Sales, Social Networks and Lead Generation Are We Moving Closer to ROI?

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June 01, 2010
Social Media | Technology
Carol Verret - carol@carolverret.com

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One of the major issues with engagement on social networks has been an inability to demonstrate a return on investment of time and the social network gurus have endeavored to try to illustrate a return on engagement.  At a time when the industry is so budget conscious, sales activity that can’t demonstrate a ROI is discouraged in terms of time and investment.

However, recent research appears to be moving closer to measuring lead generation from social networks as well as how marketers are engaging leads from all sources on social networks.  In a recent article from eMarketer.com, it said, “HubSpot noted that more than two-fifths of companies using various social media marketing channels had acquired a customer from those channels.” (eMarketer, 2/25/10) This was true of both B2B and B2C marketing.

Predictably, Facebook and Twitter accounted for a higher percentage of B2C leads and LinkedIn accounted for more B2B leads.  What was interesting in this HubSpot survey was the percentage of both types of leads generated from company blogs.  

In addition, a survey also showed that by far, the preferred method of engaging marketing leads was social networks and community sites versus a direct response.  Social media is still about relationships with customers and prospects, and as that relationship matures it moves into the lead generation space where it can be taken out of the social media space and evolve into a one-on-one relationship. 

All of this assumes that social networks are part of an integrated and holistic online strategy and presence that includes the use of the most suitable social media site for the target customer, the Website and the hotel blog.   While many of the major franchises have marketing resources that perform this function, small hotels and independents often don’t understand the importance of these in reliable lead generation, and as such,  after a few sporadic tries decide that the effort isn’t generating a ROI.

In a recent post on Bill Marriott’s blog, he indicated that they measure the success for an offer on social media in two ways.  The first is by the spike in traffic to the Website and the second is the spike in spend on the Website, even if it isn’t connected to the offer that was put out on the social media platform. The rationale for this is that once a customer gets to the site he or she may well find other products that he or she likes more and subsequently buy rather than the special offer. (2/17/2010)

Given the above surveys and statistics, what can hotels do to stimulate lead generation from engagement on social networks?

Blogs
Many hotels don’t have blogs and the ones that do tend to use them for repeating offers.  The purpose of a blog is not to push product–there are enough channels in the social space to do this such as Twitter and even the Facebook wall.  The blog should be informational in order to promote customers and prospects to return for more interesting information.  For example, a small independent hotel was using its blog to repeat offers available on other sites including its Website.  However, the property is located next to a river that is known for its steelhead fishing.  The hotel used the blog during fishing season to provide information on how the steelhead were running, the temperature of the water (important I guess for the fishermen), and to report on the recent catch from fishermen.  It drove more people to the blog, who in turn  booked more rooms through the Website during the steelhead season that was an off season for them. They could measure this through the analytics of the Website. The hotel booked fishing groups from the local outfitters to whom they promoted the blog.

Facebook
It’s not just for leisure promotions anymore.  Case study:  A mid-sized franchise hotel was brainstorming about ideas to book groups in its typical slow season.  The idea of promoting through Facebook was discussed and scrapbooking groups were targeted. The director of sales had built a base of fans that included clients and she located the organizers of local scrapbooking groups  to add to the hotel’s fan base. She posted a promotion for the hotel’s slow season for scrapbooking groups on the wall. A funny thing happened– her clients and prospective clients saw the posting and began using the wall to post dates for their groups so she could check availability for their groups.  She had a tour operator also post dates for a tour series so she could check availability. Now she posts when and where she will be making sales calls so that her clients can request that she stop in. She has trained her clients to check the wall frequently for updates and uses the wall to communicate with them. And she didn’t book one scrapbooking group.
 
LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the B2B social network site where everyone who participates understands why everyone is there –to connect with potential associates and prospects.  Again, success depends upon the quality of the network and the groups that are participated in.  Routinely, opportunities will be posted directly to a group discussion but often it is the area of relationship building and indirect contact where lead generation occurs. 

Case study:  A hotel sales person was developing a new meeting package but wanted to get feedback on it so that she could make sure it was an attractive offer.  She engaged a member of her network that she knew and respected and that sat on several industry boards to review the package and provide feedback as to ways it might be improved.   Her contact responded that he was on the committee of one of the industry associations to plan and book their management retreat and could they have a conversation by phone to check dates.  The hotel sales professional had not approached this contact with the intention to make a pitch, but he liked the package so much he booked it for his association.

Social media are evolving to be distribution channels and, as we saw from the research, lead generators for those participants who learn to use them well and even take risks to use them in nontraditional ways.   As they continue to evolve, they will become an important resource for hotel sales and revenue managers, and, in all likelihood, become even more integral to lead generation.  

Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service. To contact Carol please e-mail carol@carolverret.com or phone (303) 618-4065.

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