With all the advice and suggestions out there for your website, how are you supposed to know the best way to market your hotel? Long gone are the days where commercials and a clever billboard were all you needed to successfully advertise. Today, you have the perfect balance and combination of traditional and digital marketing.
Below is an interview with Randy Steinbeck, Vice President of staySky Resort Management, a Florida-based leader in the hospitality industry specializing in complete hotel, resort and condominium hotel management.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a hotel marketer today?
First – convincing General Managers and C-suite corporate executives to move scarce marketing dollars from traditional media (brochures, print ads, trade shows) to digital initiatives (websites, SEO, Search Engine Advertising, Social Media Networks). Second – finding gifted talent in the digital marketing space that understand the unique nuances of the hotel industry. Third – keeping up to date with the most effective marketing tools and media that deliver a genuine ROI.
How do those challenges compare with the challenges you faced 10 and 20 years ago?
It was way different – the sheer pace of change today and the impact of the internet on what was the traditional linear distribution model – wholesaler, travel agent, guest – and the need to active rate and inventory management on an almost instant basis.
What aspect of hotel marketing has stayed consistent over the last 10 and 20 years?
Well, it should be branding and the associated value that a brand demonstrates, but our industry has not done a great job of maintaining a clear understanding of what a particular brand represents. Client relationships remain important, but they are more fragile and there is less and less loyalty. A lot of this has to do with the introduction of Social Media and the profound impact the online opinions will have – for better or worse.
Do you believe social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have a direct effect on sales?
Yes and no – in terms of raising visibility and gaining valuable endorsement via blogger articles and reviews there is discernible value, but only in relative context to your overall branding and marketing strategies. However, in terms of measurable ROI, it is very time intensive and we are not “there” yet in determining how best to allocate our scarce time resources.
If you could mentor yourself 20 years ago, what would you say?
I suppose I would say to follow marketing trends but, don’t be afraid to look at new and different opportunities to succeed. Also I would tell myself to get on that “technology bandwagon” (this would be almost pre-internet) because it is a complete game changer – you better get to know how these computer things work.
How is the true value of a hotel measured?
Capital Value and bottom line – period. A hotel is the same as any other property investment and the EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Tax) is the driver of the valuation placed on the asset.
Should the success of a hotel marketing plan be directly measured by revenue?
Today, yes, as well as bottom line performance. But not just in terms of today’s revenue – marketing dollars invested today must look forward to next quarter and next year and beyond – they are an investment in the hotel’s future and that needs to be taken into consideration.
What do you see as the future of hotel marketing?
Gone are the days of 20 years ago where deals were done through “connections” and marketing was just a euphemism for a long lunch. It will continue to become more sophisticated and closer to mainstream FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) marketing with discipline and strategies to match. Traditional sales resources will be refocused or repurposed into the digital arena, still requiring savvy deal makers, but in a cyber-world. Hotel marketing will finally overcome the perception that finance and operations are the only major drivers of a hotels success.
This interview was contributed by Gina Withey. Gina is currently Regional Director Sales and Marketing and oversees staySky Resort Management’s marketing and advertising for staySky Hotels & Resorts and sits on the Global Marketing Committee for Visit Orlando.