How to Structure a Contract for a Hotel Group Buyout

Last month I participated in a LinkedIn group discussion with a meeting planner who was seeking advice on how to structure a contract for a hotel group buyout. Like any hospitality contract question, there isn't a "default" answer for group buyouts. The most important element for both meeting planners and hoteliers is to approach the event as a partnership, with a mutually beneficial contract and good pre-event communication.

Based on the strong feedback I have received from my answer, I've taken the liberty of sharing the question and my response in context on how to structure a hotel contract for a group venue buyout.

Group Meeting Planner:
Hi! I am in the process of negotiating a contract for a "virtual" venue buy out for a staff retreat. I say "virtual" because we'll take 100% of sleeping rooms and all meeting space for our program but the outlets (restaurant, marina, etc) will remain open and available to outside guests.

Any tips/advice/clauses that I should include? I obviously want to protect the sleeping rooms, meeting space and full use of the resort for our use. However I also don't want to get stuck with unused rooms/space if for some unforeseen reason our group size is reduced.

Thanks!

My Response:
In my experience, a buyout is very much a partnership arrangement with your venue and no two events are exactly alike.

In your specific example, you are looking to ensure full exclusivity – rooms, space, facilities – and mitigate all of your risk at the same time. I see these as competing priorities and it may be necessary for you to evaluate the importance of each.

It may also be beneficial to understand that the venue is taking on risk as well. In allocating the totality of their facility to you, they "risk" the opportunity to sell to other groups/guests at a higher rate. They also "risk" lost revenues if your group size is reduced.

If exclusivity is most important to your group, it is absolutely reasonable to expect that the venue will ask you to fully guarantee all of your rooms and your banquet minimum, both with no attrition allowance. This should ensure full use of the facilities without interruption from other guests and ensure the expected revenues to the venue. (WIN-WIN)

If it is more important to mitigate risk from reduced group size, then I suggest working with the venue to establish a reasonable attrition allowance that permits the hotel to resell your unused rooms/space. The venue will mitigate its risk through resell and there would likely be other guests in the facility, but you will not be "stuck" if your attendance falls. (WIN-WIN)

A third alternative may be a bit of a blend. If the event takes place further out, perhaps the two parties would mutually review the anticipated usage and make adjustments to the room block/space hold based on reasonable assumptions. If the group is reasonably expected to be smaller, you could return some of the rooms/space without liability and allow the hotel to resell them. However, if your numbers are on target, you could ensure your full exclusivity. (WIN-WIN)

Again, the most important component of a buyout is partnership. Be confident that you have selected a true partner and you will ensure your mutual success.

How to Convert Social Media Followers to Buyers

Since the rocket-like launches of Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest years ago, organizations have been asking the million dollar question in regards to social media, "How can we convert fans into buyers?"

Social MediaCountless books, seminars, blogs have been devoted to the topic of social media ROI, but (sadly) most seem to miss the most obvious point.

While I don't proclaim to have all of the answers, the answer to the question of converting social media followers to customers seems a rather obvious one:  The same way you converted your existing customers.  

From my perspective, there's too much status placed on 'fans' and 'fan counts' by most social media "experts". The people who "like" your brand are essentially giving your company a virtual high five. Click to Tweet They appreciate something you've done or a perception you've created about your products. They may or may not be your current customers. And – unless you work to convert your followers into buyer – they may or may not be your future customers.

In a traditional sense, your Facebook fans and Twitter followers are the digital equivalent of window shoppers. Click to Tweet Some of them know your brand well, they enjoy your products  and actively share their experiences with their friends.

But some  of your fans – a large majority – are standing on the sidewalk.  They like your window display, but it hasn't compelled them to open the door and try your brand. And this is where your business acumen and experience – more so than your social networking skills – come into play.

Social media is a tool for increasing your sales, not the solution. Click to Tweet

So ask yourself and your team: What do you do as a brand that brings potential customers in off the sidewalk?

If you can answer that question, then you can convert social media followers into buyers.

How To Position Yourself as an Expert – ROLL UP YOUR SHIRT SLEEVES!

I happened upon a curious article entitled "How to Roll Up Your Shirt Sleeves" via a luxury company's social media and it really struck me. As a man who wears shirts, I suppose I am well-within the blog's target demographic for this post; however, what really interested wasn't the content, but rather the positioning. 

The article details (with photos AND videos!) different ways for men to roll up their shirt sleeves. This is, I suppose, interesting information for a number of readers. 

Beyond the content, I think this is a great example of how to position yourself as an expert.

Each of us has a number of interests in which we have a great depth and breadth of knowledge. Be it personal or professional, I'm sure there are several areas in which you could be considered an expert. And therein lies the opportunity. 

By taking the next logical step and SHARING your expertise, you can not only impact your audience but also establish yourself as an expert – a status that can reward you handsomly in career pursuits. After all, who would you rather hire/work with/buy from? An expert or the other guy? 

In what areas are you an expert? Find your niche and roll up your sleeves!

Why you NEED a Travel Agent

You already know how to use Expedia, Travelocity, and TripAdvisor. You're not an online travel novice. Perhaps you're using more advanced tools like Kayak, Hipmunk, and TripIt to plan your vacations. But are you neglecting to use the #1 travel resource in the world? If you're not using a professional travel agent, then you're putting your time, money, and experience at risk. Travel agents are travel EXPERTS. They've been there, done that, and donated the t-shirt. 

But don't just take my word for it. Here's a Forbes.com post on why you need a travel agent:

There are many, many good reasons, which I will explain. But the bottom line is that they know more than you do, they are better connected than you, they have access to benefits you can’t get otherwise, they can often beat any other prices available (even online, yes), and after you have planned everything, they provide a safety net during your trip that you simply won’t get by booking yourself or buying insurance. Having a top travel agent can also make you an instant VIP – free room upgrades, hard to get restaurant reservations, cutting lines, access to otherwise closed stores and exhibits, private guides, and cheaper – often much cheaper – premium airfares. Here’s the best part: even though most top agents charge fees, in almost every firsthand experience I or my friends, family, and acquaintances have had, travel agents have saved money, often a lot of money, thousands of dollars, and in every case, more than paid for themselves.

Why you need a travel agent – Forbes.com 

If you don't like something… the Holstee Manifesto

The new year brings opportunities for introspection and resolutions. For me, that means trying to live the words of the Holstee Manifesto.

This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop, they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over analyzing, life is simple. All emotions are beautiful. When you eat, appreciate every last bite. Open your mind, arms and heart to new things and people, we are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is, and share your inspiring dream with them. Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself. Some opportunities only come once, seize them. Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them. So go out and start creating. Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.

Here's to a wonderful new year!

How To Make Press Releases "Twitter Friendly"

PRNewser had an interesting read this week on the importance of making your press releases Twitter friendly. Why should you tailor a press release to be easily distributed via Twitter, you ask? Simple. Twitter drives more traffic to press releases than any other top-level social media resource.

So, how do you make your press release "twitter friendly"? PRNewser has some obvious steps as well as some a-ha steps that can greatly impact how your release gets distributed via social networks.  

“It starts with the headline,” says Sarah Skerik, PRNewswire’s VP of social media. “The press releases that got the most shares and views were those that had headlines that were in the range of 120 characters, which makes them the perfect tweetable link.”

twitter logoObviously good headlines are important, but it's equally important to monitor the length of the headline. Since Twitter users will want to retweet your post and (potentially) add comments, you need to leave enogh characters to support the "RT @[yourusername]" device, at a minimum. A good rule of thumb would be to limit the length of your tweet to 110-120 characters maximum. 

Using twitter best practices is also important in making your press release twitter friendly and ensuring that you are hitting your core audience. One obvious device is through the use of appropriate hashtags. Hashtags make your content easy to find through twitter search, lists, and dedicated industry feeds. 

Another great tip is to make your pullquotes tweet-able. 

Why not make the quote more interesting and substantive? “If I knew my audience was active on Twitter, I would make sure that quote is tweet-able, and include the brand’s or person’s Twitter handle….”

Including a twitter handle within your press release (or within the pullquote itself) is a really clever idea that could pay off in many ways. Not only will it get your important themes noticed and retweeted, but it could help to gain followers for your internal twitter accounts, further enhancing your brand's credibility in the marketplace. 

For more ways to make your press releases twitter friendly, check out the rest at PRNewser.

Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – 2. Don't Feature Dump

In the first installment of my series "Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal", I outlined the importance of focusing your proposal directly on your customer's goals and concerns, rather than on your company's accomplishments and background. 

The second step to writing a sales proposal that will increase your capture rate is to avoid "feature dump". In this installment, we'll detail exactly what that means and how to best present your strengths. 

 

Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal

 

STEP TWO: DON'T FEATURE DUMP

It slices. It dices. It mowes your lawn. It washes your car. It even changes diapers!

In my experience, "feature dumping" is the achille's heel of so many salespeople. From day-one on the job, salespeople are taught the in's and out's of their products with such a fervor, it becomes easy to believe that specs are what customers want to hear.

The harsh reality is that SPECS DON'T SELL. While it may be fascinating that your {INSERT PRODUCT HERE} does {INSERT SPEC HERE}, the truth is no one buys because your {PRODUCT} does {THAT}. 

Take that long list of bullet points and trash it.

Instead, focus on BENEFITS. How does you're product fill the need that your customer has? How does buying your product enrich their business or enhance their experience?

If you watch an infomercial, you'll immediately understand the difference between features and benefits and how to emphasize the latter.

Perhaps you are familiar with the the Showtime Rotisserie Oven from Ronco. Pitched as a simple oven for experienced or novice cooks, Ron Popeil takes only a moment to explain that the oven has many programmaned time and temperature settings for different foods, but focuses his presentation on the benefits – you can cook many foods easily, you save time in cleaning and you can "set it and forget it!" – just walk away knowing that the oven will cook your food properly. You get a delicious meal and you also get free time. Set it and forget it!

By emphasizing the explicit benefit of your products for your customer, you demonstrate that you understand your clients needs. In focusing on how your solution benefits the client, you differentiate yourself from 99.9% of your competition who only knows how to feature dump.

By presenting your offering as a solution to their pressing business need, you create worth in your product. And worth, my friends, is a psychological and emotional need for buyers.

Remember it's never the number of "settings", it's "set it and forget it" that truly sells. 

 

 

While this one tip is going to make you stand out from the pack, be sure to check out the rest of the tips in this series on Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal!

 

1. Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMER

2. Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – DON'T FEATURE DUMP

 

 

Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – 1. FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMER

Not a week goes by that I don't receive an unsolicited, impersonal pitches promising to help draft better sales proposals. I'm sure you've seen them. They all seem to start like this:

This class will….

This speaker will….

This "award-winning" training will….

Blah, blah, blah.

Isn't it ironic that these mass mailings – full of cookie-cutter "solutions" that aren't targeted to your specific needs – are going to "improve" your presentation to your customers?

The obvious truth is writing sales proposals is a direct extension of the sales process

With that in mind, here is the first of six steps I recommend to write a more effective sales proposal:

Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal

 

STEP ONE: FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMER

Like you, your customers are tasked to be more efficient. Your customers are handling more projects and have less time to accomplish them than at any time in their careers. And with procurement under the microscope at most US companies, some customers may even feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of purchasing.With that in mind, you must make certain that your proposal is about them.

Buyers are more concerned with how you can best meet their needs than how wonderful your company may be. After all, they have probably Google'd your company already, right?

Instead of detailing your company's mission statement and history, skip ahead and focus on the expressed and unexpressed needs that your probing skills have uncovered. Use this knowledge liberally throughout your proposal as you present the benefits of your solution. Are there gaps in your notes? Get back in touch with your customer and fill in all the blanks so that you can write an awesome sales proposal. 

This one step will differentiate you from approximately 80% of your competition. While they are spending paragraphs and pages on themselves, you'll be focusing just on your customer. And, honestly, wouldn't you rather buy from someone who is completely focused on you? 

 

While this one tip is going to make you stand out from the pack, be sure to check out the rest of the tips in this series on Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal!

1. Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMER

2. Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – DON'T FEATURE DUMP