The Challenges of Measuring Marketing Success Right Now

By Theodore Holloway, CHDM, Vice President of Digital Marketing, Remington Hotels, and chair of HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board (MAB)

How do we define success right now? Is it breaking even? Selling out? Making more money than last year? Everyone has different methods for and ideas around measuring success for hotel companies, especially in our current environment. Members of HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board (MAB) discussed how they are measuring success and what they are finding difficult about it these days. Here are key takeaways from their discussion:


There are many different tools available for companies to measure where their business is coming from. The most common attribution tracking tool that MAB members mentioned is Google Analytics, but most members said that they use multiple tools to get a more accurate picture. “There are many ways to measure attribution and so many tools that we use,” one MAB member said. “None of it’s a perfect science, because the customer journey isn’t simple.”

One member mentioned using NAVIS to track bookings because a large percentage of business comes through their call center. Another member said that it’s a challenge to figure out where RFPs originate, especially when it comes to group business or catering business, where much of the business happens offline. “A lot of people still aren’t even really tracking group very well,” one member said. “A lot of people don’t know the metrics and don’t know where the business is coming from.”

Another member added: “Most folks don’t have a great system in place for this. We’re trying to track that on the B2B side with Marquette and Salesforce.”

“When it comes to groups and catering attribution, it depends on your KPIs and goals with sales,” another member said. “So, you can track RFP completions, but if you’re doing email marketing to B2B, then you’re also bridging the communication gap.”


One of the issues MAB members mentioned is that because there are so many cancellations, booked business doesn’t always mean money in hand. Even if the business doesn’t cancel, it may not be months until you see the money. One MAB member pointed out that it’s important to take all of this into consideration when budgeting, and to look closely at who is canceling when determining the effectiveness of your marketing.

“In February we booked $100,000 in business, but some of that business isn’t until September,” the member said. “So, if you’re not careful in how you’re doing your gross versus net calculations, it’s really easy to muddy the numbers. We look at gross numbers because marketing’s job is to get the booking. Sometimes they cancel and so you have to take that into consideration. For example, if 90 percent of business coming from your Facebook ads is canceling, maybe you need to update your strategy.”

Another member had different thoughts on looking at who gets credit for what business. “I think marketing should get credit for actually what we produce, and then it really isn’t on us whether people cancel or not,” the member said. “So, we ensure value, but when we look at the brand contribution and we look back on the month as to where the bookings came from, that’s where we do consumption base.”


Sometimes, it’s tricky to know how much information to share with your general manager when you are trying to explain ROI and negotiate your budget. MAB members said that how much detail you should go into really depends on the GM. Some want to know all of the exact numbers and correlations, and others just want a high-level overview.

One member pointed out that sometimes managers may not know best when it comes to attribution and ROI, so it is important to go over all of it with them. “You always have the GM or somebody who may not be up on marketing, telling you they got this great ROI, but then when you actually go back into it, the attribution model is awful and he’s actually losing money,” the member said.

Another member said that ROI may not be the best way to show marketing profitability. “I think the better way to do it is to look at the segment and look at the index in that segment, and then look at the channel and the index in that channel using TravelClick at that rate-code level,” the member said. “Ultimately, that’s what you can take to the bank and be confident that you contributed. If you can gain that market share at the segment rate and channel level, that’s probably more compelling, at least to me, when we talk about investments.”

Another member added: “It’s a tough balancing act. You need to get people excited, do some higher-funnel stuff, and not be so concerned about the ROI, but then you have the ownership saying every penny you spend has to have an ROI on it.”

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles