Use Data Mining to Attract Customers in a Spiraling Economy

By Bill Scanlon, President, Strategic Solution Partners | July 15, 2008

According to several lodging industry trade publications, the hotel industry is in store for a few challenging years. Supply and demand are coming into balance, the pipeline of new hotels is still being filled, and Revpar is declining in the shadow of banner years. It is those "banner years" that are the reason for the recent concern. As an industry, we have spent the last seven years raising rates and enjoying the imbalance between supply and demand.

Attract new customers
So how will you and your sales teams shift gears? How will your leaders, who have never experienced a down economy, create demand? If you guessed exemplary customer relationships you are right. We need to be more focused on the customer than ever before, however we will need more than a few clients that have a vested interest in our success. We need new customers, and this means capitalizing on all the tools available to our teams to broaden that sales funnel.

A new economic downturn does not mean that we necessarily have to create new methods to practice exemplary salesmanship. It means that we have to focus on the sales tools and techniques that can make a difference and include these techniques in our weekly sales routine.

Your CRM: a wealth of data
For instance, one great data tool that is frequently overlooked is the technology that supports our daily sales efforts. I'm talking about the CRM in your office, most likely developed by Oracle, FidelioDelphi or Seibold. These systems are for the most part user-friendly and do a good job of managing sales activities and customer data. What's missing is the consistency of which the data available in these systems is used to develop effective strategies by our sales leaders. In other words, the opportunity to build new client relationships is frequently overlooked by even our best and brightest. Run your data; look for frequency, company names, new contacts, rotating destinations, and customer profile data that will give you a leg up in the relationship process.

While working as a vice president of sales and marketing (for more than one chain), I was frequently surprised by the number of sales leaders who lacked the knowledge or the discipline to take advantage of their data bases. They were so busy answering the phone that they were not taking stock in what they had, nor were they savvy enough to understand how to put that data to use.

In today's information age, data mining is as easy as hitting "Enter." At Strategic Solution Partners data mining is a core deliverable that we bring to any engagement. It not only reinforces the use of single source data but cross references multi-source data points to leverage share, understand positioning, and target specific customer segments for optimal results, all of which is geared toward optimizing revenues.

Become Web savvy
As mentioned, using your internal resources such as your CRM, your reservations data, and your competitive intelligence, is a must. But they are only a few bullets to load in your sales gun. The Web is chocked full of tools and opportunities. You can pay a site, such as www.salesgenie.com for leads or you can surf the Web for your own. Utilize search engines such a www.ceoexpress.com. It provides links to companies by industry segment, access to their financials, search tips, daily news, and more. Askjeeeves, or Ask, allows you to enter your question and it will search out your request. Map.live.com can assist you in searching your backyard and beyond. Never has customer intelligence and data been so accessible, so accurate, and so easily accessed than it is today.

While gaining that customer insight thorough the data is easy, utilizing it properly is where the rubber meets the road. Your team still needs to be able to pull though that data, contour it to the receiving customer, effectively deliver the proposals, and bring that business to closure. The data will deliver bonified customer potential and the honing of those customer skills will deliver an improved top line.

Remember it is the simple things that build customer loyalty during a recession. It is easy to turn your back on actions such as data mining in a fat market because we are all too busy right? Those days are gone. It's time to get back to basics and "open the data drawer."

Bill Scanlon started his career in the hospitality industry over 20 years ago with Marriott and has served in various senior regional, national, and international vice president positions. He currently serves as the president of Strategic Solution Partners, a hospitality consulting firm.

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