|Craig Eister, VP of revenue management for InterContinental Hotels Group, shared ways to build a better brand for revenue managers during the closing session of the HSMAI's Revenue Optimization Conference.
BALTIMORE—Craig Eister faces a recurring dilemma as VP of revenue management for InterContinental Hotels Group.
Yes, the job itself is challenging, he admitted, but this particular dilemma arises outside the familiar confines of data and forecasts and channel optimization. It typically arises outside the hotel industry, occurring, instead, in conversations with laypersons, such as:
“So what is it that you do, Craig?” they ask.
“I’m a revenue manager,” he replies.
“A revenue manager, eh? That’s like accounting, right?” they say.
At that point, Eister must decide whether to let that ignorance slide or invest the considerable time and energy required to explain the ever-evolving, multidimensional role of today’s revenue managers.
It’s no easy task, he told attendees of the HSMAI Revenue Optimization Conference on Monday. Revenue managers are historically bad at describing who they are and what they do.
But that needs to change, he said, especially as the discipline becomes a more pivotal part throughout all levels of the hotel business.
“We haven’t told our story as powerfully as we need to tell our story to create a really strong revenue management discipline,” Eister said.
Part of that stems from the lack of maturity of the discipline, he said. When Eister was hired at IHG in 1995, for example, the term “revenue management” meant virtually nothing.
But perhaps more challenging to overcome is the all-encompassing nature of the practice. Before his keynote address at HSMAI’s ROC. Eister asked several revenue managers to define themselves. The terms they used included:
- report producer
- system designer
- talent manager
- marketing guru
- social-media expert
- data miner
- channel manager
- loyalty markets
- sales support
- search engine optimization planner
- displacement analyst
- performance manager
This array of labels signified that revenue managers need to more effectively communicate who they are and what they do, Eister said.
“How do we create a brand, this energy, this common focus, this direction that is really going to drive our discipline going forward? We’ve done some great things, but we have a lot more to do,” he said.
The best brands—the Apples and Googles and Disneys of the world—all have the following four things in common, Eister said.
1. Great brands know what they stand for
Eister advised attendees to develop clear vision statements and then to repeat them constantly.
“Make sure your vision is part of every presentation, part of our every meeting, part of everything,” he said. “The more you hit people over the head with it, the more they’ll remember it.”
The vision should include specific, coherent strategies around data, the competition, revenue platforms, continuing education and innovation.
To lend some visual flair to the written strategies, hoteliers also should create actual brands or logos for their revenue management teams, he said.
2. Great brands make a promise, and they keep it
“Create a value proposition,” Eister said. “Here’s what revenue management is doing.”
A strong revenue manager should be able to clearly explain how revenue management can enhance every aspect of the hotel, from sales and marketing to investment to operations and everywhere in between, he said.
“Say, ‘Here’s what we’ve done, what we did and how we’re going to drive change going forward,’” Eister said.
3. Great brands make you love them
“My goal was to make everyone love me …” Eister said. “I wanted people to feel passionate about revenue management.”
The more employees from various disciplines like the property revenue manager, the more likely they’ll reach out to seek his or her advice, input and buy-in.
“How do you work with each one of these teams? And is it proactively?” Eister asked attendees.
4. Great brands make themselves famous over time
Revenue management is still young, but the future looks bright, Eister said. Revenue managers must continue to evolve from:
- managing demand to partnering to create demand;
- developing multiple forecasts to creating integrated forecasts;
- managing group displacement to fostering optimal pricing of groups;
- focusing on rooms revenue to total hotel management; and
- obsessing over revenue to thinking about profit.
“We don’t have unlimited resources,” Eister said. “We’re going to have to pick and choose the things we do.”