Much like the revenue management discipline, which underwent a sea change a few years ago, the marketing discipline is in need of a restructure. Marketing has become so dynamic and technical the discipline now requires a stronger, more integrated connection with operations and technology. Combining sales and marketing into a singular role, even at the property level, has created increasing challenges if you are looking to optimize both disciplines. Simply put: it’s time to consider separating sales and marketing functions. Let salespeople sell and book business, while someone else handles the property’s integrated marketing efforts.
This may seem like a recommendation for larger resorts and corporate-level companies with deeper pockets, so let’s start there. Management companies and high-revenue hotels and resorts can integrate this shift into an entirely new role. Keep the group sales separate, and then consider a position that merges marketing and guest-facing operations. But here’s the catch: this person must understand daily operational challenges and keep up with guest-facing technology to ensure back-end automation is seamless.
Hoteliers are notoriously behind the times when it comes to technology, but it’s quickly becoming a priority in the industry—and rightfully so. Who should lead the focus on marrying marketing with guest-facing technology? The IT leader may not have the same access to guest needs, so can’t nimbly adjust guest-facing messaging to address them. The operations leader might be an option, but he or she won’t necessarily have the comprehensive technology skill set—and, as mentioned, needs to focus on the guest experience.
Best of Both Worlds
So, what’s the solution? It’s a strategy Fortune 500 companies have already implemented, and one that the hotel industry can replicate: a director of marketing technology. The person in this evolving role understands the technology side of the industry and is also in tune with operations and experiential marketing and branding. This enables on-property operations and sales teams to focus strictly on the guest experience and booking business, respectively.
In other words, it’s time to connect the dots. Marketing is now more than public relations, websites, e-commerce, creative design, visual assets and branding. That’s baseline. Now, management companies and high-revenue hotels and resorts need to lead, review and audit their technology to figure out the best way to customize messaging and drive automated revenue to guests pre-, during and post-stay. And that requires someone who is an expert in both technology and marketing, but not too far removed enough to understand daily operations of a hotel and guest needs.
A high-level job description for a director of marketing technology might include responsibilities such as:
- Technology & Data
- Strategy and roadmap: Understand how to map business requirements to tech capabilities
- Technology selection, integration and optimization: Identify processes, data management and tech integration issues and potential solutions
- Data optimization and governance: Oversee and optimize tech platforms (including websites, booking engines and customer management platforms)
- Engineering & Optimization
- Technology architecture: Ensure the team understands how all the back-end systems flow together and communicate, including taking audit of hardware and software required for success
- Stack consolidation: Think strategically about tech and choose vendors that promote holistic solutions that suit the company’s needs
- Project Management & Training
- Vendor management: Serve as a tech liaison between internal and external teams, along with vendors and stakeholders
- System training management
- Change Management & Insights
- Innovation, collaboration and communication: Foster a culture which values experimentation, measurement and analysis of every marketing campaign
- Adoption and scale: Spearhead training and education across the company as well as lead implementation across the board
What If You Can’t Afford Another On-Site Position
This strategy shouldn’t be discounted by small and midsize hotels. The on-site sales manager will always be best at selling the hotel to groups. Lean into this and allow them to dedicate more time to selling, rather than adding the ever-increasing complexities for property-wide marketing to their plate. Consider outsourcing to a third-party hotel management company that can marry their knowledge in operations with the most appropriate marketing strategies for your property. They have heavily researched and vetted vendors, identified the most efficient systems and keep their finger on the pulse of the evolving technology to maximize your marketing reach. Use them as a resource.
The Bottom Line
Let the operations team focus on the guest experience. Let the sales team sell. Create a marketing technology role to connect all digital guest touchpoints which align with high quality user interface and user experience, while also having backend systems integrated and talking to each other. Ultimately, data and analytics should drive every marketing decision. By fostering evolution in the sales and marketing department and adding a director of marketing technology, management companies and high-revenue hotels and resorts can get ahead of the competition and set themselves up for continued success.
Michael Cady, VP of marketing for Charlestowne Hotels, has more than 20 years of marketing and advertising experience from agency, corporate hospitality and on-site property environments.