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Direct Response Marketing

Best Western Melds Old and New

1 Mar, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response

The international hotel chain finds a new take on an old-school direct response medium helps build brand loyalty and adds to the bottom line.


 

A New Style of Print

 

In working with the CMO Council, a 3,500-member group dedicated to high-level knowledge exchange, thought leadership and personal relationship building among senior corporate marketing leaders and brand decision makers, Lucas made contact with the team at InfoPrint Solutions Co., a joint venture between IBM and Ricoh. As part of the CMO Council's Precision Promotion campaign, Lucas says, "The InfoPrint team came with an initiative to test, as part of their TransPromo technique (which combines transactional data with promotional documents). And, as I said, we like to test a variety of programs."

For a hotel chain seen as old school and stodgy, yet whose marketing campaigns are high-tech and new media oriented, the idea of a print DR campaign may have seemed risky. But the way the concept was positioned by the team at InfoPrint, the campaign was actually an easy sell — aside from the fact that the InfoPrint team had just four weeks to finalize TransPromo creative before the test mailing went out. "Our rewards statements have typically been reporting, rather than response, vehicles," Lucas says. "With the help of InfoPrint and the CMO Council, we identified ways to expand our interaction with customers."


 

Directed to Best Western Rewards members, the eight-week pilot — conducted in fall 2008 — was designed to promote the Best Western-branded MasterCard among loyalty club members, while also encouraging members to upgrade their membership level through the "More Rewards, Faster" promotion for hotel room nights.

"We worked with InfoPrint to select 100,000 reward members for the pilot – 50,000 received the InfoPrint-redesigned loyalty member statement, while the other 50,000 received their normal statement and served as a control group," says Lucas. The "More Rewards, Faster" promotion encouraged loyalty members to book stays during a set time period that would allow them to earn double points or miles, which could then be used on free hotel nights, airline miles, gas cards and more.

Tammy Lucas, managing director of marketing programs, Best Western Intl.
Tammy Lucas, managing director of marketing programs, Best Western Intl.

At the same time, the redesigned statement promoted a co-branding effort with credit card giant MasterCard, urging members to apply for the Best Western-branded MasterCard.

How did it work?

  • 1. The InfoPrint TransPromo statement boosted "More Rewards, Faster" registration by 15 percent during the first 30 days of the campaign
  • 2. The InfoPrint statement produced 39-percent lift over the control group in number of stays, and 34-percent lift in number of nights stayed
  • 3. This led to a 30-percent rise in revenue generated by the InfoPrint statement over the control group statement
  • 4. Applications for the Best Western MasterCard among those receiving the InfoPrint statement outperformed applications from the control group by 500 percent.

 

"We are delighted in the results of this trial and our work with the CMO Council and InfoPrint," Lucas says. "This pilot really does underline our ongoing commitment to rewarding our loyal customers and our commitment to continually deepen our relationships with them."

Lucas has nothing but kind words for the InfoPrint team. "We really look for partners, not vendors, when seeking outside help on our marketing programs," she says. "We share our goals with those partners and then, as a group, discuss the best ways to achieve those goals. This is exactly what we did with InfoPrint. And they did a great job of executing."

Lee Gallagher, manager, direct marketing solutions at InfoPrint, adds, "This leading-edge pilot demonstrated not only the cost savings of moving from inserts — in this case, three-plus with each statement — to 'onserts,' but also has a strong environmental message. Reducing mailings by one-quarter is a huge decrease in carbon footprint."

 

Relevance Builds Loyalty, Teamwork

 

Of course, nothing saves paper faster than E-mail marketing. And, though Best Western plans to continue its relationship with the InfoPrint team for print DR projects, Lucas says that the company's main direct response focus remains online.

"E-mail works best for us — I wish we had more addresses!" Lucas says. "It's cost effective and we can send more relevant offers to our customers. E-mail has instant impact and measurability, while direct mail is slower to measure. You're never absolutely sure when a direct mail piece hits. E-mail is easier to track and to get a response rate."

The ability to track with direct response E-mail marketing is a key driver for Best Western's capability to make sure all of its marketing messages are relevant to those receiving them. In fact, Lucas often returns to relevance as a theme when discussing Best Western's marketing. "One of the things we do best is learn from what other marketers are doing," Lucas says. "It's crucial for us to survey a lot of different examples of pieces from competitors as well as from our own department. Within that, we've found that sending more messages doesn't mean better response. It's about the materials we're sending and their relevancy to the consumer. Consumer feedback is crucial in creating the most relevant messages."

Testing and timing are key factors in determining relevancy and campaign success, as well. "Making sure we communicate at the appropriate times, capitalizing on promotions without inundating customers — these are of utmost importance," Lucas says. "We try to keep our communications on 30-, 60-or 90-day cycles."

Still, the success of the InfoPrint campaign was an eye-opener for Lucas and her Best Western team. However, throughout her years of experience in sales and marketing operations in a variety of positions in the auto, home building, call center and financial services industries, Lucas has learned to never be too surprised — or to try new ideas, even if they sound a little old fashioned.

"You always want to have an open mind, especially in this economy," she says. "That's why it's so important to have the dynamic team we do here at Best Western. The team I oversee on the loyalty program side has been able to double our properties' revenues in the past two years."

Lucas values her team's success and how it positively reflects on her own career. "We're extremely results-oriented and close-knit," she says. "My goal is to always be an inspiring leader, and seeing the group her become a passionate, successful team since arriving is definitely fulfilling."

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