BtoB: What advice can you offer marketers trying to reach hotel executives?
Rook: The first thing you've got to keep in mind is that service really matters. The hotel industry is an industry that is very attentive to personal service, whether it's to a meeting planner or to a guest. Because they are so service-intensive as part of their business, they expect exceptional service from the people they do business with. The next thing that really counts is the quality of whatever you're bringing to the market. If you don't have [a] good or [a] better-than-average-quality product, and you don't have good service, you're going to waste a lot of time and resources trying to get to the market.
BtoB: What strategies have worked for your company in breaking through to hotels?
Rook: We have, over the last couple of years, been very successful in attracting large portfolios that had been held by our competitors, and the way we were able to do that was by working at multiple levels within the target organization. [For example,] I had relationships at the executive level, and the sales rep that was involved was working with the director level at the parent organization. We provided a lot of information, a lot of testimonials, a lot of case studies and a lot of data. As a result of that working top down and bottom up, and supporting it with a lot of empirical data, we were able to be successful. Hoteliers believe other hoteliers before they'll believe anything a vendor will say to them. So the role of testimonials in the hotel industry is extremely important.
BtoB: What media have worked best for you in targeting hotel execs?
Rook: We do telemarketing, and direct and e-mail marketing; and we do a tremendous number of trade shows every year. Relationships are important in every selling environment, but it is particularly true in the hotel industry, where relationships make a huge difference between your ability to get your message in front of the decision-maker and the inability to do that. ... It is the attendance, and sponsorships and that type of thing at industry events where you continue to become involved with the industry as a whole; and you find out a lot of things about what's going on, and things that are being planned and not even executed yet.