Don’t chase shiny new tech down the rabbit hole
 
Don’t chase shiny new tech down the rabbit hole
22 MARCH 2017 12:14 PM

Independent hoteliers can’t do it all, so they should focus on one or two initiatives that have the greatest chance of setting their properties apart from the competition.

If you’re an independent hotel and buy into all the hype from today’s hospitality marketing experts, you’re supposed to:

  • Continually update your hotel’s website, make certain it functions seamlessly across all platforms—desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones—and features quality images and video, seasonal special offers and packages, and most importantly, an easy-to-use direct booking engine.
  • Ensure your hotel’s search engine optimization and search engine marketing activities keep your hotel atop all relevant internet search results.
  • Continually deliver “viral worthy” content against your hotel’s numerous social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, et al.
  • Provide real-time 24-7 customer service via telephone or live chat through your website and social media channels.
  • Create and manage a blog touting authentic local experiences—area restaurants, attractions, shops and special events—to increase web traffic.
  • Monitor TripAdvisor and other social media channels for guest comments referencing your hotel—made before, during and after their stay—and follow up by engaging with these guests in a timely and personal manner.
  • Maintain an up-to-date customer relationship management system and deliver direct marketing campaigns against past guests on a regular basis.

And now you’ve got to get busy producing a virtual-reality tour of your hotel. I guess something having to do with artificial intelligence is next.

It’s overwhelming. The sheer amount of manpower, time and money necessary to accomplish even a fraction of these activities is staggering, and none of the above takes into account sales; media planning, placement and analysis; public relations; and managing relationships with online travel agencies, travel agents, tour operators, wholesalers and other strategic partners.

Truth is, you can’t do it all. Nor should you. It’s far better to do a few things very well—with a high level of proficiency, quality and professionalism—and measure results along the way.

While others are trying to do it all, prioritizing and investing heavily in the top two or three initiatives, which have the greatest chance of significantly impacting your hotel’s revenues, will deliver competitive advantage.

For example, there is no marketing tool more important today than your hotel’s website. It's an asset that works around the clock to promote and sell your property. Its overall quality and performance should remain a top priority. The functionality and design of your website must constantly be refined to best meet consumer expectations. The imagery and video should be the highest quality you can afford, as traveling consumers prefer to digest media with their eyes and ears more than reading through paragraphs of copy. Your website remains the greatest opportunity to successfully go head to head with your branded competitors, as the majority of branded property sites are poorly designed templates with weak copy and inexpensive stock photography.

Search engine optimization and search engine marketing are both important, but keep in mind that the OTAs and other third-party partners can purchase relevant search terms for your hotel, and seriously outspend you in an effort to win potential bookings and influence future consumer behavior. Be cautious and don’t try to outspend them.

Social media on the other hand is proving to be a costly activity—consuming large amounts of time and resources—that isn’t driving meaningful return on investment for hoteliers. Creating content that goes viral and sells roomnights or turns tables is as elusive as finding unicorns, yet hoteliers continue to make social media a high priority. A better approach is to create unique settings, activities, drinks, entrees, desserts and other opportunities on property which motivate guests to take photos and selfies, and post them on their own social media channels—hopefully tagging your hotel. The experience economy continues to create an atmosphere which encourages and values experiences above material possessions. Sharing travel experiences online and offline with friends and family has become its own form of currency.

As such, the single greatest marketing investment any independent hotel or resort can make remains the guest experience. Improving the guest experience, across all touch points, raises the perceived value of the property, creates positive word of mouth, higher ratings on TripAdvisor and significant increases in social media conversations about your property.

In short, rather than chasing a shiny new marketing tool or technology down a rabbit hole, take time to consider if the investment is going to deliver measurable and meaningful ROI for your property. Make sure that you are not diluting your budget by diverting funds from primary marketing tools or initiatives, in favor of yet-to-be-proven ones. Continue to focus the vast majority of your time, energy and resources on the top two or three marketing initiatives which deliver the greatest results.

These are a few of my thoughts on why it’s important to avoid the hype and focus. I’d like to get your thoughts. What are you and your organization focused on? Please feel free to share your opinions, stories, ask questions or comment here.

John Fareed, Managing Director, Horwath HTL, is an internationally recognized authority in the field of hospitality. 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—where he is currently pursuing a PhD—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.horwathhtl.com or contact Fareed directly at jfareed@horwathhtl.com.

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