Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Chudbus on Tour

What has a retired London bus got to do with a conference centre group?

Sundial Group own and run 3 award winning specialist country house conference hotels and operate in the meeting venue market. Whilst many of our clients book direct we know that we need to establish our presence and reputation with the Hotel Booking Agents (HBA’s) responsible for venue selection and meetings management for many companies.

The bulk of agency business ends up with the major hotel brands but good intermediaries also need niche suppliers to demonstrate their in-depth knowledge of the market and offer variety from the repetitive chain hotel environment.

At Sundial we have worked with agency bookers for many years but we still appreciate that we must stand out from the crowd and establish our credentials to earn their trust. Our reputation for quality is backed up by multiple awards but we also need to be unique and memorable to ensure conscious recall and front of mind awareness when bookers are sifting multiple options, often on a tight timetable.

When designing an agency promotion we needed to be innovative, relevant and memorable. We made it quirky and fun by invoking a special story from the family history of the owners of the group (me and my family).

Telling people about the big Chudley Family, their adventure to America and the national newsreel that inspired the 1963 Cliff Richard film, Summer Holiday created massive enegagement and allowed a picture to be built of a business with history and a real identity and story. Having the present day Chudbus driven by a member of the family who was 2 years old in the newsreel (me!) enabled the development of the story into the present day Sundial Group characteristic of stewardship as a values driven brand. I expanded this background with the spirit of empathy, quality and attention to detail, all pivotal to a business with industry benchmark low staff turnover and high customer loyalty. Visitors gained a real insight into Sundial Group.

Following a screening of the 1959 newsreel that inspired the Summer Holiday film the bus’s on-board plasma screen ran a slide show of today’s superb meeting venue facilities, accommodation, technology, leisure facilities and the fabulous settings of our historic properties.

Members of the Sundial sales teams engaged with our on-board guests to find out about the needs of their own clients, building a rapport which was further cemented through a fun caption competition with – you’ve guest it – prize of a summer holiday!

Whilst all this was going on Jerry Toth, Sundial Executive Chef was outside the bus cooking up authentic Paella, the smells from which ensured every agency team member wanted to come out and find out what was going on. All a bit different from the average hotel sales rep visit to give a PowerPoint talk and hand out brochures.

Each visit was trailed on Twitter (#chudbus), a Facebook page provided photo, news and a channel to continue the engagement; whilst blogs ensured maximum coverage. The announcement of the winner of the summer holiday at the end of the campaign will provide long-term ROI. The story of the Chudbus Summer Holiday has already picked up media coverage from M&IT, Conference News and Venue Directory and more agents are asking to be included on the tour.

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