Marketing Audit Project by gtw75969


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									                                                 n old Saturday Night Live

                                                 skit featured a sendup of
                                                 self-help talk shows with two
                                                 actresses soliciting pleas for
                                                 help from audience mem-
                                                 bers. No matter what the
                                 problem – be it emotional, psychological
                                 or spiritual — the advice was the same:
                                 “Have you looked at yourself; have you

The Sales
                                 really looked at yourself?”
                                     At a time that may be unlike any other
                                 in the history of the hospitality industry, it
                                 is a good idea to take that tongue-in-cheek
                                 advice seriously. Not only should salespeo-

 and Marketing                   ple and marketers look at themselves as
                                 they never have before, it is also wise to
                                 bring in an outside consultant to conduct
                                 a “sales and marketing audit.”

                                     That means a thorough review of
                                 everything your business does as far as
                                 sales and marketing — holding nothing
                                 sacred and everything open to tinkering
                                 or major overhaul.
                                     Take Vijay Dandapani, a successful
                                 operator of hotels, whose Apple Core
A Proven Way to Build Business   group owns several economy properties
                                 in the New York area. Dandapani is a vet-
                                 eran, savvy operator, but when he wanted
                                 to reposition a property in Hempstead,
Invite an expert outsider        Long Island, he called in Leora Halpern
to take a fresh look at          Lanz, who runs HVS Marketing
                                 Communications, because he believes
what you’re doing to
                                 “there’s nothing like a pair of fresh eyes”
maximize sales and               to look at your property.
you may be surprised at              “It behooves any hotel or company,”
                                 continues Dandapani, “to bring in some-
the many new                     one to audit a project.”
opportunities that lie               Similarly, the Best Western in
                                 Cambridge, Massachusetts is now in its
before you that you have
                                 third generation of ownership by the
been too close to see.           Lingos family. Despite that history, the
BY HARVEY CHIPKIN                three sisters who now operate the proper-
                                 ty also called in Lanz, says Nicole Lingos,
                                 one of the sisters, “to make sure we are
                                 maximizing sales. Sometimes you have to
                                 ask someone from the outside to come in
                                 and help you see where you’re going. “
                                     Even the most luxurious product might
                                 need outside scrutiny. According to Chad
                                 Crandell, president of Capital Hotel
                                 Management, which owns the Ritz-Carlton
                                 Kapalua on Maui, “We wanted to validate
                                 a strategy that was in place and so we
                                 brought in a consultant, David Brudney.”
                                     Hotels are not the only travel segments
                                 seeking an outside look. Recently, Tourism
                                 Vancouver called on Frontline, a consul-
tancy run by Brudney and another veteran          the director of sales and marketing posi-       care and feeding of sales associates.”
hotelier, to take an in-depth look at its         tion and a drop in group business.                 Evans believes that sales and marketing
operations to help decide, according to               Part of Brudney’s mandate, says             performance can be measured, adding,
Paul Vallee, executive vice president, “if we     Crandell, “was to benchmark the competi-        “Someone has said, ‘What gets measured
were doing everything we could.”                  tion; to measure whether we had lost mar-       gets done.’”
    “It’s useful,” says Vallee, “to have people   ket share or were simply being affected by         Another industry veteran says she has
experienced in the industry do an external        the economy.                                    taken her in-house experience and
review.”                                              “Sometimes,” says Crandell, “it’s just a    applied it to her own company. Sandy
    Neil Salerno, another industry veteran        matter of taking a look at how the hotel is     Heydt, who was director of marketing for
who conducts audits, says, “fresh eyes” can       operating and the culture which it has          eight years at the luxurious Rittenhouse
“sometimes find opportunities you                 evolved. Is it a positive culture, meeting      Hotel in Philadelphia, says, “I do exactly
stopped seeing months or years ago. An            objectives of revenue performance at the        what I did in the hotels for which I
outsider might see things instantly that          top line or looking at the best practices of    worked; I get familiar with how the opera-
insiders have been missing because they’re        competitive hotels? Are there ideas that        tion runs and then get it up to speed.”
thinking tactics rather than strategy.”           can be adopted or modified to achieve
    As an example, Salerno points to one          better results?”                                The Auditing Process
client – an Orlando hotel, very close to a            A four-decade veteran of the hospitali-     What exactly does the auditor or reviewer
regional airport that handles many charter        ty industry, Brudney has been doing             do? Brudney recently spent several days at
flights from Europe.                              “reviews” (a word he prefers to audits)         the Ritz-Carlton on Maui and, says, “I did
    He asked how much business the hotel          for 25 years. He says he hung out his           not hit the Jacuzzi or beach once. I spent
got from that airport and was told that no        shingle because he recognized a change          an hour each with every member of the
salesperson from the hotel had ever been          in the industry when, “Owners who had           sales and marketing team and half a day
there. After a sales effort was initiated at      been absentee landlords in the 1960s            with the GM; I spent a full day visiting the
the airport, business developed quickly.          and who never read a marketing plan,            competition.
                                                  had become much more hands-on. And                  “I read all the documents that were rel-
Veterans Step In                                  they wanted someone to take a hard look         evant,” Brudney continues, “including
A network of marketing and sales experts,         at their asset.                                 booking pace, Star Report, and much
most with impressive industry experience,             “My job can be summed up in the             more. Then I came back and did a report
are performing intensive audits of hotels,        phrase, ‘Validate expectations’ ” says          on why group business had dropped. I
convention and visitors bureaus, and other        Brudney; “I try to bring with me the best       interviewed incentive houses and validated
travel-related enterprises.                       practices in sales and marketing and apply      why incentive business had dropped.”
   These consultants claim that demand            my experiences at Hyatt, as well as at              To insure a “scientific” measurement of
for their services is a result of seismic         Westin and Marriott.”                           sales and marketing performance,
shifts in the industry – a time when own-             In the last couple of years, Brudney has    Brudney uses a template including a series
ers and asset managers are taking a closer        formed the Frontline partnership with           of questions that helps to evaluate the
look at their properties; and when old-           David R. Evans, who recently retired as         direct sales force. The questions deal with
line traditions of teaching fundamentals          executive vice president-sales and industry     account coverage; handling the SMERF
have been neglected.                              relations for Starwood after heading up         market; groups sales strategy — whether
   According to Salerno, “Many hotels             Westin’s sales efforts for 25 years.            proactive calls are made, how many sales
hire experienced salespeople on an out-               “I’ve watched this industry,” says Evans,   calls, how many site inspections.
sourced consulting basis to provide a quick       “go from the hotel business to the business         He also asked where leads are coming
boost of reality to their team’s direction.”      of hotels being run by asset managers.” In      from, what third parties the hotel is using
In the case of Tourism Vancouver, says            recent decades, says Evans, “We saw some        to generate leads, a review of the interna-
Vallee, “Several factors contributed to our       very fundamental things we used to do           tional sales office, an overall assessment of
putting this project out for review. We are       well go by the wayside.”While stressing         lead generation; insuring that salespeople
looking at convention center expansion;           that, “I am not being critical of individu-     are receiving proper direction.
we have had growth in room inventory;             als,” Evans adds, “the role of regional vice        “All of these,” says Brudney, “are bench-
and we have had some turnover in man-             presidents of marketing changed. They           marks. In the 60s and 70s, we had experts
agement with younger people coming in.            assumed other responsibilities because of       who would go into a hotel and work with
All that, combined with macro-economic            different industry pressures. I saw a need      the director of sales and come up with spe-
factors affecting our business, resulted in       for a non-invasive, non-threatening third       cific recommendations. Now that’s our
our deciding on this audit.”                      party, independent review that would help       job. We might point out budgetary weak-
   Often, it is a combination of long-term        owners and asset managers.                      ness or recommend software or note Web
goals and immediate concerns that lead to             “Today,” says Evans, “a regional market-    site deficiencies.
the hiring of an auditor. According to            ing vice president doesn’t necessarily have         “You can’t offer options to an owner or
Crandell, there were two issues that led to       the time to get down where the rubber           management company,” says Brudney
Brudney’s being brought in: turnover at           hits the road and get involved with the         “unless you look at all aspects of what

SUMMER 2003 • HSMAI MARKETING REVIEW                                                                                                        33
they’re doing. I’m a big proponent of inte-      project. Sometimes her contract with a           asset managers have more access because
grated marketing programs. If it’s not inte-     hotel is extended. “ I ask,” she says, “Is the   the brand’s credibility is at stake here.
grated, you might have a GM taking own-          marketing plan good? Can we follow it?           Brands can’t simply say that some infor-
ership of local advertising while a director     Can we squeeze a little more out of it?”         mation is off limits.”
of sales and marketing is in charge of the           The consultant says she has been some-           Lanz’ view is that, “We are not judging
national campaign — and they’re not on           what surprised by what she finds in the          anybody. We are not there to judge, we are
the same page.”                                  offices of the hotels at which she spends        there to document what they’re doing. If
    Evans has developed a three-part tem-        time. “I can’t tell you,” she says, “how         there’s an opportunity to strengthen or
plate for his reviews, including:                many directors of sales and marketing sim-       refocus an effort, that’s what we will tell
■ A nine-page checklist that includes com-       ply haven’t been trained, partly because of      them. They might have a passion for what
petition analysis, market segment analysis,      the boom years, but whatever the reason,         they’re doing but they might still need
strategic partners, and alliances                it has to change during these times.”            fresh eyes to take a look.”
■ A template for an assessment tool for              Heydt says at some hotels even previous          Evans agrees, saying, “We do name
sales and marketing leaders                      customers are not called on a regular basis      names, but this is not a human resource
■ A five-day activity schedule for auditors,     — not to mention prospecting potential           review. and it has to be handled gracefully.
including interviews with sales associates       business down the street.                        We discuss personnel with a division head
and other executives, property inspection,                                                        and will keep a copious record of all inter-
visits to competitive properties, etc.           Not Taking It Personel-ly                        views to support our findings.”
    “It’s all flexible,” says Evans; “we will    In speaking to marketing and sales audi-             According to Dandapini, “This could
review the templates before we get started       tors, words like “non-invasive” and “sensi-      have a negative connotation, that an
so it is customized for a client.”               tive” arise with some frequency. It makes        owner doesn’t know what he’s doing —
    Evans talks to whomever he can on the        sense because auditors are, in effect, out-      but nobody should feel threatened when
property, including the chef; he also checks     siders brought in to provide on-the-ground       an expert helps them to retool.”
to see if the hotel’s operators have even met    and in-depth reviews, which could lead to            Crandell says he first consulted with the
members of the sales team. He says that kind     significant changes.                             sales and marketing team at Ritz-Carlton
of fundamental too often is overlooked.              Heydt has a master’s degree in psychol-      to insure they were supportive of the audit-
    Very important to the review at the Ritz-    ogy and considers human resources a pri-         ing process. He says, “You should go into
Carlton Kapalua, according to Crandell,          ority. “I talk to each person individually,”     this with the owner and management com-
was “the ability to understand what is and       she says, “and try to make him or her feel       pany on the same page; it’s meant to be a
isn’t working at other hotels – perhaps          comfortable. I ask what they would do dif-       positive, constructive review.”
stimulating a different thought process or       ferently, what their frustrations are; I ask         Some auditors believe they must go
different approach to selling that might be      how they would run things if they could —        beyond simply being “senstitive” toward
beneficial.                                      their eyes light up on that one.”                employees. According to Salerno, “One
    “That might include,” says Crandell,             “You always have to be careful with what     problem in the industry is that mentors
“different computer applications, different      you learn,” says Heydt; “I don’t share the       have disappeared. Too many directors of
ways of handling public relations, a differ-     confidences I get.”                              sales did not have mentors; they have been
ent lead referral network – in general               Many sales and marketing executives          replaced with more and more reports,
doing things differently, but better.”           spend so much time doing reports, says           more and more meetings, and more and
    Even items in a marketing plan that          Heydt, “they are not doing the fundamen-         more pressure from owners. I encourage
have remained the same for many years            tals. I could look in some of their comput-      hotels not just to train, but to create a cul-
must be reviewed, says Lanz. She gave the        ers and not find a cohesive record of con-       ture of mentoring. I always had that and I
example of one client, a mid-priced subur-       tacts with customers.”                           think it is crucial.“
ban hotel that has been using the same               Salerno adds, “When I go to a property           Salerno sees himself as a mentor during
sales strategy for 13 years. “We studied their   I look for positives and try to reinforce        his visits to hotels and tries to create an
operation for three months,” she says, “and      those positives. Personalities must be dealt     “ongoing mentoring relationship.” But he
showed that they didn’t take advantage of        with but I leave that to the management.”        also tries to instill mentoring in his clients’
the programs provided for them by their              “We made it clear to both the consult-       culture.
brand. They didn’t even participate in the       ant and our staff,” says Vallee at Tourism           “The first question I ask of a salesper-
preferred hotel program the brand offered        Vancouver, “that this was not a review of        son,” says Salerno, “is ‘what is your job?’
for selling to travel agency consortia.          individuals but a review of processes and        And you would be amazed to find out how
    “That was fine when times were good          how we could do better.                          different their answer is from the GM’s
and they were the only game in town,” says           “You must have the right style,” says        when asked how he or she sees that sales-
Lanz; “now times are tougher and they            Evans; “because hotels are often reluctant       person’s job.”
have a strong competitor. It was time to         about giving you access. But there is a
make changes, at the very least to use all       need for more scrutiny of things that            Ready – Action!
the resources at their disposal.”                have traditionally been the private prop-        What clients are looking for from auditors
    Heydt’s approach, too, depends on the        erty of brands. We have to let owners and        are specific recommendations – so an

3434                                                                                                        HSMAI MARKETING REVIEW • SPRING 2003
actionable report is critical.                   should know how to read a P&L statement          next step.”
    According to Vallee, “We wanted to           if they’re going to sell rooms.” Evans also         However, Vallee says his bureau is
ensure that whatever results come out of         believes that “many salespeople today are        already considering bringing in outsiders
our review are actionable. One reason we         not selling food and beverage; that’s a seri-    to review other aspects of their operation –
hire consultants from the hotel industry is      ous mistake.”                                    like leisure travel or the travel trade. The
that they use language we understand and             Some clients might not need much             current review targets meeting business.
can help us facilitate their suggestions.”       change. Says Evans, “We might just tell them
    The report, says Evans, starts with an       to add one sales manager; or if they have        Going It Alone
oral presentation to the GM before he            three sales managers covering the group          As with any strategy, an outside audit
leaves a property. The report includes spe-      market in a 200-room hotel, to reassign one.”    might not appeal to every operation.
cific action recommendations. If requested,          Brudney, says Crandell, “gave us an          Some seek that “fresh look” from within.
a phase two allows Evans to actually imple-      actionable report (after an October 2002         According to Randy Griffin, area director
ment, facilitate and monitor the plan.           audit); many of the recommendations are          of sales and marketing for Renaissance
    While many of her clients do have a mar-     being acted upon.”                               Hotels Florida, “I come to my team
keting plan, says Lanz, “in many cases it’s                                                       regularly and we throw everything onto
just a lot of rhetoric. We don’t do a 500-page   Maintaining Momentum                             the table. We run our office in a very dem-
plan; we provide a series of sales and mar-      Follow-up to an audit is crucial. Says           ocratic way and decide which vehicles
keting action steps; we deal in specifics.”      Brudney, “We always recommend a 30-60-90         would be most effective. Sometimes,
    Lanz does not deal in mission or vision      day review; our report is thorough enough        another layer of eyes is just another layer.”
statements, but more in positioning state-       so a company can run with it. It won’t be            And Wayne West, regional manager of
ments. “Tell me in a one sentence,” she          rocket science but it will need follow-up.”      Lane Hospitality, which manages a vari-
says to clients; “who you are and where              Lingos says she and her sisters have         ety of brand-name hotels says, “At the
you want to go from here?”                       implemented many of Lanz’ suggestions.           end of every month, we require our peo-
    In the case of the Best Western in           She explains, “Each of us has a copy of the      ple to determine if we spent our dollars
Cambridge, recently renamed the Best             plan and we refer to it. We have done 90         the way we were supposed to. We go in
Western Tria (Greek for three, represent-        percent of what she suggested and it has         there and make comments about how
ing the three sister owners), Lanz and her       already helped. We now know we are               they adapted the marketing plans. It
team helped the property through a               doing everything we can.”                        gives our folks at the corporate office
repositioning.                                       Of course, auditing is a never-ending        the opportunity to revisit everything on
    “We spent two days there,” says Lanz,”       process. Says Lingos, “we now have a rela-       a continuing basis.”
mostly picking the brains of the GM and          tionship with Leora and call her on occa-            But according to Brudney, “Peer review
sales director. We also visited the competi-     sion. And we will do a more complete             doesn’t work because objectivity is ques-
tion and compared their strengths and            audit every couple of years.”                    tionable; the whole process becomes com-
weaknesses.                                          At Apple Core, Dandapini says, “We are       promised. We don’t come in with a hidden
    “We told that client,” she says, “that       following Leora’s plan pretty closely and        agenda and we’re not performing a witch
their competitive set of hotels was differ-      it’s an ongoing process, not something you       hunt. We objectively assess and validate
ent from what they thought. “                    can do overnight. We have already seen           expectations. We try to provide a sort of
    While a financial audit represents a dif-    some results in terms of new business. And       ‘seal of approval.’”
ferent process, Lanz includes in her sales       we will work with her on our new property,           Evans adds, “There is always a problem
and marketing audit a determination of           which is our first newly built hotel.”           of ‘buddies.’ And that leads to self-perpet-
whether clients need to spend more in                “I will call clients once or twice a month   uating problems.”
certain areas; “our action steps,” she says,     or even visit occasionally,” says Heydt, “to         “When you’re consumed with day-to-
“will let them determine how much they           insure that my recommendations are               day operations,” says Lanz, “it’s difficult to
want to spend.”                                  being followed. It’s the underlying              stop and look around; it’s very helpful to
    Those action steps vary by client; exam-     changes that will increase revenue later         have someone dedicated to taking a top-
ples, according to Lanz, include:                because people are doing the right thing.        to-bottom look.”
■ Dealing with third party online sites and      If the fundamentals are not maintained,              Crandell adds, “Brands tend to operate
how to manage them daily.                        they will drop the ball.”                        in the same way because of a corporate
■ Reviewing a property’s image on the                As Salerno notes, “The common wisdom         culture. By going outside you can bring in
GDS systems to insure that the informa-          is that when you leave a seminar you remem-      a best practices approach from outside
tion is accurate and that the hotel is being     ber 20 percent of what you heard and that        the brand.”
promoted properly.                               goes down to 1 percent a month later with-           The bottom line: whether a company
■ Packaging a product to appeal to con-          out reinforcement. You can’t let down.”          decides to bring in an outside consultant or
sumers still reluctant to travel by focusing         At Tourism Vancouver, says Vallee, “We       believes it can objectively tackle an audit in-
on regional travel.                              will see how the first 100 days go, then         house, stepping back and reviewing every-
    While agreeing that a financial plan is      reconvene our stakeholders to determine          thing on the sales and marketing front is
not necessary, Evans says, “Sales managers       where we are. We will then decide on the         worth considering. If not now, when? ■

SUMMER 2003 • HSMAI MARKETING REVIEW                                                                                                          35

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