Ah, the glamour of business travel. The security lines, the $8 airport beers, the ongoing game of “how much can I stuff in an overhead bin,” all for the privilege of boarding a bus with wings.
Well, this week I passed a milepost of sorts: 1.5 million airline miles flown in my lifetime—the majority of these miles business-related. This week’s trip was no different, a two-day, one-night trip to Ohio to evaluate a retail location. I prefer quicker trips—two nights is generally my limit— so as a business traveler, I do not get too acclimated with the places I visit. It is a quick in-and-out type of business travel.
When I travel, getting a quick lay-of-the-land is critical in order to establish some sense of order while on the road. Every little helpful tip is appreciated and providing incentives or direction to the “local jewels” makes even business travel pleasant. Ironically and prior to my travel, I had targeted this week’s article to feature how store owners can capture the business traveler, and when I checked into my hotel— viola!—a restaurant had done just that! The restaurant was in walking distance of the hotel and provided a perfect combination of proximity and incentive.
Here is how store owners can attract and maintain a consistent flow of business travelers to their stores:
Find The Sources: For store owners who target business travelers or provide products and services to the out-of-towner (such as food/drink), building strong relationships with local area hotels is an excellent way to continually feed your sales hopper. Hotel guests constantly ask hotel managers for their recommendations on restaurants, retail stores, gas stations and so on. Therefore, your store needs to be top-of-mind in order to be recommended by these hotel managers.
Create Incentives: Consider developing incentive programs for hotels that recommend your store by offering discounts to their hotel guests or giving the hotel incentive prizes. Develop a tracking device so that you can ensure that the recommendation was solely due to a specific hotel and their front desk.
Tap The Revolving Door: A hotel sales strategy can provide ongoing sales opportunities simply due to the ever-changing pool of hotel patrons. If a local hotel has 500 rooms, for instance, it is a reasonable bet that nearly half of those rooms will change over every day, providing your store with a constant new pool of prospects. Hotel sales, while they will not provide long-term customer retention (hotel visitors are from out-of-town), nonetheless provide incremental sales to your store and often repeat sales when hotel customers return to town.
Diversify Your Approach: While the above strategy focuses on hotels, you should consider other key businesses (i.e. car rental places, etc.) to obtain recommendations to your store. Think like a business traveler and gain access to all the business that they will touch on their trip. Identify businesses that provide the opportunity for delivery/pickup orders.
Make A Plan: Within your three-mile trade area, contact every hotel and ask to speak to the hotel manager. Offer the hotel manager an opportunity to earn discount product vouchers based on how many hotel patrons they refer to your store. For every 10 customers from the hotel, provide the hotel manager with a voucher that their employees can use to receive discounts at your store.
The business traveler is often overlooked with a store marketing strategy but, executed correctly, can provide an unfettered stream of new business into your location. Being creative sometimes only means being “Johnny-on-the-spot” for the oft-frazzled business traveler.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.