Six Questions For Your Marketing Team
By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited
No matter the time of year or how well your occupancy figures look for the quarter at hand, the prep and planning for next year's marketing budget is never too far away. Undoubtedly, it will include the usual spattering of KPIs established at the start of the fiscal period, which will be scrutinized and massaged to death until all senior executives are happy.
Here are six questions that I am encouraging you – as a general manager, owner or other senior team manager – to ask your sales and marketing team right away and in advance of the plan's development for next year. These questions are not necessarily the easiest and will probably require some data analysis. But, the work done in the process will be worth it given the potential return on financial investment. Obviously, involving your revenue management team would also serve you well.
1. Can we look at our business for the past year on the basis of net ADR? Chiefly, we need to understand the impact of OTAs on our revenue. In other words, for each source segment (OTAs, direct online leisure sales, group sales) look at room sales and rates net of cost. Then trend the data over the past three years. Now, what can we do to improve those segments that give us the higher net yields and the best overall margins?
2. How do our programs stack up against the competition? Examine our comp set's sales and marketing programs over the past year. Identify strengths and weaknesses that we can exploit. There may be many, but you may only have the resources to effectively act upon a select few. Hence, start by developing two or three specific programs that can be implemented in the new year that will positively impact our business as a direct result of these initiatives.
3. What plans are being put in place in the immediate term to help offset our low season? The goal here is to think well ahead of time, and get the operations running smoothly before the low season actually hits. For example, in the Northeastern US, most hotels will experience lower occupancies from January through until Easter. Yet, despite knowing these months in advance, typically little is done until a few weeks prior. Planning needs to begin a full season before. New initiatives should be trial-tested during higher occupancy periods so that the process can be refined and so word of mouth can build.
4. What would it take to double our wedding business? Aggressive, yes, but also an area of growth for many hotels near and far. Moreover, shoulder season weddings and winter weddings are becoming much more common nowadays, allowing you to capitalize on this trend. So, who would we gain market share from? What distinguishes our weddings? What plan would we put in place now, and at what cost, to deliver this result?
5. How are we specifically addressing the changing population dynamics? Aging boomers have bucks to spend on leisure travel. They are just itching at the fingerprints as they hover their mice above the 'Book Now' button, browsing the internet for a property that empathizes with their specific demands and communicates in language they understand. Moreover, how are we introducing our properties to millennial travelers who may not even know that we exist? How is our brand going to cut through the noise of the hundreds of seemingly new hotel brands facing the modern consumer?
6. If I gave you a 25% increase in spending, what would you do? And importantly, what would be the result from this spending increase? Next, if I cut 25% of spending, what would you cut and what would our revenue loss be? These sorts of hypotheticals help reveal where your biggest growth opportunities are as well as what expenditures aren't entirely necessary.
For too long, marketing folks have relied upon third-party partners to deliver returns, especially in the digital realm. Let's see if they can provide new marketing strategies and tactics that put some spark back into the annual planning cycle. These six are certainly a start!