It's important to show yourself to the public and ask them what they think, particularly if you don't meet them on a day-to-day basis in your role, says Peter Hancock, chief executive ofPride of Britain Hotels
Two salesmen were chatting on their stand at a trade exhibition. One said: "I've had a really good day today and picked up lots of contacts" and the other one said: "Yep. I haven't sold anything either".
This is a cruel reminder of the difficulty of measuring the results of certain forms of marketing, especially for those of us who often work at arm's length from the customers we are paid to attract.
I was thinking about this during a very pleasant week at the Hampton Court Palace flower show, where Pride of Britain and some of its member hoteliers engaged in fleeting conversations with members of the public as they passed our tent, either taking a brochure from us, sharing their names and addresses or studiously avoiding eye contact altogether.
We reckoned it had gone well and were pleased by the amount of interest in our hotels and the recognition of the brand. The hoteliers enjoyed their casual banter with strangers, free from the usual responsibility of ensuring their comfort, and as always, I was impressed by their ability to "sell" the virtues of their own establishments.
One could argue that this is an inefficient way to look for new business. Stands cost a small fortune, not to mention the printed material and everyone's time and travel. But it's a fantastic opportunity to get straight to the consumer, to speak in person with potential guests who have so far evaded capture on a database.
What are they attracted to? How important is price? What are their favourite hotels? For many during that week good hospitality is their first priority, with beautiful rooms, gardens and facilities coming some way behind. The further up the quality ladder you go, the more important service becomes. To give you an example, a well-travelled lady who had stayed at several of the hotels we represent was able to name individual staff at each, citing their professionalism as her number one reason for returning.
Getting out there and showing yourself to the public can be extremely valuable, even if the results are maddeningly difficult to quantify.