Browsing Tag

hotel marketing budget

It’s Valentine’s Day: What Are Hotel Marketers Loving?

February 13, 2018 • By

Hotel marketing folks are infatuated with these 7 things…

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Each year around Valentine’s Day, we ask clients, partners and industry insiders what they are feeling warm and fuzzy about… here are the 7 things they’re smitten with right now:

1. A Strong Economy and Positive Industry Forecasts 

The smart folks at STR, CBRE and PWC all generally agree that 2018 will be another year of steady growth for the hotel industry. (You can download STR’s detailed breakdown by market here.) Fueled by a strong global economy, relatively low gas prices and limited supply growth, the US hotel industry is once again expected to enjoy positive RevPAR and ADR growth. And since all boats rise with the tide… hotel marketers are riding the wave to happiness and career growth.

image22. Robust Career Opportunities

Speaking of career growth… hotel marketers are seeing more opportunities than ever. Industry results have expanded budgets and created new roles. While the allure of the hotel industry and the fast-tracked promotional opportunities make hotel marketing and hotel social media jobs some of the most coveted in the country.

3. Elevated Consumer Awareness of Direct Booking Benefits

Thanks to the massive media outreach by Hilton and Marriott’s direct booking campaigns, we’re seeing heightened public recognition of the benefits of booking direct. The idea is to educate travelers and chip away at the myth that OTAs save guests money. With the stage set, more and more hotels are following in Hilton and Marriott’s footsteps with their own hotel marketing campaigns enticing audiences to book direct.

Plus, hotel marketers at properties of all sizes are now armed with new digital hotel marketing tools and previously unaffordable technology that can help them drive direct room revenue, instead of settling for costly OTA bookings. The momentum of the “book direct movement” is growing and hotel marketing folks are excited to see where it’s headed.

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4. Owners’ Investment in a Remarkable Product

New hotels with bold concepts and fresh guest experiences are springing up in all directions, so hotel owners need to invest in their properties to keep up with modern expectations.

Thankfully, more and more hotel owners are realizing that the best hotel marketing investment they can make is in enhancing their property, the experience and the service.

If your property is providing a lackluster experience with frayed edges, outdated décor, and musty smells, no amount of brilliant marketing can save you from the downward spiral of lost revenue.

5. Social Evangelism

Hotel social media managers are feeling blessed to have guests who gush and brag about their stay on Facebook and post foodie pics to Instagram. Not only have they made marketing travel engagingly personal and authentic, they come at no cost to the hotelier.

Over the last few years, storytelling and “user-generated content (UGC)” has become one of the most popular (and cost-effective) ways for hotel marketers to win guests’ hearts and wallets.

Why?

Because consumers no longer trust advertising… they trust each other. As this article in AdAge so aptly put it: “Your brand is defined by the interactions people have with it.”

User-generated content, especially photos, videos and posts about on-property experiences are more authentic, less sales focused… and let’s face it, usually more creative than anything hotel social media folks could ever dream up.

6. Metasearch: An Attractive and Less Expensive Option

It’s easy to see why travelers love metasearch, such as Google and TripAdvisor: They receive all the key details needed to research and book their stays all in one place, like real-time pricing, availability, hotel information, guest reviews and location.

But, hotel marketers are loving metasearch too.

They are using these sites to boost direct bookings instead of relying on OTAs and paying high commissions. You can pay-per-click or pay booking commissions (still less expensive than traditional OTA fees) – all while getting brand exposure and access to travelers who are just entering the consideration and booking funnel.

7. Digital Personalization

Every year, new hotel website and booking engine technology allows hotels to know more about who’s looking, booking and bouncing. With this robust analytics and demographic data, hotel offers are now personalized and optimized to reap the biggest ROI.

And hotel marketers are smarter than ever about crafting hotel marketing campaigns that are tailored to the right travelers and delivered to the right place, at the right time. And, best of all – everything is measurable, which provides tremendous power to hotel marketers when it comes time for annual performance and budget reviews.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Turnover: The Hidden Killer of Hotel Marketing (and What to Do about It)

January 23, 2018 • By

Hotel marketing is hard enough without constant turnover.

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Sometimes, one of the greatest obstacles to successful hotel marketing lurks within your own office…

Staff turnover, especially when it’s excessively high, can be an absolute killer for most businesses, and your hotel marketing team is no exception. So learning to attract, cultivate and retain marketing staff—instead of churning through them—may have a wider impact than even the smartest of ad campaigns.

At hotels, specifically, there are a number of reasons why turnover of marketing staff makes it hard to achieve ownership’s revenue targets:

1. Consistency Is Vital to Success

In the hotel business—which is built largely upon brands and properties delivering on a standardized promise to meet guest expectations—few things are as important as consistency. Beyond just a flag’s amenities or service experience, that consistency clearly extends to marketing, particularly the frequency and content of consistent product messaging. It’s difficult to achieve that desired consistency if there is a revolving door of staffers creating those messages.

2. Familiarity with Guest Personas, Seasonality and Periods of Weakness

See #3. Learning the nuances of your hotel’s demand patterns requires time and experience, which won’t be the case if turnover is high. By keeping marketing staff long-term, those same patterns will become a cyclical strategy, where marketers know exactly how to fine-tune efforts.

3. New staff Is Hard to Find

There’s a dearth of quality marketing talent in the hotel business, especially digital talent, for a number of reasons. For starters, many top-notch digital marketers have gravitated to other industries or start-ups with a higher “cool factor” or earning potential. Corporate hotel cultures, often viewed as overly traditional, can dissuade younger marketing pros seeking more of a Silicon Valley workplace vibe.

4. New Staff Don’t Understand the Hotel’s Product or Message

It takes time to educate new hotel marketing staff on your property’s unique history, message and product experience. If your marketing staff is perpetually changing, you’re constantly putting new employees through the same learning curve, without reaping the benefits.

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How does a bad hire hurt your organization? Here are the responses, according to a Career Builder study.

5. They Have to Build Relationships with Team Members in Other Departments (I.E. Revenue Management)

No team is an island, and for marketing staff, it is increasingly important to foster and maintain strong relationships and communication with other departments, especially with revenue/yield management personnel. Again, that’s tough to achieve in a high-turnover environment.

6. They Often Have to Pick up (on the Fly) Existing Campaigns, Vendors and Marketing Programs That They Did Not Create

The learning curve for a new marketing staffer is multiplied when they are asked to shoulder—often rapidly—campaigns, agreements and initiatives that were formulated by previous employees. That can lead to a huge difference in vision and background on these projects once the new staffer is in charge. Especially if their predecessor had a jumbled mix of disparate vendors in place.

7. They Inherit Someone Else’s Goals

Marketing objectives can be highly personal (and stressful) to the marketer who set them. When a new employee inherits those goals, it may not be the best fit for that marketer’s skill set and vision for what they hope to achieve at their new post.

8. Departing Staff Take Lots of Proprietary Knowledge and Investment with Them

Sure, you can ask departing staffers to turn over all materials, notes and other information they have before they leave for good, but there will still be untold amounts of knowledge and experience they will invariably take with them when they leave. Sometimes the best solution to this problem is convincing them to stay, or at a bare minimum, asking them to be available to brief their replacement.

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A Study from Paychex revealing why employees leave.

Thankfully, there are ways to combat the turnover dragon. Successful strategies include:

1. Hire Wisely

One of the most effective means of reducing turnover on your hotel marketing team is to make smart hiring decisions in the first place. That means thoroughly interviewing and vetting candidates before extending offers, factoring in the candidate’s compatibility with your office culture, management and fellow staffers.

SEE: The Seven Traits of Great Hotel Digital Marketers

2. Pay Generously

Offering candidates a fair and market-competitive salary and benefits package is another important means of ensuring staff retention. Take some time to research prevailing wages, while brainstorming benefits, perks and incentives to sweeten the deal, if necessary. That may include concessions like flexible work schedules and various bonuses.

3. Revisit Annually

It’s a good idea to review staff salaries and benefits annually, in order to ensure you are keeping up with the marketplace. If possible, tap your HR team as your news pipeline to this end.

4. Get Flexible

Devise methods of offering greater flexibility to your hotel marketing team in order to foster a healthy work/life balance. That may include flexible and/or compressed schedules, telecommuting and on-site daycare. Embrace communications tools like Skype and chat applications such as Slack to keep remote teams/staffers in touch throughout the day.

5. Maintain Interest Levels

An engaged employee is a happy one.

Foster a challenging and rewarding work environment, filled with learning opportunities and potential for advancement, and your employees will thank you. Nurture healthy levels of social action among the staff, as well as proper praise and recognition from management, when deserved. Sometimes little compliments and courtesies go a very long way.

6. Praise Excellence

It’s extremely important to properly recognize employees who are performing well, whether the praise comes in the form of verbal recognition, emails, awards and/or special perks. Monthly company-wide emails detailing team/staff achievements are great, as are peer-recognition programs. Don’t hesitate to report those achievements up the chain to superiors, either; even when emailing a thank you note to a subordinate, consider CCing higher-ups for a added recognition. If you need to get a handle on what to praise, ask staffers for regular updates on their accomplishments, including some data and figures when and where possible.

7. Stress the Big Picture

Help your staffers visualize a future direction for them beyond just their current day-to-day responsibilities. Outline the wider career track they are headed down, spotlighting goals and achievements those staffers should target along the way. Use annual reviews and mid-year check-ins as a means of opening these discussions, as well as spontaneous chats. Always encourage everyone on your hotel marketing team to speak with you regarding any questions or concerns they may have.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

DOSM Checklist for 2018

December 26, 2017 • By

Portrait of happy mature man wearing spectacles and looking at camera outdoor. Man with beard and glasses feeling confident. Close up face of hispanic business man smiling.

15 essential activities for hotel sales and marketing leaders.

We work with a lot of DOSMs across a wide variety of properties of all sizes in many countries.

Some are good, some are great… and some are working hard to improve.

What do the great ones have in common?

Which activities and disciplines deliver better results?

The answers might surprise you!

Based on our experience, here are the 15 things we recommend to hotel DOSMs seeking better results in 2018:

1. Assess Your Top 20 Sales Opportunities

Successful DOSMs constantly scrutinize their monthly and yearly group business goals and know where they stand on any given day with each pending opportunity. Leave the fluffy weekly sales meeting to the other hotels; instead, keep track of the progress toward your group sales goals by meeting with your team every day. Review top opportunities, get a no-B.S. status on critical deals and determine what each salesperson can do that day to edge closer to winning that piece of business.

Do you know your current closing percentage? And how long the average deal takes to close?

You should!

A daily check-in is paramount to hitting your group room night goals.

2. Be Vigilant About Your product

With all the sales and marketing strategies and technology you have in place, at the end of the day, it’s an exceptional guest experience that will attract bookings again and again. So, it makes sense to get your head out of the computer and leave your office to simply walk your property at least once a day.

Be mindful and try to see the property with fresh eyes. Talk to guests!

Scrutinize any flaws or opportunities for improvement. Notice what’s missing or what is possibly holding your property back. Is it the restaurant’s uninspiring menu? Or a cluttered spa entrance? Or dismal hallway lighting? Maybe it’s outdated staff uniforms or procedures? No amount of brilliant marketing can cover or compensate for property shortcomings, so it’s up to you to start there first. Submit a report to ownership at least once a year detailing the product shortcomings that are affecting results.

3. Embrace the Metrics Owners Care About the Most

Every day, you should be checking key performance indicators (KPIs) that hotel owners and asset managers consider high priority, such as marketing cost per booking (MCPB), direct revenue ratio (DRR) and your STR index vs. the compset. Monitoring these KPIs will help you and your owner understand how your sales and marketing team is actually contributing to the hotel’s revenue targets. Plus, these numbers will ultimately drive performance each day. Most hoteliers tend to wait until a slow season to pay attention to these metrics, then scramble to frantically catch up when the numbers reveal how behind they are in reaching the hotel’s goals.

4. Monitor Guest Sentiment

In addition to speaking to real-life human guests, online guest reviews are another direct link to your hotel’s future success. They tell you what went wrong (and right) in the past, and what you need to do moving forward. Even if it is someone else’s job to read and respond to guest reviews, successful DOSMs need to know what guests are saying as well. Do the same with mentions of your hotel on social media, such as photos taken by guests and posted to Instagram or Facebook. These posts can be extremely revealing and give an unfiltered view of guest sentiment. Notice what comes up most often, and then outline how you and other management staff can make improvements.

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5. Speak to Actual Guests

Pardon us for repeating ourselves: Resist the urge to stay glued to your computer or attend your own meetings all day. Get out and talk to guests, especially attendees of groups and events if that segment represents a large chunk of your revenue projection!

You are a host, first and foremost. So, talk and mingle with the people who really matter: your guests. Chat with guests in the lobby, or walk the meeting space and chat with attendees during their downtime. Start a conversation and see how things are going. Ask what could make their stay or meeting experience even better. Discover what really matters to them. Jot down and collect their responses, and use that as inspiration to drive your sales and marketing efforts. All of this intelligence can be used to attract more transient bookings or group business in the future.

6. Build Your Story

Travelers are no longer drawn to facts, promises of a wonderful stay or mentions of your recent industry awards. They want to be a part of something that intrigues them, connects with them and gives them something to brag about.

Consistently and creatively telling a meaningful, truthful story is what can truly attract travelers to you. However, it’s a common problem for many hoteliers to not know what their story is, much less how to convey it.

Correctly telling your story means knowing your audience, being honest about your assets and getting all stakeholders into consensus about your property’s unique identity so that you can convey it poignantly across all your marketing channels.

7. Get Closer to Your Revenue Manager

The most successful DOSMs confer with their revenue manager almost every day, not simply once per week. Just like your top sales opportunities, you need to stay on top of your hotel’s pace reports, upcoming low periods, performance vs. budget and the strategies to drive more revenue from ancillary products. The days of sales/marketing operating in separate silos from revenue management are firmly over. Check out this brief article on how to connect all the departments that affect your property’s revenue.

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8. Wrap Your Property in Local Color

The desire for unforgettable and authentic travel experiences isn’t going away anytime soon. Modern travelers want to experience a destination like a local would, and are replacing trips to cliched attractions with visits to mom-and-pop shops, farmers markets, art walks and hidden local spots. And, they’re looking to pick a hotel at the epicenter of all those things. Don’t sit back and simply rely on your concierge to stay abreast of all the local activities that are possible. Stay on top of it by skimming the publications that locals tend to read, such as weeklies like San Diego Reader or city magazines like Seattle Met. This will give you ideas for possible partnerships, room packages and unique off-site group options.

9. Study Your Compset

In the battle for bookings, never take your eyes off the competition. In addition to monitoring rate, checking in on your compset gives you insight into the smart moves they’re making to draw more direct bookings and more group business. One of the easiest ways to keep up with competition is to follow their social media accounts, not just for the property itself, but of each salesperson, too. (Each salesperson at your property should follow their counterparts at competing hotels.) What is getting the most engagement? What are they bragging about? Then, read their latest guest reviews and find out what their guests love and hate about their experience. Use this data to gauge what their customers and guests respond to and determine if you can use their successes to inspire change at your property as well.

10. Stress Balance and Reduce Stress

Smart DOSMs also find ways to reduce stress at work. They hire positive, high-achieving staff and fire negative, poor performers. They set expectations clearly with those below and above them. They eliminate vendor fatigue by consolidating their needs with as few vendors as possible. They surround themselves with people who can get things done with little to no hand-holding. And most importantly, they know that despite their non-stop, 24/7 job, work should never be their only source of pride and enjoyment. The most successful DOSMs have vibrant, fulfilling lives outside of work, balancing the demands of their work life with family, friends, exercise and travel.

11. Tech Enable Your Sales Team

Group planners/buyers are now using digital methods for some 80% of their pre-purchase research and planning, so hotel DOSMs need to scrap the traditional, relationship-based methods of the past and arm themselves with every digital tool available. This includes gathering customer data from social media, blogs and other aspects of their respective digital footprint, as well as tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Knowland Group’s market intelligence. It also means syncing sales efforts with the hotel’s marketing team, especially through marketing automation and a joint customer relationship management (CRM) system.

12. Stop Competing with OTAs on Price

Instead of making price parity your lead strategy for combatting the online travel agencies (OTAs), recent data suggests another tactic can be much more effective: targeting consumer fears regarding using OTAs.

It turns out that OTAs have built a lousy reputation for poor customer service, and many travelers worry about reservations, cancellations, changes, room selection and refunds when booking through OTAs. In response, you should harness the power of emotional messaging across all transient marketing touchpoints, reminding prospective guests at every opportunity that booking direct is the safer play, and you have a 100% commitment to customer service in the event something does go wrong.

13. Augment Your Brand’s Basic Marketing Program

Brand affiliation offers many potential sales and marketing advantages; however, these benefits aren’t often enough all on their own, as each brand’s national marketing team generally can’t reach specific target markets on a timely basis, convey unique property experiences or synthesize authentic local culture. Hotels need to augment their brand’s core program with timely campaigns and custom direct “vanity” websites that help fill periods of need, instead of solely relying on their brand’s standard marketing program, which is duplicated for every other sister hotel in the region. Take a proactive approach that focuses on differentiating your property, customizing your website, boosting your search engine optimization (SEO) and social media efforts and elevating the authenticity of your marketing message.

Also, if your property heavily depends on group revenue, consider adding technology, training and lead generation tools from outside vendors.

14. Consolidate Vendors

Working with multiple hotel marketing vendors means none are accountable. Meanwhile, hotel marketers waste a lot of time delivering messages from vendor to vendor, in a struggle to get everyone on the same page. Then further complicating things is the issue of vendor technology often not working well with others, blocking real-time data from being shared amongst the entire team.

The solution?

Pare-down your vendors to as few as possible, favoring hospitality marketing partners who have an expertise and proven success in several areas—not just one—so they can optimize multiple marketing functions. Most importantly, ask them the necessary questions to find out if they have the chops and systems in place to drive bookings and deliver ROI.

15. Know Your Cost-Per-Booking 

Today, hotel owners expect their hotel marketing departments to contribute to the hotel’s revenue targets in ways that can be measured. Without tracking and showing the numerical evaluation of your marketing efforts, you’re going to face a difficult time later in the year when you need to request next year’s marketing dollars.

To prove how your marketing efforts are adding to the hotel’s revenue, you’ll need to calculate your marketing cost per booking (MCPB) by segment. Use this number to show your marketing team’s value and to ensure you’re given the proper amount of marketing dollars to continue bringing in business for the hotel. Be especially vigilant to know your cost-per-booking from OTAs as well… avoiding the trap of viewing OTA bookings as purely revenue with no cost of acquisition.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

The Official Gift Guide for Hotel Marketers

December 20, 2017 • By

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Forget the silly gadgets and fancy chocolates!

Listen up hotel owners and asset managers, we know what hotel marketers really want for the holidays…

Here’s our annual list of the things that hotel marketers tell us they crave the most:

1. They Want to Be Rewarded for Driving Measurable Revenue 

Hotel owners expect their marketing team to contribute to the hotel’s revenue targets in ways that can be tangibly measured.

And hotel marketers are responding!

By tracking their marketing cost-per-booking (MCPB) and return on ad spend, they are showcasing the marketing team’s direct ROI… this new breed of “revenue marketer” is moving away from the squishy, legacy metrics of hotel marketing into a new era of accountability (and hopefully increased compensation)!

2. They Want the Budget Correlated to Targets

Nothing would make hotel marketers happier this holiday season than a budget that was actually correlated to the targets being set for them (by segment)! Unfortunately, there are still many hotel owners who believe their sales and marketing teams can hit increasingly lofty revenue targets with less money and resources than the year before.

This year, hotel marketers are hoping to convince upper management that their ambitious revenue goals need to be supported with bigger budgets (and maybe even more staff). Let’s hope hotel owners realize that investing in marketing is one of the smartest moves they can make to boost revenue.

3. They Want Continued Investments for Direct Booking Campaigns

The launch of major campaigns by industry giants this year further reinforced the industry’s message on the benefits of purchasing directly through a hotel website rather than an OTA. But to rely solely on the AHLA, Marriott and Hilton to communicate these advantages to travelers is insufficient. Every property, regardless of size, affiliation or location, should be showcasing the benefits of booking direct and changing their message to expose the real weakness of OTAs.

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4. They Want Standardized Metrics That Really Matter

Instead of leaning on squishy metrics, most hotel marketers crave consensus on KPIs that will actually measure important things, including:

  1. MCPB (Marketing cost per booking): Tracks the cost of each sales and marketing channel versus actual conversions. (Try using this for OTA commissions as well… and see how that channel stacks up versus your other campaigns.)
  2. DRR (Direct revenue ratio): Measures percentage of online revenue from direct sources (your website) versus pricey third-party sources, like OTAs. If you’re not generating more than 60 percent of your transient revenue from direct reservations, you still have work to do!
  3. Website Conversion Rate (from unique visitor to entrances into the booking environment): Converting a higher percentage of visitors into booking searches (or phone calls) is critical to reducing your cost of revenue and MCPB.
  4. Variance from Revenue Target BY SEGMENT: This metric showcases revenue goals versus actual results.
  5. TripAdvisor Sentiment Score: Using a reputation/sentiment monitoring tool allows hotels to measure guest satisfaction. This reflects whether your guests are enjoying your product, along with alerting you to hotel deficiencies. A bad hotel experience will outweigh any of your clever sales and marketing tactics.

5. A Better Product… Please!

Successful hotel marketing depends on a great product.

Period. Full stop.

If you’re trying to sell a tired, flawed, aging or otherwise inferior hotel experience, no amount of marketing – no matter how innovative or brilliant – can avoid the inevitable downward spiral.

There are far too many hotels that continue to sink millions of marketing dollars to over-compensate for or to cover up an aging, lackluster, or grungy hotel product. Sadly, as long as owners delay investing in the appearance, service or amenities of the property, hotel marketers will continue to fight an uphill battle in attracting and retaining guests.

6. They Want to Celebrate Authentic Local Experiences

The vast majority of hotel marketers understand that today’s traveler cares as much or more about the EXPERIENCE than the thread count of the hotel’s sheets or the convenient parking. But not everyone is on board with converting the focus of a hotel’s marketing to focus on life-enriching experiences. Hotel marketers unanimously tell us they crave more time, resources and freedom to celebrate their properties’ connection to local experiences.

7. They Want Better Photography!

Like it or not, we’ve become a very visual society.

Just as important as a hotel’s service, extraordinary hotel digital marketing requires extraordinary photography because it plays such a strong role in consumers’ travel purchase process, from the inspiration phase to booking. Images define guest expectations and poor quality shots are the equivalent of telling potential guests that the hotel’s offerings are subpar, especially if the competitive set has better visual content on its website.

8. They Want to Decrease Their Dependence on OTAs

Yes, we know… statement of the obvious.

Everyone wants this, but rather than complaining, it’s time to change the overarching hotel industry strategy from emphasizing price parity to tapping into consumer fears of OTAs.

Instead of obsessing about Best Rate Guarantees, we all need to start focusing instead on how reservations, cancellations, changes, room selection and refunds are perceived by consumers when they book direct vs indirect.

Many consumers (especially older ones) have preexisting concerns about third-party bookings and fear that one mishap with an OTA could unravel their travel plans in seconds.

9.  Can We Get a Little Acknowledgment Please?

It’s not about ego.

It’s about progress… Marketers aren’t looking for a pat on the back!

What they want is for executives, owners, and hotel asset managers to understand all that falls on the shoulders of marketing. Because, when management truly understands the resources required, the marketing department usually gets the resources and the budget required to keep up with their compset and meet the revenue requirements of ownership.

10. They Want an End to the Rising Cost of Guest Acquisition!

Owners can’t control many of their rising costs, particularly debt service, brand fees and credit card fees. That’s why hotel owners and asset managers are looking more closely than ever at marketing costs—particularly the cost of guest acquisition—which are also rising fast.

According to experts, acquisition costs commonly in the range of 5% to 10% less than a decade ago have jumped to between 15% and 25%. If a hotel cannot acquire guests at a tolerable, sustainable rate, then the property is worthless as a long-term asset.

And one of the reasons that marketing costs are rising so quickly is because hotel marketers are often unable to create perceived value in their product, which ends up being treated like a commodity instead. Part of the problem lies with the brands, many of which have become redundant, overdone and difficult to distinguish from one another, prompting travelers to book solely based on price.

Happy holidays!

We hope all your wishes come true this holiday season too! 


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

The Big Squeeze: Why Hotel Owners Are So Concerned About Marketing Costs

November 14, 2017 • By

And why hotel marketers are feeling the pinch…

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Hotel owners are feeling the squeeze from rising operating costs, at a time when the U.S. hotel industry is posting record revenues.

Debt service, brand fees, management fees, credit card and intermediary fees and capital improvement programs are all costly contributors that have many fearing that when the next downturn comes, things could get ugly.

Owners can’t really control debt service, brand fees and credit card fees. That’s why hotel owners and asset managers are looking more closely than ever at variable marketing costs—particularly the cost of guest acquisition—which are also rising fast. According to experts, acquisition costs commonly in the range of 5% to 10% less than a decade ago have jumped to between 15% and 25%. If a hotel cannot acquire guests at a tolerable, sustainable rate, then the property is worthless as a long-term asset.

There are a number of reasons why the cost of acquisition continues to spike (along with the blood pressure of some owners) including:

1. Lack of Differentiation and Low Conversion Rates

One of the reasons that marketing costs are rising so quickly is because hotel marketers are often unable to create perceived value in their product, which ends up being treated like a commodity, and bought by consumers on price alone. Part of the problem lies with the brands, many of which have become largely homogenous and difficult to distinguish from one another, further prompting travelers to book solely based on price.

But blame also falls on the shoulders of hotel marketers themselves, who often fail to highlight the unique and compelling aspects of their properties. Instead of just listing amenities like an indoor pool and free Wi-Fi, it’s far more effective to focus on unique differentiators like popular or noteworthy foods and services at the hotel, proximity to favorite attractions and neighborhoods, packages that incorporate local products/services and any other aspects that make one’s hotel different from the rest.

If hotel marketers could create a more powerful story in the minds of potential guests and convert lookers to bookers at a higher percentage, their marketing costs would decrease.

2. Fighting the Neighborhood Bullies

One of the main reasons marketing costs are out of control is that (despite the proliferation of tech and channels) there are actually a limited number of places from which hotels can attract significant traffic. Sure, the internet is a big place, but other than the OTAs, the vast majority of relevant traffic and bookings for hotels emanate from metasearch portals, Google and Facebook… where hotels find themselves in a David vs Goliath battle against the mega-budgets of the OTAs yet again!

The deep-pocketed OTAs spend more on marketing than most hoteliers can keep up with. This problem is particularly pronounced in the Google AdWords/pay-per-click (PPC) world, where the OTAs can easily outspend the competition. Therefore, it’s essential to spend wisely, choosing times and places when either the OTA marketing spend is lower, or the payback from outspending the OTAs is high enough to justify the short-term expense.

That philosophy also applies to controlling how much, and when, OTAs are used for bookings, depending on the time of year and the demand factors in the local market. The ideal percentages for third-party distribution can vary widely, and need to be closely monitored either internally or through a manager with acute revenue management skills.

3. OTA Commissions Are Not Viewed as Expenses

Yet another reason marketing costs are running rampant is the apathy of many hotel marketers, who refuse to ditch their OTA crutch and invest more in driving direct revenue through their own proprietary activities. A core reason for this lack of action is the vague at best sense that many operators have as to exactly how much OTA bookings cost, and the impact of that cost on the property’s P&L.

There are other marketing expenses, unfortunately, which are much more tangible on financial statements, including hotel digital marketing, hotel SEO, online media and retargeting, email marketing, advertising, social media and reservation abandonment programs. All of those expenditures can greatly help a hotel drive its own direct revenue, yet since these expenses are more visible on paper, they are generally cut first by owners, rather than OTA expenses, which are largely invisible. In many cases, the reverse tactic would be significantly more profitable.

4. A Focus on Flipping

Ultimately, many owners themselves are partly to blame.

By having short-term goals of flipping the property, many tolerate their property’s dependence on costly OTAs and ignore the long-term benefits of investing in building a healthier inflow of direct revenue. Having such a direct revenue stream only increases the value of the property, by boosting its prominence in the marketplace and fostering a more profitable bottom line.

According to a recent AHLA report, entitled: Demystifying the Digital Marketplace, “revenue retained by US hotels after paying all customer acquisition costs declined by almost .4% or $600 million… That $600M in additional cost would have contributed directly to net operating income. Using an 8% capitalization rate (which most investors require), these additional acquisition costs of $600 million reduced the asset value of the overall hotel industry by at least $7.5 billion.”


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Why Hotel Sales Teams Need to Up Their Digital Game

November 7, 2017 • By

Hotel group sales teams need better digital skills to capture more deals.

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Advances in digital have dramatically altered the ways group planners/buyers do business.

Today, B2B customers are doing 80% of their pre-purchase research in the digital world. Meeting planners/buyers are relying far less on hotel salespeople for information, instead choosing to educate themselves on potential venues via the web and peer referrals.

These clients no longer want cold calls, or even emails; 90% of C-level executives claim to never respond to these tactics, according to Salesforce.

Quite simply, hotel salespeople have to adapt… and quickly.

Traditionally, hotel sales teams use classic old-school textbook techniques, relying heavily on relationship selling and cold calls to book business. At branded hotels, sales teams often receive very little digital help or “air cover” from their corporate parents (other than lead flow). While Independents tend to be a bit more resourceful, since they’re wholly responsible for leads. But both hotel types need to enhance their digital skills, to keep up with the latest evolution of B2B buyers.

Here are the three most effective ways hotel salespeople can elevate their digital game:

1. Get Data

The first step of a digital sales effort starts with conducting digital research, to obtain key information about both your customers and competition. Discovering where to go on the web and various databases to research potential clients and do your homework on prospects’ needs should be done before you engage with those prospects. Take some time to read their blogs, LinkedIn pages, website and other “digital footprints.”

You can also employ affordable, easy-to-use tools to better understand prospects’ profiles and behavior. Helpful tools include:

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator LinkedIn’s subscription-based sales tool helps sales reps target buyers and companies, with features to save leads and create various contact lists. The system contains an algorithm that helps find the best potential leads for each user, while sales research and insight tools help reps study their prospective clients. Communication tools are also built into the software, and it seamlessly logs and imports sales activity to and from CRM systems.
  • Knowland Group DataKnowland Group’s market intelligence products help sales reps find targets that meet their group revenue maximization goals, understand trends in the market and tap into undiscovered opportunities. Their data includes planner buying behavior, group booking patterns and market benchmarking, as well as actionable leads, educational resources and an archive of lead contact data.

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2. Get in Sync with the Marketing Team

Hotel sales leaders need to work closely with their marketing and IT colleagues to create an ideal digital workflow and lead flow. A proven method is to implement a CRM system to track activity, append clean targeting data and track lead behavior. There’s a huge payoff from the approach: An App Data Room and Marketo study found that sales and marketing alignment can improve sales efforts at closing deals by 67%.

Both sales and marketing departments should also cooperate on marketing automation, which can send the right message, at the right time, to the right meeting planner or group lead, while keeping teams informed as target prospects engage with company websites and marketing materials. In addition, sales teams should provide marketing with guidance and feedback on which digital channels, social media, etc., that sales prospects are currently using.

3. Get Social

Embracing digital doesn’t mean the longstanding practice of relationship-based selling no longer applies; it’s just moved into a different medium. According to LinkedIn, three out of four B2B buyers now rely on social media to engage with peers about buying decisions. More than three-quarters (82%) of B2B buyers say vendor content shared on social channels (like LinkedIn) has a significant impact on their buying decision, while B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights about their business or industry, according to LinkedIn research.

With that in mind, today’s sales teams should be using digital to enable “social selling,” which essentially means building relationships and nudging leads along through the sales process via savvy, helpful, UNSELFISH social media interaction, rather than outdated and ineffective methods like phone calls and email.

This is primarily done by providing content that solves the problems and answers the questions of customers, as well as by interacting one-on-one with leads through social media. It’s different from wide-swath “shotgun marketing” on social, where branding-related content is shared everywhere in hopes of going viral and building awareness; social selling, rather, makes the customer the key dictator of the type of content shared, based on their specific wants and needs.

And remember, social interaction doesn’t end with that sale, either.

Social platforms are also employed post-sale to retain and upsell customers, especially by creating a channel for customers to share feedback and vent frustration. Referrals are now essential to lead generation, with 84% of B2B buyers beginning the buying process with a referral and more than 90% of purchase decisions influenced by peer recommendations, according to a 2016 Harvard Business Review article.

So now, more than ever, the time you spend on digital sales efforts—especially building and maintaining your social media network and reputation—will have a direct and meaningful impact on your sales pipeline. This is one game you want to be sure you’re playing to win.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: The First Thing DOSMs Should Do Every Morning

November 3, 2017 • By

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

Each week we share one, FREE impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement immediately to drive more conversions and more revenue.

This Week’s Freebie: DOSMs need to stay focused on what really matters… we suggest doing these three critical things EVERY DAY. 

Hotel DOSMs run hectic, crazy schedules.

From managing sales teams, executing marketing campaigns and pulling endless reports from multiple systems.

With all of this riding on your shoulders, it’s easy to succumb to a day that pulls you in all different directions. That’s why we suggest DOSMs start each morning only focused on these three most significant tasks that impact the hotel’s and the department’s bottom line:

1. Review Your Top 20 Sales Opportunities

The most successful hotel DOSMs never take their eyes off projected room nights. The best way to accomplish this is to assess your top pieces of business each and every day. Most hotels rely on irregular meetings to review each sales manager’s goals and progress. Instead, we suggest you keep a handy list of your Top 20 most lucrative and important prospective group targets.

Ask for no BS updates from each salesperson about their top opportunities. Find out how they plan to assist the prospective meeting planner that day and move them closer to a decision. Which hotels are still in the running? How can you get an edge? What else could turn the tide in your favor?

2. Pow Wow With Your Revenue Manager

The days of keeping sales/marketing and revenue management separated in silos is over. Just as with your top sales opportunities, DOSMs must stay on top of upcoming low periods, pace reports and budget vs. performance by segment.

Plus, revenue managers should know about upcoming contract negotiations, rates the meeting planners are seeking and possible concessions to offset the room rates. Set a standing meeting with your revenue manager to discuss these updates and to brainstorm how to drive more revenue from ancillary means.

3. Obsess About the Metrics Hotel Owners Care About the Most

Today’s hotel marketers are drowning in metrics.

And, most are irrelevant to your hotel owners. Skip trying to impress owners with your website views and hotel social media likes. There are certain key performance indicators that hotel owners and asset managers truly care about, simply because they prove how well your marketing team is contributing to the property’s revenue targets.

You should ALWAYS know your DRR (direct revenue ratio), which compares the revenue from direct bookings versus third-party bookings;  MCPB (marketing cost per booking), which tracks the costs of each marketing channel and the variance of actual results versus revenue goals by segment.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

What’s Scaring Hotel Marketers This Halloween?

October 30, 2017 • By

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Back by popular demand… for Halloween, we once again asked hotel marketers from coast to coast, representing properties of all sizes, what they’re most spooked about right now.

Here is what they said:

1. Unrealistic Goals on Tight Budgets

(This one tops the list two years in a row!) Hotel marketers’ plates aren’t just full – they’re stacked sky-high with multiple marketing priorities to oversee, manage and implement. This upcoming year, the number of channels, campaigns, audiences, assets and tools will only get bigger and wider. This obviously calls for more marketing dollars, more staff and more assistance, right?

Not exactly.

More and more hotel owners are holding their managers and marketers accountable for driving measurable conversions… and demand they somehow top last year’s results. Yet, those same owners are not opening their wallets any wider to fund the needed resources to reach those higher revenue targets. This leaves hotel marketers under an avalanche of pressure to produce more with less.


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2. Product Deterioration vs The Compset

What really scares hotel marketers we spoke to… are things that are out of their control.

Boundless creativity, clever marketing concepts and even a robust marketing budget are essentially useless if your hotel is crap. Great marketing can only begin with a great product. If your hotel is showing its frayed edges and providing lackluster experiences (or no real experience at all), no amount of brilliant marketing will save you from a downward spiral.

(Our advice: scour your hotel reviews and find out what guests complain about the most. Then, present this to your owners and champion the improvements your hotel needs to turn the tide and rise above the comp set.)

3. The Cost of Guest Acquisition

Hotel owners are feeling the squeeze from debt service, brand fees, management fees, credit card fees, intermediary fees and capital improvement programs. And many are squeezing their marketing and management teams to step up.

Owners can’t control many of their rising costs, particularly debt service, brand fees and credit card fees. That’s why hotel owners and asset managers are looking more closely than ever at marketing costs—particularly the cost of guest acquisition—which are also rising fast. According to experts, acquisition costs commonly in the range of 5% to 10% less than a decade ago have jumped to between 15% and 25%. If a hotel cannot acquire guests at a tolerable, sustainable rate, then the property is worthless as a long-term asset.

And one of the reasons that marketing costs are rising so quickly is because hotel marketers are often unable to create perceived value in their product, which ends up being treated like a commodity, instead. Part of the problem lies with the brands, many of which have become redundant, overdone and difficult to distinguish from one another, prompting travelers to book solely based on price.

4. The Pace of Change

Keeping up with all the changes in the digital world continues to challenge the hotel marketers we spoke to… The hotel industry has long been a fertile market for new whiz-bang technologies and amenities, all purporting to revolutionize the guest experience and become the must-have asset you need to attract more guests. The constant barrage of hyperbole from tech vendors, media reps and industry press about the latest and greatest stuff has caused tremendous stress and anxiety in hotel marketers who increasingly suffer from “FOMO” (fear of missing out).

(Our advice: be sure any time and/or money invested is truly in line with your marketing goals and guest profile. Sure, travel-related virtual reality content generally sparks high-interest levels in the media. And yes, Snapchat is tops among 12- to 24-year-olds. But if it’s not specifically bringing sales to your door, devote your attention elsewhere.)

5. Lack of Integration

The ever-growing array of hotel tech/vendors continues to frustrate hotel marketers. Most have a legacy hodge-podge of different providers for each critical marketing technology need (ie: CRS, website, hotel booking engine, PMS, and CRM).  This jumbled mix of disparate systems prevents seamless integration and simplified reporting.

Worse, it often causes stress, job dissatisfaction and premature job departures.

6. Shaky Job Security

Hotel marketers are once again expected to know more, do more and react faster than ever before. Hotel owners are mounting more pressure on hotel marketers to contribute their share of the revenue pie. This continued stress on marketers has resulted in an all-time high turnover rate averaging 23 months. Owners now expect bigger payoffs, with a shorter amount of time and funding. Meanwhile, hotel marketers have to fight to stay relevant by mastering rapidly evolving marketing technology, leaving them struggling to keep up, flustered and overwhelmed with an avalanche of marketing channels and tools.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Hotel Digital Talent: Why Is It so Hard to Find?

October 17, 2017 • By

Hotel digital marketing requires an increasingly hard-to-find skillset.

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If you want to be successful in the hotel business, it’s now mandatory that you outperform your compset in the digital world.

So these days it’s more important than ever for hotel companies to attract and retain world-class digital talent. In most cases, the first place guests now interact with your hotel is not inside your lobby—it’s within the digital world—yet all too frequently, we aren’t fully prepared to greet that guest accordingly. Hotel websites, CRM systems, data analytics, email, social media and search marketing all require deep expertise to deliver real ROI.

Sure… digital talent is in high demand everywhere, but beyond that, there are other reasons why skilled digital professionals are sorely needed in the hospitality industry.

Here Are the Five Hiring Challenges We See… and What to Do about Them:

1. Many Digital Experts Have Gravitated to Other Industries And/Or Start-Ups

There are seemingly endless opportunities right now in the digital space, and the required core skills are adaptable to various industries, so digital pros can literally work anywhere that a business has a digital presence. That may be a huge Silicon Valley mega-corporation or a basement startup and everything in between. And in many cases, the Googles and Facebooks of the world are offering the hip, informal vibe of a startup that millennials crave, with the stability of a steady paycheck and job security and the cool factor of working at the digital avant-garde.

2. Hotels Are (Unfairly) Viewed As Stagnant and Non-Innovative

Like other components of the traditional business sector, hotel companies are frequently perceived as stalwart, non-evolving dinosaurs, dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age. Brands, which have to carefully explore changes due to the sheer size of their operation, are perceived as being especially sterile places to work. While there are advantages to being dependable and maintaining steady growth, winning over top digital talent sadly isn’t one of them.

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3. OTAs Are Killing Innovation

The online power of the OTAs—driven in part by their massive marketing budgets—has severely hampered most hotels companies’ ability to innovate and try new things, since the cost to compete against everything the OTAs do is just too high. With the price tag associated with competitive digital marketing efforts like pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns becoming simply too expensive, too few industry players are doing anything extraordinary, aside from just trying to keep up.

4.  Compensation and Turnover 

True, there are perks from working in the travel industry, but the pay isn’t always one of them. Averages for industry compensation are not among the highest, because profit margins are increasingly compressed (those darn OTAs again!), causing hoteliers to focus on cutting expenses and controlling costs. That means the best hotel digital pros are often leaving to take higher paying jobs elsewhere, because they can.

5. Digital Skills Vs Business Skills 

The millennial digital natives who are now in high demand by recruiters often have little to no experience yet delivering on the intense ROI expectations of an agency or corporate hotel marketing setting. This is especially true for recent graduates: Universities tend to focus on theory, and for many marketing majors, the specific skills used in online marketing are mostly learned on the job, through experience. So, for the young talent you do end up courting and successfully hiring, there will be a significant learning curve, provided they decide to stay.

Look for These Three Things:

For the hotel companies that can work through the issues listed above, the struggle isn’t over just yet. Once your company is successfully generating employment interest from digital mavens, it’s important to ensure those professionals have adapted their talents to the many nuances of the hotel industry.

Therefore, it’s critical to find smart, capable digital pros who understand the following three essential things:

1. The Hotel Experience

It is exceedingly difficult to understand how to market travel unless the marketer has traveled significantly themselves. This applies to digital marketing, too. The best professionals in digital travel marketing have personal travel miles to draw from, particularly when it pertains to the hotel experience and the digital booking process.

2. The Hotel/Travel Purchasing Funnel

On the surface, it may appear as though there are only two stages of the hotel/travel purchasing funnel—researching and booking—but there are actually five distinct phases: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. Properly targeting your audience with the right media and message during each of the five stages is an integral part of extending your company’s digital reach.

3. How to Turn the Funnel into Tangible Digital Action

Lastly, and most importantly, digital professionals need to understand which digital media are relevant for each stage of the hotel/travel journey, and how to gauge the ROI for each. Wherever possible, seek to eliminate guesswork: quality hotel digital marketers need to fully embrace data reporting and analytics, in order to properly track results and develop actionable strategies for the future.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Why Hotel Management Companies are Obsessed with Marketing Costs

October 3, 2017 • By

Hotel marketing costs are affecting profitability more than ever.

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With profit growth slowing in the lodging industry, the focus among hoteliers is now shifting toward closely controlling costs, especially among management companies, whose earnings are directly tied to property performance (and incentives are tied to profits).

As the pressure to find cost savings mounts, experts say one of the most significant expenses to watch is marketing, which has only grown more expensive with the rapid growth of digital media.

In general, hotel management companies care deeply about costs, which have a direct linear effect on their ability to achieve profitability/incentive targets. And these days, marketing costs (especially OTAs and third-party channels) are rising at an alarming rate. Industry averages for marketing expenses typically range from about 4% to 7% of overall expenses, but can vary widely depending on the hotel and its management.

image2 “Marketing is a minimum of probably 6% of your expenses, so it’s a pretty big number,” said Richard Millard, Chairman and CEO of Trust Hospitality. “It could be as high as 8% to 10%, depending on what you’re doing.”

Between just internal staffing, OTA commissions, digital marketing programs (paid search, banner ads, etc.) and other forms of advertising (print, radio, TV, billboards, etc.), hotels are currently fighting a rising tide of seemingly obligatory marketing costs. And all too frequently, it forces managers to scrimp elsewhere.

“Marketing is costing more and more, and that means the training and service level of people on the hotel side suffers, because some way, somehow that money has to be saved,” Millard continued. “So what we as an industry often cut back on, instead, is human resources and training.”

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Finding the Right Balance

Smart management companies can still find methods to keep marketing costs from getting out of hand, while continuing to do all the right things to get their properties noticed in the marketplace. It requires careful planning, but it’s not impossible.

Experts say one core strategy for reducing and controlling hotel marketing expenses is to strategically outsource certain aspects of hotel marketing to third-party vendors and consultants, based upon the management company’s need and resources. For example, while it may clearly pay to hire a skilled, full-time revenue manager for internal staff, it may be more cost-effective to hire an outside agency for critical recurring functions that drive direct bookings such as email promos, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search/pay-per-click (PPC) and metasearch campaigns.

image3 “Marketing as a discipline has grown exponentially in how you reach a potential guest or interact with a guest. The reach has become enormous,” said Michael Tall, president and COO at Charlestowne Hotels. “There are certain disciplines and components of marketing that we feel are better left to those that specifically do that as their discipline. The key is figuring out what it is that you want to do internally as a management company, and what needs to be outsourced, and then it’s just selecting the right vendors and hiring the right people inside.”
Another critical method is managing OTA relationships and working to drive customers toward booking directly, rather than through OTAs. OTA commissions can run anywhere from roughly 14% to 25%, depending on the scale of the relationship (rates tend to be higher for independent, unbranded hotels) and the company’s contract with each OTA, but savvy managers can save considerably by optimizing this particular channel.

“We want people to book in the lowest cost channels,” said Tall. “Understanding whether you are able to get a guest or enough guests to book on the lowest cost channels, versus having to go out and market or pay for acquisition to OTAs, is really the balance that you try to understand. That’s a huge part of our business: understanding what it is we desire from the OTAs, and what are we willing to pay to the OTAs to acquire the guests.”

It also comes down to making sure hotel marketers are constantly up to date on the latest marketing techniques and trends, and then both planning and acting accordingly. (This is another area where a mix of both internal and third-party guidance can prove effective.) Most importantly, marketers need to regularly analyze their various channels for a firm understanding of what’s working and what isn’t, as well as where the future lies.

“You can only cut so many corners. It’s not just about trying to save marketing dollars; it’s about spending those marketing dollars wisely,” said Millard. “The secret is to be on top of it. Marketing is changing and you can’t depend on one thing. Experience is great, having people who know what they’re doing is great and having the right technology is great. But you’d better pay attention. Don’t be too sure that what’s working in September 2017 is still going to be here in January 2018.”


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com