Welcome to another Expert Insights discussion.
Today we are joined by:
🔹 Stephanie Smith
In this discussion Stephanie outlines why she feels the ideology around the digital marketing budget needs to evolve, rather than asking the question “how much am I going to spend” we should be asking “is what I’m spending in the right place” – and this is where the marketing audit comes in as a first step.
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We consider the ‘ecospheres’ in which your hotel exists and moving beyond rate shopping and production reports to look at where your competitors operate in the social media universe – online marketing competitor analysis – which is much more important to hotel marketeers.
Finally, we consider how the marketing audit helps you identify not only what you need to spend and where you need to spend but, more crucially, why you need to spend it – building the business case for owners/investors that provides the confidence there has been some thinking behind the budget numbers rather than a “let’s add 5-10% on last year” mentality
Hope you enjoy it 🤞👍
NB: There is a transcript below with extracts from this discussion. Please note our transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors
🎞 Here are the video chapters:
- Guest Welcome (1:21)
- Why is a marketing audit so important (3:00)
- Problems an audit can identify (6:00)
- Ecosphere – what are the 4 areas (7:30)
- Comp set – moving beyond traditional competitor analysis (11:34)
- Evaluate what your doing well or not doing well (17:33)
- Surely a 12 month budget is not realistic (21:19)
- Wrap Up (28:30)
Here is the link to the article Stephanie wrote on the topic of Marketing Audit
Here is the link Stephanie mentions to check Facebook Advertising
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🎙LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST
Your advice is before you even start thinking, how much to spend, first consider where to spend it and that is why your advice is to do a marketing audit, first and foremost. Why is a marketing audit so important? Why are you saying that’s the first step you should be taking?
From a digital marketing standpoint, a lot of our budgeting is looking at it from an expense standpoint. So you had a budget for your website, you’re going to budget for SEO, maybe Google AdWords, social media, and you have these kind of buckets you’re looking at, and then you would look at the budget over the course of 12 months, and say, okay, you know, maybe we spend more in low season and less than high season and then you’d break it out over 12 months.
So I think the, the idea, the ideology around that has changed in terms of, you’re either in a position depending on what type of hotel you are, and what your ownership perspective is around spending money, you either have an owner that really leans into spend, or they’re like, we have no money, where are you going to cut? So I think before you can say “How much am I going to spend”, we have to say, let’s make sure we’re spending money in the right places.
We work with a lot of portfolio management company and we want to do all this for all these hotels, but I think you really have to look at it on a much more smaller micro scale, because one hotel could be doing really, really awesome on social media, without the help of an agency, but the other one might be doing really well on Google search, just based on the natural things that might have happened. So I think that’s where you know, it can seem a little bit daunting, but when you look at all the different (online space you are visible) – nobody uses the term ecospheres, (where) people can find out about you – you have to understand where you’re positioned against your comp set before you start spending money.
So what are some of the problems that you feel by conducting an audit that what are some of the problems that you feel can be identified or areas that would that would be flagged up?
I’m looking at it more again, from an exposure standpoint. So how easy and how often are you showing up in Google searches. So, I mean, obviously, everyone’s always doing different searches, but you can really drill down and say, Okay, these are where my weaknesses are, and try to put a plan against that.
Obviously, before you start spending money on otas, you need to look and say, what’s your organic present? This is, this is one I really find challenging with owners when they say, I’m going to give you $500 to spend on travel ads, or something along those lines, and you’re like, okay, well, do we need it? Like, what are the data points are we looking at to say, you know, are we already performing well on expedia? Are we getting our fair share? How’s the comp set doing in terms of that expedia production before we put the money there? You know, maybe, maybe we have decent exposure on Expedia and we need to put those funds somewhere else.
Kind of going through that process and saying, you know, looking at the total market, some markets perform really well on booking or going to Priceline and some don’t. So, you know, is that where you need to be spending your effort, depending on if that market produces via that, that channel ecosphere?
You’ve mentioned that word ecosphere a couple of times and you identify four core areas, Google and OTAs are two, what are the other areas when you talk about ecosphere?
I think when you think about ecosphere, we’re looking also at social media as a potential ecosphere, and then I think the other one, and this was kind of a weird one, but as I would say, I place even more greater importance on reviews, and what that does to not only your conversion, but also your exposure and the impact that it has on getting in front of more eyes when you have that positive review of yours.
I mean, we’ve definitely been in scenarios where the reviews are so bad that they were just never seeing an ROI on the money they spent. But it also relates to, kind of to your point, all those those other places so your reviews component impacts your exposure on Google, especially within that maps ecosphere. It affects your OTA conversion in your placement and you know, especially if you have you’re getting dinged for you know people having poor experiences that reduces your overall exposure, so the reviews are definitely tied. But it also has a direct impact on all of those different things. I think that average person still looks at like 34 different sites and that’s what they’re looking at, a lot of times they’re still looking at that reviews piece and it affects your hotel’s exposure and conversion.
You use the terminology comp set, but what you’re referring to there, if I understood correctly, is rather than the traditional competitor analysis that we’re all familiar with, you’re talking about it in the sense of online competitor analysis, is that right?
Yeah, 1,000%, you know, we had a call with a full service hotel the other day, and they’re like, h, we’ve got 30,000 square feet of meeting space, and our comp set, has 20,000 square feet, and that’s why they stay with us – and that’s separate, that’s completely irrelevant.
I said, right now, in today’s terms, you’re competing against a select service hotel, across the street, it’s a much more flat playing field, and especially Google really flattens that playing field, even the OTAs, they (hoteliers) don’t take into consideration those attributes – and they make your online comp set much, much larger than your star concept.
What I’m hearing to me, from a layman’s point of view, without the level of knowledge and marketing expertise that you have, just seems very sensible, it’s like in everyday life, isn’t it? I’ve got a certain amount of money that I can spend, there’s maybe slightly less money that I could spend now. What it what is going well, what isn’t going so well – there are only a certain number of leavers that you can pull
Yeah, and I think that happens a lot, especially when people ask us to do any type of search optimization, before you do anything, you got to take a baseline, you got to take a pulse, where do you stand today before you can, you know, adjust those KPIs and actually make any type of improvement on it. So, I feel like that first step in is always kind of missed, because everyone’s so in a rush to get those numbers into the, into the software for approval, waiting for it to get passed. And I think that’s the other piece, if I go into, and I’ve already said, here’s my baseline, I know where I’m at, you know, it’s a lot easier story to tell with ownership, because you’ve already got this, here’s where I am and here’s where I want to go – this is the gap I’m trying to close. And using these monies, I’m going to be able to close this gap. So it’s much better than me saying, hey, I want you know $5,000 a month to spend on this and that – there’s a better story to tell in terms of where are you where you are and where you want to go?
So, to me, it seems a very logical process, even if not a very sexy process to do.
To say, okay, actually, let’s just take stock before we go spending the money, and the time to make sure we know what we’re able to spend, where we’re going to spend it, and then why we’re spending it in those areas. Because that drives back to something you said right at the very beginning, which is, how are you going to measure it? How are you going to know that you’re that you’re having the impact? And sometimes you get a sense that, without that rationale behind it, you don’t actually know what what you’re measuring? Do you see that in your experience or is that just me talking a load of nonsense because I’m not a marketing expert like you are?
No, no, it makes a lot of sense. And again, if you ever there’s a process where you have to be able to show that you’ve closed that gap with the money that you’ve spent and then you know, once you start having those conversations about, you know, here’s where we are, here’s where we want to go then you get a lot more buy in and you end up getting more money to spend anyways because people understand your thought processes versus just being like okay, well, this one we spent last year you know, do we keep it in the budget to check it out. So it’s I think the other point is I hope at some point because of all the changes, that you mentioned that we somehow roll over to more of a rolling 12 months type plan, because, like, trying to ask me to plan for cube four of 22 2022 right now, I mean,
The other thing that I’ve talked about in previous ones is kind of having a tiered approach. So you know, at some point, and we hope, Ruby is going to come back. So you have a plan for group, you need to have a plan, even if you don’t know, if you’re executing it in q1, or q2, or q3, you need to at least have a plan. So you can say, when we start to see the signals, when we start to see, you know, this positive movement, then we execute on x plan. So that marketing bucket of whatever you want to do should be able to shift based on those triggers that routine is, as you know, like every 30 days, the entire world changes. You know, like do you have a plan in place for you know, weddings, do, you still have to look at it from a segment standpoint, and be be ready to pull those triggers. I’ve got to stay agile, because, you know, I’ve got a hotel right now. And it’s, they’re like, we’re behind the comp set, you know, five occupancy points on Expedia. So we have to spend more to make up that gap. And that’s where we see the biggest opportunity because we have no organic exposure. So we’re making that decision right now for this week. I know my plan for that.
The other thing I was going to ask you, traditionally, when you do a budget, it’s a 12 month budget. So I’m sitting there, I’m thinking, hold on, we all know budgeting is going to be challenging for this year anyway, but how on earth can you expect to budget for q1? And then budget for q4, as if it is if it’s a straight line? I mean, it’s just unrealistic, surely?
I think that the other thing that I’ve talked about is kind of having a tiered approach. So you know, at some point, and we hope, group business is going to come back. So you have a plan for group, you need to have a plan, even if you don’t know, if you’re executing it in q1, or q2, or q3, you need to at least have a plan. So you can say, when we start to see the signals, when we start to see, you know, this positive movement, then we execute on x plan. So that bucket of whatever you want to do should be able to shift based on those triggers. As you know, like every 30 days, the entire world changes. You know, like do you have a plan in place for you know, weddings, do, you still have to look at it from a segment standpoint, and be be ready to pull those triggers. You’ve got to stay agile, because, you’ve got a hotel right now, and it’s behind the comp set, you know, five occupancy points on Expedia. So we have to spend more to make up that gap. And that’s where we see the biggest opportunity because we have no organic exposure. So we’re making that decision right now for this week and I have a plan for that.