Successfully allocating your hotel’s marketing budget is critical to maximizing penetration of marketing and advertising messages as well as return on investment. For most hotels, this will require an intelligent division of the marketing budget between traditional and new media channels, with the latter quite possibly outweighing the former these days.
These are important considerations. Adequate time and planning should be devoted to striking the right balance for your hotel since the size of your budget, and the manner in which it is divided between traditional and digital activities, will ultimately affect revenue and future strategic directions.
Allocating the budget
A typical hotel should be investing between 5% and 7% of its revenues into its sales-and-marketing activities. This will vary depending on the size, service range and branding of the hotel.
Currently, there is shift away from traditional allocations, with more hotels investing significant portions of their budget into digital media. Today, smart hotel marketers are progressively moving their scarce sales-and-marketing dollars from print, radio, TV, PR and field sales personnel to the online arena, with the smartest allocating 75% of their resources online.
Marketing activities these forward-thinking companies are investing in include website redevelopment with a focus on improving conversion through search engine optimization, search engine advertising, online display advertising and social media.
For those seeking a distinctively competitive edge, really sharp hotel marketing professionals are trading in their “foot soldiers” for digital specialists—experts in leveraging their hotel’s online visibility.
These hotels are also ensuring their online offerings are mobile friendly, and for us, that’s important because Australians have one of the highest uptakes of smartphone ownership in the world.
One of the long-running frustrations with traditional media was the inability to quantify filtration of marketing messages and advertising. The usual metrics of demographics and circulation or audience numbers do not provide hotels with information about the number of people who have in fact heard or read that message, and how many of those people fall within the target audience.
By contrast, a significant advantage of online marketing is the ability to easily and accurately measure the reach and impact of marketing plans as they are implemented.
In addition, the reach of online promotions can be measured instantaneously, and information gathered about the scope and impact of campaigns, such as the number of views, click-through rate, time spent on site and, in the case of social media, the number of shares.
When more than 50% of a hotel’s potential revenues can be generated via online sources, it is a logical conclusion that marketers should be “fishing where the fish are.” The efficiency and measurability of online initiatives and the consequent ability to prove ROI are a marketer’s dream come true. The challenge is overcoming the general lack of knowledge of the online space by GMs and owners, and gaining their buy-in; the ones that get it are reaping the rewards.
Social media strategy
As part of the budget-allocation process, it is important to spend time evaluating the merits of a social media strategy for your particular hotel and liaise with management regarding expectations for use of this medium. For example, is management prepared to appoint staff to monitor social media? As marketers are well aware, a business’ presence on social media invites a two-way conversation with its customers. The expectation for swift and open responses is already established. If left unattended, however, small issues in the social media space can escalate to crises with breathtaking speed.
Due to the obvious benefits of communications unbounded by time zones or geography, regional hotels stand to benefit from allocating a larger share of their budget toward an effective online-marketing strategy. Hotels located in remote or regional areas should give consideration to making digital methods their core marketing strategy.
Having a well-designed and user-friendly website is integral to any online strategy, since this is your hotel’s online persona and there is no second chance to make a first impression. Sydney’s Hills Lodge Hotel, for instance, stands out in Sydney by carving out an effective online presence through Facebook activity, which is both funny and engaging. The next critical question to be answered is: Will your website be found? This is where engaging a digital specialist can implement a range of strategies to boost your hotel’s online visibility. You also need to ensure sufficient funds are put toward segments that can add value to the business.
Keeping ahead of the changes
Online marketing presents the hospitality industry and hotels in particular, with unprecedented opportunities to grow and reach new customers. Perhaps the biggest hurdles for marketers in this environment is persuading managers to move as quickly as the changes in technology, since these changes present a rich web of opportunities for the savvy hotel owner or manager.
Successfully allocating your marketing budget involves taking into account traditional and expanding online media opportunities while keeping in mind the fast changing ways of reaching your audience. By striking the right balance you will be able to produce better outcomes for your hotel, both in the short and long term.