“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him so well it sells itself.” Peter Drucker
There is clearly a strand within my family DNA dedicated to hospitality marketing!
This is the only possible explanation for my early recognition of the importance of marketing to any venture and then the essential understanding that selling then has to take place for it to be considered successful. Selling cannot take place in a marketing free vacuum. The two are linked by their operations but are distinct with their own development processes and methodologies. In my experience I regularly come across marketeers who don’t understand the importance of selling and conversely sales people who just sell without recognising the context of the sale to the business. Whilst these are both professional roles in their own right in other industries, the nature of the hospitality sector, and in particular full service hotels, make the relationship far more dynamic and therefore demonstrate the need to bring the parties closer together. The hospitality sector experiences the close operation of the entire business cycle under one roof, simultaneously and in front of the end consumer – not many industries attempt this for very good reasons! Indeed within the major hotel brands marketing and selling are often handled by different parts of the organisation – something which is all too obvious to regular international travellers!
In marketing terms I was fortunate to be given the context for my marketing DNA when I completed my Hospitality degree at Oxford Polytechnic. The discipline of market research, product development, marketing matrix, measurement and feedback were not lost on me. I began to understand why my primitive attempts to change the product structure from the ground up in my first managerial roles in branded restaurants were not encouraged, despite receiving favourable customer feedback and improved operating performances…
The move into the full service hotel sector made it all clear. The industry was just too complex – a structure was required to make sense of the scale of the task. The basic marketing segmentations started to have an impact in understanding the range of clients using the hotel and the products they were likely to buy and the price at which they would purchase. Simple enough stated but within the operations understanding clients in a dynamic situation is essential to successful service delivery. Breaking the business down into manageable units of customers made training relevant for staff thereby improving their potential for service delivery. The importance of this was brought home to me on my recent work in the UAE. Despite having one of the largest and most competitive luxury leisure markets in the world the level of understanding of clients in the independent hotel sector where I worked was rudimentary at best. With just simple segmentations and structures in place we were quickly able to assist the staff in delivering improved customer service and building an inclusive marketing platform.
The Next Level…
The time taken for my second degree at Plymouth Business School was well spent and I emerged with a full repertoire of marketing and more importantly brand development tools to complement my previous experience. I was also able to recognise the progress made in understanding customer awareness and the relationship of brand to their expectation and experience. This journey has become even more important with the development of the internet. This has made the hospitality marketing process even more important to the end sale process. The new distribution channels, the transparency of products and the increased competition brought by the internet over the last 20 years has had benefits for early adopters like myself. By continually updating and refreshing on-line products and attending to customer relationship marketing it is possible to enjoy significant returns on investment and create a sustainable business model.
Online is Best!
It is probably on the battleground of online marketing that hospitality marketing and sales have their closest relationship today. However good your website there will always be a point at which your customers interact with your staff and then the sales team take over. Sometimes this will be by telephone but more importantly the online relationship will be extended into emails and social media during the sales process. This may well be at the business during the guest stay but at some point staff will need to have products to sell to the customer. Simple product sales techniques and up-selling skills have been well understood in the sector for many years and staff trained accordingly. Complex sales of events and bulk sales do require dedicated staff where interpersonal skills, motivation and sales ability are essential. The measurement of effective sales activity has been greatly enhanced by the introduction of the internet and resulted in the ability of sales staff to regularly handle a wide range of customers.
In the complex marketing and selling operation in the hospitality sector the function of the Communications Strategy binds the operational parts together. Constantly under review it allows all parts of the marketing, sales and operational team to understand their role and ensure that gaps in the chain are minimised. Organisations need such a strategy to handle the wide range of communications channels used by our customers as part of a long term consumer relationship. This will become even more essential as the sector evolves and new communication channels and means of promotion are introduced…