When it comes to marketing, many hotels today are tasked with doing more with less.
While the leisure and hospitality industry is rebounding fast and accounted for 40% of total job growth in June 2021, many hospitality marketers are still pushing forward with fewer resources. But as marketers across the country prepare marketing plans and budgets for their hotels, working with a strategic digital hospitality marketing agency is becoming a top option to get things done.
When it comes to working with an outside marketing strategist, there are two primary questions: What can hotels get from an agency and how should they pick one? Let’s take a closer look and how hotels should think about a potential partnership.
What hotels can get from working with an agency
1. Free up time for your internal marketing team
Whether you have a small internal marketing team or don’t have one at all, working with a hospitality marketing agency can help extend your capabilities. That applies to both independent and branded hotels.
Sure, independent hotels don’t have the corporate marketing resources available as hospitality marketers at brands like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, and others, making a strategic partnership right for many. But the global pandemic had a wide-ranging effect on marketing efforts across the hospitality industry. Marriott, for example, was forced to halt its Brand, Marketing, and Digital (BMD) efforts.
While hoteliers at Marriott (MDS), Hilton (ECG), Hyatt (DMP), and other brands often utilize the corporate team for brand materials and specific marketing tactics, many will turn to agencies for added expertise and benefits and as a way to set themselves apart from other hotels in their brand portfolio. Partnerships with marketing agencies come in different sizes — some utilize them for most of their marketing efforts while others work with one for specific services. Whatever the case, they can become almost like an extension of your in-house team.
2. Get the expertise and technical know-how
Suffice to say, some marketing tactics are easier to plan and execute than others. When it comes to hospitality marketing, there are a number of more complex tactics that many hotels choose to work on through an agency.
For example, metasearch marketing requires a complex understanding of the technical setup and bidding strategy. Google Hotel Ads allows for five different bidding options (including commissions, enhanced CPC, and more), not to mention the need to connect your rates to the platform either through an API or connectivity partner. That’s why Google recommends working with a partner.
Other complex tactics that especially require technical know-how include:
Pay Per Click Advertising
As a hospitality marketer, you’re tasked with carrying out your hotel’s day-to-day strategy. Many marketers turn to an agency to assist with large projects, initiatives that require technical expertise, and most of all, strategy. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds of daily strategy — and a marketing strategist can help look at your marketing plan from a higher level, offering fresh perspective and advice on budgeting, planning, and marketing tactics you may not have considered.
3. Standardize marketing best practices
You know the local scene better than anyone, but it’s easy to get zeroed in on your hotel’s current setup. Marketing specialists spend all day, every day living hospitality marketing and working with a range of hotels across different segments and brands, providing a different perspective and new ideas.
One of the biggest challenges that hospitality marketers face is standing out in a crowded field. Which marketing initiatives are right to accomplish your hotel’s goals? How much should you spend on advertising? What are the industry trends? A marketing strategist can offer insight and guidance on what tactics can help you reach your goals while helping you put together a budget to get there.
The best marketing plans and budgets are unique and created strategically and with insight into what other hotels are doing and what marketing efforts are trending and working for a range of clients. An agency can help you achieve your goals in an efficient and performative manner.
4. Showcase the uniqueness of your hotel
Nothing is more important in marketing than appealing to your audience. While branded hotels can work with corporate to get standard advertising and social media creatives, many choose to work with an agency to be different.
Many hospitality marketing agencies have dedicated professionals who are experts in their niche, whether that be design, advertising, or websites. By branching outside of your organization, you can get a fresh perspective on branding and messaging that might resonate.
For example, an Autograph Collection hotel in the Marriott portfolio might work with an agency on a vanity website that sets their hotel apart.
What to consider when choosing an agency
So, you think an outside marketing agency might be right for your hotel. Now what? Knowing you want to venture out and finding the right partner are two different things.
Marketing expert Neil Patel lists seven factors in choosing a marketing agency:
- A sizeable portfolio
- Experienced and specialized team members
- Strong industry reputation
- Similar core values
- A well-designed website
- They don’t make outlandish promises
- They’re easy to contact
That’s a good place to start. Once you know the need for an agency is there, try to answer these three questions when talking with prospective agencies:
1. What marketing services do they offer?
Going into the process, you should have at least a sense of your overall marketing goals. From there, look at what marketing agencies have to offer. Some agencies have particular specialties while others are “full-service.” It’s important to understand an agency's capabilities and make sure they match up with the aspect of marketing you need help with.
For example, if you have a WordPress website, you wouldn’t want a developer who specializes in Drupal or another CMS platform.
2. Do they understand your market?
Are you an independent hotel or branded hotel? Are you located on the east coast or in the heartland? These things may or may not be a factor in your decision. It’s important to know who prospective agencies have worked with so you can see if they understand your needs and target audience.
If you’re a branded hotel looking for a vanity website or PPC advertising, working with an agency that has primarily worked with independent hotels might not be the best fit. You want to find an agency that knows what tools you use and has experience marketing toward your ideal guest.
3. Can they help create a custom plan?
No hotel is alike. And your marketing plan should align with that. What marketing initiatives are right for your hotel might not be right for the one across town and your advertising budget might vary too. When talking with potential marketing agencies, it’s best to steer clear of a cookie-cutter approach.
A data-driven and strategic approach can ensure your hotel is taking advantage of the tactics that make the most sense for your unique situation and can lead to a collaborative relationship in the long run.
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