Hiring a Marketing Consultant – Why now? Why in this economy?Top Five Reasons to Hire a Marketing Consultant.
This is an article I wrote for the December 2009 issue of the HSMAI Marketing Review. In reading it over,it is as current today as a year ago!
The travel industry is still experiencing the affects of the deepest recession since the Great Depression. Our industry has taken the brunt of both a bad economy and bad public relations, as demonstrated in the media’s coverage of TARP funds and events at luxury resorts and hotels. Too often perception becomes reality. Yet there is so much more to the travel industry then that limited view.
As hotels, resorts, and destinations start to prepare for 2010 with new marketing plans and budgets, the challenges are greater than ever. How can we continue to do more with fewer resources? How can we cut our budget any further? How can we attract guests to our property or destination?
Time for a new look at marketing!
As organizations have eliminated many sales & marketing staff positions, as well as cut marketing budgets, the need for effective marketing outreach is needed now more than ever. The current conundrum is that we need marketing, but how do we pay for it and how can we tailor our marketing to fits today’s economy? Here there may need to be a shift in terminology as well as in a company’s mind set, from viewing marketing as negative expenses, to the more positive and realistic scope of marketing as an investment. And an investment is most rewarding when you keep making contributions! Marketing needs to be recognized as a continuous valuable building block to success, not to be randomly started and stopped. A great campaigned followed with no additional promotion or support defeats the results of marketing.
Too often marketing projects tends to fall to the bottom of the “to do” list, especially in today’s environment of overwhelmed staff and ever expanding technologies. This is where an outside voice can prove beneficial whether the property is an independent or chain, the destination is a first or third tier location. The advantages of looking to an external marketer are many:
- Save money from the beginning, as expertise can be targeted, project based and the fraction of the cost of full time employees.
- Eliminate the “we tried that before” mindset. Quality external expertise should bring a breath of fresh air to an organization, as well as the drive to successfully complete a campaign.
- Only buy what you need. Need to set up and maintain an email marketing campaign? Hire an email marketing expert. Can’t seem to get the press releases developed, written and distributed on a regular basis? Hire a public relations expert!
- Staying Current – Resorts and hotels as well as destinations are in the business to give clients a great travel experience, not to be IT professionals. It is important to be knowledgeable about today’s technologies and current marketing trends, but “buy the talent” as needed to get the job done.
- Beneficial Best Practices – easily stay abreast of what is working and what is not! Learn from your fellow hoteliers, including competitors, both what to do and what not to do.
Why now? Over all these are strategies that can actually save organizations money, control costs and increase revenues. Now is the time for target, cost-effective marketing initiatives.
How do you find a qualified marketing consultant? What do you look for?
It isn’t easy cutting through all the clutter and finding the right consultant for your needs. There are many so-called experts all over the web, so how do you get started and what do you look for? Two areas that should be at the top of anyone’s list are reputation and experience. The digital age can help with such professional websites as Linkedin and Plaxo. Here you can look at people’s backgrounds and contacts, as well as quickly review experience levels. Are the potential candidates using the digital tools you are looking for? What organizations have they joined and for how long? Who in their contacts list are colleagues you can call and get a recommendation? Unlike researching potential candidates for hire, a client can ask more in-depth questions. Know your property or venue. Will someone with large corporate experience have the tools and knowledge to work with a small independent property or vice versa?
Preparing for the recovery – get ready for the pent-up demand.
The “Cash for Clunkers” program proved there is pent-up consumer demand. Is your property ready to get its share of the travel and meetings demand which is about to happen? Why would a customer choose your property over your competitors? Here are some key steps to readiness!
- Determine your positioning in the market and communicating it externally and internally! If the employees don’t know or understand the destination or property position can they communicate the message to customers.
- Know your competition. This means knowing full well what your competitors are offering. Asking clients is also a great resource.
- What makes your property stand out in the crowd? This market is very full. Have you identified what is unique about your property or destination?
- Are all external communication systems such as eCommerce, email, Website, and Social Networking ready to go?
- Are all internal systems, sales department, reservations, front desk ready to communicate the message and respond to the results?
Thinking of entering the consulting world? Re-inventing yourself to compete in today’s market.
Recently NPR radio had a program regarding staying current in the job market. A very apt term, knowing your KSA quotient was used repeatedly. The KSA refers to knowledge, skills and abilities and the aptitude to communicate this effectively. Consultants have a limited opportunity to convey how they can help a potential client. Knowing and promoting your true KSA quotient is an excellent platform.
Here are some easy steps to increase your KSA quotient:
- Show examples of successes – have documents ready prepared and ready to email or present in person.
- Keep your skills up to date. Sign-up for webinars, subscribe to enewsletter and magazines and take the time to read the articles relevant to your market.
- Learn new skills – you need to stay relevant. Don’t be shy about signing up for actual learning seminars, especially technical skills.
- Don’t shy away from new technologies and new buzz words. Integrate them into your conversation and promotional materials
- Network, network, network – get out of the office and meet potential customers and colleagues. Get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. You never know who is going to become a client, or refer you as a reliable resource.
Marjorie Lane, Founder and President, began The Lane Group in 1994 after a successful career in Hospitality Sales & Marketing and International Tourism. Ms. Lane’s senior management experience includes Omni Hotels, Wyndham Hotels, Meridien Hotels and Resort, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, The Watergate Hotel and Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts. Ms. Lane is a graduate of Tufts University and a long-time member of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International. Ms. Lane is a past president of the Potomac Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. For more information please visit www.marketingforhotel.com or email Ms. Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org