A Post-Crisis Top-3 Digital Marketing Action Plan
— 11 experts shared their view
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The global hospitality industry has been through every perceivable calamity over the past decades: earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, major floods, terrorist attracts like 9/11, SARS, global recessions, epidemics and pandemics like SARS, MERSA, ZIKA, swine flu and now COVID-19. After each crisis, the industry came roaring back and I believe it will recover very quickly after the current COVID-19 crisis and will prosper like never before.
Naturally, each region and destination has had and will have its own decline and rebound curves as far as hotel occupancy, ADRs and RevPARs are concerned. Recovery post-COVID-19 will also be unique to each region, destination and property and will greatly depend on a) the underlying economic conditions in each region and destination, and b) the preparedness of each property for the post-crisis period.
This downtime of low hotel occupancies or property closures is the perfect time for post-crisis planning, digital marketing action plan development, product and marketing campaign ideations. The question to the digital marketing community is, which specific action-items SHOULD be included in a hotelier's Post-Crisis Top Three Digital Marketing Action Plan? In addition, please suggest one creative, OUTSIDE-THE BOX idea... something we have not seen yet in hotel digital marketing. Just an idea... big or small.
Adjunct Professor NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant
Developing the property post-crisis strategy must begin now!
1. Don't Abandon Your Customers! Don't panic and shut down all of your property's marketing and PR spend and efforts, this will hurt your property in the long run.
* If your property is still open, work with your marketing agency and PR firm to communicate to your customers - past guests, loyal customers, group planners, tour operators, distribution partners, etc. - who are the guests currently staying at the property. Are you providing free or discounted accommodations to nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel? To police officers, firefighters, grocery store workers, etc.? All of this provides a tremendous brand value to your property and must be communicated in real-time.
* Even if your property is shut down due to local mandates, abandoning your customers is a huge mistake. You should continue to communicate to these customers, provide clarity and information about the property's and destination's current situation, inform them how you are taking care of your employees and assure them that the property will be ready and able to open and function as soon as the mandate is lifted.
* The crisis will be over sooner or later and hoteliers would once again start chasing these exact customers: corporate and leisure transients, SMERF organizers, tour operators, meeting and corporate group planners, etc. Staying in touch with these customers during the crisis will go a long way in the post-crisis rebound.
2. Refocus Your Revenue Management Strategy: Analyze carefully your property's drive-in and short-haul feeder markets and identify the ones that matter. Short-haul feeder markets can save the day in the immediate post-crisis period. People are better informed about nearby destinations and can better assess the post-coronavirus situation there, and hopefully, resume traveling there if they believe the situation is under control. Focusing your marketing efforts on your property's drive-in/short-haul feeder markets in the post-crisis period makes all the sense.
3. Overhaul Your Sales Strategy: It is time to relearn how to sell on value vs selling on rate alone. Do not discount! Discounting smells of desperation and does not generate extra demand. Instead, try to think like the guests you would like to bring back to the property. How do they feel, what are the things they need most in the post-COVID-19 period? To destress, have fun and entertainment, exercise, enjoy good food. This is the time to provide real value, not meaningless discounts.
* Come up with de-stressing spa packages, meditative treatments, gym and swimming pool staycation packages, dance and yoga classes, weekend entertainment specials, family fun getaways, special occasion packages, gourmet F&B packages, etc. Now is the time to introduce live music in the hotel lobby, at the restaurant, in the night club.
* Relaunch your property marketing campaigns at 2x the pre-crisis levels, including omnichannel campaigns, SEM, SEO, GDN, GHA, CRM marketing campaigns, social media, content marketing, and PR, etc., geo-targeting the important drive-in and short-haul markets.
And finally, are you using the current downtime wisely for employee online training, reacquainting with the hotel product and amenities, professional development via online courses and collaboration tools? This is the perfect time to show your employees that you care, to instill teamwork, and come out if the crisis with a stronger and greatly motivated team.