Time to go head-to-head with your chain competitors
Time to go head-to-head with your chain competitors
27 APRIL 2016 12:36 PM

Now is the time to beef up your sales and marketing efforts if you’re an independent hotelier.

From a sales and marketing perspective, there’s never been a better time to be an independent hotelier.

Internet marketing and distribution continue to level the playing field for independents, while the costs associated with being part of a chain—contribution fees for national and regional brand marketing, reservation transaction fees, national and area sales office contribution fees, lead referral fees, loyalty program fees—continue to grow without delivering commensurate return on investment.

The most influential aspect of being part of a chain remains the loyalty programs, and while there is no denying their presence and influence, traveling consumers continue to communicate the value of loyalty is not what it used to be.

Now is the time to proudly fly your independent flag, and go head-to-head with your chain competitors by investing in sales and marketing that will help you win market share.

Here are a few suggestions.

Emphasize quality imagery
No marketing expenditure will deliver greater return on investment than quality photography and video. This is typically the single largest marketing expenditure I recommend to clients when starting a new initiative, whether opening a new property or repositioning an existing one. 

The value of quality imagery cannot be overstated as it relates to an independent hotel or resort in today’s marketing environment. It has a great impact on the perceived quality of your property across all platforms—website, social media, public relations, collateral—virtually every visual medium that consumers experience, including your third-party partners.

It may even be considered an asset purchase or capital expense that has a depreciable life of three to five years. Ask your accountant’s advice of course.

While your chain competitors are limited to outdated libraries of stock photography, you can compete with high-quality imagery and video that is uniquely yours, and captures consumer imagination and interest.

Invest in your website
Your website is the single most important marketing tool for your property.

The development and maintenance of a fully functional website is more affordable than ever, and unlike your branded competitors, you are not confined to a boring, difficult-to-navigate template.

The quality of its overall design, imagery and ease of navigation are key. The website should provide consumers with the ability to research the property’s location, guestroom types and in-room amenities, food and beverage outlets and menus, recreational amenities, attractions, rates/specials/packages, contact details, e-newsletter sign-up, links to social media, and most importantly, the ability to book online—on every page of the site.

The website also should include a newsroom with an electronic press kit and photo library for the travel writer community.

Additionally, the site must utilize responsive web design that provides easy reading and navigation cross a wide range of devices. A website needs to look good, but, most importantly, it needs to be equally usable on a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, and desktop or laptop.

Bolster your sales and marketing
I had coffee recently with the asset manager of an independent resort who said, “Our sales and marketing team may have great personalities, but they’re not prepared or equipped to maximize the investment. It’s a difficult area for me as an owner’s representative to stay on top of, or navigate, the revenue opportunities we are missing.”

It’s not an uncommon story.

For independent hoteliers, the marketing landscape has become increasingly complicated over the past five to 10 years. Traditional is no longer working. Social media is still evolving and not generating measurable returns. Measuring return on investment on social media is like measuring the ROI on air-conditioning. We have not acquired and developed the necessary intellectual capital on property, management team included, to deal with the changing landscape.

Part of the issue is cultural. Rather than address our shortcomings head-on and invest the necessary time and capital to acquire the knowledge and tools needed to win, we continue to cut our sales and marketing budgets, and hand over more of our room inventories to the online travel agencies and other third parties that say they have the answers.

Is it any wonder the cost of acquiring customers is outpacing hotel revenue growth?

We must continually invest in educating and empowering our sales and marketing teams. Otherwise it’s a bit like going to a physician educated in the 1990s, who has had no further training, and not kept up with the latest prescription drugs, medical methodologies or technologies. Marketing has changed significantly in just the last six months. No other department on your property—unless you have your own technology support team—is dealing with the same level of change as your sales and marketing departments.

Provide your team with the right tools for the job. Make sure they know you support ongoing educational and training opportunities, webinars and participation in associations.

Nothing frustrates employees more than feeling like they are unequipped to do an exceptional job. You should ask regularly if there is anything they need which would help them to be more effective in their sales and marketing role.

These are a few of my thoughts on where to invest your sales and marketing dollars. I’d like to get your thoughts. How are you and your organization investing in sales and marketing? Please feel free to share your opinions, stories, ask questions or comment here.

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—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.johnfareed.com or contact Fareed directly at jf@johnfareed.com.

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