Many marketers today have embraced storytelling as a means to convey a hotel’s value proposition to consumers. Indeed, using storytelling techniques also can be effective in convincing colleagues to follow a strategy. However, stories not rooted deeply in reliable data sets are at best fiction worthy of artistic value only.
It can be daunting for property managers to digest all the new data reports that seem to have become standard fare for smart hotel marketers. Some of these reports may be offered to franchisees by franchising companies or offered (with discounts) by state and national associations. Broad industry insights and market-level information, whether historical or forward-looking, are always nice to know. These can lead to thoughtful considerations that may influence advocacy efforts and affect decisions regarding timing of investments.
There are many macro influences that we cannot change, from economic to political effects on travel and occupancy. Data that can be understood to change future business decisions on a property level often are more valuable in day-to-day decision making. TripAdvisor and online reviews undoubtedly changed the lodging metrics used in making operational decisions, evaluating manager performances and even calculating financial incentives to employees.
The landscape of sales and particularly distribution in the lodging industry has dramatically changed and subsequently so should the data upon which hotels adjust their strategies. In a highly competitive marketplace, it is worthwhile to each hotelier to learn about how new data sources may be used to make better, less costly and more profitable decisions. This is particularly true today as cost of customer acquisition escalates.
Two newer companies offering compelling and actionable data are Kalibri Labs and OTA Insight. Both specialize in data and insights that hoteliers need to confidently navigate today’s distribution seas. These unique and relatively new data providers for hoteliers have assessed the hotel investor’s dependence on distribution partners and the substantive expense spent on each channel. Understanding how different distribution channels perform relative to revenue and expense by evaluating pricing, seasonality, group business and competitors can be quite valuable to adjusting strategies and thereby future profitability.
Legacy data companies also are offering new reports. It often takes time to learn and understand how to use new data sets for better business decisions. This time is not only worth the outlay of time and energy, it is necessary in some markets. The ongoing integration of digital marketing, sales and distribution requires greater insight, not less. So, when faced with another and or different data report, as tempting as it may be, don’t throw your hands in the air, stick your head in the sand or claim analysis paralysis—embrace more data. Today’s stories of hotel sales and marketing success will be grounded in new data sets that show users how, where and when to take actions that change the right strategies in the right channels.
Donna Quadri-Felitti is Marvin Ashner Director, Penn State School of Hospitality Management.