Investing in new tools for groups and meetings is easier said than done for hotel properties. The event tech space is crowded, budgets are limited, and, at the end of the day, the hospitality industry is a service industry not a tech industry. As a result, many branded properties are still using legacy systems that date back as much as thirty years.
Unfortunately, as the events industry rapidly scales in complexity, sophistication, and demand, these legacy systems leave properties and chains lagging behind in a fruitful space for revenue generation. Meanwhile, the advancement of hotel software has led to an array of products that drastically improve service through technology.
Today, a combination of state-of-the-art tech and service-focused team members is the key to an appealing offering and optimized group sales strategy. So to help you properties dig through a saturated market and make the most of limited budgets, we put together this guide to the five must-have tech tools that generate strong meetings ROI.
- Venue Sourcing Engines
- RFP Management Technology
- Revenue Management Technology
- Event Management Technology
- Hotel Marketing Software
Here are the five hotel software solutions properties and even venues need for group business.
1. Venue Sourcing Platforms
In a nutshell, these marketplaces link planners directly to hotels and venues — almost like an Airbnb for meetings. Planners can submit RFPs to properties which are able to attract these leads through info-rich property listings which include elements like floor plans, photos, and services. They provide direct access to networks of thousands of planners, giving hotels an exponential boost in visibility. Especially when it comes to a millennial audience, as the demographic of users tends to skew younger and more female.
It’s also important to note that true sourcing platforms aren’t akin to OTAs because they don’t act as intermediaries by charging commission. (Though some in the industry do charge commission or other fees, so do your research.)
Why do properties need the tool?
Venue sourcing platforms make the list of mission critical hotel software tools because of their ability to drastically reduce group acquisition costs. Plus, over 50% of planners begin their search online anyways, so you’re meeting your audience where they are.
Additionally, sourcing platforms act as hotel software that helps properties build long-lasting relationships with planners. Data shows that repeat platform visitors are more likely to submit RFPs.
Use these tips to get the most out of venue sourcing platforms.
To set up a successful venue search profile, include the five elements below. Listings that include these elements show as much as a 13% conversion rate from listing to request for proposal.
High-resolution photo gallery – The right photos help planners visualize their event in your space — especially photos of spaced that are set up for specific events.
Quality videos – In a recent Social Tables survey, planners responded that video is the most helpful inclusion, even more so than virtual reality tours.
Floor plans & dimensions – This inclusion can be a huge differentiator and help sell the space. The key is finding a platform that allows you to include floor plans.
Capacity – Clear capacity callouts and similar pertinent details like this can save planners time having to message and ask you. Or worse, skip your property entirely.
Testimonials – A great review of a past event from a fellow planner offers proof of successful future events.
Proximity to nearby attractions – How can the location of your property help planners provide an authentic, local experience for their attendees?
Mobile-friendly content – Mobile users submit RFPs at a higher rate than desktop users. Maximize the effectiveness of your profile on handheld devices by using concise copy and scalable photography.
Who are reputable providers of venue sourcing solutions?
2. RFP Management Technology
RFP management technology helps sales teams identify high-value prospects and respond to them in faster, more efficient ways. These types of platforms automatically score leads through features that allow properties to input the criteria by which to qualify RFPs as they come in. Plus, properties can easily create RFP response templates to catalyze efficient response and personalization across a variety of segments.
Some RFP management technology even help with lead enrichment by auto-populating pieces of planner/org automatically via the web.
Why do properties need RFP management technology?
Hotels across the industry are faced with a massive influx of RFPs (in large part thanks to venue sourcing platforms), making it difficult to both identify high-value leads and respond in time. In fact, hotel properties have reportedly seen a 300% increase in RFP leads over the past five years.
Additionally, 75% of proposals are won by one of the first five to respond. RFP management tech can reduce response times from 2+ weeks to within 24 hours, which is now the brand standard for many leading chains.
Use these tips to get the most out of RFP management technology.
1. Think outside of the room block.
Aiming exclusively for room blocks can have a negative effect on hotel bottom lines by dismissing the potential for ancillary revenue. With 52% of revenue managers and 36% of sales teams (HSMAI) looking to RevPAR index as their key performance indicator, huge revenue is left off of the table. Last year alone, $30 billion in group revenue across the industry actually resulted in $100 billion dollars of ancillary spend. You tell us which pie is bigger.
2. Identify high-potential group segments.
Different groups have different needs, different acquisition costs, different timelines, and different profitability. It’s within all of these differences that a true picture of revenue potential is found. By identifying high-value groups through historical data, teams can better focus their resources and prioritize their outreach accordingly. Start with the following tenants you likely already know and get more granular from there.
Corporate – Higher average rates, but generally less lead time.
Associations – Rarely book guest rooms and are less likely to host a catered event generally book farther in advance which means you could miss out on higher-margin groups.
Government – Travel is funded by per diem which leaves minimal room for upsell.
Who are some reputable providers of RFP management technology?
3. Revenue Management Technology
Revenue management technology helps hoteliers get the right product to the right group segment, at the right price. These platforms are especially useful for accomplishing tasks like group forecasting, total guest value calculation, and pricing optimization. They even offer up real-time reporting from available data.
Why do hotels need revenue management technology?
The demands of large groups are incredibly complex — and they’re getting even more so as time goes on. Companies like AirBnB and VRBO have complicated the group outlook, making the room block far from a given. And because ancillary revenue is growing in importance (and in general), the industry requires a more nuanced approach to determining total value. The best solution is smart segmentation through total guest value, and revenue management technology enables this.
Use these tips to get the most out of revenue management technology.
1. Micro-segment your decision making.
Looking at segments effectively means digging into deeper layers of grouping to find true revenue potential. However, being too specific or too broad in defining your segments can make them less useful in practice. If you’re hyper-specific (e.g., “Birthday party planners for children ages 10-12”), you may miss large sections of the market. Being too broad, on the other hand (e.g., business clients) can leave you trying to serve too many customers without enough focus.
2. Focus on your channel mix.
Up to 35% of hotel bookings are a result of a traveller discovering the hotel on a third party site and then visiting the hotel to book directly. Knowledge like this can change how hotels think about their channel presence, which channels they’re in, and the value of a healthy overall channel mix.
4. Event Management Technology
Event management platforms help properties ensure effective event execution. Of all the hotel software in this list, this technology has the most direct effect on planners. Some platforms even offer collaboration tools that allow the two parties to work together in real time. The software enables users to make and change layouts, handle special requests from guests, diagram events and spaces to scale, create easy-to-edit templates from those diagrams, and event-related documents in one highly accessible and organized location.
Why do hotels need event management technology?
Event management technology streamlines communication, ensures seamless execution, and improves relationships. With a majority of event planners (37%) reporting that bad communication is the number one reason they choose another venue, technology like this has never been more necessary.
This is especially true when you factor in the newfound focus on experience-driven planning in the meetings industry. A whopping 80% of planners say their job requires more experience creation than even just two to five years ago. With more intricate experiences comes complexity and the need for mapping it all out. Working in real-time with clients streamlines communication and improves client satisfaction by proving the visual viability of the event in the space.
Use these tips to get the most out of event management technology.
Let clients do the work for you – Properties like the Sheraton Commander use collaborative event planning technology to empower clients allowing them to choose and edit their favorite layouts.
Improve relationships through superior guest experiences – Seating and guest management tools help map out special treatment for VIPs that make your clients look good too.
Improve your sales – Make upsells easier by demonstrating options visually in the proposal. Display multiple spaces at once to amplify the value of more expensive choices.
Cut down your workload – Easily clone past layouts and use them to whip up custom diagrams on the fly.
Improve internal communication – Event management technology stores all your documents in one place, eliminates messy email chains, and puts everyone from sales to staff on the same page.
Who are reputable providers of event management technology?
5. Hotel Marketing Software
Meetings marketing technology helps hotels and venues reach planners with their product. These platforms allow planners to create dynamic, interactive, SEO-optimized content targeted for specific channels. Some also assist with multi-channel distribution, allowing hotels to diversify their channel mix and put their best food forward in each.
On the reporting side, teams can even follow up with advanced reporting tools that inform how to adjust segmenting and targeting for even more effective marketing in the future.
Why do hotels need marketing technology?
Hoteliers need to make sure they’re present on the channels that planners are using and understand why these tools are critical to planners’ roles. The demographics of events and planners are becoming more and more complex and, as a result, so is reaching the right segment — especially with nearly 50% of planners booking online being casual planners.
So the real question becomes, how do you reach and target the high-value micro-segments in a group like this? The answer lies within hotel software — specifically marketing technology.
Use these tips to get the most out of marketing platforms.
Take advantage of mobile-first marketing – By 2021, mobile ecommerce will account for 54% of all online sales.
Maintain a consistent brand presence – Consistent brand presentation across communications is shown to result in 23% higher conversion on average.
Prioritize experience over everything else – What are the differentiators of your property? How do they map back to meeting success for your target segment?
Market to planner success – Leading brands like Marriott and Hilton are creating planner resources as a means of marketing, attracting new business as allies in experience creation.
Who are reputable providers of hotel marketing technology?
Which hotel software will you adopt?
There’s a lot of technology out there, but these select few hotel software tools have been hand-picked to provide big benefits for any hotel or venue looking to strategically adopt new solutions. Investing in these five types of hotel software can enable your property to drive more group revenue and maximize meeting efficiency.
Published October 15, 2018
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Maria is a freelance writer specializing in B2B SaaS, technology, and events.