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In Search of the Ultimate List - You need new guests. What can you do to find a good prospect list?

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October 01, 2008
Marketing | Technology
Lisa Phillips - Lisa.gcm@hotmail.com

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While much has changed in the industry, this pursuit of the ideal direct marketing list has been constant. You look outside to list brokers, credit card companies, and yes, even subscribers to your favorite publications to find that perfect list. Fortune 500 meeting planners, traveling golfers, boutique travel agents, gourmet lovers, generations X, Y and Z, yuppies, yappies, DINKS, DORKS – you’ll consider a variety of avenues to find new customers. With passion comes urgency (the list is needed tomorrow), so a sizeable chunk of your budget along with the marketing strategy is placed at the altar of the almighty list. 

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but many times we start this process before we have established our guest profile or have fully explored internal and relationship options. Approached correctly, these alternatives may reduce costs and produce more meaningful results, making the very best use of your resources.

Guest Profile
Recently profiling has been getting a bad rap, but for direct marketers, customer profiling should be an integral component to the overall marketing strategy. At a minimum, a guest profile should emerge from elements that are obtained during the reservation/registration process or accrued during the stay. This includes geographical feeder markets, at the ZIP code, county, state, DMA and country level. Stay-specific information such as number of adults and children, overall and departmental spend, length of stay, lead time, booking source, memberships, clubs, recreation—anything that has marketing relevance —is also significant to the profile.

However, stay data provides only a partial view of the guest. What you really want is more information about the guest when the guest is not being a guest. Supplementing the stay profile with demographic elements and lifestyle characteristics completes the portrait . This can be done through any combination of the following:

  1. Internal data– Customer-provided information (survey data) acquired through comment cards, survey responses, Web site inquiries, etc.
  2. Purchased data–There are numerous options available, ranging from the more traditional demographics, like household income and marital status, to the more specific, such as discretionary income.  Additionally, grouping of data elements into clusters based on interest or life stage is also available and designed for marketers.
  3. Purchased reports–If acquiring supplemental data is not feasible, profile reports are a great alternative.  Similar to purchasing data, the report options are numerous and can include basic demographic components (i.e., age, income, profession) to extremely granular information such as the likelihood to buy Levi’s Jeans.

Creating and maintaining a customer profile is essential for prospecting, as you need to know who to target –the best new guest. More than one profile may be necessary if you have distinct subsets of guests – for example, weekday/end, high/low season, group/transient, guest/owner. Alternatively, you may want to focus your efforts on the customer type that you most wish to replicate. Once the profile(s) is established, you can look at your available list sources.

Internal Lists
It is most always advantageous to explore your internal options first, primarily because the prospect is likely already familiar with your property and/or company – or has a relationship with someone in your sphere.  Additionally, restrictions (if any) to the use of the list are self imposed and there are no direct costs.

Other non-competing companies can be valuable and extensive resources for new guest acquisition.  While it’s not unusual for business partners to share complementary products or services, it is far more important that your potential source shares a similar customer profile, that your new association promotes the desired image with your clients, that the partnership has mutual benefits, and that these benefits can be objectively measured.  To secure a valuable partnership, be sure to prepare a complete customer profile for the targeted market as well as a ROI on the associated campaign/promotion.

A partnership might entail sharing lists or one company providing its customer/prospect list in exchange for a promotional opportunity or a trade out. Usually there are restrictions on the use of the list, but rarely are there direct costs. A partner may even absorb all costs of a promotion if the expected benefits are substantial.

Finding “the” list, may be today’s goal but as Annie said, tomorrow is only a day away. Therefore, getting your arms around your guest–understanding who they are when they are with you and who they are when they are not with you–should be at the core of your marketing strategy. Once this profile is established, you can leverage it to research and request internal lists and pursue partner opportunities. This effort will bring you the prospects that have the highest propensity to become not just guests, but repeat guests, and potentially loyal customers… the ultimate list.

Lisa Phillips is the president of GueSTrategy. She can be reached at Lisa.gcm@hotmail.com.

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