When Jim Zito started in hotel marketing, the internet was still a few years away, most marketing campaigns were printed and Milli Vanilli was up for a grammy. After 25 years in the industry, Jim has seen the rise and fall of many hotel marketing tactics, tools and techniques. So, we asked him for the ten most important lessons he’s learned over his impressive career. Here’s what he told us:
1. Collaborate With the Revenue Team, Don’t Just Work With Them
It may sound like common sense, but since the hospitality industry has embraced the discipline of revenue management, (formerly yield management, formerly stagnant seasonal rates created once a year by the reservations and sales team), there can be tension between sales and revenue personnel. That tension is a good thing if used creatively and collaboratively.
Healthy debate and discussion between DOSMs and DORMs are productive. Before you bring a piece of business to a DORM, look at it from their perspective. If you look at a piece of business closely, you usually know if a piece of business does not make sense. Sometimes, sales just wants to book and move onto the next piece without really thinking it through. On the other side of the coin, taking a piece of business sometimes has some long-term strategic value that you need to champion, and it’s not only about the revenue from that one time event.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Continually Adjust Your Segment Mix
We start off each year with our defined goals by day, by week, by market segment, and sometimes… we get so caught up in achieving these goals that we don’t see the forest for the trees.
“Markets change, and you need to adapt.”
What we thought in September is often not true in May, (sometimes, it’s not true in January). There can be unanticipated market events like a sporting event or changes in market demand. Make ongoing adjustments to your plan. Ongoing reviews can help you gain market share, increase revenue and lift ADR by making ongoing adjustments.
Your market and the market segments will dictate the frequency of the need for adjustment. Work with your DORM. You can find ways to adjust segmentation to mitigate potential shortfalls and to find opportunities to grow the business.
3. Use Web Analytics
One of the more under-utilized tools accessible to a DOSM is your hotel’s website analytics. Your website is a source of one of the most cost effective form of distribution, but did you know it is also a source of potential group and corporate leads?
Once a month or quarter, take a look at your hotel’s referring domain report. This is the report that tells you which websites are sending traffic to you when their users click on a link to go to your website. If tagged correctly, you can see revenue by each referring domain. Not only can these reports help you measure success from PR efforts and digital advertising, but you may encounter additional direct sales channels you may not have been aware of. Wedding planner websites who are referring customers, or local music, food & wine festivals that are linking to your hotel because of your proximity to an event. They may not have negotiated a block, so reach out for a partnership or contract. You may not always find something, but you may be surprised by what you do find!
4. Trust, But Verify
I cannot take credit for this catchy little phrase, but it is something I did long before I heard it. In this increasingly digital age, we assume that everything is set up correctly to distribute our rates and inventory.
“Random spot checks and scheduled audits can reveal many opportunities”
Also know that things can and will always go wrong, so something that was once working can “break” for many reasons, and ongoing audits can find these problems. How do your rates and property appear on the GDS’s or corporate booking tools? Set a reminder for quarterly screen shots and audits!
5. If You Can’t Measure It, Don’t Do It
Wherever you can, find ways to quantify your efforts. Just as you would evaluate a piece of business, (stay pattern, rate, ancillary services), find a way to quantify all your marketing initiatives.
“Before you act, ask yourself, 'How do I measure success?'”
Capturing ROI on your programs and having quantifiable results makes requesting resources and the budgeting process easier. What did you generate from that ad? What did you book from that trip or trade show?
6. OTA as an Acquisition Tool
Some hotels can rely on the OTA channel as a panacea, but if you are practicing rate parity across all channels and can attract NEW guests who would otherwise not discover you, OTAs are a sensible and meaningful channel. Treat the margin as a cost of doing business, and when that guest arrives to the hotel, create a proactive program to collect their personal information for remarketing post departure, incentivizing them to book direct on subsequent visits.
7. PMS Data
Work with your front office team and go through the arrivals daily. Do not just look for existing clients, look for the people you don’t know. Look at their email addresses; you may find opportunities to negotiate corporate accounts! Talk with the front desk, they will recognize the repeat customers who may be booking directly at the desk each time they depart or alternatively book through another channel. Reviewing this data, talking with the front desk and asking the right questions can often create new leads.
If you are fortunate enough to have a CRM system, work with the database administrator to look at customer profiles, especially their stay patterns. Incentivize referrals from your loyal (non-corporate) customers to create new business.
8. Selling Property Enhancements
Having something new to sell is exciting. It gives a DOSM something to talk about and enhances the story. But how do you champion these enhancements to asset managers and owners?
Information and data are your best tools. Collect feedback from customers on what they want. What business can you get by adding to or updating the existing product? What business will you save by making updates? Having this information at your fingertips can help you proactively support the operations team when requesting the resources to enhance or update your hotel(s).
9. Talk to Your Call Center
The voice channel is an amazing resource of information. Call center agents can be the first to hear when something is not working (e.g. website). They also know when there are gaps in the information, (e.g. “people always ask how high the ballroom ceilings are.”)
If they are not geographically close, schedule a trip, bring them food and make them feel part of the team. They are also motivated by incentives for things like up-sells, suite bookings and identifying new corporate leads.
10. Pick Up the Phone
I know your clients can choose how, if and when they want communication from you, but in this age of email and texting, some of your newer team members may rely a bit too much on electronic methods to prospect and communicate. More misunderstandings happen — and delays in resolution can be minimized — if you would just pick up the phone. If you have to go back and forth more than twice to come to a resolution or understand an issue, pick up the phone.
About Jim Zito
Partner, Z2 Group
Jim Zito has been building and leading award-winning marketing and digital teams in the luxury and lifestyle hospitality industry throughout his 25-year career. He is a partner in Z2 Group, hospitality and technology consultants.
Before founding Z2 Group, he was Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer with Chelsea Hotels. Prior to that, he was the Corporate Vice President of Digital with Morgans Hotel Group and launched his career with Denihan Hospitality. He has been fortunate to work with iconic hotels both domestic and international including Hotel Chelsea and The Benjamin in New York, Delano and The Tides in South Beach, and the Hard Rock Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.