By: Larry Mogelonsky
Member of Laguna Strategic Advisors

Marketing dollars are precious and scarce. No one wants to pilfer resources away towards programs that fail to deliver a solid return on investment. As a general manager, here are ten thoughts to keep in mind as your hotel marketing team prepares to execute this year’s plan.

1. You can’t measure everything. As a consultant, after presenting a concept, the director of marketing often asks, “Yes, but can we measure the results?” The simple fact is this: not one system has been invented that accurately records the results of each and every iota of action. There are so many variables at play that the ability to study the minutia of each and every element is, at best, a scientific anomaly. Mind you, as digital avenues flourish, we are getting better at capturing this enormity of data. But more data can easily bring on more headaches. Instead, train your team to focus on the big picture – month over month, quarter over quarter, year over year.

2. Retargeting programs are a fallacy. It seems brilliant. People log on to your website, they’re tracked, and the next time they go to a site that hosts advertising, lo and behold your ad appears. A great trick of technology, this is supposedly the cutting edge of cost-per-click online technology. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Superficially, yes, but by the time the retargeting and remarketing occur, it’s already too late. We’ve tested spending here versus the same amount on traditional CPC. Bottom line: I’m a skeptic.

3. Flash sales won’t save your business. Flash sales programs are alluring: the promise of bringing ‘fresh blood’ into the property, albeit at a very low trial price. Think for a moment before you plunge. The consumer wants a 50% discount and the operator wants a 10%-20% commission. So, where’s the revenue? The answer: there is none! Moreover, these customers are not looking at you; they’re looking at discounts, with your business and brand secondary. A few years ago I’d tell you that flash sales are little cayenne pepper – just a touch for flavoring, but a pinch too much and whole dish is ruined. Now, 2013, they’re simply not worth your time under any circumstances.

4. Thinking OTA customers can be converted to book directly. Wishful thinking, indeed. Let’s face it. Anyone who is booking your property through an OTA has a different modality, with limited interest in the hotel selection except for location and price. This does not mean that you treat the customer any differently. But in terms of making them a regular, it’s a slim chance. There’s simply so much choice out there that unless you wow them with a slice of celestial pie, they’ll revert to their established habit of searching through the rest of the world’s hospitality offers.

5. Eking out another year from that old website. I know you spent a fortune building your existing website four or five years ago. But the world has changed and your site is not up to speed. The useful length of a website is currently at about 36 to 48 months, and that’s a stretch. The technology of today’s digital infrastructure is such that your site will look old, and if it does, your hotel will feel old as well. Your home page must echo the same vibe as your onsite experience, yet it must also fit the contemporary consumer demands of mobile and tablet readiness, seamless booking engines, social media integration and up-to-the-minute information accuracy.

6. Thinking smartphone is not yet necessary. Not next year, now! The fact is that the odds of your site being viewed on a smartphone is already at about one in three and climbing. If you’re prepared to walk away from one third of your potential business, then wait until 2014. If the light has just gone on somewhere in your cranium that these numbers make sense, go for it. Mobile websites are cost effective to build and results are an easy payout.

7. Failing to give your sales and marketing team iPads. The iPad, or any other tablet computer, is no longer a novelty. These are hardworking tools that are useful for one-on-one presentations. While you’re at it think: front desk, sales, executive committee, marketing, team leaders and trainers. Start replacing printed documents with tablet-based reporting. Software solutions that remove paper from the equation will also help with planning meetings, communication speed, abstract insights and team accountability.

8. Neglecting weddings. Weddings are good business. Wrong! Weddings are a fantastic business, both revenue-generating and recession-proof. It’s amazing to me that many properties fail to actively support their wedding capabilities – hosting micro sites, targeted advertising, trade shows and open houses. All of these marketing programs work. Create the combination that works best for your local market.

9. Thinking some guru can create awesome SEO for your website and propel it to the top of Google. SEO is hard work. There are no magic bulls. The cornerstones of successful SEO are content and authorship. This means continuous additions through blogs, social media updated religiously, a flair for community-building and meaningful entries worthy of inbound links. The days of some quick meta tag fixes are long over; focus on the content delivery and Google will handle everything else. Tell the guru to prey on someone else.

10. Having your revenue management team assume responsibility for property marketing. Revenue managers are a critical part of your executive committee. They ensure that the balance between yield and occupancy is delivered. They monitor your STR reports versus your competitive set. But they are not really trained as marketers. Marketing is not about today or this week, as that’s the role of revenue managers. Marketing is about the future of your business, your brand and your position strategized for long-term growth. There is a certain degree of creativity and intangibility surrounding great marketing and that’s the exciting part! There is more than enough work for revenue managers in keeping your profitability and occupancy targets in line. Don’t send them deviating from the prize.