Score New Business Through College Forums, Message Boards And Alumni Associations.
By Tom Costello
Saturday, 13th October 2012
I have two sons who are involved in college athletics and I spend a great deal of time traveling on the weekends to catch their home or road games.

I am also a subscriber to each of their university's forums or message boards that allows me to get the latest news about their teams in between games.

It is amazing how much traffic and conversation is generated in these social communities and if you are a hotel sales manager, you should consider how these forums and boards can be a great source of new business for your hotel.

At the Division I level there are typically twelve games on the schedule….six home games and six road games.  Depending on the size of the institution, the popularity of the program, their opponents, and where the games will be played, the traveling audience can be sizable.

If you want to learn how to gain a portion of this market, continue reading.

Step 1 - In your local area, go to your institution's sport's or athletic's homepage to locate each sport and their respective schedules.  In addition to this year's schedule, you can also Google their schedules for 2013 and beyond.  This is an example of a site that provides information for Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).  There are also sites that list schedules for Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Division II, Division III, and NAIA.

Let's stick with football to continue this exercise.

Step 2 - Click on ‘Football' in the menu and find the team's 2012 schedule.  Click on the link and look for the teams that will be traveling to play in your city.

Step 3 - Make a list of those teams and then conduct a Google search for each one of those teams that looks something like this…'XYZ University sports message board'.

Step 4 - Check the search return to identify the forum or message board associated with that team, click on the site link and sign up so that you can become a member and be eligible to post messages on that board.  Sign up usually requires an email address, username, and password.

Step 5 - Sign in to the forum or message board to create a new post.  Start with a post title something like this – ‘Great hotel for fans traveling to (your city) to see the (insert the visiting school's nickname – ‘Texas Longhorns' for example) play the (insert your school's nickname – ‘Ramblin' Wreck' for example)'.  Tweak your title to fit your style but make sure that you include your city, the visiting team's nickname and your team's nickname.

Step 6 - In your message body include something like this.  "We are excited that your Texas Longhorns will be coming to Atlanta to play the Georgia Tech Ramblin' Wreck and I am inviting all of you who will be traveling to the game to be our guest at the ABC hotel.  We are located (include the approximate distance from your hotel to the team's stadium) and have (include your total guest room count, on site amenities, renovation info, ratings, area attractions, etc.).  We also would like to extend a (insert your ‘carrot' or a promo code here) and would consider it an honor if you would be our guest.  Here is my contact information and a link to our hotel's website and on behalf of all of us at the ABC hotel, we look forward to serving you during your trip to Atlanta!

In some cases forums or message boards will not allow you to ‘advertise' so use Steps 7 and 8 as your Plan B.

Step 7 - Now go back to Google and conduct a search for the visiting team's alumni association, go to their site and look for the ‘Contact Us' page that is provided on the site.  The contact us page will most likely include an email address for ‘General Inquiries' so your best bet is to pick up the phone and ask for the contact name and email address of the individual who is responsible for that particular event or heads up communications for the association.

Step 8 - Take the same message that you created for the forum or message board, tweak it if needed, and email it to your new point-of-contact with the institution's alumni association to include links to your hotel, 800 number, promo code, online booking link, etc.  Follow up within three to five business days to answer questions and secure the business.

The whole point of this exercise is simple and productive.  Fans will travel to see their teams play on the road and they will need a guest room for a night or two during their visit.  Be proactive and give them a reason to book your hotel and not your comp set.

Happy hunting!

Tom Costello is a business owner, consultant, and author whose career encompasses more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality and travel industries that includes startups, strategic business planning, P&L management, branding, sales, marketing, social media, e-reputation management, technology development, channel distribution, vendor and third-party relations. As the Principal of Groups International, a meetings and events management company, Tom drives the strategic growth of the company in the areas of sales, marketing, brand image, social media, and vendor relations.

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