Time for UK hoteliers to take stock, and demand proof of concept

I wonder how many of you actually take the time to read any of the incredibnle mass of travel articles, blogs &c out there – and if you do, do you ever feel they sound familiar or actually have any relevance to your hotel  (or even ignore them because they don’t appear to).

Many of them of course originate from the US, where hyperbole often takes over from realism. I once signed up for a Facebook course from a guy, and ever since I’ve had at least 2 emails every day in live telling me how I should be making millions from search and social media – the former I could just about believe, the latter, most definitely not.

Why – because there’s no proof of concept. The most simple and generally accepted yardstick for sales, marketing and ecommerce activity, is – good old fashioned ROI. I contributed to a recent series of replies to an article entitled roughly – ‘how to measure ROI on social media activity’ – and the end result was, in a nutshell – well you can’t – and ‘actually it should be ROE (return on engagement) not ROI &c &c – how the heck can the busy hotelier find the time or even inclination to get involved with all this nonsense?

The honeymoon period for social media is well gone. And the current state as far as hotels are concerned – well most people I speak with either have no time for it, tell me it doesn’t do any commerce for them ( after all businesses sell, not chatter ), don’t know how to use it for business or what to use it for (other than perhaps a smidgeon of reputation management) – and often, very important, haven’t seen outstanding proof that it works as a displacement for the spend of marketing dollars from other marketing activity – nor is anyone prepared to give any proof – on the excuse that – well that would be letting you into our secrets wouldn’t it.

I have said in various articles before, that there are more ‘wannabe’ social media gurus and experts than my biggest clients get hotel guests in a year – and that’s a lot! I am still searching for a viable, cost effective, commercial SM marketing solution, an instruction book as to how to do it, and a measure of the ROI I can expect. I am not interested in engagement nor communication, I’m interested in room sales. All these ‘experts’ waffle on in innumerable articles, and when you ask them for empirical evidence, they usually don’t have any.  When you ask them for a risk assessment, they don’t have one. Anyone ‘qualified’ in social media marketing needs to have convincing, costed proof that their recommendations  work, and need to also have in depth community management, media law and/or libel case experience to deal with the downsides, which could be substantial and very messy indeed!!

People are unsubscribing from Facebook at the fastest rate yet. new member growth has slowed to a crawl. Facebook is trying to over complicate its offerings with gismos, gadgets and all sorts of things at a speed faster than the human mind can digest, and so might people just be starting to get fed up with it?

Alongside this, privacy issues have risen again to the top of the political agenda. I think people are going to demand more and more control of what information they want to receive, and this has implications for all sorts of marketing and data protection and management. To be honest the data protection act has really no teeth when it comes to email marketing, just notice how many millions of opt outs are out there when it should be opt ins.

In the mobile/smartphone device space, there are considerable problems related to the fact that the technology is way ahead of the market’s and the networks’ ability to absorb and keep pace with it. Again a whole raft of  ‘experts’ have appeared. Geotargeting and transactional developments are now centre stage. It took the web over 15 years to get to where it is now, yet the big explosion in mobile/smartphone activity has virtually been condensed into not much more than 1 year.  Imagine the pressure on networks, which is growing and growing, it must be like stretching a piece of elastic. I somehow wonder how the phone network copes now, far less what demands are growing for it day by day. I’m not against anything mobile/smartphone in the transactional space tho’, far from it. But don’t get too excited about it, it won’t produce miracles!

I’ll stick with Google. I’ll always completely exhaust all forms of ‘traditional’ sales, marketing, revenue management, channel management and ecommerce activity, especially on line, before I ‘dabble’ in social media in my order of priorities. I’ll always look at the opportunity cost of any marketing activity, after all I have a limited marketing budget I need to prioritise.  As a result, I’ll never use Groupon getaways. I’ll (for a long time yet I suspect) still prioritise web search and on and off page optimisation way ahead of its mobile/smartphone equivalent. I’ll ensure I manage my reputation on Trip Advisor properly long before I do it on Facebook. (and i’ll ensure that i manage any negative stuff on the latter in the offline space, NEVER the online, if i want to stay in business) Why – because the bulk of travellers are doing exactly the same. And so are the bulk of my hotel clients’ key competitors.

Innfinite is far from being a ‘traditional’ company. but we have been around from the start of the internet in travel, and have used the whole road map, been there, done it, bought the tee shirt, owned our own hotels and destination marketing company on the web, the lot. But right now our focus is on improving the competitive position of our clients, winning market share, and harnessing our vast first hand knowledge and expertise in travel shopping behaviour over a 15 year period and still evolving, to maximise hotel business conversions, sales, yields and customer retention in the most desirable markets and channels for each individual hotel. Our expertise in local and destination marketing has served us well in leveraging destinations very successfully for the benefit of the hotel, and for its SEO through link building. We helped give birth to some of the first unit hotel websites for the major chains and brands, historically obsessed with brand only websites.

I think the time has come when some ‘wizard’ or ‘guru’ should have a stab at producing the perfect business, sales and marketing model for the ideal hotel. There is so much written about out there, the BIG problem is its all un-co-ordinated – its easy to write an article about one isolated facet of e.g. social media or revenue management – try writing a combi-article when you are applying a whole raft of individual articles and facets into one great business model. I don’t think anyone’s got even close to doing that, or probably ever will.

If there’s one thing that does excite me and I want to be ahead of the game on, its TV.  I might just take a gamble on that one.





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