Ah, budget season! While all forecasts at this point are worthless, let’s focus on what we know today and make an agile plan for whatever happens next.
Since every dollar is scrutinized more than ever before, you need to ensure each marketing dollar is delivering value. Before you decide on marketing expenses for 2022, take a step back and see where you sit today in the online marketplace.
Define Problems with your Total Online Presence
Before you can determine how much marketing spend to set aside, you need to determine where you need to spend funds. Some potential problem areas could be:
- Lack of storytelling in content and images
- Lack of consistency in storytelling across multiple platforms
- Lack of visibility on Google
- Lack of visibility on major OTAs
- Lack of social media presence
- Lack of buzz
- Not maximizing local partnerships and demand generators
- Poorly targeted campaigns
- Poor reviews
- Weak brand
Do an Online Competitive Analysis
The above analysis cannot be done in a vacuum. It only matters relative to your competitive set. I’m not talking about doing a rate shop or looking at production reports. Instead, shop like a potential traveler.
Remember that your online competitive set is much larger than your immediate competition on your STR report. People searching on Expedia or Google are going to have many more options to choose from than the select few hotels you add to your reporting.
If you have access to Demand360 or Kalibri Labs, you can analyze your competition by channel to help determine budget. Are you under or over performing against your competitors on Brand.com, Expedia and Booking.com?
If you don’t have access to these tools, old fashioned online searches (in incognito mode) will do the trick. Here are some things to look for:
- How do you position yourself on your hotel’s brand website search results?
- Are you getting more or less reviews (and better or worse) on sites like Google and TripAdvisor?
- Shop your market on Expedia and Booking.com. Put in different demand generators and see how you rank.
- How active (and engaging) is the social media of your comp set?
- How does your Google Knowledge Graph showcase your hotel?
Determine Marketing Budget Allocations
Once you have defined your problem areas, it is time to put a plan in place that will impact those issues and close the gap. Which solutions will yield the greatest impact? There are some problems, like reviews, that will affect performance at every turn and should be fixed before proceeding.
For suggestions on which solutions to budget for and their costs, see our previous hotel marketing budget breakdown.
Stay Agile – Plans Will Shift
The days of 12-month marketing plans are out the window, for now. While you need to plan ahead, we suggest planning in tiers.
Keep an eye on OTA dependency in your channel mix. If that pendulum swings too far toward OTAs, is it time to turn on metasearch? (This will vary by hotel, but consider switching on if OTA contribution is 20% or higher for 2 months or more in a row.)
Have plans in place to target the following, but be ready to move the timing up or back:
- Business Transient
- Holidays & Packages
Continue to jointly plan with your sales and revenue management teams to get in front of the travelers that are active in your market. Be able to modify and change your marketing strategy as demand for your market changes.
By performing a detailed audit of your marketing efforts and determining what is working well and which areas you can improve, you will drive more business at less cost in 2022.
About the Author
Stephanie Sparks Smith can weave through the intricacies of the large hotel brands’ digital marketing systems and strategies. As Founder and Digital Matriarch at Cogwheel Marketing, Stephanie and her team help management companies identify the gap between brand and hotel level marketing to drive incremental revenue to their individual Marriott, Hilton and IHG hotels. Previously she was VP of eCommerce and Technology for a management company that grew to over 100 hotels by focusing on new builds.