9 Ways

Let’s face it:  Part of you – or maybe of all you – wonders how much of your organization’s valuable time and resources should be dedicated to social media. Consider the fact that in the fourth quarter of 2015, Facebook had 1.59 billion monthly active users in its social network.  There are 500 million tweets on a given day according to Twitter. Numbers like these confirm that everything from how we process and consume information to how we engage with customers, prospects, partners – and everyone – has changed forever. Almost overnight, brands moved from one-to-one customer conversations to one to millions. People like your customers and prospects were at the center of this customer led revolution, and that is what makes social a game changer for business. No one knows your unique business better than you.  And, that is exactly why you can’t copy someone else’s social enterprise blueprint. Your social strategy must account for the objectives that match your business goals. Everything begins with conveying what social media means to your business, your customers and your employees – and how everyone will benefit.

The biggest game changer over the past five years and the next five years in business is how companies use social media. Either business gets social or it gets left behind.

Here are nine ways to build your own social enterprise.

1. Define Your Vision. Before we step forward, let’s take a step back. Think about how social media can improve customer and employee relationships. What do these relationships look like over the course of one, two or even three years? You must set the foundation for the vision. Remember that social channels are designed for two-way conversations; they are not just another marketing channel for broadcasting your message. It’s about empowering them, learning from them, and leading them. Challenge yourself to write something that makes your communities think, I’d like to do business with that company or that’s the type of hotel where I want to stay.

2. Set Clear Goals. Once you have articulated your vision, it is time to modify relevant processes as necessary and empower champions to lead the social transformation at every level. The continuing explosion of social media sites and technologies means the possibilities are virtually endless.
Consider starting small, on a few key social channels, and then adding to your enterprise as you spread your social wings.  Do not lose sight that technology is not the end game. And, that social media – in and of its self – is not a strategy. Be sure your mission aligns with business priorities and objectives. Set milestones and checkpoints. It is important that you document your organization’s expectations and set clear goals.

3. Create Purpose. OnSocial media is a very personal and emotional landscape.  If your vision is what you are striving for, and your mission is how you are getting there, then your purpose is why you are doing it all.

The next step is to give your colleagues a reason to believe.  Why should they enlist? How will everyone win in the process? It’s time to pull together a trusted group of change agents. Each stakeholder will represent key functions to ensure that social transformation is thoughtful and operationalized.

4. Establish a Social Taskforce. Think about the people who will make your social transformations happen. Your taskforce should include people from across your organization who are savvy about social media and knowledgeable about your business and its goals.  It should include all relevant lines of business and functions, including HR, legal, marketing, sales, food and beverage and customer service. This group will be responsible for establishing governance, best practices and policies that support cross-functional teams and business units.  And they will ensure your social media objectives tie back to key business objectives.

5. Make Your Customer King. Today’s customer has more power than ever. It’s time to recognize and embrace the fact that, thanks to social technology, customers are now in the driver’s seat.  Everyone knows that referrals from friends are far more valuable than messages from a company.  The viral velocity of social networks have made referrals a way of life for consumers – do everything you can to encourage your customers to vote with their influence.

On the flip side, be aware that while social media can spread powerful endorsements at unprecedented speeds, mistakes can also be broadcast at the speed of social. Customers can air their complaints to thousands, or millions of people online in an instant.  Keep in mind that these posts can last forever, and can pop up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

6. Get One View of Your Customer. You probably have basic contact information for your customers. Today, this information typically resides in your PMS, POS, sales and catering, CRS, and others. However, yesterday’s contact processes fail to take into account the new social touch points that are so important. It is important to connect the social Web to your customer databases to establish a single, holistic profile of your customer.  Then you can engage with them in more meaningful ways, correct unforeseen mistakes, enhance the perception of your brand, and gather intelligence to improve your products and services.

7. Empower with Social Tools. Today’s social networks empower the individual like no other technology before. On public social networks, people are building personal brands and massive amounts of influence.  Now the same thing is happening among employees inside of companies via enterprise social networks. Many companies make engaging customers a top priority, but fail to engage their own employees and turn them into brand representatives.

In this social economy, blocking employees from social networks is doing them – and your customers – a huge disservice. Embrace that your employees have aspirations and ambitions. They want to believe in your vision. Help them. Guide them. Empower them.

8. Tear Down Department Silos. In many organizations, social media operates solely in the silo of the marketing department. Quite frankly, customers don’t care about your departmental silos. They see a single company and they expect every department to act like they are connected. It’s critical that your social enterprise provides routes and resolution for all facets of your business. 

For example, employees in your sales, guest services and accounting teams can collaborate in an employee social network and solve customer issues quickly.  Or, marketing can use social tools to quickly respond to materials requests from your sales team.

9. Turn Weak Ties into Strong Connections. Because you all work at the same company, all your employees are tied loosely together by default. A social enterprise can make those weak lines become stronger connections and make the context around customer needs or business problems immediately apparent. The power of an enterprise social network is that an employee looking to get an answer from one colleague will often get a faster reply from another colleague, who they may not even know, but who saw the social interaction in passing. Enterprise collaboration is key.

A simple question about whether someone knows a CIO at another company you are selling might instead lead to a discovery that the company’s CEO is the brother of an employee.

These nine recommendations are just the beginning. In the next edition of 

Hospitality Upgrade

, we will examine more valuable tips for building your own social enterprise.

Small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the luxury of million-dollar marketing budgets that large corporations do. Many small businesses today implement various strategies and spend a minimal amount to market their products or services, but will that generate maximum exposure? In this article, we cover three major areas for you to consider spending some of your small business-marketing budget and strategies to help ensure your investments pay off.

small business marketing

 

1. Scale Operations with Marketing Technology

While finding free marketing platforms might seem like a cost-effective tactic at first, using paid marketing technology can provide greater efficiency, create less frustration, generate better data for reporting, and overall, provide better results when it comes to getting the word out about your small business. Platforms to consider are:

  • Marketing Automation – Instead of having dozens of accounts for blogging, SEO, social media, emails, landing pages, etc. you can access and control all of them from one place. This allows you to evaluate and compare the performance of marketing campaigns, check the effectiveness of call-to-actions across different platforms, and automate multiple channels with the click of one button. Where to start?  HubSpot or Marketo.
  • Keyword Management – If you are doing any online advertising, understanding your keyword strategy is crucial to making the most of your advertising budget. While you can use Google’s Keyword Planner to check your keyword rankings, a platform like Wordstream will analyze your current keywords and makes improvement recommendations. This platform helps both newbies and professional marketers start and manage their AdWords accounts, promising to convert 60% more leads, while lowering marketing costs by 10%.
  • Social Media Management – With the ability to manage all accounts from one dashboard, schedule future posts, engage with clients, and analyze social media campaigns, these tools can save you valuable time to spend on other things. The extra analytics and reporting provided can also help you make informed decisions about your social media marketing. Hootsuite is a great platform to consider for this service. Over 10 million subscribers are using this solution to integrate all of their social media accounts into one.

2. Invest in Social Media

While posting content on social media is always free, investing in these platforms can offer a bigger pay-off through increased exposure to your target market. Consider spending marketing money in the following areas to maximize your brand’s exposure on social media:

  • Social Media Advertising – Facebook, the biggest player in social media, has over 1.4 billion users worldwide; you can pay to create customized ads to target your specific audience by defining specific demographics such as the user’s age, location, interests, etc. The best part is that you can indicate what your maximum budget is, and Facebook will stop the campaign once you hit that number. Additionally, users can find directions to your business, a link to download your app, and even shop right from the Facebook ad.
  • Paying for Content and Photos – One of the best ways to generate traffic to your business’ website is by creating unique and informative content. However, not all small business owners are professional writers, which is why it can pay big dividends to hire an expert to create articles, infographics, and website content. Additionally, platforms like Pinterest and Instagram rely almost exclusively on images, so great photos can have a big influence over how many people choose to click on your link or not.
  • Hiring a PR Consultant – Hiring a professional PR consultant can really help your brand get the exposure it needs. A PR firm can develop a clever marketing campaign, find writers for you, and offer helpful advice on what cost-effective channels to reach your particular audience, helping you save money by avoiding spending it in ineffective areas. In many cases, PR professionals can help connect your organization with influential people (writers, magazine editors, bloggers, etc.) that can provide access to their own audience.

3. Spend Smarter on Traditional Advertising

Although there are many innovative ad strategies, that’s no reason to completely ditch traditional advertising! Of course, you’ll want to use it in a smarter way. While new businesses may still be discovering whom their client base will consist of, those that have been operating for a few years have a better idea. Small to medium-size business owners that are interested in maximizing their return on any tactic, use tracking methods to measure their performance. When it comes to print advertising, planning ahead to correlate sales with ad campaigns is important. While a full-page ad can be expensive, investing in a print ad in a specific market where you know it will reach your target audience can greatly increase your sales.

The success of any business is greatly affected by its marketing strategy. Looking for ways to get the most from your marketing spend? Contact Gregg Hopkins & Associates today to schedule a free consultation.

A few years ago I wrote an article for the Hotel Yearbook to answer the question of “What does the future hold?” My answer… “More of the same, just amplified!” I feel that my forward thinking thoughts from 2013 still hold true today. Will you be ready to embrace industry relevant solutions built to take advantage of new systems and devices?

Think aboutwebsite_future this; over the last 2 years, 90% of the world’s data has been created.[1] The Cloud, while an overused term, has been extremely beneficial to enterprises who can now achieve new levels of success because it allows technology vendors to provide not only software but also the delivery platform. In addition, recently there has been a clear shift to using extensible platforms like Salesforce to enable organizations to gain rich horizontal advantages while ensuring that the solutions are vertically tailored for hospitality. Going forward, I see three (3) core competencies for sales and catering enterprise automation to deliver more revenue, increased customer satisfaction, exceptional service delivery, and superior return on investment. All of these core competencies are heavily impacted by the progression of the semantic web and the vast arrays of data now available.

The first of these competencies is Collaboration. Solutions should incorporate an architecture whereby both on and off property sales personnel and meeting planners can easily collaborate on opportunities. It’s important that both organizations communicate and share information in the selling process to increase the likelihood of winning the business and complete a successful hand-off from contract award to event execution. Also, as Directors of Sales are now responsible for multiple channels of revenue streams (group, corporate, transient, etc.) all systems with customer contact and revenue data should enlist a semi-structured sharing capability so that the “total value of their customers” is understood. Advances in affordable technology now provide a wealth of data at our fingertips, but the true value is in knowing how to use it effectively. An effective CRM cuts the guesswork out of targeting and segmentation, using data to drive measurable and repeatable results. CRM also bridges the gap of customer and account data being held between individuals, multiple locations, and disparate systems.

The next technological competency is Informed Inquiries. Sales personnel should have information easily available about prospective accounts in their meetings history (when they have done business with the hotel) and competitive history (when they have done business with the competition). Much of the meetings history component exists today in leading technology solutions (budget versus actual spend, room pick-up versus block, etc.). However, understanding when customers are meeting at your competition is whole other dimension of account management (frequency, seasonality, etc.). This aspect also completes the answer on lost business reporting in understanding if the opportunity ever materialized and who won the contract. Lead enrichment also assists sales professionals by scoring automated inquiries and addressing the frequent concern of “How do you prioritize qualified leads versus requests for information?” Additionally, the ability to seamlessly link an account or contact to known information on social sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter assists sales personnel in understanding a prospect or client interests, career history, and professional and social circles.

The third competency in improving sales and catering automation is Easy to Work With. Technology should encourage prospects and customers to use solutions in your enterprise such as fast lead response by easily confirming availability or alternate dates with rich content multi-media proposals. Additional tools such as information from past meetings to assist in planning future events as well as the availability to direct book on your website (both event space and guest rooms) should be readily accessible. And now more than ever, mobile applications for hospitality personnel, meeting planners and delegates that are tightly integrated to your enterprise systems are essential. Preferred partners should be hospitality technology organizations that develop and support these types of solutions, or at a minimum have open and published standards to easily work with specialty vendors.

In summary, with the expansion of these three core competencies, I see the future of sales and catering automation flourishing. 

[1] Source = http://rockcheetah.com/blog/technology/how-big-data-deep-web-semantic-technologies-change-travel-marketing/