RFP Solutions: Resolve to Plug Into the RFP Process

Even though the year is new and winter snow is still falling, it’s not too early to prepare for when the majority of hotel RFPs (requests for proposal) start pouring in. RFP “season”—the period when most of the RFPs for the following year are generated—starts in mid to late summer and runs into early fall. Since the best RFP solutions involve early preparation, starting now will improve your chances of landing a healthy share of business conferences and meetings.

 

Solution #1: Realize the Ball(room) Is in Your Court

If your hotel is part of a larger chain or international brand, don’t assume there’s a corporate sales team standing ready to funnel RFPs in your direction. In general, they’re thinking globally, not locally or even regionally like you are. It’s up to you to reach out to businesses in your region and put your hotel on their short list.

 

Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a corporate-level staff working with you, remember that they don’t know your hotel’s capabilities as well as you. They may think they’re doing you a favor by screening out RFPs that aren’t an exact fit for your facility, when in reality, you could find ways to make them work. Avoid this by keeping the lines of communication open.

 

Solution #2: Hone Your Competitive Edge

Knowing your competitors’ biggest meeting clients can be as simple as keeping an eye on their front-yard marquee or the “what’s new” page of their web site. If you think your hotel can host an event better, let those businesses know what your facility has to offer, and do it well before the RFP season starts. If nothing else, the possibility to network is worth the effort.

 

Solution #3: Pick up Loose Ends

Another one of the RFP solutions you may not have considered is contact management software. If you noticed a business that’s regularly sent you RFPs didn’t send one last year, now is the time to pick up the phone or send an email to touch base. Perhaps there was a change in personnel, and the new meeting planner is starting from scratch. Make sure you put your hotel back on their distribution list.

 

Solution #4: Tap Into Consortia

Travel agencies often work together to market to and meet the massive travel needs of large corporations and government entities. Hotels can tap into this source of potential RFPs. Even if you have to pay a fee to gain access to these potential clients, the increase in exposure can be worth it.

 

Solution #5: Review Last Year’s RFP Results

Which of last year’s RFP responses didn’t result in a booking? Do you know why? Make a friendly call to the meeting planner to find out where your facility—or just the RFP—fell short. Ask what information is needed to get your hotel shortlisted the next time around. Showing that you care can prevent your hotel from getting dropped from a hotel’s RFP distribution list.

 

Solution #6: Simplify from the Start

No matter how great your RFP solutions, the repetitive submission/consideration/acceptance process, year after year, can start feeling like a grind. Give yourself and your clients a break that benefits you both. Offer a multi-year contract to book their conferences and meetings at your hotel. You’ll have that business on your books, and they’ll no longer need to spend time and resources searching for a new venue each year.

 

The downside to this solution: Hotel rates are difficult to predict from year to year, much less vendor costs for putting on a big meeting or conference. While this approach may work for some clients, it’s not a panacea.

 

Solution #7: Focus on the Off-Season

Worried that your hotel is getting lost in the crush of July-September RFP submission season? Get a jump on the competition and start making contact with your potential clients a few months early.

 

Solution #8: Know What Clients Want

“What does this client want?” is the million-dollar question, right? These days, meeting planners choose hotel venues based on more than just the cost for rooms, facilities, and food. More and more want to know things like your hotel’s carbon footprint, locally sourced food options, and if you serve only fair-trade coffee. See the solution above about reviewing the reasons why your hotel didn’t make the grade during last year’s round of RFPs. If you notice a trend, pay attention.

 

If you’re ramping up for RFP season, Smart eHotels™ has your RFP solutions! Contact us today.

Effective RFP Solutions: Mining Social Media

How do you get the word out about your hotel’s business meeting and conference facilities? Well, you can do it the old-fashioned way, sending hard copy letters or carefully crafted emails to individual meeting planners. However, why wade through this laborious process when you can find meeting planners where they like to hang out in groups—social media? RFP solutions like this one can save you precious time and energy.

How to Begin

To mine social media for leads, your best bet is the “big three”: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Many business meeting planners belong to a professional organization or two, and the majority of these organizations can be found on the above-listed social media sites. Here are a few:

For another excellent resource, consider special-interest event planning organizations, like the International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals. This organization’s Facebook group publicly lists its members complete with photos, titles, and links to each individual’s Facebook page.

In addition, if you visit any of the above organizations’ Twitter pages, you can view a list of their followers, many who are business meeting planners looking for places to send RFPs for their next big event.

Navigating LinkedIn

Finding meeting and event planners on LinkedIn can be a bit trickier, but with the help of Google, you can cut through the maze. Developing contacts through LinkedIn requires that you set up a LinkedIn account, but even if you opt for the free version, it’s still a useful resource if you know how to use it.

Simply Google “meeting planners linkedin” to get started. From there, you can refine your search to pinpoint the exact type of industries you wish to target. Some of the most popular meeting planner groups on LinkedIn include:

With a relatively small amount of time and effort, you can be well on your way to building a list of meeting professionals who are actively looking for business event venues like those at your hotel. Contact our RFP solutions team to discover how SmarteHotels.com can help.

6 Hotel RFP Solutions: How to Catch a Meeting Planner’s Eye

For every hotel request for proposal (RFP) that hits your inbox, there’s a harried meeting or event planner on the other end who’s tasked with sorting through the responses. Help your RFP stand out from the pack with the following RFP solutions.

RFP Solution #1: Get Digitally Interactive

Don’t let your content just sit there. Beef up your web site with both SEO-friendly copy and features that engage visitors. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Virtual Tour—This can be as simple as picking up your camera to do a video walk-through, or as sophisticated as hiring a videographer and web designer to create an interactive virtual tour that lets customers decide where to go. Develop your virtual tour with an eye toward features that interest meeting planners—such as meeting room choices, high-tech extras, business centers, food service, on-site amenities, and nearby attractions and restaurants.
  • Surveys—Want to know what meeting planners are seeking? Ask them! Most people are happy to give an opinion when asked, and you can make it easy by asking in the form of multiple choice, clickable survey questions.
  • Exclusive Web Site Promotions—Reward meeting planners who visit your web site with promotions and deals they can’t get elsewhere.

RFP Solution #2: Hone Your RFP Response Time

All business meeting planners have one thing in common: they’re under deadline pressure. Don’t let RFPs, either paper or digital, languish in a pile waiting for your response. Quickly review each one and prioritize them based on the planners’ deadlines, not yours. Responding promptly—and addressing specific questions clearly and concisely—tells planners you take their needs seriously.

In addition, if you’re using an electronic request for proposal (eRFP) network, adjust your settings so you’re notified immediately when an RFP hits your account. Once-a-week batch notifications won’t cut it.

RFP Solution #3: Focus on ‘Clearly and Concisely’

If a meeting planner asked about the availability and features of a fitness center, remember that they didn’t ask about playgrounds, pools, or pet-friendly facilities. Don’t pile on unnecessary, extra information. On the other hand, if you can provide useful information that the planner didn’t think to ask that is relevant to the RFP, don’t hesitate to include it.

You can also add useful information without cluttering up your RFP response by including it in the form of attachments. You might cover topics such as FAQs, facility and area maps, typical food/beverage requirements for similarly sized events, detailed photographs of the venue, table and equipment layout options, and even press releases and comments from satisfied customers.

RFP Solution #4: Negotiate with a Smile

If you’re reading through an RFP (and you should read them in their entirety) and notice a long list of demands for concessions on your part, don’t assume the meeting planner isn’t open to negotiation. Contact the planner and show that you’re willing to make an effort to address the wish list. Even if you end up not having the lowest price, you’ll leave the impression that service is your number one priority.

RFP Solution #5: When Rejected, Regroup

“No” doesn’t always mean no. It might mean “not yet.” Take a look at the RFPs for clients who went elsewhere. Do they all have something in common? Follow up via email or a phone call in a friendly, professional manner to find out the top reasons meeting planners didn’t choose to hold their meeting or event at your hotel. For example, if one planner out of a hundred said your prices were too expensive, that’s probably not a high priority for you to look into changing. However, if 20% had something to say about your prices, then it’s time to start evaluating your price structure.

RFP Solution #6: Pre-Enter Details

Giving each RFP individual attention doesn’t mean you have to spend long hours laboring over your responses. eRFP systems are often equipped with ways to provide meeting planners with pre-determined information without your having to hand-enter it over and over again. Pre-entering details like venue size, room dimensions, costs, tax details, and more will free up the time needed to provide the customized attention meeting planners crave.

If you need help with additional RFP solutions, contact SmarteHotels.com today. Our RFP Solutions Team can help manage your RFP program.