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I am fortunate enough to meet and talk with a lot of hotel marketers in the past few years (conferences, one to one meetings or through this blog). Based on several conversations, I strongly believe that hotel marketers need more empowerment and trust from their employers and/or owners and/or their CEO. What we have seen during and post recession in the UK is that several small hotel groups decided to cut down their overheads and started by their marketing department. Owners or senior management (usually CEO and Finance) decided to aggresively reduce the marketing budget so that hotel marketers will work with almost nothing to increase brand awareness, social media activities and so on. A few hotel groups also got rid of the marketing department (staff and activities). Now that 2011 looks a brighter year compared to the recent past, hotel marketers are back. Are you really?
#1 Most of small hotel groups combine Sales and Marketing so that you have a Sales & Marketing director leading the department. => Guess where the time and money is spent on? #2 The majority of advertising spending (if you have any budget) is still spent offline. According to the recent Online Travel Report 2011 by BigMouth Media, hoteliers only spent 30% of their marketing budget online. In 2011, they aim to spend 38% online of their total budget (thank God for that). => why on Earth this industry doesn't get that the balance should be the other way around? OTAs and leading travel sites spend between 90 and 95% of their total marketing budget online. No wonder why hotel marketers are ranting about the fact OTAs get better position in search engines. #3 Hotel marketers spend an awful lot of time and money on glossy brochures so they can impress their CEO or owners => if in 2011, one of your top goals is to create another printed brochure of your hotels and more importantly it is something requested by your CEO, think twice about the company you are working for. If your budget allocated to a new brochure is greater than a single digit percentage of your total marketing spend, just walk away. #4 Hotel marketers don't think enough about product differenciation => when was the last time you sit down and put together ideas about how your hotels bring better value than others, what are the differentation points, why consumers would be more interested to stay in my hotels, what are the core values of my hotel group #5 Visuals Visuals Visuals => most of hotel marketers don't update enough their visuals (photos, videos, virtual tours) to share stories about their hotels. Don't forget to use as many channels as possible to spread these visuals over the web (YouTube, Flickr, Picassa, Dailymotion is good start). And remember producing good quality pictures and videos is cheap today (5M pixels camera and a Flip video camera are enough devices to own and use as often as possible) #6 Hotel marketers should be part of the distribution strategy. Remember that hotels have the luxury to get customers direct. So make sure you are working towards a goal of increasing direct distribution. It means that in the long run, you will rely less on travel agencies and OTAs => one of your task is to increase your hotel website traffic. Make sure it is easy to find your website through search engines and more importantly that it is easy to make a booking (hopefully online rather by the phone) #7 Social Media, Web 2.0 or whatever you want to call it => if you still have your CEO or owner asking you what's the ROI of our activities on Twitter, Facebook. Do yourself a favor, handover your resignation to him or her and find a job in a company that understand the dynamics of social media. These social networking tools are there for you to build brand awareness, engagement. Yes it costs time and some resources but this investment is a long term investment (and not a short term investment to improve your EBITDA in Q2 this year) #8 Email marketing should be high on your priority list => email marketing is still underated in our industry to get feedback from customers but also to inspire them to maybe come back in a sister hotel or plan a weekend ahead in May. When I travel and stay in a hotel, I rarely received an email post stay. In 2010 the only email follow up I had was from Crowne Plaza and Morgans Hotel Group (these are International groups who understood a long time ago the power of email marketing). So when you check your guest, collect their email address and spam use them carefully #9 Online reputation is not a dream => whether you like it or not, you should pay attention about what people say about your hotels online through the common platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, Zoover, Yelp, Google, Vinivi and more. Question is what are you doing about it? Have you thought about using a tool that aggregates all these information like ReviewPro or Revinate. If people don't talk about your hotels, your brand, you should also be worried greatly. It means nobody cares. And spare me the fact that your audience is an old audience that doesn't use the Web. This argument is so over in 2011. #10 Think bigger => happy with your marketing plan and budget (hopefully this will be much higher than in 2010). Think twice and don't hesitate to adjust it over the year. You have to think bigger. International giant hotel groups like Starwood, Accor, IHG, Four Seasons have more resources and spend millions online to grow their market share. But they have less time to focus on specifics than you. Find your niche. Find a gap. Find unhappy customers from your competition (go on Twitter for instance) and deliver excellent service for these new customers.