt for new business in order to thrive in this new era of hotel sales. Building a hotel prospect list is the first step to finding new business.
In this article, we’re going to explore the strategy and steps necessary to create an effective prospect list.
What is a prospect list?
A prospect list is a directory of potential hotel group and meeting business that you can build relationships with to ensure future business. A strong hotel prospect list should result in authentic industry relationships, bulk up your opportunity pipeline and, ultimately, end with more deals closed.
Where do you start?
1 – Understand Your Current Market Segments
At the beginning of COVID, prospecting for new business seemed impossible. Not only was it a faux pas to reach out during trying times, we also couldn’t rely on past data to make decisions. Today, we have almost a full year of data. We can start to see pandemic travel trends. Look at your PMS or CRM and find out which segments dropped off, which increased, and how pandemic travel traffic fluctuated weekly and monthly.
When building your prospect list, it’s important that you look at who is travelling and who isn’t travelling. New government and company policies can impact the segments that you should target on your prospect list. For example in Canada all cruise ship travel has been cancelled until 2022. Hotels that previously depended on the cruise ship segment will have to find other segments like business travel or stay-cationers to increase occupancy. Changes in your target market are going to broaden or alter your compset. Expand your competitive analysis to include other areas and look at target markets as well as locations. Automobile travel will continue to increase in 2021 and you can now compete for business that’s 4-8 hours away from you.
Hotels can also invest in software solutions like KNOWLAND. They’ve taken reader board data and applied machine learning and behind the scenes AI to create the ultimate prospecting tool. KNOWLAND helps hotels find the accounts most likely to book at their hotel.
Other ways to find your current market segments better:
– Look at your local airports and find out who is travelling and from where.
– Do parking lot drivebys to see who is staying with your competitors.
– Talk to your guests. Find out where they’re from and their reason for staying with you.
– Reach out to your DMO or CVB and find out who is visiting your local area.
– Call large construction sites and find out if any of the contracted workers or contracts are for out of town companies.
2 – Target Account Research
Once you have a solid understanding of the industries and areas to target, it’s time to do some research and make a list of all the accounts (or businesses) you want to connect with and their market segment.
Start by building a spreadsheet in Google Docs with the following column headings: Account or Organization, Market Segment, First Name, Last Name, Job Title, LinkedIn, Website, Email Address, and Date Added To List. In this phase of list building you will be filling out the account or organization and the market segment.
We recommend getting a bit more granular in 2021 and micro-segmenting your prospects. This can help tailor your communication and personalize your messaging better.
For example: if you have found that hospital staff stays have increased over the year, include all the hospitals in your area and segment as local healthcare (vs healthcare). If you’re typically an international summer destination, create a list of cities within driving distance of your hotel to target and segment as domestic leisure (vs leisure), or look into adding all the minor sports tournaments in your area during that time and segment as minor sports teams (vs sports teams).
A recent report found that 63% of Gen-Zers and Millennials said that they plan to travel in 2021. Why not add all the universities and colleges within driving distance to your property to your list and segment as local leisure?
Finally, look into the major current events that are still occurring in your area this year. While large conventions continue to be cancelled, election travel, professional sports travel, and union travel are still happening. It may not be on the scale that you’re used to, but it’s still potential revenue that you might miss out if you don’t prospect and build relationships with them.
Now that you have a list of accounts to target and their market segments it’s time to finish building your prospect list.
3 – Build Your Hotel Prospect List
In order to find new business appropriately, you need to add people to connect with. There are a few different ways for you and your sales team to build your prospect list.
Company websites can have a lot more information on them than you might expect. Click on ‘Meet The Team’ or ‘About’ and see what information you can find. Read through their online content and see if anyone is mentioned in the content or what author is credited with the work. Add anyone with a job title that you believe is travelling or has access to those travelling.
Search the company name and the job title that you believe is travelling and the job title that is most likely booking the travel accommodation. Titles like ‘Union Head’, ‘Regional Sales Manager’, or ‘C-Suite Executive Assistant’ are all great places to start. Add as much information about each contact as possible. We also recommend adding 3-6 people from each organization.
If you’re struggling to find the right person to add to your list, reach out to your current network and see if:
a) They know the best person to contact in the organization.
– or –
b) They can do a personal introduction – a warm introduction is the fastest way to turn a prospect into an opportunity so don’t be afraid to ask for one.
You’re going to encounter a few road bumps along the way. It won’t always be easy to find an email address or you may not be targeting the right job title. Business operations have changed quite a bit over the past few years. Here are a few tips to get over those hurdles:
– If you can’t find their email or information: Online tools like Hunter.io or rocketreach.co can help you find their email addresses. Some of these tools even have a complimentary number of searches you can do in a month.
– Company furloughs: We are still seeing company furloughs and temporary layoffs as a result of COVID. As we mentioned above, add 3-6 employees from various departments including office manager or office operations. This will give you more company coverage and, when you reach out, one of those employees will be able to point you in the right direction.
Voila – now you have a complete prospect list that can help bulk up your pipeline and expand your professional relationships. Now you’re ready to start reaching out. In our next blog post, we will discuss prospecting strategies to build relationships during COVID and beyond.