Has anybody had success targeting hotels, bars, and restaurants (online marketing niche)?

Loukee

New Member
Hi there,

I've just moved to a popular little tourist town in Ireland called Killarney which naturally has a lot of hotels, restaurants, and bars. Prior to moving I worked in online marketing for about eight years. So Im thinking I'd like to target businesses in the hospitality industry that might need online marketing. Has anybody approached this target market before and how did things work out? Or if not, does anyone think it might be a worthwhile market to target?

I do know the hospitality industry suffered badly in Ireland for a number of years but things are starting to pick up again. I'd love to know your thoughts and thank you in advance.
 

Your Virtual Wizard

Community Leader
Hi Loukee,

I think this is a great idea to target hospitality. I have marketed locally early on in my business but found it was not my target market.

I realize you have online marketing experience so I won't go into a whole lot of suggestions there. I can say that my flyers and business cards were met with great reception. I did go door to door and left a small gift with my marketing materials.

I hooked up with one business and held a presentation for the owners of other businesses at the location with coffee and bagels. It gave the business owners a chance to meet each other and an opportunity to create one presentation and answer questions.

I'd love to hear how you go about this. Good luck! It sounds wonderful!

Janine
 

Your Virtual Wizard

Community Leader
Hi Loukee,

I think this is a great idea to target hospitality. I have marketed locally early on in my business (to real estate professionals) but found it was not my target market. There was a good deal of interest in what I offered but I realized I didn't want to work locally. Too many people thought of me as an 'employee' and wanted me to work at their locations. I did take on a few virtual projects but by then I was gaining nationwide clients and so I went in that direction.

I realize you have online marketing experience so I won't go into a whole lot of suggestions there. I can say that my flyers and business cards were met with great reception. I did go door to door and left a small gift with my marketing materials and then followed up with email and a phone call.

I hooked up with one business and held a presentation for the owners of other businesses at the location with coffee and bagels. It gave the business owners a chance to meet each other and an opportunity to create one presentation and answer questions. Using that event garnered a good deal of leads.

I'd love to hear how you go about this. Good luck! It sounds wonderful!

Janine
 

Loukee

New Member
:thumbsup: Hi ladies, thank you very much for your responses. Janine I'm not so sure if local targeting will be my ideal market either - I find the idea of getting out there and doing presentations quite daunting as I'm naturally shy (hence a career in online marketing where I could hide away) but with so many restaurants/hotels etc on my doorstep it could be too good an opportunity to miss. Besides, I've told myself that this is the year I push myself into being a bit bolder and kick silly fears to the curb as they have held me back long enough. Thanks for the suggestion of business cards and flyers to increase awareness - having spent so long in the online marketing field I've forgotten many of the tried and tested traditional marketing methods that can lead to success. Going to take a look at your video now too.

My aim would be to get even two or three local hospitality clients and then once I've a few good projects under my belt that I can use as testimonials/case studies, I won't have to rely on the local market as much and can target nationally and internationally using online marketing.

Susan thank you also for the suggestion of using a direct marketing approach and making it personal. It makes so much sense and it's very encouraging to read about your success so far with it.

I'm only getting started in all this and plan to just learn as much as possible over the next few weeks/months from ladies like your good selves before setting up. Thanks again Janine and Susan. I appreciate your thoughts.
 

Your Virtual Wizard

Community Leader
So sorry about the repeat posting. It was not intentional but I wanted you to know that I did have some success going door-to-door and then creating an event and invitations to capture the attention of a number of local owners at one time.

I believe you are indeed correct about obtaining a few local testimonials and then going 'out' of the area to market for more clients.

I just found that some had a tough time understanding that I would not be an employee. For one local company I worked with, I agreed to come in face-to-face once per month to discuss future events, which actually worked out well. Otherwise, I was virtual for the rest of the time.

Good luck!

Janine
 

Loukee

New Member
Thanks Janine - that's worth trying for sure re the event idea! I do think I'll face the same sort of encounters in Ireland where businesses may not get that I won't actually be an employee...especially as the va concept is not well known here.
 

Susankelly

New Member
I'm an introvert, loner and shy as well. However, I decided that I had to work with those issues if I'm going to be successful at business (any sort of business). So I'm forcing myself to do it.

I go to tons of local networking events, let me tell you the first few were SO difficult for me but it's a skill and like any other, the more you do it the better you get. And honestly it's not that hard of a skill to learn so the curve at making it work is short.

For me starting local, especially with restaurants, is just a no brainer. As a single empty nester I eat out a lot. So I've been in most of the restaurants I'm approaching and I make sure they know it in my email. And my approach to them, although it is my services, I also make it clear that I'd be happy to come in and make a local connection. Every business person LOVES making local connections, who knows what it can lead to? So I've had a few take me up on just connecting and I'm fine with that too.

I'm far better with people one on one so this allows me to sit down with them and have coffee/wine and chit chat about business in a very seasonal place, the state of biz on the Cape, running a biz here, networking, who do we both know, etc.

I've had the discussion many time with other VA's about local business and it always astounds me how many of them do not want local business, often because the locals need to be "babysat" my feeling on that is it only happens if you let it. 75% of my clients are local and not one gets any babysitting at all.

Best to you!! :)
 

Loukee

New Member
Thank you so much Susan. What you say is very inspiring - and so very true. It would be near impossible to succeed in business if we don't push ourselves to step beyond our self-created fears. And the only way to do that is to go out there and get networking like you said. You've given me some excellent food for thought here (pardon the pun) about how to face my fears and communicate with these particular types of businesses. I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it when the time comes!
 

PatriciaM

Member
Hi Loukee,

This is something I was looking into as well. Especially hotels. Most hotels have business centers for their business travelers. You would think they would also be able to recommend admin. support for their business travelers as well, right? I recently went to a giant local chamber of commerce mixer (about 20 chambers were represented). I specifically targeted the hotel representatives there and asked them what admin. support they offer to their business travelers. Surprisingly (to me anyway) not one of them offered any admin. support or even recommendations. They were intrigued by the concept of partnering with a VA to be able to offer this type of support. So I am working on follow up with this.
 

rightintymeva

New Member
Loukee,
Thanks for starting the thread. Wishing you good luck!!!
Such great advice. I am also an introvert and know with building a business that I will have to come out of my comfort zone. Local networking could be a step in the right direction. PatriciaM I think that you are idea to work with hotels is so good. I haven't narrowed down my target market yet but all the suggestions have given me something to think about!!! :happydance:
 

Loukee

New Member
Great idea PatriciaM - makes so much sense! I hear you rightintymeva - its either sink or swim with us introverts. We either cross the line or spend the rest of our lives staring at the line...which will ultimately lead to a life of regrets. Def time to cross it!
 

moiraesfate

Member
I've worked many years in the hospitality industry and would LOVE to continue to work with them. I am, however, having a problem in that I know the industry in my area VERY well, and I know how they pay. If I were to tell them that I want $20 an hour, they'd want to hire me for 2 hours as an employee, not a contractor or consultant. And it would be worse if I said that I wanted $40 an hour. They want someone on site to do the work, not someone working from home.

A big part of the industry is being "the face". The person that others talk to directly and look in their eyes.

Just as a reference, Hyatt Place started a few years back. The idea that they had was for the front desk to become much more modern with the actual removal of the real front desk itself. They installed kiosks for the guests to check in, and there were people standing in line at the front door to direct them to the kiosks and take the bags. It didn't work. It made guests and staff feel very uncomfortable. Half of the guests felt ignored because they would be directed to the kiosks to check themselves in while the agents moved on to the next person, and the other half felt like their personal space was violated. They went back to the old form.

Guests want to see your face, and talk to you personally. The tall desk between the guest and the agents keep the distance between them while still allowing personal service and a small added level of security for the staff Its unlikely a guest will try to jump the desk at any agent if there's a problem to hit them in the face, but much more likely this will happen with no desk between them if the agent says something the guest doesn't like.

For other departments such as Sales, HR, and Food and Beverage, part of what is being sold is the personal interaction which you are unable to do if you aren't on site.

Hospitality is a very heavily influenced area by face to face customer service. Most people feel uncomfortable not being able to give proper customer service. Its already bad enough when there are owners telling you that you can't do things to make the guests happy like giving them gift certificates they can use for food if there's a problem for example or even install phones in the rooms (you would be surprised at the number of hotel owners I've had say that phones aren't needed due to cell phones). Customer service is beginning to fall by the way side in the industry and that's a big problem when the whole industry is built on it.

I've been trying for years to convince people in my area it would be a great idea to try a VA for hotels, restaurants and the like but they just aren't buying it. Then again, approximately 75%-80% (it changes depending on the report you read) of my city runs on hospitality because we are a destination market rather than a transient or corporate market.

If you'd like to work with hospitality, you will need to find something they need other than the typical things they need like face to face interaction. Things like web site design (though most hire professionals so you will likely need to find an independent hotel to work with and trust me they are very hard to work for. Its hard to explain why without going into intense detail but they expect very very much for very very little and won't pay as much), and graphic design might be much more likely to peak their interest than answering phones and doing paperwork.

I have to say that while I was working as an AGM, if anyone called, emailed or faxed for online marketing and SEO, I just deleted the email, fax, or hung up. Our owner was an independent one and wasn't willing to spend ANY money on anything like that and was actually quite rude about it if asked.

Restaurants and bars are much more likely to pay for this kind of thing than any form of lodging.
 

Susankelly

New Member
I agree that approaching chain hotels or restaurants at the local level probably won't work. I am having really good luck with restaurants and smaller hotels and B&B's. I'm not sure what they pay their help and what they pay for professional work/advice are related in any way Melissa. Restaurants around here probably pay what they do in your area, yet many of them seem fine with paying me a much higher rate for my professional services. And none of them seem to care if I work at home, they just want the work done.

I'm doing scheduling, website work, desktop publishing, and social media. None of them has any interest in me working on site or seeing my face. But then I'm not dealing with guests, if I was I would think that would mean I was onsite and more of an employee - a much grayer area IRS wise.

My initial idea was to be a RE VA and although I do have a few RE clients the rest of mine are in the trades (builder, electrician, painters) or the hospitality industry (food and small hotel). I'm really enjoying both industries.
 

moiraesfate

Member
Website, desktop publishing and social media are different though. You can do that for anyone, not just hotels, and is a much less specific area. All businesses can really use those things, but the smaller hotels are more likely to do it themselves. Slightly larger (about 50 rooms) are more likely to hire out but they want it for a small rate. Lodging with about 100 to 150 rooms will also hire out to those that have alot of experience behind them but will sell for a mid range price. Larger hotels will pay premium prices for high level professionals or even employ their own staff for it.

The owner of my last hotel finally caved in January and hired a professional web developer for a pretty high (but average rate for the web development industry) rate to have his website professional created from scratch (not wordpress) when he realized that having a template built site wasn't the right thing to do. The new site isn't completed.

I'm very surprised at the scheduling if they ask for it. The reason is that the last place I worked for had 26 rooms with the other two lodging under the same umbrella being 14 rooms and 30 rooms respectively. They all handled their own, and wouldn't have had someone else do it for them.

Are you working with luxury properties? Luxury would be considered somewhere in the realm of $250 a night or more. It's possible for a bed and breakfast (14 rooms or less) to be considered luxury, just unlikely. People that can afford that kind of rate will usually prefer to stay at a larger property that offers everything they could possibly need or desire and most bed and breakfasts are by nature limited service types.

Most hotels stay relatively the same all the time so once a job is done, you'd move on to the next unless you are looking to become something like a Sales Assistant. I've had trouble convincing anyone in my area the need for continual social media activity unless they are big boxes. If they are big boxes, they usually already have it arranged (one hotel I applied to work with as a job had each of the 5 Sales Managers, the General Manager, and each of the Assistants to each department handling each social media site they were active on separately).

I can, however, see restaurants needing more of a continual involvement from an off site person as they change more often right down to menu changes and updates needed.

You say that you aren't working with hotels and restaurants at the local level, may I ask how you work with other hotels at a distance if they haven't met you? I'm curious as to how you do this.

I have to say that I'd much prefer to work within my industry. I've worked in hotels for 13 years in every department except accounting (though I have worked in night audit for years) and maintenance from front desk, sales, housekeeping, food and beverage and even as a hotel Assistant General Manager (the GM does revenue for three hotels so they needed someone to run the day to day). I know many property management systems, rate management systems, room inventory and supply management and more. Basically, I can do pretty much anything a hotel requires except budgeting and I imagine I can learn that pretty easily.

I have found it very difficult to break into the hotel industry as a VA. It may be different if I could offer things like website management, but most hotels have the ability to change those themselves easily from the back end ala Open Hotels and Buuteeq.
 

Susankelly

New Member
I don't think my post above was all that clear I'm always pressed for time with client work so I often shoot off answers here quickly, clearly too quickly.

All the small hotels and restaurants I work with ARE local. I was making the point to someone else in this thread that approaching a chain hotel at the local level probably wouldn't really work in regards to social media, it's often done at a corporate level.

I do scheduling of employees not rooms or reservations. Many places use various online scheduling so it can be done easily remotely.

I've found the local restaurant scene a good one for me. As a single empty nester I eat out often and I make sure I know the restaurants before I make any contact with them, meaning I've eaten there a few times and know what they are about. I'm also connected to the local restaurant scene in other ways: commercial RE agents that I know, people connected with the Chamber of Commerce, other restaurant owners.

So when I go in to talk to a local place I'm able to talk knowledgeably about their place, competition, how they all use social media, where they hit and where they miss. And I love food and I'm sure that shows!
 
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