How Can You Make Your Branded Hotel Stand Apart?
If you’re a hotel in a branded chain, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your property’s unique offerings.
But whether you’re a Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt or any branded hotel, you have options for developing and executing your digital marketing strategy. As an owner, you essentially have three primary choices:
- Use the corporate-supported options
- Work with an outside agency
- Hire and manage your own in-house team
Because the hospitality industry is cyclical, it’s important to regularly revisit which approach you’re using, determine if it’s delivering results, and explore whether another option may be more suitable now.
That said, each of these models has its own distinct pros and cons for branded hotels, so let’s take a closer look at them.
Give Your Current Digital Marketing Approach a Closer Look
Don’t assume that what you’re currently doing is good or that it’s working effectively. You owe it to yourself to reassess your digital marketing strategy team. Maybe the grass is greener. Maybe it’s not.
But with the next market upheaval or disruptor undoubtedly looming just around the corner (see: pandemic, inflation, recession, etc.), you need to make sure you’re getting the most out of your marketing investment. You have to consider factors such as cost, service levels, corporate guidelines, and the goals and challenges for your particular property.
In the course of investigating and considering each of these approaches, you might find that your current arrangement is just fine. You might also find that no one single arrangement will deliver the results you want. In which case, there’s no harm in using a hybrid model in which you may use a combination of these to tackle specific tasks.
How Most Corporate-Supported Marketing Models Stack Up
Most hotel corporations offer some level of marketing services to their owners. They may provide support for social media, website content, creative services, digital, video, print, email and more. But the offerings will vary widely from brand to brand as do the fees they charge.
Additionally, those offerings and their overall “vision for the brand” may change depending on who is running the marketing operation at the corporate level.
- For some, the price is right. In most corporate arrangements, there are lower/no management fees for certain services. For smaller hotels with smaller budgets, that can be a strong selling point.
- There is a lot of data. Corporate marketing groups have access to everything. They collect information not just on your hotel but on all of the properties under their brand. That data can be useful when deploying a marketing strategy. It’s also an advantage over agencies that don’t get to peek behind the curtain and see everything.
- Service can be spotty. Not every corporate marketing department provides the same level of services to all of its hotels. They also tend to be more reactive rather than proactive. Instead of coming to you with a solution, they’re often responding to you when you have an issue. You might not even have a direct line to a real person. Instead, you send your request to an inbox and hope for a response.
- Less flexibility. A lot of corporate teams offer a tiered approach to their services (silver, gold, platinum) and force you to choose. Rather than building a custom solution for your property, you select a tier and hope it’s right.
- Corporations are big. How much time and attention will they have for your property while also managing hundreds or even thousands of others? You are a small fish in an enormous pond. It’s difficult if not impossible for a corporate team to have a unique perspective on your specific property.
Assessing the Value of Hiring an Outside Agency
Outside marketing agencies have teams of experts, including designers, developers, graphic artists, social media specialists, data and SEO gurus, content creators and more.
An outside agency can handle some or all of your digital marketing strategy, and you can hire them on an individual project basis, a monthly fee, or on an annual retainer agreement.
- Flexibility is fundamental. Do you need a custom-built plan specific to your property? Do you want a year-round program that changes with the seasons? Do you have a big, one-off project? An agency can provide solutions for each of those scenarios. Agencies are also more consultative in nature, helping you discover what you don’t know.
- A focus on service. You should expect a higher level of service and attention than you do with a corporate team. You get a real person as a point of contact, more frequent interactions, and a proactive vs. reactive approach.
- Diverse experience. With a corporate team, their in-house people will have data and case studies and examples, but their experience is limited to their family of brands. An agency has a breadth of experience with every hotel brand plus independents and properties of all stripes, shapes and sizes. That gives an agency an assortment of best practices they can pull from.
- Cost a consideration. A corporate marketing department doesn’t exist to make money. They are there to serve the numerous properties under their brand and only need to break even. But agencies have to cover their own costs and turn a profit, so prices can be higher than a corporate arrangement.
- Less access to data. Agencies can’t access the same data as corporate, but they can usually generate enough to satisfy most clients.
Going It Alone and Building Your Own In-House Team
An in-house marketing team is one you’ve assembled yourself. Generally these are smaller teams depending on the type, size or number of properties you own.
You might have a digital marketer with some SEO or paid media experience who can manage a campaign. You might have a graphic designer building banner ads or email templates. You might even have someone doing print collateral. It’s your team; you can do whatever you want.
- You have flexibility. Building your own marketing team means identifying your needs and hiring people with the skills to do precisely the work you need done.
- They are your resources. You can use them as they’re needed. You can even shift them to work in other areas depending on demand.
- At your service. You don’t have to wait for a response from a corporate team or an agency. Your in-house team is there whenever you need them for whatever reason.
Pro or Con
- Cost could be a factor. It depends on the scale of your properties, salaries and benefits, but at some point the math might be in your favor for an in-house team. You could build in some efficiencies and find it’s profitable for your team to do the work for your portfolio.
- Revolving door of talent. No one can avoid turnover. If parts of your team move on, you’re in a tough position. Turnover happens at corporate and agencies as well, but they are better positioned to have another team member fill in.
- Your team to manage. These are your employees so you inherit whatever headaches that might entail. You do the hiring, the firing, the coaching and the coaxing.
Even Branded Hotels Have Multiple Marketing Strategy Options
Just because you’re a link in a chain or a cog in a branded machine doesn’t mean your hotel can’t look beyond the prescribed corporate marketing team. There are advantages and disadvantages depending on your property and your needs.
Whatever your current arrangement, now is the time to take a closer look at what’s working and what’s not. If you’d like to discuss whether you’re getting the most out of your approach, we’d love to share our expertise with you.