Is There Such a Thing as Distribution for Groups?

Juli Jones, Vice President, HSMAI

When we think of distribution, we typically think about corporate distribution and leisure distribution, but we rarely really think about group distribution. Why is that? Why is there still no widespread group distribution?

Not too many years ago, the CEO of a large travel agency predicted that nobody would ever book a hotel room online. We all know what happened there. As technology evolves, will the same thing happen with groups?

Ubiquitous group distribution would have a transformative effect on our efficiency and competitiveness — as individual hotels and hotel companies, and as an industry. Read on for key takeaways from the HSMAI Global Distribution Advisory Board’s discussion of this topic.

Top three reasons there isn’t group distribution

  1. Complexity – Group reservations and the way they need to be handled are just more complicated than individual reservations. And, the level of complexity tends to increase as the size of the group increases.
  2. Priority – Despite the importance and opportunity group distribution presents, it has not been a priority nor focus of technology investment – especially since group travel all but disappeared during COVID and is still working its way back to pre-pandemic levels.
  3. Culture – Even with a system, cultural shifts are needed throughout the commercial organization, including:
    • Thinking ahead to group pricing and what prices you’ll be distributing publicly.
    • Deciding how much of your total inventory you’re going to devote to group.

How do we get to group distribution?

  • Tools – We need tools that seamlessly interface with our core technologies – including the CRS and the sales system.
  • New Models – For each of our companies and/or hotels, we need clear group pricing and inventory management strategies that work with limited human intervention. We also need organizational models, sales targets, and compensation policies that create synergy — as opposed to friction — across all the commercial disciplines. And, don’t forget the value proposition and user experience for the customer!

Despite the obstacles in our way, it is clear the question is when, not if, group distribution will be a reality for all hotels.

Tips and Tricks for Utilizing TikTok in Hospitality Marketing

Brittany Hardaker, Director, Brand Marketing, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, HSMAI Marketing Rising Leaders Council Member

TikTok has quickly become one of the most powerful, if not the most popular and engaging social media platform amongst today’s travelers. While the platform is by far the most popular among Gen Z, usage is on the rise amongst millennials and Gen Xers too. Since it launched in 2016, TikTok has expanded its user base and in tandem, its ever-evolving offerings, and has quickly become an effective tool for hoteliers to explore for their marketing strategies.

“Every single internet minute, more than 167 million TikToks are watched, giving the platform a higher rate of engagement per post than any other social media platform,” according to an article from CVENT from June 2022.

While the platform continues to grow in popularity, hoteliers are tasked with determining if it is the right channel for their business and end-consumers.

With the opportunity of having a new channel to tap into for your audience, comes the challenge of an ever-evolving landscape. TikTok requires a constant feed of engaging, relevant, and timely short-form content that not all hospitality marketers have available at their fingertips. If used currently, TikTok can become an important place to build brand awareness and deepen your audience reach.

In September, I met with the HSMAI Rising Leaders Council to discuss how effective TikTok can be as a marketing platform. Here are some ideas to think about when launching or developing your TikTok channel.

How Consumers Are Using TikTok:  

  • As a search engine for learning – to plan travel and more importantly, determine what your itinerary will include once you get there, searching for the best restaurants in Italy, for example.
  • Snackable entertainment and educational content that’s accessible on the go.
  • Browsing relevant hashtags by destination to discover places to stay, travel hacks, and more.

During our conversation, it became clear that in order to make TikTok an effective tool in hospitality marketing, it requires an always-on approach. This can include staying up-to-date with the latest TikTok trends, hashtags, and frequent posting, which can be a challenge for many of our teams as we navigate our multi-channel mix across other social platforms and beyond

The type of content that resonates most with TikTok users is also very unique, creative, and authentic, so this form of content is not something marketers often have “off the shelf.” Additional time, resources, and budget are required to create the type of content needed to fuel this platform and stay engaging.

Through our discussion, our HSMAI Rising Leaders Council came up with the following tips and tricks for staying relevant on TikTok:

10 Ideas on How to Generate and Manage the Increase in Content:  

  1. Find your niche and stick to it – and where applicable, get the whole company involved in submitting content.
  2. Repurpose content across platforms where possible, for example using TikTok videos for Instagram reels.
  3. If you have staff traveling to different properties, create hyper-local/community content.
  4. Use TikTok for talent recruitment – include short videos on open positions.
  5. Break the work up among various staff – i.e., a content producer, a manager, and a strategy role.
  6. Show off amenities, deals you have at your restaurant, and spa offers, etc.
  7. Launch the channel when a property has a lot going on to generate excitement and engagement.
  8. Think about what type of persona you want to portray. What is the unique spin that your company can take on it?
  9. Tap into influencers or micro-influencers to create the content for you and be ambassadors for your brand
  10. Engage your local community or guests to create videos.

Recession is coming in 2023: The good news is, your competitors are in denial about it

While there was a lot of political debate over the past few months about whether two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth — a common definition for a recession — in the first six months of 2022 constituted a recession or not, the U.S. hotel industry did not realize a recession by any measure. Hotel companies are seeing demand rise above pre-pandemic levels, and ADRs are at record highs. This is fueling unrealistic optimism for hotel revenues in 2023 and contributing to a familiar industry habit of thinking that strong current revenue performance will continue into next year.

This optimism was reported in Q3 earnings calls by many travel industry CEOs as reported by Jamie Mageau in her article, “Industry Perspectives: Looking Ahead for the Travel Industry” on November 11th.[1] Below are a few excerpts from hotel CEOs:

We have yet to see signs of a slowdown in global lodging demand. In fact, we’ve seen just the opposite. Booking trends remain very healthy. Given sustained high levels of employment, consumer trends prioritizing experiences versus goods, pent-up travel demand and a high level of consumer savings, travel spending has been incredibly resilient. – Tony Capuano, Marriott CEO

There’s ample room for further growth of travel spend as the underlying behavioral drivers of travel demand are powerful and durable and will, in our opinion, propel travel back to its pre-pandemic share of wallet relative to the broader economy. – Mark Hoplamazian, Hyatt CEO

Discretionary business travel, group bookings and international trips have also shown increasingly encouraging signs, on top of continuing good levels of essential business demand. – Keith Barr, IHG CEO

In contrast, prior to the most recent recession, most hotel companies didn’t believe it was coming.

The usual hotel sector C-Suite optimism trickles down throughout the regions and individual hotels within these companies and in turn applies pressure on the local management of these properties to also demonstrate optimism — materializing in their budgets and forecasts.

Optimism can also start at the hotel level and work its way up. There is pressure for hotel managers to be optimistic about the future, as this makes their bosses happy. When working in my first hotel revenue management job, I went to a regional meeting with my GM. Prior to the start of the meeting, property GMs and DRMs in the region discussed the 90-day outlook over coffee and pastries. The consensus of these casual conversations was that our ability to reach our revenue forecasts was in serious doubt. The Regional Vice President, who had not been a part of our informal discussions, started the meeting by going around the table asking for forecast updates, beginning with my GM who said that he was cautiously optimistic about our ability to not only hit our forecasts, but to exceed them! This set the tone for the meeting. Each subsequent hotel GM echoed my GM’s optimism, and by the time we had gone around the room, the overall sentiment was that every hotel was either going to hit their forecast or exceed it. The RVP was elated that the outlook was so good! In the end, the region did indeed see the revenue shortfalls discussed casually among peers before the official meeting started. I’m sure many hotel managers can recall similar stories in their careers.

This business culture tends to create an optimism echo chamber. No one wants to be the first to point to an economic downturn. The pressure falls onto revenue management strategies and tactics to achieve these optimistic goals, many times doing the opposite as tactics based on incorrect predictions drop realized revenues.

Will the strong current revenue trends continue into 2023? Most large company CEOs don’t think so. In a recent KPMG-conducted survey of 400 large company CEOs, 91% of them believe the U.S. will be in a recession in the next 12 months, and more than a third of them believe it won’t be mild and short.[2] What are the signs of this looming recession?

  • Consumer confidence is currently below levels seen during the Great Recession
  • Inflation is at 40-year highs
  • The Fed has been increasing interest rates all year and have indicated there will be continued increases for the next few months
  • Many large companies have started layoffs, cutting significant percentages of their workforces. Most notably[3]:
    • Meta (Facebook’s parent company) and Lyft have cut 13%
    • Stripe has cut 14%
    • Shopify has cut 10%
    • Snap has cut 20%
    • Amazon is in the process of cutting 10,000 employees, with more to come in 2023[4]
  • Quarterly home equity dropped in Q3 by 7.6%, the largest drop since the Great Recession[5]
  • Although unemployment rates are low, this is due in large part to historically low workforce participation rates (people without jobs aren’t looking for work) [6]
  • After reaching recent highs, U.S. personal savings are now at their lowest levels since the Great Recession

If the above does indicate a likely recession in 2023, what can hotel management do to mitigate the revenue loss?

Start with your forecast. Does it accurately portray what you believe is going to happen in 2023 given the likely recession? If not, create a forecast that does. There may not be an appetite to submit this as a revised financial forecast, but make sure that your revenue strategies are aligned with your best estimate of what is likely to happen in the future. This may mean working from a revenue management forecast that is different from your financial forecast. Revenue management systems only do a good job of optimizing revenues if their forecasts are accurate. Artificially optimistic forecasts will keep future reservation controls too restrictive, as they will be predicting too many sell out dates, causing displacement of predicted higher revenue demand. Additionally, it will inflate price controls for market segments based on the inflated demand. If this demand never materializes, you will have turned away business that would have filled otherwise empty rooms.

Readdress your strategy for market segments that have long lead times, e.g., groups, wholesale, business travel RFP’s, airline crews, etc. If you predict the economic turndown before your competitors, you can book business in these segments and build a strong base of business. Overly optimistic hotels will keep their group prices high and limit availability for group blocks in 2023, believing that high rated transient business will be displaced. By proactively targeting these group leads now and offering comparatively better value through price, relaxed contract clauses, or other value adds in the client’s interest, hotels will capture a greater share of this market segment now at prices that will look comparatively high when a recession hits next year. Additionally, if you were stingy with group block allotments in contracts in 2023, re-evaluate them and see if it makes sense to go back to the client and offer additional rooms. Applying similar tactics to other market segments with long lead times will yield similar results. Competitors who wait until transient booking pace within 90 days to arrival starts showing economic woes will have missed the window of opportunity. They will be competing on the remaining market segments with short lead times. Being ahead of this curve will yield positive RevPAR Index gains in 2023.

A plethora of economic indicators are pointing towards recession in 2023. While this news is disheartening, hotel management companies that act now in anticipation of the likely downturn will win the market share game for next year.

Neal Fegan is the chief revenue officer of Total Revenue Uplift, a leading revenue management consulting firm, and can be reached at neal.fegan@totalrevenueuplift.com.


[1] https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4113438.html

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/04/investing/ceos-recession-economy-outlook

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/09/tech-layoffs-2022.html

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2022/11/18/a-day-after-amazon-announced-10000-layoffs-ceo-andy-jassy-warns-of-more-job-cuts-to-come/?sh=1f3e1bbc6953

[5] https://www.blackknightinc.com/black-knights-september-2022-mortgage-monitor/

[6] https://www.forbes.com/sites/johntharvey/2019/05/03/if-unemployment-is-so-low-then-why-dont-i-feel-better/?sh=3d635f7f684e

HSMAI Perspective: Insights From Sales Leader Forum 2022

By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI 

The theme of last month’s HSMAI Sales Leader Forum (SLF) was Elevate. Off-property sales leaders gathered to learn from experts, meet future leaders, and collaborate on the most pressing issues in hospitality sales:   

  1. Retaining Talent 
  2. Helping Sales Teams be More Effective & Efficient 
  3. Cross-Over with Other Commercial Disciplines 

In the morning, thought leaders and practitioners shared strategic insights on these three themes, giving attendees tools and insights to tackle these issues. 

During her talk, Loud Retaining: Recharge Your Talent Strategy , Kimberly Rath, Co-Founder & Chairman, TalentPlus described practices to keep top talent engaged and retained. She shared, “Everyone is so focused on who is quiet quitting, we are not focused on retaining our top talent. Talent based leaders should bookend their days talking to top talent.”  

In their presentation, Helping Sales Teams Be More Effective and Efficient , Dr. Kelly McGuire, Principal, ZS and Jeff Patton, Vice President of Sales, Americas, Hilton broke down the keys to ensure productivity and efficiency in today’s hybrid and remote world. Dr. McGuire talked about how everything is moving to digital and these changes require technology and time investments to integrate systems. She said, “Traditional lead generation will soon be obsolete, and sales organizations needs to keep up.” Jeff discussed organizing for efficiency and how to partner with technology, set to realistic timelines, and define KPIs to have optimal success. Ultimately, he thought, “The fastest way to great outcomes is trusted relationships – internal and external.”  

Finally, Alison Handy rounded out the session with her talk titled, Sales in Commercial Organizational: Fueling Collaboration and Avoiding Collision . She shared the evolution towards commercial organizations as well as some common paths organizations were deploying commercial, including bringing disciplines together, creating a corporate above property commercial role, and creating an on property commercial leader. The best commercial leaders are collaborative, analytical, and competitive.  She predicts that more commercial leaders will emerge from cross discipline training.  

After all the morning’s great content, include a State of the Industry presentation by STR, the afternoon program sparked attendee conversation, engagement, and took a deep dive into the three big issues. We compiled the best practices and ahas from these sessions here.   

This year’s SLF content received high praise from attendees. You are not going to want to miss next year’s at the Hilton Long Beach in California! Mark your calendar today for November 8, 2023. 

I’d like thank the HSMAI Sales Advisory Board members, chaired by Eric Kreins, Assistant Managing Director, Sales, Hilton Worldwide Sales and facilitated by HSMAI VP, Juli Jones for their hard work planning and implementing SLF 2022.  

HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board’s Tips for Driving Hotel Revenues in 2023

Paula Zeller, Divisional Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Remington Hotels, HSMAI Sales Advisory Board Member 

With costs rising and flow more difficult to achieve, sales teams must exceed revenue expectations for hotels and/or ownership to achieve acceptable profit levels. The HSMAI Sales Advisory Board got together to discuss how to meet those revenue expectations.  

Five ways to adjust your mix of business in 2023 

  1. Shift to retail.  
  2. Group up. 
  3. Mix the discount business differently such as AAA and advance purchase.  
  4. Continuously analyze the business including running P&L for groups to make sure they are profitable.  
  5. Look for ways to capture direct channel business because it’s more profitable.  

Five ideas to manage group inventory differently 

  1. Increase the frequency of benchmarking the market to see what concessions and group rates competitors are giving.  
  2. Capitalize on the opportunities for higher rate of business in the shorter term, rather than relying on pace reports as we have in the past.   
  3. Learn the art of walking business – move groups to another hotel if another piece of group business comes in that is a better pattern, has more F&B and a higher priced ADR. 
  4. Move groups within property as needed and get ingenious about space.   
  5. Change the convention service manager position to remote so that they can manage several hotels.  

Five tips to grow budget/revenue 

  1. Stay agile, look at lead times and the business that’s out there.  
  2. If one segment, such as retail, is at a peak, look at other segments like groups to make-up revenue.  
  3. Provide the sales teams with the right tools on how to educate the client to close business.  
  4. Look to mid-size hotels that have been good for smaller meetings.  
  5. Review your processes and ask, “Is how we have to do this? Is there a technology that now exists that will make people more efficient?”  

Check out 7 Hospitality Sales Tips to Conquer Your Revenue Goals for more tips.  

10 Ways to Operationalize Sustainable, Regenerative, and Locally Immersive Travel Experiences

By Hilary Feutz, CHDM, Director of Digital & Communications Strategy at Terranea Resort, HSMAI Rising Marketing Leader Council Member 

As we move forward from the pandemic, sustainability and regenerative tourism must be a priority. It’s no longer just a question of being sustainable and doing as little harm as possible during travel but looking forward to how we can eliminate and reverse the harm to create a positive impact. Jonathon Day of Purdue University via The New York Times explains, “Sustainable tourism is sort of a low bar at the end of the day. It’s just not making a mess of the place. Regenerative tourism says let’s make it better for future generations. 

Travel industry-led studies are proving that going green leads to better loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing, as well as higher customer satisfaction. Booking.com’s recent travel survey showed that 53% of travelers are starting to look for more sustainable ways to reduce their environmental and social footprint. Travelers are carefully considering where they put their dollars, to spend with intention and leave the world a better place than what they were born into. 

Here are ten ideas HSMAI Rising Leader Council Members shared to operationalize green practices:  

  1. Form a voluntary employee green team! Have monthly meetings to brainstorm and discuss relevant topics, which helps to create internal ambassadors at all levels who can advance key initiatives, like decreasing food waste in the employee cafeterias.  
  2. Include carbon offsets in booking and highlight LEED-certified properties. Add a filter option on search results, where you can filter for green emissions or energy-efficient properties.  
  3. Swap dispensers for single-use products, like shampoo, conditioner, and soap bars. This can help reduce not only costs, but also the amount of plastic and bottled containers.  
  4. Reduce paper usage.  Rather than printing receipts for guests and sliding them under the doors, email receipts or have them available on an app; use QR codes to offer digitally, information that was once printed.  
  5. Reduce water and energy usage with on-demand housekeeping. Consider transitioning to housekeeping every couple of days unless requested daily.   
  6. Purchase a farm….no really. One property bought a farm, to focus on farm-to-table dining and reduce that carbon footprint. Or partner with a local farm to supply flowers on property and educational programming like a kid’s camp.  
  7. Go local with experiences. Two examples include properties having a local experience page to connect guests with community vendors, or service-oriented activities like a beach cleanup.  
  8. Connect with local or global charitable organizations.  
  9. Offer eco-friendly products. One example is giving out complimentary reef-safe sunscreen.  
  10. Evaluate your brand standards. Making a change on a company-wide level has a big impact and conveys a consistent green message to consumers across property collateral and websites. 

 

 

The Future of Retailing – Challenges and Opportunities

Lauri Mussa, Director of Reservations and Channel Management, Rosewood Hotel Group, HSMAI Global Distribution Advisory Board Member  

What is retailing?  

Is retailing the unbundling of rooms? Is it selling meeting space? Is it selling food and beverage? Is it your transfer? Is it collaboration with a partnership? Is it, in five years that the gen Zs and the millennials are going to want to buy their travel in one spot? What does that mean to the hospitality industry? 

Retailing is all those different things, and in hospitality, we are leading down the path of a broad definition. HSMAI’s Global Distribution Advisory Board got together to discuss all things retailing. Read on for the innovations, obstacles, and future of retailing.  

Challenges to Implementing a Retail Strategy 

  1. The industry needs more data, especially to consider if this is a good financial decision.  
  2. There is a danger of losing yourself when trying to retail incremental things when we cannot say that we’ve done a great job at retailing our primary products.  
  3. It can be technologically complex and costly.  
  4. Making sure of what you have, testing and learning what constitutes value. 
  5. Operational challenges in fulfilling offerings, from the communication when it sells on the website to get to the operations team, to take something through to the room, to go to the transportation team, etc. It can be incredibly difficult to bring that all together and to make it a great experience for the guests.  

Opportunities for Implementing Retailing  

  1. Put a booking widget on a website as a test to see if people will buy rental cars or flights from your website.  
  2. Develop a retailing insights program and expand product offerings. 
  3. Gain incremental revenue by including a product link and taking the commission of the top line.  
  4. Build the platforms, the APIs, and the deep links into all your verticals.  
  5. Look for ease of implementation and low development costs – like a partner that provides the scripts and artwork.   

5 Predictions for The Future of Retailing in Hospitality 

  1. We need leadership from the top, driving through the message that this is the way of the future. 
  2. Hospitality is lagging behind other industries mostly because of technology and that will be a hard gap to close. 
  3. Staffing and resourcing will continue to be the biggest obstacles. 
  4. Booking.com and Expedia have the money and the resources. They’re going to be pushing the envelope, in terms of retailing and travel options. 
  5. Whether the battle is won or lost is in the ability to attract profit to our sites in the first place. 

Whatever the future holds, retailing is an exciting change for the industry. 

21 Takeaways from the HSMAI Sales Leader Forum

The action-packed HSMAI Sales Leader Forum last week in Frisco, Texas, included strategic conversations, thought leader keynotes, and collaborative roundtables. Read on for key takeaways from the event that highlighted important trends and provided critical insights and best practices.

On the Recovery

  1. We’ve reached a new high much quicker than other downturns driven by transient travelers, though central business districts in urban areas lag in recovery.
  2. ADR growth is slowing as consumers start pushing back against high growth rates and STR is predicting a mild recession for the second half of next year.
  3. There is an optimistic outlook as group travel is coming back and the rise in “bleisure” travel.
  4. Customers’ expectations have changed. We are driving ADR but customers are wondering where is the service for this rate increase?

How to Attract and Retain Talent

  1. It’s on us to talk about how awesome hospitality is and the benefits of the industry like living, working, and traveling all over the globe.
  2. Sales talent is everywhere, not exclusively at hospitality schools.
  3. Leaders should start and end their days talking to top talent. Many are so focused on who is quiet quitting, they are not focused on retaining top talent.
  4. Talent based leaders accept people for who they are (and aren’t).

On Commercial

  1. Commercial leaders should be collaborative, analytical, and competitive. If you wait for a unicorn of someone who is an expert in both sales and revenue strategy, you’ll still be looking in five years.
  2. We used to live in siloes, now you must have a full commercial view and use many data points to make targeted and strategic marketing decisions.
  3. Cross discipline training will result in more commercial leaders.

Improving Efficiency and Technology

  1. The future is digital. Traditional lead generation will soon be obsolete, and sales organizations need to keep up.
  2. The fastest way to great outcomes is building trusted relationships – internal and external.
  3. You need clean data and staff processes. Then automate everything you can. “Get the bots to do the things you hate, so you can get back to the things you love.” Kelly McGuire, ZS.
  4. Ask yourself, can you make it easier? Can you make it faster?
  5. The most efficient sales are the rebook, so service delivery is more important than ever.
  6. When posting on social media, have a goal in mind, include a call to action, and use emojis and hashtags. #HotelDigitalMarketingEssentials class starts next week! 😎

We’ll leave you with this life advice from Roger Dow, recipient of HSMAI’s Lifetime Achievement in Sales Award:

  1. Hand write notes
  2. Take risks
  3. Act as if…[you have the job you want]
  4. Slow down

And remember, “Everything in life is about sales.”

Stay tuned for session video recording coming soon.

HSMAI Sales Leader Forum 2022

HSMAI Foundation Talent Best Practice: Find Yourself and Your Team

Kate Lochridge, Director of Resorts Marketing at Universal Orlando Resort

As hospitality organizations, our team members’ voices are important. Their level of engagement affects their service delivery and directly impacts our guests’ satisfaction. We solicit our team members for feedback in their self-evaluations, team member satisfaction surveys, annual reviews, quarterly development lunches, random one-on-ones, and several team member engagement activities.

With all these activities, do we do an adequate job providing our team members with the tools to articulate how they contribute to the organization’s culture and success?

StrengthsFinder (now called CliftonStrengths 34) is an assessment tool designed to showcase a person’s top strengths and what that means for them as an individual. The assessment has been taken by more than 25 million people worldwide.

I am privileged to work for an organization that has a dedicated StrengthsFinder coach on property. We leverage this expertise in a variety of ways including our internship program, mentoring program, and personal development courses. It has made a dramatic difference in my perspective and how I lead, daily, as a Director of Resorts Marketing.

Before we start on this journey, I want to share my definition of what StrengthsFinder is vs. what it is not:

What It Is:  A tool to help gain greater insight for self-awareness. There are 34 strengths that can be identified by the assessment. It provides an opportunity to identify and focus your energy into your natural talents vs. focusing energy on areas that do not come to you as easily.

What It Is Not:  A replacement for common sense. An excuse for not being able to accomplish projects, tasks, or assignments. The authority on other people’s thoughts, feelings, and capabilities.

Most of us recognize that we have room for improvement in various areas. However, identifying our unique talents and understanding those around us allows for easier collaboration, and the opportunity to combine the superpowers of the team. Using StrengthFinder helps us accept individuality versus requiring someone to contribute in ways that may not come as naturally.

Here are five ways to leverage StrengthsFinder results:

1. When you receive your results, read your report. Read it again. Answer the questions provided.

    • That may sound obvious, but often we skim over the descriptions provided and chalk it up to ‘of course I know myself.’ If you truly read it with focus, there are some unique truths and insights you may not have known.
    • The report provides an exercise to actively identify the areas of your talents that speak loudest to you. Answer those questions for each of your top five talents. Keep them in a journal or print them out and reference as needed.
    • Here are a few examples of the questions that were posed and what stood out for me as I read about my strength of ‘ideation’ in my report:

Q: As you read your personalized strengths insights, what words, phrases, or lines stand out to you?

A: You refuse to be stifled by traditions or routines.

Q: Out of all the talents in this insight, what would you like for others to see most in you?

A: You likely spring from one original thought to an entirely different one.

These phrases afforded me the opportunity to articulate that I do not want the status quo, I want to innovate, and quickly. The second statement spoke loud and clear to me, as I have often been criticized for being ‘scattered’ or ‘distracted.’ However, this insight allowed me to see that I am actually processing seemingly unrelated thoughts in support of that innovation. This exercise gave me the ability to share why I operate the way I do and demonstrated the strength I bring to the team.

2. Ask Your Team to do the same exercise: Read and answer the questions for each talent.

Then, talk about it! After each response, ask your team member the prompt ‘WHY?’  i.e., Why did the phrase ‘You refuse to be stifled by traditions or routines’ stand out to you? By having this open dialogue, you are developing a deeper understanding of your team member, and they will recognize and appreciate your efforts.

3. Share Your Results.

Sometimes leaders believe they are exempt from talking about themselves, as if our titles mean we only can share with those at our level or above, rather than with our team. However, by sharing your own talents and reflections with your team and colleagues, you are developing a deeper mutual understanding and creating the opportunity for a stronger working relationship.

4. Plot the Domains.

Once you’ve done the previous exercises with each member of your team, see how they compare as a group. StrengthsFinder tiers each talent into four unique domains:  Strategic, Influencing, Executing, and Relationship Building. By seeing your entire team’s strengths on display, you understand how the dynamics can work together, or where you may need to lean on others to bring in different perspectives.

5. Identify Special Projects & Partnerships.

Now that you have your team’s strengths laid out, use your insight to identify growth opportunities. For example, many of my top talents fall within the Strategic Thinking domain. That doesn’t mean I am unable to execute, rather it positions me as naturally leaning towards thinking vs. implementation. However, I have two extremely strong team members in the domain of Executing, which means I can have confidence in delegating projects to them and allow them added benefit of exposure and visibility throughout the organization, as well as a sense of purpose for bringing our vision to life.

 6. BONUS! Keep the Conversation Going.

For me and my team, StrengthsFinder isn’t a one and done conversation. If you are committed to using it, you need to remind your team of what they uniquely bring to the table every day. Here are some ways we do that within my organization:

  • Intentionally use your strengths in your self-evaluation to highlight the successes of your company.
  • Actively use your team’s strengths in their annual performance reviews to highlight the successes of your company or use it as a coaching tool.
  • Start your team meetings with shout-outs by characterizing your team’s combined strengths in the various dynamics, or specifically calling on the talents of a project completed by an individual contributor.
  • Make a commitment at an annual meeting for each Team Member to share one of their talents and an insight it has afforded them.
  • Give your team a visual reminder of what they are good at in fun and creative ways. We posted signs outside each of our office spaces to highlight and celebrate that person’s unique strengths.

StrengthsFinder has been an incredible tool for me as a leader. It has allowed me to build a team that approaches any challenge from multiple angles, utilizing our executors, influencers, relationship builders and strategic thinkers. We’re better for it, and I hope you’re able to use these ideas to improve the dynamics of your team.

Kate Lochridge is the Director of Marketing for the portfolio of hotels at Universal Orlando Resort where she is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs. Kate began her career at the front desk of Loews Royal Pacific Resort in 2002, during college. Over the past 20 years, she has held roles in Guest Service Operations, Human Resources Recruitment, Executive Administration, and Marketing. She has had the privilege of opening seven hotels, five of which contribute to the growth of the Universal Orlando hotel portfolio. Kate currently serves on the HSMAI Marketing Advisory Board and is a proud member of Women in Travel THRIVE.

Defining and Measuring “Performance”: How are you driving incrementality for your brand?

TJ Walz, Senior Director, Data Strategy & Analytics, MMGY Global, HSMAI Marketing Advisory Board Member 

The HSMAI Marketing Advisory Board had a thought-provoking discussion around measurement and how the travel marketing world defines performance and how we attribute performance to ad spend.

Some questions for your marketing team to consider:

  1. Are you making sure that you’re thinking about the difference between correlation and causation as it relates to marketing performance?
  2. Do your teams internally think about correlation-based attribution to describe performance from marketing spend? Or do you think about it in terms of a causal impact that is resulting from the marketing spend?
  3. How do you have conversations with stakeholders about revenue vs. ROI?
  4. What is the relative difference between the return as it’s defined on a correlation based versus a causation based? What is that like factor difference that you’re seeing?

Read on for viewpoints from our discussion on these key questions.

Are you making sure that you’re thinking about the difference between, correlation and causation, as it relates to marketing performance?

Most of the time when we speak about performance, we are talking about a correlation-based performance, or measured output. So, the attribution of the conversion is being given to the ad, even if the person would have converted anyway. It’s important to always be thinking about the difference between the cause, the correlation, and causation effect.

Do your teams internally think about correlation-based attribution to describe performance from marketing spend? Or do you think about it in terms of a causal impact that is resulting from the marketing spend?

Approaches to consider:

  • We break it down by marketing tactic and type. When we’re looking at lower funnel activities, we are often relying on measurement for performance on that last click. We know that the guest and customer is at their moment of need. When we look further up the funnel, that’s when we start thinking about causation.
  • We are tracking based on a last click, and attribute return on ad spend in this way in many cases. It’s a flat or perhaps even a negative return on ad spends, depending on how high up the funnel you are and the marketing messages. We will always track an ROI, because it’s this simple math equation, but we do look at influence. We have a great analytics team and marketing performance team.  They do a lot of great work in terms of incrementality and looking at attribution for broader campaigns.
  • Culturally, we use correlation as opposed to causation because there’s different competing budgets. And when different departments are looking to stake their claim on what they produced, sometimes those numbers get a little subjective. So, internally we certainly strive to make decisions based on causation, but when we report out, it’s often correlated. This can have a negative effect of perpetuating a model that over promises in what was delivered in revenue generation.
  • There’s also a point where the data from a correlation standpoint is compelling enough that you can leave an inference, into a causation, particularly if you measure it against market share for a particular channel, and you track the growth in market share for brand.com or OTA based on that campaign. If you see a direct increase while the campaign is running, there’s an argument that could be made to say that this contributed to the win, if you will.

How do you have conversations with the owners about revenue vs. ROI?

  • It’s a time investment that you have with your owners on an education piece resetting expectations to not be fixated on ROIs.
  • When you look at the mid funnel tactics, owners are understanding more that it’s awareness based and that the ROI is not always there. They know that what we’re doing is getting the name out there. They’re okay in knowing that they don’t need to have this random ROI that they need to strive to hit this goal that somebody made up at one time…revenue should be the most important, ROI should not be.
  • Being able to paint the picture internally is an important one. It’s certainly a conversation that I have with our clients and in onboarding processes with new clients. That’s one of the first conversations I have is that we’re going to have a different conversation about what it means to be performing. All the correlation-based metrics are still going to be there, but we need to reestablish what it means to actually put a dollar into the marketing campaign and understand what is coming out of it. Especially when you get to talking about branded search terms and very low funnel display targeting.

What is the relative difference between the return as it’s defined on a correlation based versus a causation based? What is that like factor difference that you’re seeing?

  • The one test or incrementality analysis the key takeaway for me in the anecdote that I share to hotels, particularly when they’re asking about performance marketing, and the value of our performance marketing program, I share that key study with owners. So, they can see the value that maybe they had never experienced on those channels. We want to make sure that they understand what we do and how we do it and what they can expect from a return perspective.
  • Something to consider when you talk about the true return, is also considering what that guest or traveler’s lifetime value is. That’s not always considered hard return on an ad spend. It is all the way that return is defined. Right?