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The Group Market Tech Evolution

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June 18, 2018
Revenue Strategy and Metamediaries
Katherine Leiden

From the original eRFPs, technology for the group market has come a long way. Today’s products can match group trend to a hotel’s specific needs.

From the original eRFPs, technology for the group market has come a long way. Today’s products can match group trend to a hotel’s specific needs.
The year is 1995. Technology is becoming ubiquitous. Companies like PlanSoft and Starcite introduce eRFPs to streamline what was a manual and agonizing process for meeting planners. Hotel sales teams go from receiving 10 leads a month to 10 leads a day. 
A lot has changed since the ‘90s. Today’s technology lets users send RPFs en masse without qualifying prospective destinations or hotels. Many sales teams are overwhelmed by either the quantity of inbound leads or the lack of quality inbound leads – or both. 
Sales teams are busy enough as it is. Responding to unqualified inbound groups is time-consuming. It can be more of a burden than a blessing if those leads don’t match the property’s needs. Hotels in larger cities receive an overwhelming volume of leads, but can sometimes be more flexible. 
Characteristics that indicate a group’s buying behaviors include location type, hotel brand or brand group, chain scale class, market and market tier, and region. Analytics can map these patterns and determine how consistent they are. This shows how likely they are to repeat. For example, in the web map shown, a group displaying these buying behaviors consistently meets in the same type of location, like a resort, but is extremely flexible on which hotel brands it books with.

Some larger brands share a database of any group business that has booked with the brand in the past. On the other hand, hotels in smaller destinations or at independent properties can be extremely selective when qualifying groups to find those that are the best fit for their property. These properties are looking for businesses interested in their particular location or the experience they have to offer. That means they have to be more aware of groups’ past booking patterns and buying behaviors as indicators of whether or not group meetings would be a good fit for their hotel.
Small and independent properties are usually on their own when it comes to making themselves known to meeting planners and seeking the opportunities larger hotels may take for granted. These properties can’t afford to wait for the chance that one qualified RFP will come in among the dozens of less-qualified RFPs.
Though there may be a diamond in the rough amongst lead spam, the time-consuming triage and qualifying it takes to respond to eRFPs is crippling for most sales teams. Sales directors say their teams should dedicate 20 percent of their time to proactive selling. Unqualified RFPs make that goal hard to attain. What’s the solution?
Technology may have created this mess, but only better technology can fix it. Hospitality technology has come far since the ‘90s. It’s amazing that more advanced technological solutions weren’t applied to group acquisition earlier. There is enough data on actualized group meetings and events now that analytics can help sales teams become more forward-thinking. They can look for and find prospective opportunities that represent the best fit between their hotel’s specific needs and a group’s buying behavior.
This kind of technology is called prescriptive analytics. Using groups’ historical booking patterns and preferences, prescriptive solutions can find, score and proactively push opportunities to a hotel sales team for consideration. It can narrow offerings to those groups with a preference that matches the hotel’s profile. It can further boil it down to those that will likely make repeat bookings. Essentially, this technology does the qualifying work for the sales team. It also delivers the best possible matches for potential group business.

Using a group’s buying behavior, or booking patterns, analytics can match those patterns to a hotel’s specific attributes. This determines the degree to which the group’s buying behavior matches the hotel’s characteristics. The product generates a score based on how strength of the match. Prescriptive technology can push high-scoring leads to alert the hotel to group opportunities that may be good potential business.

Prescriptive technology lets group sales professionals be more selective. That means properties that need to be pickier, like small or independent hotels, get automated leads that meet their strict qualifications delivered directly to them. Larger hotels can also benefit from prescriptive solutions that offer an efficient way to focus on group business with a higher likelihood of closing the deal. This goes beyond qualifying by space used and need dates. Analytics can gauge potential to book by how likely the group is to repeat trends it has shown for choosing regions, markets, hotels and chain scales. This provides hotels with prospects that are much more specific to their needs.
Automated processes that help triage and qualify can get group sellers in front of planners faster and reduce the possibility of competition if an eRFP isn’t sent. Fewer RFPs means less of a need to respond to them, which can help lower acquisition costs from commissions and offset investments in third-party channels. The cherry on top: By beating the whole RFP process to the punch, sales teams get time back in their days.
Prescriptive Analytics: The cherry on top is that by beating the whole RFP process to the punch, sales teams get time back in their days.
This type of technology is a far cry from the original days of eRFPs. Prescriptive analytics takes group prospecting to a new level. This more evolved, efficient solution removes the heavy lifting of triaging and qualifying. It’s available in the market today. As it continues to take hold and grow, it will be clear which hotels are using it to their advantage and which are not. 
Prescriptive analytics is a group data technology evolution. It will be interesting to watch sales teams adapt and leverage this technology to find better qualified group opportunities with a high likelihood of materializing for their property – no eRFPs needed.

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