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10 questions every hotel should ask their marketing vendors

It often feels like hotel marketing is hurtling forward at rapid speed.

Just when you thought you were caught up on the latest marketing techniques, another social media platform, another app or another hotel marketing start-up enters the already cluttered scene, according to travel marketing firm Tambourine

Hotel marketing is time consuming and overwhelming. And, you need the right folks to manage it all. However, as an extremely long list of marketing vendors vie for your attention, how do you know if you’re going to end up with a winning partner? How do you know if the vendor has the chops to produce a sizable ROI for your property?

Here are some questions you should pose to any potential marketing partner before signing that contract:

1. What’s your experience within the hospitality industry?

The hotel industry is a dynamic and complex one, and widely different from all other industries. You’ll want marketing vendors that are experienced navigating the online hospitality landscape. Even better, you want them to have already made all of their rookie mistakes earlier in their career. Hoteliers deserve customized, expert advice based on thorough knowledge of the industry, best practices, metrics and benchmarks. Partnering with marketing vendors who specialize in hotels gives you a massive competitive advantage, versus working with an agency that spreads its knowledge and client roster too thin across all industries.

2. Am I investing in services? Or, do-it-myself software?

Several vendors are selling software that still requires you to manage and navigate on your own. Do you have the marketing team on staff to dedicate to learning and piloting this software? Or, is the vendor offering their expertise, their time and the talent to implement programs for you? Will they build your hotel website design or just give you a “CMS” (content management system) to build it yourself?

3. What ROI can we expect from you?

Seasoned marketing companies will be more than happy to give you an ROI projection, especially as you are narrowing down the field. The right partner will put the thought and the research into what powers your hotel, who your competition is, what your current business looks like and where to improve. In fact, be leery of any firm that refuses to provide you with a projection ahead of time. Never be afraid to ask.

4. What is your plan for ROI tracking and reporting?

Trustworthy marketing vendors will have samples of their regular reporting. Everything can, and should, be tracked nowadays and should be available to examine at your convenience. The more savvy hotel marketing companies even offer online dashboards with round-the-clock reporting.

5. How do you plan on customizing our campaigns throughout the year?

Marketing partners worth their salt should thoroughly understand your hotel’s booking windows season by season, and will know how to adjust marketing spend and your campaigns accordingly. They’ll want to know what has worked and not worked in the past at different times of the year and which travel trends to invest in.

6. How do you plan on incorporating our booking engine with our website?

The right partners will know how to drive online visitors through your website, all the way to the booking page using data and personalization. For example, when consumers visit, the site automatically identifies who they are, their previous views and past purchases.

7. What percentage of our online visitors should convert to direct bookings?

Beware of vendors who just promise to drive traffic, without mentioning how they plan on guiding your online visitors to book a room directly. Look for a partner who will put in the foresight and effort to help you optimize your conversions, not merely spend away your marketing dollars.

8. What percentage of our hotel revenue should be direct?

This is the perfect question to test the firm’s knowledge on the industry and see if they understand the significance behind recapturing share away from OTAs and more towards direct bookings.

9. What percentage of our online visitors should be entering our booking engine?

A strong indicator of the quality of your direct traffic is to watch the percentage of visitors who enter a date search on your website. Right now, hotel industry benchmarks are between 25-40 percent.

10. Which hospitality/hotel industry organizations do you participate in?

When a marketing vendor plays an active role in industry groups like AHLA, HFTP, HSMAI and state hotel associations, they’re showing that they’re investing their time and their talent to not only learn, live and breathe what matters to hoteliers, but also are concerned with how to assist them.

Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke is managing editor at Multimedia Publishing.

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