I watched the video interview with great interest.
“They have to build integrated marketing communication plans that optimize digital marketing, public relations, direct sales and all of the online efforts,” said Maureen Callahan, VP of marketing for Destination Hotels & Resorts.
NYU’s Dr. Lalia Rach was asking fellow HSMAI Americas board member Callahan about the evolving role of today’s hotel marketing directors.
“Directors of marketing today are consummate multitaskers … They must have good financial acumen and very good analytical skills … They need to know how to communicate with hotel owners, asset managers and other stakeholders,” Callahan said.
And almost as an afterthought, she added, “They must be leaders, coaches and mentors to their staffs.”
“Wow,” I said to myself. “That’s quite an evolution for hotel marketing directors.” I was reminded of that line from those classic Virginia Slims cigarette commercials: “You’ve come a long way, baby!”
After all, the first generation of hotel marketing directors from the late 1970s and even into the 1990s (myself included) had all they could handle managing direct sales while planning advertising budgets, creating packages and developing collateral.
Callahan is a consummate professional as well as a client, colleague and friend, but I had to take exception with her remarks.
My consulting practice affords me the opportunity to go inside hotel sales-and-marketing departments throughout the U.S. and outside of it where I am able to observe firsthand the leadership, marketing, analytical and coaching/mentoring skills of today’s hotel directors of marketing.
I find few that fit the profile Callahan described. Mostly, I find department heads who wear two hats: director of marketing and director of sales. One thing I’ve found over the years is that good sales producers and good sales directors do not necessarily make good directors of marketing. It is the exception when someone gifted in sales is able to leverage that ability in becoming successful in the marketing position.
In fact, of the more than 50,000 U.S. properties representing nearly 5 million guestrooms, the vast majority has just one person responsible for sales and marketing, and in the smaller hotels, it’s typically the GM.
I find that most U.S. hotels lack the sophisticated resources—market intelligence, technology support, brand corporate and regional oversight, professional training, and mentoring—provided by many of the major brands and bigger, well-established independent properties.
I find very few sales and marketing directors who possess the skills required to build integrated marketing communication plans, accurately interpret financial and analytical documents and data including price shopping reports, manage online channels and social-media platforms, plus that ability to communicate effectively with owners, asset managers and other stakeholders.
‘The only source of knowledge is experience’– Albert Einstein
I find also:
far too many sales and marketing directors lacking firing line, in-the-trenches experience who are still learning on the job and very fearful of making mistakes;
a new breed of revenue managers taking on more of the director of sales’ responsibilities and decision-making; and
GMs unwilling or unsure of placing total sales and marketing ownership on the shoulders of those sales and marketing directors.
That’s truly a ton of expertise Callahan described. I question seriously how deep the talent pool is to fill those hotel marketing director positions today. Do we have candidates among the legion of sales managers today? Are we, as an industry, attracting that type of talent—talent that will put in those long hours and work for standard industry compensation packages?
In most hotels today those critical sales-and-marketing tasks are being assigned to a wide variety of individuals: GMs, sales directors, revenue managers and tech-savvy sales, catering and conference service managers, or they are simply outsourced to third parties. Making those decisions on who best to take ownership, how to do it and when could not be more critical or timely.
Booking group roomnights is king for so many hotels, especially with group demand returning and opportunities for recovering lost revenues in recent years. Directors need to make sure hotel sales teams have developed those acquired skills necessary to capture that business now while optimizing room rate and total spend.
If we recruit from industries outside hospitality—marketing professionals with expertise in digital marketing, social media and packaging with all the financial acumen and analytical skills in the world—will they be hoteliers first or simply pure marketers?
I’m concerned that these recruited-from-outside directors of marketing may not be bringing that same passion for hospitality necessary; may never have stood at the front-desk on an oversold night; may never have learned housekeeping’s challenges in preparing late checked out guestrooms for new arrivals; and may never have met with an event planner wanting to renegotiate a contract.
Of even more concern is marketing directors promoted or hired before either experiencing or mastering:
bidding on a convention before the association’s board or site selection committee;
working a trade show (booths, aisles and floor); and
sandwiching a half-dozen quality sales calls between prospect breakfast and lunch appointments during a sales trip in a new city.
Help is available
The good news is there are qualified outside resources available today for GMs, operators, owners and asset managers to help make sure sales-and-marketing direction and management is in good hands. Help also exists to make better-informed, cost-effective decisions. These professionals will assess the sales-and-marketing operation, evaluate skills and performance, and provide immediate experienced, hands-on, coaching and mentoring—and implementation when and if appropriate—for sales-and-marketing directors and staffs.
These unique professionals bring with them years of experience consulting with brands and independents, both large and small properties, and both major and secondary markets. They bring knowledge of current industry standard of care, best and worst practices, e-marketing, diagnostic skills, and considerable coaching and mentoring expertise.
For more information on available resources, and how the assessments and follow up coaching/mentoring work, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David M. Brudney (David@DavidBrudney.com, 760-476-0830) is a charter member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants and a veteran sales-and-marketing professional concluding his fourth decade of service to the hospitality industry. Brudney advises lodging owners, lenders, asset managers and operators about hotel sales and marketing best practices and conducts reviews of sales-and-marketing operations throughout the world. His website is www.davidbrudney.com.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.