Digital marketing experts speaking at the 2019 HSMAI Chief Digital Officer Executive Roundtable said hoteliers must work collaboratively and abandon incorrect assumptions to get the most out of their marketing efforts.
NEW YORK—It’s important for everyone to be on the same page when it comes to marketing hotels, from on-site sales teams and GMs to ownership, said a group of experts who participated in the 2019 HSMAI Chief Digital Officer Executive Roundtable.
Dan Fernandez, VP of digital marketing for Concord Hospitality Enterprises, said his company spends a good amount of time working with GMs to express what the true value of digital marketing can be because GMs often aren’t marketers at heart.
“Education is the biggest element of (getting on the same page) from our end,” he said. “A lot of GMs aren’t necessarily digital folks. A lot of them aren’t very analytical. Most of them understand the revenue-management side a little bit better than the digital side. So our approach is an educational process on why digital (marketing) is important, really showcasing the value of all the digital strategies we’re executing for them and how it’s impacting the hotel.”
He said teaching GMs how to understand the analytics and reports is key to getting them to buy in and understand how it’s benefiting their properties.
Michael Goldrich, VP of marketing, e-commerce and distribution for Denihan Hospitality Group, agreed it’s not only important for the educational process to go beyond just what a company’s corporate marketing team is doing but also explain the “why” behind how it benefits the company and its hotels.
“It’s not just being tactical and reactive; it’s about being more strategic, telling them what we’re planning to do and why,” he said.
Similarly, Paolo Torchio, VP of e-commerce and digital for Two Roads Hospitality, said getting GMs on your side is key to selling the value of digital marketing to owners. He said making it a team approach with corporate marketing, GMs and ownership to talk budget helps get everyone on the same page.
“That goes a long way in help educate the GM but also to have the GM help educate the owner,” he said. “It’s a lot of granular work for the owner, depending on how many hotels you have, but can be very effective.”
Aimee Cheek, director of e-commerce for OTO Development, said incorporating the whole team, from corporate to on-property, helps the entire process of making a strategy a reality.
“We really take a team approach and look at it holistically together (with our teams on-property), so we can optimize wherever we can,” she said. “Then once we have a plan in place, we’re all tasked with executing.”
Jay Hubbs, SVP of e-commerce for Remington Hotels, said one of the biggest hurdles in educating on-property teams with branded properties is that being brand-affiliated can’t be their entire marketing plan.
“For our hotels that are branded, there is a perception that the brand does everything for you,” he said. “So it’s about educating our hotels on everything we do over and above what the brand provides. (We explain how) the brand gives certain programs that we have to buy into and why we would or would not opt into those programs. It’s a constant educational process.”
Getting everyone on the same page strategically can help hoteliers abandon sometimes misguided assumptions, like that direct channels are always the cheapest or best for all kinds of business all the time, sources said.
Dan Wacksman, SVP of integrated marketing for Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, said hoteliers need to find their best channel mix based on where they see the most profitable demand coming in.
“Don’t stick with that assumption that direct channels are always the best so you can shift to higher ADR business,” he said, referencing a property for Outrigger that saw higher rate wholesale business from Japan than direct business from North America.
“Base your decisions on reality,” he said.
Different properties at different points of their life cycles require different marketing strategies, said Ryan Walker, VP of e-commerce and digital strategy for Dream Hotel Group.
“If it’s a new property, your strategy is more about the top of the funnel because you want to get information to people who don’t know who you are,” he said. “If it’s an existing property, you want to focus on converting people. It really depends on the property.”