Hotel Marketing Strategy

Agency, Consultant or In-House: Which Resource Is Best For Your Hotel?

Many of us in hospitality - operators and suppliers alike - have been in survival mode for the last 6-12 months. It’s a state of business (and mind) that as you’ll know, is all about being ruthless with all non-essential outgoings, and that likely has included your marketing budget. Retained agencies and consultants have likely been paused or cancelled and in-house marketing managers have likely been furloughed or worse, made redundant.

A perfect storm of profitability

But now as hotels in England have the green light to open to leisure guests on the 17th May 2021, the time is now to consider how best to rebuild their marketing strategy. And arguably there’s never been a better time to invest in your hotel’s marketing when you consider the perfect storm of profitability hotels find themselves in:

  • International travel is still widely discouraged and will be for the foreseeable future
  • VAT is still being charged at the reduced rate
  • Business rates discounts are in place for at least the next few months
  • Most hotels are seeing average daily room rate (ADR) sitting 10-20% above previous years

Whilst these lucrative months ahead will inevitably help repay some of the debt accrued during these challenging 15 months or so, it also presents a unique opportunity to invest in the brand and rebuild a marketing strategy for growth, not just survival.

So what does that look like? And which type of marketing resource is going to suit your individual needs best? Let’s look at your options:

Option One: The Hotel Marketing Agency

Disclaimer: While DHM is a hotel marketing agency, we acknowledge that an agency is not the right fit for every business so this will offer you an unbiased account for which solution is right for your individual hotel. 

For about the same cost as a full-time marketing manager, a hotel marketing agency will give you access to a range of skills like graphic design and web development as well as strategic planning. It’ll be an account manager’s job to gain an in-depth understanding of your business whilst they draw on a full suite of technical expertise in their own team to provide the digital implementation. 

The downside is that working with an agency takes work. An agency’s results will almost always suffer if the client ‘abdicates’ rather than ‘delegates’ their hotel’s marketing. Therefore an agency won’t be the right choice for your hotel if you don’t have the time to invest in working in a partnership, to build a strong relationship with your account manager and regularly review and discuss the results achieved. That’s not to say the workload will be fifty-fifty; the agency should pick up the lion’s share of the work but a ‘come-back-to-me-in-a-month-with-results’ mindset rarely yields strong results.

              Pros
      • Provides overarching and long-view strategy 
      • Access to extensive expertise for technical implementation
      • Comes with a team of professionals to create content and implement strategy

             Cons
      • With a monthly retainer likely, it needs to align with your ongoing budget capabilities
      • Need to be clear on requirement and expectations of both client and agency as lack of clarity can lead to substandard outcomes
      • There may be restrictions on what is/isn't included in the monthly retainer, so it's essential to understand inclusions before commencement 

Option Two: The Experienced Consultant

Consultants are best at providing medium-long term direction, drawing on their vast experience of working with similar businesses. They can bring a fresh, outside perspective to what's needed and focus solely on the strategic / top-level area, rather than the tactical / granular aspects of your marketing. 

A consultant will be a great fit if your hotel is thinking ahead for the next 1-3 years but won’t be necessarily be a good fit to help you implement some of the changes they suggest.

                         Pros  
      • A consultant will have strong ideas to get your company up and running from their wealth of experience 
      • They provide a long term marketing strategy/ training for your hotel
      • They will have insights from working with various hotels

        Cons 

      • Consultants often won't be involved in implementation so will need to hand off or train staff or other contractors on implementation
      • There may be restrictions on what is/isn't included in the consulting fee, so it's essential to ask at the start
      • Are contracted for a set timeframe or task
 

Option Three: The In-House Marketing Manager

A Marketing Manager is entirely devoted to your hotel, so they settle in, learn the culture, and understand your business inside-out. Their job is to bring great ideas and experience whilst managing the day-to-day operations of your marketing efforts. They’ll be able to coordinate internal teams and departments to ensure the external communications are consistent whilst working with specialist suppliers such as printers and designers to bring everything together.

Typically a marketing manager won’t bring your business a great deal of technical implementation, or be able to draw on decades of research and experience for the strategic direction of your hotel’s marketing though. So whilst they’ll likely be great at vital aspects of your hotel’s marketing such as managing social media channels, they’re unlikely by themselves to be able to create and implement a plan to increase direct bookings across digital channels, for example.

                  Pros
      • Running everything in-house means management has daily oversight, and the Marketing Manager is entirely on the team
      • Coordinate internal teams and manage external comms
                  Cons
      • Everything that comes with having another employee in the books
      • Wages need to be high enough to get an experienced employee, but the level you can hire is budget-dependant
      • Getting an under-experienced Marketing Manager to save money is a false economy and will cost long-term if they have to learn on the job or make rookie mistakes. 

Whichever you choose, think about what aspects from the list would work best for individual needs and objectives. The less time you have to commit to marketing, the more likely you are to need support. Taking time to think about the pros and cons and whether an Agency, Consultant, or Marketing Manager are best for you will help you take advantage of this perfect storm of profitability in the coming months. 

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