We recently spent about a month touring India, our first visit to this exotic country. At the wonderful Taj Hotel on the beach in Goa we witnessed a wedding — quite an event in the Indian culture and Hindu religion!
These weddings can last three days. Inviting many hundreds, even thousands, to a sit down reception dinner is common. One person we spent a fair amount of time with told us he had 3,000 at his wedding reception dinner! We were told these extraordinary events, at least by American standards, occur for several reasons. In the Hindu tradition, as it was explained to us, there is no formal marriage document, so they want as many to witness the union as possible. The Indian government outlawed dowries, so families now spend an extraordinary amount on the wedding and wedding gifts, which replaces what they have historically gave as a dowry.
Upon our return to the states I had an occasion to book an event for about 600 people and I chose the Hyatt Hotel in Bellevue as our venue. While talking with my sales person, she told me they had just hosted an Indian wedding the evening before our meeting. Remembering our experience in India, I asked her about it.
She explained that Hyatt corporate marketing realized this could be a valuable market niche. They surmised that it could be good for many of their hotels that are located where many people of Indian heritage live. They researched and documented carefully. The Hyatt staff learned details like what kind of alcoholic beverages Indians tend to favor and what kinds of foods are traditionally served at weddings. They event researched special things brides and their parents would expect. After Hyatt did a thorough research job, they developed presentation materials, brochures and all of the “marketing” materials you might expect from a quality marketing department.
What is particularly interesting is that they went even further. They organized webinars for the sales staff to learn the language and discuss the nuances of what their target audience would expect and respond to favorably. They even found local chefs who specialized in Indian food and could prepare a traditional Indian wedding feast! They literally left “no stone unturned” as they prepared their sales people to be knowledgeable “experts” and pursue what they thought might be a viable market. Notice that they did not focus on expertise in the features and benefits of their hotel chain, but rather developed their own expertise in how to successfully talk to this market segment in a way that would give their prospects confidence in their ability to deliver a quality event.
The result? They dominate the market in the Pacific Northwest and I assume many other markets as well. They’ve created a highly differentiated product, although it’s just their normal capability re-defined for a unique audience! And they have an annuity that comes from a strong personal referral base!
It’s exactly what all marketing departments should do, but so few rise to this level of excellence. It wasn’t a huge investment on their part. They just did good, solid research and a thorough job of adapting their materials to a special market segment. Then they equipped their sales people by identifying resources their sales people could leverage, and followed up with an excellent job of educating/arming their sales people for the task.
It’s a model anybody can adopt, from the largest firms to sole proprietors, and it’ll work wonders!