“There’s a great quote from Bill Marriott that says something to the effect that when he first started in the hotel industry, the first impression people got of your hotel was the lobby,” said Dan Wacksman, CHDM, principal at Sassato LLC and chair of HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board (MAB), “whereas in today’s world the first impression people get of your hotel is your digital footprint — your website and other aspects of social media.”
That’s the point behind HSMAI’s Hotel Digital Marketing Essentials Series, a six-week online course that Wacksman is co-presenting with Holly Zoba, CHDM, principal at Scout Simply and an MAB member, from Sept. 14 to Oct. 9. Covering everything from paid, owned, and earned media, to the marketing funnel, to the distribution landscape, vendor management, and communication, the course is intended for hospitality digital specialists who want to sharpen their skills as well as generalists who are looking to stay up-to-date.
“What we see happen in the hotel space is, there’s a small group of people who are specifically dedicated to digital, but there’s everybody else who isn’t,” Wacksman said. “And there are varying degrees of understanding of how the digital space works and what’s involved in it — everything from people who might not even understand what Google is to people who have a pretty deep background.”
In a recent interview, Wacksman explained why digital marketing is an essential hospitality skill — especially during a pandemic that has disrupted the industry.
Digital marketing is marketing. “When I got into the industry, there was the marketing team and then there was the digital team,” Wacksman said. “The first team I was on was the internet team, and then it became the eCommerce team, and then it became the digital team. But most organizations have collapsed that. Marketing is marketing. The digital marketing budget in most cases has overtaken the traditional marketing budget. So, marketing is digital today.”
COVID-19 has made this crucial. “[Digital marketing] has become more essential, especially in the communication aspect of it,” Wacksman said. “One of the big things that happened with COVID is all of the marketing budgets have been cut drastically, so we’re relying on earned media, and earned media is essentially sweat equity; you earn it, you don’t pay for it. Understanding that and understanding how to use those resources during times like this is really important. When the budgets are cut as they are, you may have used paid media for some of this in the past, but you may not have the budget for that anymore.”
You only get one first impression. Returning to that quote from Bill Marriott, digital marketing gives potential guests their first impression of your hotel. “It’s everything from high-funnel things like building your brand, all the down to low-funnel like conversion and bookings,” Wacksman said, “all the way down to building loyalty and repeat visitors through continued marketing and digital relationship building with your customer or guest.”
Learn more about HSMAI’s Hotel Digital Marketing Essentials Series.