Industry Update
Opinion Article25 September 2019

Has Marketing Become Secondary To Hotels?

By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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Many years ago, hoteliers could rely on our marketing department to deliver new guests to us and get past guests to return. We gave the director of marketing huge budgets and never really asked them to quantify the expenditures. It reminds me of the expression tagged to David Ogilvy, one of the deans of advertising, "I know that only 50% of my marketing expenditure is working. Problem is, I'm not sure which 50%!"


In the era of revenue managers, the director of marketing position often was demoted to more of a second-tier, ancillary position. Indeed, the executive housekeeper may be considered more important (even though it is rarely considered a Excom position) as, after all, if the rooms aren't cleaned properly then TripAdvisor will be on fire.

Nowadays, marketing has been basically limited to:

  • Keeping the website functioning and up-to-date while measuring a multitude of KPIs that are almost irrelevant and often lack any indicated actions
  • A significant investment in Google Adwords, the bulk of which is spent on buying your own property name to keep top rank above the OTAs to save on commissions
  • Social media, which is a relationship channel, but can is still difficult to monetize
  • Supervising a public relations agency whose task is simply to get editors and feature writers to pay attention to your property but only if you pay all their expenses
  • Producing the odd piece of collateral, typically for F&B, spa, golf or some ancillary part of your organization
  • Fussing over one or two ads for events, arguing over wordsmithing on ever-smaller media budgets

Certainly, this alone is not a job description worthy of a six-figure salary! But that is not what you hired him (or her) for. You want someone who will contribute to your business' success. Here are my recommendations:

  • Eliminate Google Adwords and third-party SEO programs from your budget or take a hiatus to see what the real impact is
  • Fire and then rehire your supplier agencies (revenue, web, PR, social, traditional), insisting upon a new plan based upon real marketing efforts and understanding who your customers truly are
  • Understand your real strengths and weaknesses in the form of specific segments such as leisure, corporate, groups, weddings, dining and spa to see where the focus should be
  • Build your new marketing programs on a micro-level in full concert with operations and sales, and letting your agencies in on operational planning
  • Worry less about measuring each and every iota and worry more about engagement and qualitative feedback that can guide service improvements and new initiatives

Many years ago, back when I was actually working in hotel marketing, before moving up the chain to asset manager, the GMs I worked under were only interested in one number - revenue! They largely left it up to us to figure out how to tweak business to achieve the best combination of occupancy and rate.

In this sense, marketing has always been a playful combination of art and science. My thought is that we've swung the pendulum too far into the science end, and in doing so, have abandoned the art of it all.


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