The Power Of Saying, “Thank You!”

In today’s fast paced environment we often forget the simple act of saying thank you. These two words can make a huge difference in both the business and personal spheres. In business, it can be the difference of receiving increased business referrals, and in the personal sphere it can increase and strengthen your circle of friends.

At the end of the day, people will forget what you said; forget what you did; but will never forget how you made them feel. Saying thank you is one of the most powerful tools you have in creating and sustaining success.

When I launched my company a few years ago, there were quite a few individuals who helped me. I have never forgotten what they did for me and to this day continue to thank you on a regular basis. Not only has it strengthened by relationships with each person, it has created a professional network I can count on for referrals.

Hand writing Thank You with blue marker on transparent wipe board.
Here my tips for saying ‘Thank You’

1. Thank You for Time: Always thank someone when they make time to meet with you or talk to you over the phone. They have given up valuable time to make this happen. Remember, in today’s world, time is money!

When I interview candidates for a vacant position, my minimal expectation is to receive a thank you e-mail. Imagine my astonishment when I receive a hand written note – an art form that is fading due to the technology so readily available. You would be amazed how often a thank you is not received after an interview. The lack of a thank you note shows me that the candidate is either lazy, does not have what it takes to follow up or failed to realize that a thank you note could have secured their employment.

2. Allow the thanks to flow like a mini river: Always thank your clients for the business no matter how small or hard the project was.  It amazes me how often individuals forget this. The reason stated is generally, ‘I was so busy!’ Well, everyone is busy and if the client is important to you for repeat business, and it is to your benefit to thank them, you will find the time.

I have a friend who is accountant. He took on a client who gave him additional assignments beyond the contracted assignments. He completed everything in a timely manner; got paid and life moved on. The client sent him a wonderful thank you note for the work he completed, expressing how well everything turned out.  He did not respond immediately. A few weeks later, he realized he had not heard from the client. So he sent them an e-mail and learned that they had hired someone else, since they had not heard from him in response to their thank you note. They concluded that he was not satisfied with the additional workload and found someone else. In reality this was untrue and due to my friend not responding to the client lost a huge opportunity. A lesson learned.

3. Do Not Use Tired Clichés:  Though is important saying thank you to your clients, always remember to make it personal to them.

Clichéd sayings such as: ‘Thank you for your business’ or ‘We appreciate your patronage’ does not do much to personalize your thanks. Avoid clichéd language and focus on your clients by name.  The moment you say business you have made the client realize that despite the rapport you shared, at the end of the day they simply represent a business transaction. This diminishes the relationship you have worked so hard to develop.

When you acknowledge the client by name, they will notice that right away vs. a phrase such  as ‘Thank you for your business’.

4. Know when to send a professional thank you letter: In most business settings, a quick thank you note will suffice. However, there are occasions which warrant a more formal thank you letter or e-mail.

An example of such a situation can be expressing thanks to outside professionals who attend an event as a guest speaker or tradeshow exhibitor and external organizations that provide services to you especially with no charge.

In these cases a well thought out thank you letter is need. Keep the length to no than a page.

Here is an example:
Pillow Mint Partners
PO Box 1234, 
Los Angeles, CA  90025

Dear Mr. Jackson,

Thank you so much for attending Javanese 4th Annual Conference on August 27, 2012. Thank you for delivering your presentation, “The Upcoming Trends In Business Communications.” The discussion that ensued really got a lot of people thinking how to incorporate the new technology into their daily business practices. In the days since the conference, we’ve received many positive responses relating to your presentation. It was really wonderful. If you’re available to speak again next year, we’d love to have you back!

Sincerely, 
Amita Patel
Founder, Pillow Mint Partners
The example has the right amount of formality that it can be either a letter or an e-mail. The language is not stuffy and is directed to the recipient on a personal basis.

5. Be spontaneous with thank you’s: saying thank you is not reserved just for business. Saying you on daily basis on a non-business level is also essential.  Saying thank you to people you encounter on a daily basis is great way to feel good about yourself, while also making someone else’s day a letter brighter. It can also create loyalty. Here are a few ideas:

a. Say thank you to your barista next time you go in for your daily coffee. Add, ‘Have a great day!’  You will be amazed at the smile you get back in return.

b. Thank the bagger at the local grocery store. It is not often they are thanked and you will be rewarded by their huge smile.

c. Thank the person at the car wash that washed your car when giving him/her their tip.

You get the idea…

6 Fabulous Tips For Remaining Productive On Business Travel

Business travel is an essential part of life and yes, it can be exhausting. Last year I had thirteen business trips – conducting sales calls and attending trade shows.  Then there is the choice of keeping up with the workload while on the road, or tackling it when returning to the office. Guess which option I choose – yep! I choose to keep up with the workload while traveling. It was one of my most exhausting years ever! However, I was able to stay on top of everything and not miss a beat!

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So here I am sharing my tips of how stay productive while on the road and still keep sane!

Stay Organized
Those who know me know I am a fanatic about staying organized. Everything has its place and purpose. This is essential when meeting with clients or making presentations. I make sure that my laptop is fully charged and carry a power pack just in case. In addition, I have a HDMI cable to connect into projectors for PowerPoint presentations.

My briefcase contains the basics: laptop, i-pad (easier to use on a flight) phone charger, headphones, USB Wi-Fi stick, a portable hard drive, post-it notes, highlighters, lots of pens ( I am always misplacing them), a mini stapler and paper clips. Yes, I am a walking office supply store!

Plan Your Meeting Ahead of Time
I am a notorious for planning my trips in advance and making sure all the details are mapped out.  On a typical day of sales calls, I will plan no more than 4 calls and 1 client dinner/cocktails. This gives me the time to not only make a presentation to the client but also allows time to have a through Q&A session. The client does not feel rushed and is at ease. The benefit for you – minimal stress.  Ahhhh!

Generally my trip is planned out a week in advance which includes shipping any collateral, giveaways etc. to the hotel where I am staying. I always include a return shipping label so I can ship items back without any hassles.

By planning ahead will make you more efficient and productive. You will gain time to respond to any emails from your clients back home, keep caught on projects and still have time to relax and unwind.

Be Prepared For Any Unplanned Downtime
When traveling, plans often change without notice. A client may need to cancel or reschedule a meeting. Now you have some extra time in between meetings – the key is not to return to your hotel room – but rather find a spot where you can be productive.

Here’s how I stay prepared:

I always have my i-pad (I splurged and purchased the Wi-Fi package) which is easier to use in public than my laptop.  I also map out Wi-Fi friendly cafes in close proximity to my hotel and client offices. I am always prepared for the unexpected!

Set Up Your Hotel Room
The first thing I do when I check into my hotel room is unpack. Whether it is 1 day or a 4 day stay, I always unpack so it does not interfere with my work later. I also lay out my clothes the night before so I don’t have to rush in the morning (I am not a morning person). It also allows me to iron my clothes if wrinkled.
The next thing I do is setup the desk area for work. I charge my laptop, i-pad and phone and unload my travel office supplies. I do keep the TV on in the background when working because it helps me concentrate (a throwback to my college days when I kept the radio on).  This may not work for you.

Track Your Expenses
Though there are apps to track expenses such as Expensify, I am old school. I keep an envelope. I paperclip each day of expenses so when I am ready to submit my expense report; all the receipts are in order.

To learn how stay on track with your budget when traveling click here.

Workout –  Even For 30 Minutes
Always pack your sneakers and gym clothes and look for a hotel that has a gym or provides access to a nearby gym. I have found that even when I work out for a minimum of 30 minutes I am more focused and productive. I am more relaxed and alert. If there is no gym, put on your sneakers and walk a block or so around the hotel.

Business travel is exhausting, but is also rewarding not only in terms of spending time and establishing relationships with clients, but also in terms of building a strong network. These clients will eventually become wonderful allies in business.  Remember to make time for yourself – talk a walk – indulge in a treat and simply enjoy!

Overseeing Workplace Conflict – Avoiding Pitfalls

Conflict is a part of everyday life. There is conflict at home, at work, with friends, and even conflict in nature. The fact that conflict occurs is not the issue. It is how to resolve conflict that matters most. As a manager, the last thing you want is to have conflict between employees compromising all the positive energy in the workplace, creating a stressful and unproductive work environment.
According to an article on Forbes.com, 50% of employees said they accomplished less when dealing with an office related conflict, and 46% said they thought about quitting. As leaders, it’s important to look for ways to help reduce tensions in the office. Here are five tips to help you avoid conflict in the workplace.

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Positively Encouraging

First and foremost, be positive and give employees feedback. Doing this is simple, quick, and makes your employees feel as though their work is being valued. Being consistent with positive feedback will teach everyone in the office to do the same. One thing to keep in mind as a manager is that you are also a role model.

Work and Humor


Use humor to lighten up the mood in the office. Allow employees to have some fun while work. Most of us spend more time at work than we do with our friends and families. If it is all seriousness and no fun, you risk having under-productive employees who most likely will not last very long at the company.

Awareness

Despite all efforts to promote a fun and positive workplace, conflicts are bound to arise from time to time. Be aware of what kind of conflict could be brewing. Is it related to someone’s personal space? Could it be over a work related task? Is it a personality clash between two individuals? Knowing what the conflict is about will give you an idea of how to handle the situation. Make your own observations; once you notice a conflict is disrupting the team’s efficiency and morale, you can start taking steps to resolve it.

Seek Advice

When in doubt about how to resolve a conflict, seek advice from someone who knows, like your company HR department or senior leadership.  An outside perspective can be beneficial and unbiased. Regardless of the steps you take to solve a conflict, you could be faced with an employee who simply refuses to change his or her attitude. This is when you take the initiative to explain the consequences and follow through with them if the situation doesn’t change.

One Step Ahead

To avoid a conflict from arising altogether, educate employees how to go about handling tense situations. Explain the importance of using a respectful tone, choosing the right words, and actively listening to what the other person has to say.
You could even host a conflict resolution seminar or find a conflict resolution expert who will come speak to your office and explain the proper way to handle a conflict at work and in life.  An informed employee is one step on the path toward a healthy work environment.

Actions to Avoid in Conflict Resolution
Do not avoid the conflict, hoping it will go away. It won’t. Even if the conflict appears to have been superficially put to rest, it will rear its ugly head whenever stress increases or a new disagreement occurs. An unresolved conflict or interpersonal disagreement festers just under the surface in your work environment.
Do not meet separately with people in conflict. If you allow each individual to tell their story, you risk polarizing their positions. The person in conflict has a vested interest in making himself or herself “right” if you place yourself in the position of judge and jury. The sole goal of the employee, in this situation, is to convince you of the merits of their case.
Do not believe the only people who are affected by the conflict are the participants. Everyone in your office and every employee, with whom the conflicting employees interact, is affected by the stress. People feel as if they are walking on egg shells in the presence of the antagonists. This contributes to the creation of a hostile work environment for other employees.

How to Mediate and Resolve Conflict
These are the steps you’ll want to take to help employees resolve conflicts in your workplace.
Meet with the antagonists together. Let each briefly summarize their point of view, without comment or interruption by the other party. This should be a short discussion so that all parties are clear about the disagreement and conflicting views. Intervene if either employee attacks the other employee. This is not acceptable.
Ask each participant to describe specific actions they’d like to see the other party take that would resolve the differences. Three or four suggestions work well. An example is, “I’d like Mary to send the report to me by Thursday at 1 p.m. so I can complete my assignment by my due date of Friday at noon.” A second example is, “I would like to have responsibility for all of the business development and follow-up with that client. The way the work is divided now causes Tom and I to never know what the other person is doing.”
All participants discuss and commit to making the changes necessary to resolve the conflict. Commit to noticing that the other person has made a change, no matter how small. Commit to treating each other with dignity and respect. It is okay to have reasonable disagreements over issues and plans; it is never okay to have personality conflicts that affect the workplace.
Let the antagonists know that you will not choose sides. It is impossible for a person external to the conflict to know the truth of the matter. You expect the individuals to resolve the conflicts proactively as adults. If they are unwilling to do so, you will be forced to take disciplinary action that can lead to dismissal for both parties.
Finally, assure both parties that you have every faith in their ability to resolve their differences and get on with their successful contributions within your shared organization. Set a time to review progress.

Key Marketing Trends for 2016

As we head into the full swing of the New Year and begin to implement our sales and marketing strategies, it is important to know the key trends are to keep abreast of the competition.

2016-marketing-trendsWith technology changing every day, it has become abundantly clear that digital marketing has become more competitive thanks to online travel agencies, Meta search engines and the increasingly sophisticated web presence of various hotels.

In order to remain ahead of the pack, hotels must be prepared to wisely channel their time and resources into devising effective strategies in order to obtain positive results.

*Ongoing investment in your website – the company’s most important real estate
The consumer is going to review at least 2 to 3 websites before making a purchasing decision. It is imperative that your website has a responsive design, supports dynamic content personalization, offers dynamic rate marketing and it updated on an ongoing basis in order to remain competitive.

*Dynamic content personalization – the newest tool
Adding fresh content frequently to your website these days is not enough. The latest buzz is creating dynamic website experiences through content personalization designed to increase conversions.
This is accomplished by accessing and analyzing viewing history, reviews, past purchases, demographic information or psychographic segmentation in order to generate a customized experience.

*Why it is time for ‘Real Time’
Dynamic rate marketing in the hotel booking world is fairly common.

Real time hotel pricing and room availability is displayed in the various marketing channels such as display advertising, Meta search, retargeting, Google AdWords, email marketing, and keeping your Google Business Listings up-to-date.

It is not a difficult process to set up, and dynamic rate marketing can dramatically increase conversions and boost ROI.

*Make the consumer engage with your website on multiple occasions
On average, consumers will visit a website up to 10 times before making a purchase.
So it is important that the consumer is engaged enough to make multiple visits to your website, which hopefully will lead to a booking!
To increase conversion rates, it is crucial to analyze all areas of your sales funnel, create attribution pathways and focus your efforts on the highest converting pathways.
Reviewing all parts of the campaign as a whole rather than each one in isolation will help you to make a more informed decision.

*How to fight OTA’s
Even though OTA’s have a seemingly unlimited budget, a strong and sensible online strategy can divert these potential bookings to the hotels website.
A hotel can be quicker and react faster to making changes that an OTA. Hotels need to be more targeted and focused. In addition, hotels have the ability to spend more money on the direct property site.
Combined with a great marketing automation strategy and an enticing rewards program for returning guests, a hotel’s digital marketing strategy has the power to wrestle traffic from OTAs and raise revenues.

*Why Video Will Continue to Dominate
YouTube dominates the video world. It is also important to know how to use video across different channels such as Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Video is the best way to grab potential guests’ attention in this media heavy world. Keep the video no longer than 60 minutes after which the attention span wanes.

How does one do this: Create a quarterly video content calendar. The quarterly format helps you keep the content fresh and relevant for throughout the year.  Come up with at least one video per month and make each video topical. Focus on something related to your property that will interest your guests. Some ideas include: local points of interest, guides, maps, history, and employee stories.

Create a strategy for marketing these videos after you produce them. Decide how you will share them via email and social. They should be fully integrated into your existing email and social strategy. Videos will also improve your SEO because their bounce rates are lower, which means that your website users will stay on your site longer increasing your rankings. Additionally, your website will be able to rank on Google’s video search.

*Revisit Your Branding and Make Refinements
With a New Year it is time to think about updating your brand assets. This includes updating pictures on your website and social media channels. It’s important to keep images up-to-date and fresh to present the best image of your property.

Revisit the story your property is trying to tell. Your story and branding will drive the content you produce and the social media strategy you create. The story you tell should attract the type of guests you are looking for. If you are a ski and snowboarding lodge in Japan, your story is much different than a luxury hotel on the beach in Hawaii.

*Online Reviews why they are so important
At least 80% of consumers will check TripAdvisor re: reviews on your property, especially if they have never visited your hotel. Conduct a thorough audit of all online review channels and respond accordingly. It is best to respond to all reviews, but the negative ones are especially important. It looks bad for your property to have an unresolved negative review on the books. Even if you cannot change the guests’ experience, you can mitigate damage to your brand by explaining circumstances and being gracious and magnanimous.

Reviews are also a good way to gauge how your property performed over the past year. Guests’ reviews will you give you great insight into what you are already doing well at, and where there is room for improvement.  Marketing strategies can be created from online reviews as well as customer experience issues.

*Mobile Optimize Your Website
Mobile will only become increasingly more important. This should be taken seriously. Frankly if your website is not mobile you are definitely behind the times – create one. If you currently have one, make sure the pages display correctly.

Then, go through the booking process on multiple different mobile devices such as an iPhone, an Android phone, and a tablet. The way a website displays will vary based on the device, so it is best to test on multiple devices.

Self-Reflection – The Key to Professional and Personal Growth

As the countdown on New Year’s Eve began to usher in 2016 as 2015 faded away, I began to reflect how 2015 impacted me in many ways and how those impacts has influenced and shaped the decisions I have made for in 2016. It also made realize that I need to assess my strengths/weakness and focus on areas where I need to improve.

self-reflection-pillow-mint-partnersExperience is great place to start for self-reflection. When we take stock of our successes and failures we can ‘analyze’ them to determine why certain things were successful and why some simply failed. Failures and successes are always an opportunity to reflect why something worked/did not work.

Self-reflection is great exercise for anyone who is in a leadership role, managerial position or simply beginning their career path. It allows one to assess their successes, failures, challenges on a personal and professional level.

When one does not take time for self-reflection you are essentially stating that you have no challenges; have no need for development and growth. This hurts you and your professional development. Self-reflection is how one grows and moves to the next level. A few benefits of self-reflection:

1. Emotional Intelligence
Self-reflection means you are looking inwards.  It helps build two components to emotional intelligence: self-awareness and self-regulation. Self-awareness provides the ability to understand your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals, and recognize their impact on others. Self-regulation is the ability to control or redirect your disruptive emotions and impulses and adapt to changing circumstances. Building these emotional intelligence components will improve your leadership and relationship skills.

2. Integrity
Understanding your core values will help to strengthen one’s leadership integrity and lead to better decisions.  During stressful and difficult times our integrity is often tested.  Taking time to review key decisions and actions in the recent past and grading them against your core values is a good discipline for everyone especially someone in a leadership role. Consistency will solidify your values and make the decision making process easier. Integrity will not only produce better quality from you, but at the same time it will increase your expectations of others and encourage them to perform to the best of their ability.

3. Confidence
Confidence is crucial for professional growth and it definitely can help in our personal life. It helps in your ability to communicate effectively, making decisions and being influential. The more you self-reflect your strengths and how you can improve and build upon them, the more confident you will be as an individual and a leader.

When you do self-reflect keep in mind to be brutally honest and to accept that we do not always have the answers and have to reach out to others for assistance to build upon existing strengths and working on weaknesses.

Self-reflection is all about you and there is no right or wrong!

Simple Ways to Elevate Service

American Express recently conducted a survey exploring attitudes and preferences toward customer service. The survey revealed seven in ten Americans (70%) are willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service.

pillow-mint-partners-customer-service-excellentEven so, the same survey indicated that six in ten Americans (60%) believe businesses haven’t increased their focus on providing good customer service. Among this group, 26% think companies are actually paying less attention to service.

So the question continues: “Why is it that businesses consistently claim to value customers, yet inconsistently deliver exceptional customer service?”

What are the truths about exceptional customer service?

1.  It involves job essence. Every employee’s job is made up of both job function (the duties and tasks associated with a job role) and job essence (an employee’s purpose or highest priority which, for employees at most companies is to create a delighted customer).
2.  It’s voluntary. While obtaining a valid method of payment (a job function) is required, smiling or making eye contact (job essence) is voluntary.
3.  It’s free. While employees are paid to perform job functions, there’s no extra charge to smile, make eye contact, or add enthusiasm to their voices.

Most employees in most service organizations are unaware of the above truths simply because no one’s mentioned them. Instead, most managers spend time talking about job function, procedures, and operational efficiency while scrutinizing hours to schedule, forecasts, and profit and loss statements.

The result: Employees are unaware of the subtle opportunities they lose daily to show job essence, elevate the quality of their personal customer service, and make lasting positive impressions on the customers they serve.

There are seven simple ways employees can incorporate job essence into their daily job functions:

1. Express genuine interest in serving customers

This exceeds the basic customer service expectations of the job role. For instance, in a hotel setting, after checking-in a guest, most front desk agents will say, “Enjoy your stay with us. If there’s anything else we can do for you, don’t hesitate to call.”

While there’s nothing wrong with this response, if the guest’s welcome ends there, it’s routine and unlikely to leave a positive lasting impression.

A simple example: Upon guest check-in, placing a call to the room to verify that the guest is pleased with her accommodations and later following up with a hand-written note, welcoming the guest and providing your name and contact information for future assistance.

Cosseting (means pampering) a guest will not only elevate customer service it will also elevate the guest experience!

When guest luggage is thoughtfully handled with extra care the guest will genuinely appreciate the consideration. Guests who utilize valet parking will value employees who drive their cars responsibly and pay attention to detail by (if adjusted) returning seats and rear-view mirrors to their original positions. And fine dining restaurant guests will appreciate having their chairs pulled out and the waiter’s efficient use of a crumber to tidy the dining table between courses.

Sure, employees must read their audience. The expectations of a twenty-something student will differ from a forty-something professional. Although, when the opportunity does present itself, cosseting guests will make a positive lasting impression. Customers simply are not accustomed to receiving this level of attention and care.

2. Offer sincere and specific compliments to customers when the opportunity genuinely presents itself

Front desk agents routinely obtain a valid method of payment prior to issuing a room key. In so doing, they are performing a required job function.

If the desk clerk was intentional about demonstrating job essence then, while obtaining a method of payment, he/she might notice and compliment the guest on his necktie saying, “That’s a lovely tie. It matches your suit nicely. Who is the designer?”

The guest will be flattered that he/she noticed and a positive lasting impression will have been made.

3. Share unique knowledge

Unique knowledge differs from job knowledge. Job knowledge is expected of the employee and, generally speaking, is transactional. Unique knowledge is unexpected and has the potential to enliven an otherwise predictable customer service encounter.

For instance, a typical restaurant waiter might say, “Our signature appetizer is Pâté de Foie Gras. May I interest you in an order?”

As a result, he/she has shared job knowledge with his/her guests and may or may not make an impression—or a sale. Consider how the same information might be conveyed together with some unexpected and interesting unique knowledge:

“Our executive chef trained at the prestigious Restaurant School in Philadelphia and traveled to France to refine her knowledge of French delicacies such as truffles, escargot, and foie gras. In fact, our Pâté de Foie Gras is our signature appetizer. May I tempt you with an order?”

Which approach might move you to order the Pâté de Foie Gras?

4. Convey authentic enthusiasm, whether animated or reserved, for serving customers

When a guest is checking into the hotel, the Front Desk Agent can convey enthusiasm into the process.  A great smile, direct eye contact and correlating body language go a long way. Is there something unique that an agent has that will spark a conversation with the guest?
5. Use appropriate humor

It is said that laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Look for opportunities to enliven routine and mundane interactions with humor.

Consider a typical hotel automated wake-up call script: “Good morning. Today’s weather forecast calls for partly sunny skies, breezy, with a high temperature of 82 degrees. Thank you for choosing the XYZ hotel.”

Now consider interjecting a little humor into an otherwise staid and predictable practice: (Imagine the voice of an English butler.) “Good morning. I’m so sorry to disturb you, but it appears to be morning. Very inconvenient, I agree. I believe it is the rotation of the earth that is to blame.”

The first example evokes a yawn while the second inspires a chuckle. Clientele differs from business to business so use good judgment. But do look for opportunities to use appropriate humor to make lasting positive impressions on your customers.

6. Provide pleasant surprises

The unexpected nature of surprises tends to leave a lasting impression – so make sure they’re pleasant.

I recently sent amenities with a hand written note to a small corporate group at a hotel I am currently consulting with – there were eight rooms for 4 nights.  The next day, I received four separate notes from the receiving guests thanking me for the unexpected surprise…it made them feel special.

The concept of providing pleasant surprises: lagniappes. These are the unexpected “little extras” that may delight customers. Lagniappes are the 13th bagel in a baker’s dozen, the mint on the pillow or the single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres that arrive unexpectedly at your table—a memorable “little extra” from the chef.

In the hospitality industry, we do not have the luxury to control unpleasant surprises. However, we can influence pleasant surprises—but only if we are intentional about providing them.

7. Deliver service heroics when necessary

Service heroics require employees to go beyond the typical job duties that are expected of their job role.
Hotel personnel typically respond to a guest’s request for an alternative room due to smell, location, or view by identifying an alternate room and sending a staff member to the original room with a set of keys to the new room.

Delivering service heroics requires going a step further. It may mean sending a desk manager to the original room with multiple keys to a set of optional rooms from which the guest could choose based on his or her unique preferences. Although circumstances will influence the response, when possible, delight the guest with an unexpected option such as an upgrade to a suite or a room on the concierge level.

Although situations like these are exceptions, exceptions require exceptional customer service.

At the beginning of this article, the question posed was, “Why is it that businesses consistently claim to value customers, yet inconsistently deliver exceptional customer service?”

The answer: The reason that we inconsistently receive exceptional customer service is because… it’s voluntary.

 

Content Marketing 101

Traditional marketing methods are becoming less and less viable in today’s competitive market due to advanced technology. Today’s consumer is more tech savvy than ever and gets bored easily. Consumers are more informed than ever on products and services they want via various distribution channels.  Traditional methods are becoming boring and outdated and not interesting to the today’s highly informed consumer.  This in turn leads to low conversion rates, decreased website traffic and lower ROI (on a company’s marketing spend).

content-marketing-strategies-pillow-mint-partnersCompanies are seeking ways to implement new, creative and fresh marketing strategies with the primary goal of positioning their company and executives as experts in their industry. This not only increases a company’s overall credibility, it also shortens the sales cycle. The most effective thought leadership campaigns use content marketing to educate readers (potential clients, media, industry experts, etc.) about a company’s area of expertise.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a targeted marketing strategy that involves creating insightful, engaging and interesting written content with the goal of creating customer loyalty and increasing opportunities for future business. An effective content marketing strategy will engage its targeted audience with relevant information leaving them better informed and interested to find out more.

Content marketing can include a variety of tactics including but not limited to:

  • Articles published in high-profile publications
  • Blogging
  • e-Books
  • Webinars

Content marketing is not a direct sales tactic; instead it is a two-way communication between a business and its target audience. Similar public relations and social media, content marketing is not directly designed to sell a product/service. However, it can have significant effect on brand awareness and can be highly effective at positioning a company as an expert in their field. Though these activities cannot be directly linked to an increase in sales, they can significantly decrease the length of the sales cycle, making it a highly effective marketing medium — especially for start-ups and companies working in a highly competitive market with high supply. By improving the public’s understanding of who a company is and the product/service it offers, content marketing is a great avenue to increase a company’s credibility and brand recognition without the significant costs associated with more traditional marketing methods.To create an effective content marketing strategy here are four tips to get you started:

Embrace the Blog
Hosting a blog and sharing content on your website not only allows your customer to understand your position as an experienced insider, but it is also the easiest and most effective method of driving traffic to your site and increasing your SEO ranking. Every time a new blog post is added to your blog, the search engines scan your site, which immediately leads to a boost in your search ranking.

Create a weekly blogging schedule and post on the same days every week, so your followers will know when to visit your blog to read your new posts. For even greater consistency and brand recognition, you should cross-promote your blog through your company’s social media channels.

Promote Through Social Media
Social media is one of the best mediums to use to post and share your content. It is an integral component of your content marketing strategy. Almost everyone has either an i-phone or smartphone – and tied in with either Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and so much more.

Implementing a social media schedule will help your business maintain its competitive edge while ensuring that you are offering interesting and unique content on a regular basis. The more views your post receives, the more it will be shared, commented on and enjoyed by both new and existing customers. Scheduling your posts to ensure the greatest exposure to your followers can make or break the success of your social media strategy. Scheduling tools like Hootsuite will enable businesses to share content at the time of day that it will make the biggest impact.

Drop the Sales Pitch

Effective content marketing minimizes the need for a sales pitch. In the event a company does choose to promote their company within their content, its content marketing strategy will not be effective. Most consumers are highly distrustful of advertising messages; so the moment your content becomes promotional, readers are likely to lose interest. Customers visit websites and social media channels to learn insightful information about a business’ area of expertise, not to experience a hard sell (or even a soft one!). Provide customers with the information they are will find meaningful and interesting.

For example, a hotel can use content marketing to increase repeat site visits from potential customers, increasing brand recognition, brand loyalty and increasing direct bookings in the process. In order to do so, the hotel would need to make their website (and blog) a destination for consumers to find out valuable travel tips (including topics like: how to save on your upcoming hotel stay, etc.). Because readers keep coming back to the site to learn from your content, they will be more likely to remember your hotel and visit your direct website (instead of the OTAs) when they are booking their next hotel stay in that destination.

By providing information versus using your content to sell, you are giving the customer time to develop trust for your company, before receiving your sales messages. If your content continues to be engaging, informative and relevant to the targeted audience, the customer will remember your company and come back to make a purchase when they are ready to do so.

Tips For Developing a Marketing Campaign

It is that time of year again when we begin to draft the annual marketing plan which generally includes an updated marketing campaign. It is important to remember that the process does not have to be difficult… by using a phased approach you will be able to develop a detailed plan that will allow you to communicate a single strategy to all of your partners, agencies, owners, employees, as well as assist in holding others accountable for their roles in the overall success.

marketing-strategies-pillow-mint-partnersPhase 1: Setting the Stage

The foundation of marketing success comes from strong positioning in the market place. The time and effort you put into the planning phases will pay off during the execution phase.

Formulate brand – Many believe that branding is simply a logo and tagline. It is much more… A brand is the combination of every touch point a person has with your company. How are they greeted when they walk into your hotel? How the guests greeted in the restaurant? Do your in-room amenities reflect the true essence of your brand? What messaging is in the on hold recording? Do emails contain useful information?



Define your positioning: Define you are…Are you a quaint, relaxing bed and breakfast? Or an amenity-driven, technology-filled oasis for business travelers? What makes your property unique? How is your brand presented in relation to your competitive set? A good way to determine your positioning is to focus how your hotel stands apart from the competitive set



Determine messaging – How would you describe your hotel? What words represent your brand identity and what does the hotel have to offer? Are you clearly explaining the value of your business?

Determine your audiences – The first step is to ask, “Who is my target market?” Are you a luxury brand targeting C-Level executives for transient business or high impact group events? Does your hotel cater to predominantly corporate transient business or leisure business? Is there a certain age demographic such as Millennials or baby boomers? All of these questions will help you determine your target audience

Phase 2: Resource Development

Now that you have set the stage with a brand look and feel it’s time to execute in different mediums.



Website – With today’s advances in technology, the website is often the first interaction and impression your client will have with your brand. Make sure that first impression is a good one. Websites should have clean, simple design and be easy to navigate. The rule of thumb is no more than 3 clicks for the client to get the information they are seeking. Never sacrifice usability for ascetics. The website is merely a touch point for the client to reach out to you.

Collateral – In the digital age, collateral provides an opportunity to stand out even more by offering an emotional experience. Make your collateral clear, concise with minimal verbiage. Use professional photography that invokes a positive emotional response. Collateral must represent your brand. Do not be something you are not…this will lead to a client’s expectation not being fulfilled…thus possible loss of the client’s future business.



Communication appropriate for the medium – When drafting copy, make note of the medium it will be used in. Website copy is best written in a more bulleted format than a brochure. White papers are written in a more formal voice than social media posts. POP graphics may be bolder than visuals in a 32-page brochure.

Phase 3: Drafting the Strategy

How will you achieve your sales and revenue goals within each market segment? A well-thought out and defined strategy will identify who your target customers are, how to reach them, how to have them become loyal repeat guests while general referral business from them.

Marketing budget – Know your total available budget. Make sure that funds are allotted to each expense line item. By knowing what the monthly budget is for advertising, sales travel, client entertainment etc. will allow you to keep on budget…and the possibility of saving a few dollars to use elsewhere. Then prioritize your needs from there. Try to keep some funds in reserve so you can take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

Plan – A strong plan will ensure you’re not only sticking to your schedule, but that you’re spending your marketing funds and resources wisely and appropriately.

Track the results: this will help you identify strategies that are working:
1.Track sales leads
2. Track visitors to the hotel website
3. Survey clients

A year is 12 months – The marketing plan should include a year-round strategy on how to reach each market segment. An integrated plan includes: online, seo, ppc; social media; PR; email marketing; customer relationship management, and more. A combination of programming, offers, events, and activities will keep your customer engaged.

Phase 4: Pulling the trigger!

This is where you make it happen!

Maintain focus – An actionable timeline will keep everyone on track with deadlines and allow advanced planning for proper execution.  The result – resources are used more efficiently on what is needed to make things happen.

Think beyond the boundaries – Most boutique and lifestyle hotels have limited teams. Do not let that get in the way of you accomplishing the predetermined goals. You can always hire additional support to execute a more aggressive plan that will help you achieve your sales/revenue goals.

Why Ongoing Sales Training/ Coaching Is Invaluable

We all agree that hotels are always – especially smaller hotels with 200 rooms or less, look for ways to reduce their overall expenses generally at the expense of ongoing sales training. While this may look good on paper, in reality it is the worst thing an hotelier can do.

sales-training-value-pillow-mint-partnersWhat is not realized is the ongoing sales training can actually assist the hotel achieve its revenue goals:

  • Through difficult economic times
  • Keep the hotel ahead of the competitive set
  • Reel in business that positively impacts the hotels bottom line without sacrificing the targeted ADR

Sales training scheduled only during the ‘boom times’ is no longer viable and simply passé.
Today’s sales managers not only have to sell differently, they must learn how to anticipate client needs and expectations.
The sales process has to be transformed into a “buyer focused” format where getting key details while building a relationship is the primary goals.
There is more than one type of sales training – strength training for sales is a newer approach with a higher ROI.
It is far more productive (not to mention cost effective) to ‘pitch’ to the ‘right’ client by knowing their needs vs. simply making a sales call – which literally is a waste of time and money.
The days of following a sales quota* is passé –it is far more effective and productive to make quality calls which ultimately will result in a higher ROI.
Ongoing sales training encourages sales managers to replace ineffective, practices with effective bottom line, results oriented sales practices.
In between the ongoing sales training sessions sales managers can practice what they learn in the real world.
Ongoing sales coaching ensures that all discussions incorporate knowledge gained from sales training and that appropriate actions are taken. Sales managers become disciplined and accountable.
Ongoing sales training should be more than strategy and technique. Sales training should begin with building a strong foundation. That foundation is your sales team and long term continuous success!
To learn more about sales training/coaching by Pillow Mint Partners, click here

The Power of Saying, “Thank You!”

In today’s fast paced environment we often forget the simple act of saying thank you. These two words can make a huge difference in both the business and personal spheres. In business, it can be the difference of receiving increased business referrals, and in the personal sphere it can increase and strengthen your circle of friends.

power-of-thank-you-pillow-mint-partners

At the end of the day, people will forget what you said; forget what you did; but will never forget how you made them feel. Saying thank you is one of the most powerful tools you have in creating and sustaining success.

When I launched my company a few years ago, there were quite a few individuals who helped me. I have never forgotten what they did for me and to this day continue to thank you on a regular basis. Not only has it strengthened by relationships with each person, it has created a professional network I can count on for referrals.

Here my tips for saying ‘Thank You’

1.  Thank You for Time:  Always thank someone when they make time to meet with you or talk to you over the phone. They have given up valuable time to make this happen. Remember, in today’s world, time is money!

When I interview candidates for a vacant position, my minimal expectation is to receive a thank you e-mail. Imagine my astonishment when I receive a hand written note – an art form that is fading due to the technology so readily available. You would be amazed how often a thank you is not received after an interview. The lack of a thank you note shows me that the candidate is either lazy, does not have what it takes to follow up or failed to realize that a thank you note could have secured their employment.

2.  Allow the thanks to flow like a mini river:  Always thank your clients for the business no matter how small or hard the project was.  It amazes me how often individuals forget this. The reason stated is generally, ‘I was so busy!’ Well, everyone is busy and if the client is important to you for repeat business, and it is to your benefit to thank them, you will find the time.

I have a friend who is accountant. He took on a client who gave him additional assignments beyond the contracted assignments. He completed everything in a timely manner; got paid and life moved on. The client sent him a wonderful thank you note for the work he completed, expressing how well everything turned out.  He did not respond immediately. A few weeks later, he realized he had not heard from the client. So he sent them an e-mail and learned that they had hired someone else, since they had not heard from him in response to their thank you note. They concluded that he was not satisfied with the additional workload and found someone else. In reality this was untrue and due to my friend not responding to the client lost a huge opportunity. A lesson learned.

3.  Do Not Use Tired Clichés:  Though is important saying thank you to your clients, always remember to make it personal to them.

Clichéd sayings such as: ‘Thank you for your business’ or ‘We appreciate your patronage’ does not do much to personalize your thanks. Avoid clichéd language and focus on your clients by name.
The moment you say business you have made the client realize that despite the rapport you shared, at the end of the day they simply represent a business transaction. This diminishes the relationship you have worked so hard to develop.

When you acknowledge the client by name, they will notice that right away vs. a phrase such ‘Thank you for your business’.

4.  Know when to send a professional thank you letter:  In most business settings, a quick thank you note will suffice. However, there are occasions which warrant a more formal thank you letter or e-mail.

An example of such a situation can be expressing thanks to outside professionals who attend an event as a guest speaker or tradeshow exhibitor and external organizations that provide services to you especially with no charge.

In these cases a well thought out thank you letter is need. Keep the length to no than a page. Here is an example:

Pillow Mint Partners
PO Box 1234
, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Dear Mr. Jackson,

Thank you so much for attending Javanese 4th Annual Conference on August 27, 2012. Thank you for delivering your presentation, “The Upcoming Trends In Business Communications.” The discussion that ensued really got a lot of people thinking how to incorporate the new technology into their daily business practices. In the days since the conference, we’ve received many positive responses relating to your presentation. It was really wonderful. If you’re available to speak again next year, we’d love to have you back!

Sincerely, 
Amita Patel
Founder, Pillow Mint Partners

The example has the right amount of formality that it can be either a letter or an e-mail. The language is not stuffy and is directed to the recipient on a personal basis.

5.  Be spontaneous with thank you’s: saying thank you is not reserved just for business. Saying you on daily basis on a non-business level is also essential.  Saying thank you to people you encounter on a daily basis is great way to feel good about yourself, while also making someone else’s day a letter brighter. It can also create loyalty. Here are a few ideas:

*Say thank you to your barista next time you go in for your daily coffee. Add, ‘Have a great day!’  You will be amazed at the smile you get back in return.

*Thank the bagger at the local grocery store. It is not often they are thanked and you will be rewarded by their huge smile.

*Thank the person at the car wash that washed your car when giving him/her their tip.

You get the idea…