Sales & Marketing
September 11th, 2009 | Marcia Taylor

Students provide properties with free, eager brainpower

11 Sep, 2009 By: Marcia Taylor Hotel and Motel Management

Sales and marketing faculties are busily implementing their lesson plans as colleges and universities hit stride for the fall semester. With the broad economy continuing on its uncertain path, students see there remains no better classroom than the real world.

In his book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” journalist Malcolm Gladwell said, “We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.” The principle is true in hospitality, where much of the industry’s book knowledge, especially in the current economy, yields to actual market experience.

Talking about a recession is one thing, marketing through it is quite another.

Marketing faculty should concentrate on finding opportunities for direct experience locally that will enhance classroom learning. Today’s students don’t rely exclusively on lectures. To remain engaged, they need proof—the kind thoughtfully provided through discussions with property managers or assignments given by general managers.
Here are some ideas that can help invigorate a syllabus, engage students with the local hospitality community and help future managers learn by doing:

Reach out to local hotels for projects. This could include prospecting, marketing projects or lead development, among others. Students could contact past group users of a property or develop additional information that would be helpful to the sales staff in creating new business from old accounts. For properties looking to trim costs, this exercise provides energetic and free brainpower that can be harnessed when new thinking is required.

Let students market themselves. Invite a local branding expert to talk about the importance of market positioning for the property. Move from the broad idea of how a property brands itself against the competition to a more narrow focus of students positioning themselves for career placement. Further, there are more applicants and fewer interviewers to read the applications, and students should be aware that “who you know” is important in finding a job. Face‐to‐face connections are important, but social networking, including use of LinkedIn, blogs, Facebook and Twitter, is great for connecting with hiring professionals.

Invite GMs for programs like “Are you smarter than a hospitality student?” and “Speed Networking.” Write questions about hospitality sales and marketing and have students compete with industry practitioners to answer the questions correctly—or industry professionals could also write questions for the students to answer. These questions can address real life scenarios, reinforcing classroom instruction. Some examples:
• What is the ADR for the city in which you live?
• What is the current occupancy rate of the city in which you live?
• Who started the Holiday Inn brand and what was his motivation for creating the chain?
• Which segment of the hospitality industry has the fastest growth potential?
• What is the definition of a special event?

The key to all of these suggestions is interaction with professionals. Future leaders of the industry gain access and insights, learning what’s expected in many different career paths. A student who has experienced the real-life challenges of a hotel or motel operator is more likely to understand the industry better than a graduate lacking practical exposure. Somerset Maugham, the English novelist and playwright, captured the importance of real-world examples.

“You learn more quickly under the guidance of experienced teachers,” Maugham wrote. “You waste a lot of time going down blind alleys if you have no one to lead you.”

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