To steal a lyric from The Smiths, “Stop me if you think you've heard this one before.”
We’re all aware that the dramatic and often frustrating evolution of technology has changed the way consumers approach their travel-booking decisions. Thanks to the Internet and mobile technology—smartphones, tablets and laptops—travelers can shop, compare and purchase hotel rooms anytime, from anywhere.
It’s also turned hordes of “couch-potatoes-come-couch-surfers” into critics, empowering a whole new breed of amateur travel reviewers.
So what are we doing about it?
If you’re like most hoteliers I know, you’re struggling. Not only because it’s difficult to keep up with ever-changing societal and technological trends, but also because, with today’s economic challenges, your marketing budget is subjected to a whole new level of scrutiny. And you’re being asked to do far more with much less.
As such, you’re left to throw a few chips on the table, trying to spread your bets across a variety of interactive and social-media marketing initiatives, barely able to sit at the $5 table.
I say it’s time to go all in.
This cover-your-bases track that hoteliers seem to now favor might allow them to demonstrate to their owners and asset managers that they’re doing a variety of things in regards to interactive and social media—some pretty well, in fact—but no single initiative is generating significant return on investment. The grim reality is that most of these initiatives fail, giving social media, in particular, a bum rap.
In contrast, hoteliers who are focusing on a few well-crafted, strategic and measurable initiatives and who have developed best-in-class interactive marketing and social-media capabilities are winning big—going all in so to speak—and maximizing their marketing dollars.
A good strategy goes a long way
Strategy must lead the way. With so much at stake, hoteliers need to be strategic when it comes to managing their marketing team and resources. They should begin by weighing how important interactive marketing and social media are to their overall strategy and allocate an appropriate level of investment.
Hoteliers need to narrow their focus and identify the few capabilities that will give them the ability to engage with a better-than-even chance of success in the markets in which they compete.
For example, social media’s mere popularity should not automatically make it a priority to participate on all the channels: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. Marketers should weigh how important each social-media channel is to their hotel’s overall strategy and allocate an appropriate level of investment.
The same critical thinking should apply to search-engine marketing, mobile marketing and other relevant platforms.
By crafting a clear strategy and staying with it, marketers should begin to know when to say “no” and walk away from the table.
Getting the right people on board
To begin to do this, hoteliers need to hire and retain the talent that will help them develop and implement these capabilities, including digital marketing, social marketing and multimedia specialists who can combine their abilities to collaborate and possess the all-important critical thinking skills necessary to craft a strategy.
Building marketing capabilities in-house can pay big dividends, especially as it relates to knowledgeable engagement, content, imagery and videos. But turning to outside partners for help also might be necessary, depending on the size of the hotel’s operation and overall marketing budget. Either approach will require hoteliers to place more emphasis than ever before on attracting and cultivating the right talent.
This undoubtedly will continue to be a worthwhile investment, as the requirement to engage with potential, current and past guests is clearly here to stay. In survey after survey, consumers have stated they genuinely want to have conversations with hoteliers. They want to ask questions, share, be heard and feel that their opinions matter.
The proliferation of social media, hotel review sites and booking channels is enabling hospitality marketers to interact with consumers in ways that did not exist a short time ago. And because they have access to more and more data about travelers’ habits and preferences, hoteliers can now tailor these interactions to maximize their impact.
But this only works if marketers choose to actually use the information, hire the right people, develop the right strategies and use the right tools and incentives that will get consumers talking in their social circles—online and offline—about your hotel.
There might never have been a time when fresh strategic thinking and creative marketing solutions were more urgently needed in the hospitality industry. In this brutally competitive, over-branded world of hotels, those who find the best ways to connect and engage with today’s traveling consumers will win.
Are you ready to go all in?
John Fareed, principal of John Fareed Hospitality Consulting LLC, is an internationally recognized authority in the field of hospitality marketing. He holds a Master of Science degree in Hospitality Management from the Dublin Institute of Technology's School of Hospitality Management and Tourism in Dublin, Ireland, as well as professional designations from the prestigious International Society of Hospitality Consultants and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Fareed’s consulting clients include Fortune 500 companies, brands, lenders, developers, REIT’s, management companies, investors, owners, attorneys, and insurers. To learn more visit www.johnfareed.com or contact Fareed directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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