Thursday, May 21, 2020

"This is not my first rodeo."

The case for “been there, done that.”

Hotels and resorts will start to re-open before long and, in a way, it’s unnerving as hell. It’s kind of like we’re standing on the edge of a cliff and about to step off. 

That’s some scary territory down there – serious “we need to change what we are and how people look at us” stuff. A bigger boat is definitely in order, because that’s a big-ass shark of a challenge headed our way.

And it’s not a problem new PPC keywords or cosmetic changes to your website or nudges or teases or even Instagram alone can solve. It’s a lot more than that and gets down to some basic strategies about who you are and the overall thinking behind your marketing communications.

Which means you need somebody on the team who’s seen this movie already. There’s no substitute for experience.

It's almost like starting over - 

No matter what sort of hotel or resort you are – tropical, urban, convention, all-suites, all-inclusive, limited-service, suburban or luxury – you’re going to have to re-think a whole lot more than just your AdWords. Like who you are, how you do business and why the hell anybody ought to come by and stay for a few days. You’re going to need the kind of 360-degree thinking skills and knowledge of how hotels and hotel marketing works that one simply doesn’t pick up in their first five years in the business.

It’s going to take experience to pull the hospitality industry out of its current nose-dive, not just technology. The expertise a seasoned hand can offer was hard to get, and it’s precisely because of that experience that they can help. Someone who has stared into the abyss once or twice already will come in handy.

For example - 

If for example, you do a lot of groups business or you’re (yikes!) a convention hotel, your challenge is about as close to re-purposing as it gets in the hotel business. That calls for some creative thinking.

Here’s another example. Sadly, the younger, more junior people at companies all over the country were some of the first ones out the door when layoffs started. Many Millennials who are already saddled with college loans and not a lot of cash on hand are now out of work – so they’ll probably be travelling even less.

Your target audience just got older.

You’re going to want a message (and creative delivery of it) that resonates with that more mature, moneyed group. Somebody who can actually relate to that target is your best bet for getting that particular job done. Sorry, but most 20-somethings simply don’t know that much about how 50- and 60-somethings think and process.

The point is - 

There’s more, of course. But the point is, the expertise of Brand, advertising, public relations and marketing communications pros who can honestly say “this is not my first rodeo” and the breadth of their experience is going to . . . well, let’s just say it’s almost impossible to undervalue their contribution, as we head out into that post-Covid-19 world.

There's plenty of experienced talent out there you can call on. If you have an agency, make sure there’s a seasoned hand or two on your team. If you have anybody left in-house, think about getting some outside consulting to help out for a while. And if you use a freelancer, make sure they aren’t right out of art school. 

Because you are going to need a bigger boat.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Take a look at the little things.

Take a look at the little things.

One of our favorite restaurants is the Tastee Diner, a local treasure here in Bethesda. The food’s good and the company is great.

And right now, like all Maryland restaurants, it’s closed.

But they’re still busy going over the place, top to bottom, painting, repairing, replacing, improving – all those things a 24-hour diner can’t do when it’s full of customers. They’ll be ready for the re-opening.

You can do that, too. With occupancy way down, this would be a great time to do a physical audit of every room in the place. Take stock. Tighten every screw, repair every scratch, replace every worn or torn in-room card. Make sure the lights all work exactly right, everything in the bathroom is perfect and there aren’t any worn spots on the carpet. Maybe even look at all the power cords for things like the lamps and the clock. Are they neatly secured or a jumble?

When was the last time you physically walked every single room in the place? Do you really think everything is perfect?

Look at the little things as a guest would. Check the details housekeeping can’t be expected to manage with a schedule of room cleaning. But things a guest would notice.

Maybe you don’t have the facilities staff on hand right now to make all the corrections you find. That doesn’t mean you can’t have the world’s best To-Do List ready when they come back.

God is in the details, as they say. Now’s a good time to take a close look at those details.


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

About that 2020 marketing plan . . .

About that 2020 marketing plan . . .

It’s pretty much out the window now, isn’t it?

And 2021 went right along with it.

Your target may not look anything like it did when you wrote the thing. Or even just three months ago. You’re probably looking at more of a drive market now. And you might need to go a little heavier on business travel than you have. 

And if you’re (unfortunately) like a lot of companies, you’ve gone pretty much dark as far as marketing communications is concerned. So that climb back to where you were is going to be a steep one. And the competition is going to be stiff. 

It’s likely your media channels are going to have to be different, and your message almost certainly is going to need some modification. 

And you can plan on being expected to do all this with a smaller budget than you thought. More with less. 

So now is a really good time to sit down (virtually) with your marketing team, ad agency, web firm and PR folk and go through every part of your current marketing communications plan. 

Some innovation and creative thinking seem to be in order. 

What’s a new realistic goal for the second half of 2020 and the first two or three quarters of 2021? What do you have to do differently to accommodate that goal? Will your target be changed and what are the best media channels to adapt to that change? Where do things like your spa, F&B, tennis facilities and golf course fit into to alternative sources of revenue as rooms business struggles? 

Get ready to be ready, because Tomorrowland looks different. Maybe the marketing plan you put together in late 2019 is perfectly suited in every way for the challenges ahead of you. 

But we doubt it.


Monday, April 27, 2020

Is what you said what you still want to say?

Is what you said what you still want to say?

It’s quiet. Not a lot of guests in the house (if you’re open). And we’re all dealing with a new current reality and the promise of one down the road that's going to look a lot different.

So use the time to get ready for it. One smart thing to do, we think, would be to take a hard look at your Brand Promise and whether or not it's a relevant position going forward. Maybe it needs a bit of a refresh, what with all that's happened.

This is probably especially true for anybody who does a lot of groups business. That’s not going to dry up completely, but it could be a long time before it is what it was. And in the meantime you’re going to have to do something to take up the slack.

A refreshed Brand Promise you can build into your marketing messages will be a valuable tool in attracting the extra transient business you’re going to need. 

"We used to specialize in meetings but nobody’s having meetings right now, so we have lots of room for you” isn’t going to do the job.

But beyond groups, travel habits are going to change and you would do well to put some effort into figuring out if and/or how that affects your hotel or resort and how you may need to refresh your Brand to stay in the game. 

We're not advocating change for the sake of change. Maybe your Brand Promise is still on point and maybe not. Could be, you just need to change what you’re saying about yourself. What we're saying is you’d be smart to take a look. Sooner rather than later.

Hospitality is going to loosen up – eventually. But, like many other industries, it’s probably going to look different when it does. So, is what distinguished you six months ago going to be the same thing that’s going to distinguish you six months from now?

You need to figure that out.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

May hay in the dark.

Make hay in the dark.
Because the sun will shine again.

The travel industry has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But it’s not going to last forever, and you can use this “down time” to make sure you’re ready for a Comeback. One thing you can do right now is read this great piece on Hotel News Now. Some good stuff there.

(We especially like the part about the importance of creativity going forward.)

Here are few of our own thoughts:

Give people a reason to book in advance. Flexible cancellations and no charge for re-booking are common practices these days, so why not offer a discounted rate for rooms booked, say in the fall – and charge one night’s cost as a non-refundable deposit? That could generate some revenue now when you need it. And you could even offer an additional incentive by donating a percentage of that one-night’s deposit to a good cause. Sort of a "buy now/save later" thing. Your guests can save on a future stay and feel good about doing it. There is actually a group that provides the means to sell a "bond" and save you all the trouble. "Buy Now, Stay Later." Check it out here.

Don’t disappear. The economics of the situation aren't too different from a recession. And it’s a fact that businesses who maintain an advertising or marketing communications effort in the down times come out of it much better and much faster than those who disappear. This is not an opinion; it’s a fact. And, as an independent, you need to realize that your chain competition is certainly not going to go dark. They’re going to capitalize on their rewards club databases and stay very visible to their most important audiences. 

Smaller advertisers rely on a steady, ongoing drumbeat to build awareness and compete in a crowded environment with bigger spenders. If you stop advertising, it will slow or stop the awareness you have worked to build, and the cost to regain it will be higher. Playing catch-up always is. 

Look for media opportunities. Like everything else, media channels are changing because of the virus. Keep in mind that the number of businesses, wisely or not, going dark, means media channels are more desperate for advertisers. That means they’ll be open to negotiation, and you can get more for your money in a much less crowded environment.

So look for new products and ask for discounts and delayed payment options so you can continue being visible but pay later when business has started to come back. Don’t buy straight off the shelf at rack rate. Partner with your media outlets.

Take a hard look at your IT and website. One thing you may have noticed is that the way almost everybody does business has changed and a lot of it is going to stay changed. Distance learning, virtual yoga, overloaded online banking systems and the like. So maybe now, while things are slow, you could tune up your IT capabilities, get your database cleaned up and get the kinks out of your website.

There’s more you can do. We’ll share more ideas, and you’ll probably have some of your own. But the key to this is your mindset. Don’t hide and just wait for the crisis to pass. Plan ahead. And set yourself up for quicker success when the world opens back up for business.

It’s going to get better one day. The question is whether you’re going to be ready to take advantage of it or not.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

People don't stop thinking about sex when they go to work

People don't stop thinking about sex when they go to work.

They don't stop thinking about potato chips, either.

People are, after all, people.

And the same people who book hotel rooms and arrange for offsite meetings or contract for professional services, also buy cars, beer, auto insurance and movie tickets.

Which means you’re competing for your target’s attention with everybody who sells those things. So, doesn’t it make sense to use the same tools – especially creativity – those guys use? Of course it does.

There are two components to any decision, the intellectual part and the emotional part. In the hotel business, the intellectual part is what you have to offer – location, how many restaurants, whether or not you have a spa and so on.

The emotional part is how excited anybody gets about it.

That’s where creativity comes in.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


This is a simple headline. 

Thoreau implored us all to “simplify.” Occam’s Razor says that “entities should not be multiplied without necessity.”

At Nasuti & Hinkle, we go for the “do a few things and do them well” approach.

There are so many marketing toys and gadgets independent hotels can play with these days, it can give you a headache. Chat boxes, price checkers and pop-ups on your website, retargeting schemes, Facebook lookalike marketing, metasearch, geo-fencing, commission-only advertising, sponsorships, whirligigs and whimsies – more than anybody needs.

And there’s an army out there busy trying to sell you new ones.

Thing is, you can’t do them all. Or even most of them. Not with any real degree of effectiveness. The more of them you try to incorporate into a limited marketing budget, the less impact any of them will have. Doing a whole lot of things halfway probably isn’t going to do as much for you as being more selective and aggressive. 

It’s really pretty much like back when advertising only really employed print or broadcast. Running a small ad in a dozen magazines wasn’t going to have as much impact as running bigger ads in the six that would do the best job of reaching your target.

So maybe it’s worth taking a hard look at who you want to reach, what you want them to know and what the best channels are to do it.

Remember when your mom wouldn’t let you get a new toy unless you got rid of an old one? It’s the same kind of thing here. When you’re drawn to a Shiny New Thing, ask yourself which of the Shiny Things you’re already using it ought to replace.

It’s sort of like choosing between whispering to a whole lot of people or shouting to a smaller, better qualified group.