Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Size matters. Just maybe not what you were thinking.

Size matters. Just maybe not what you were thinking.

(Up front: We’re a smaller agency. On purpose. This blog post is about the value of small and mid-size companies like us and whether the big celebrity firms are really a good match for an independent hotel. So yeah, this is sort of a pitch on behalf of us and all our small and mid-sized brethren in the business.) 

Maybe smaller is better.

Which is why it doesn’t always work out when a single property or smaller management company signs on with an outside advertising, PR, digital or web firm that is simply too big for them. 

It’s an old story in the ad business. Some agencies will pursue almost any piece of business with a pulse whether it’s a size match or not. The big guns come in to pitch, the fabulous portfolio is presented, the client signs on and then . . .

 . . . they never or rarely see those big guns again and their budget doesn’t allow for the fabulous video or ad campaign that wowed them in the first place. And sometimes, a firm will outgrow some of its original clients.

If you’re Marriott, Choice or a large national management company with a few dozen properties in your portfolio, you’d better have big-time marketing communications support.  It just makes sense. And you’re paying enough in fees to that big firm that you can be sure of getting all the top-shelf stuff.

Then again, if you’re a single property with somewhere between 75 and 200 rooms it might not make sense to sign on with a big firm.  Here’s why:

An agency is a business with all the expenses that go with it. And the bigger it is, the bigger the monthly nut. The more profitable accounts are going to get the most attention and the best (and most highly paid) staff. It just makes sense. In order to make a smaller fee work, they logically have to either assign junior staff to the account, farm it out to freelancers, limit the hours applied to it or even put it on the back burner.

That’s why maybe that ad campaign seems kind of ordinary to you or those changes you need to your website seem to take forever to get done.  Or why your calls and emails don’t get answered very quickly.

In a very real sense, you’re competing for attention with other clients your agency, PR firm or web firm has. They simply cannot afford to give you the same grade of service their gorilla accounts merit.

There are a lot – a whole lot – of terrific small and mid-sized web firms, digital agencies, PR practitioners and ad agencies out there who can do great work for you.  And, as a mid-sized account, you’re more likely to have a team of experienced seniors on your account at a small or mid-sized agency than at a big one. It’s just the mathematics of the thing.

Don’t misunderstand. This is not a hit piece on big firms. We respect them and admire their work. But we wish they wouldn’t take on clients that are too small to merit their “A” material.

Think about this. Who is more likely to know your name, greet you, call you up if there’s a problem you need to know about or work with you to reach your financial goals – one of the local branches of a big national bank or a local community bank? At which one do you deal with a teller and at which one do you have a relationship with management? And which one is going to be more focused on the big corporation in your town than your small business?

Sure, it might be nice to tell people that you have the same agency that works for, say, Hospitality Megabrands Worldwide, but what does that actually do for you?


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Can't buy me love

Can't buy me love.

Everything isn’t always all the time non-stop about making money. At least not directly. Sometimes, it pays to look at the bigger picture.

Here’s an example. We stayed at a Kimpton once that held a two-hour happy hour every night, free for guests. They rolled up a keg of beer and some wine, laid out a bunch of nuts and snacks and let it go at that. Easy-peezy. In a sea of free continental breakfasts, this was different.

Another hotel might not want to have such a reception because it won’t make money. Making money isn’t the point. The point is to deliver the Brand. A clear Brand can drive Brand preference, and Brand preference is what leads to more repeat business and higher rates.

So it’s about making money, just not directly.

Same thing with special promotions. Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Summer Solstice, Valentine’s Day – whatever. Every one of them is an opportunity to do something other than just offer discounted rates. Do something fun and engaging. Put a rose in every room on Valentine’s Day, dress the staff in green and have a green beer special in the bar for St. Patrick’s Day, bring out the ghosts and goblins for Halloween.

And be sure to tell people you’re doing it – in your email blasts, on your website and Facebook and Instagram pages and in your advertising.

Remember, it all boils down to two words: “Do good. Tell people.”

No, nobody is going to book your hotel instead of somewhere else strictly because you’re having a Halloween Party. After all, Halloween is only one night of the year. But they are probably going to be more aware of you and pay more attention to you because of the collection of events like Halloween parties and green beer specials you’re having.

That whole “penny-wise and pound foolish” thing probably applies here if you think about it.


A hotel without a Brand is a commodity

A hotel without a Brand is a commodity.

And the primary driver for a commodity is price. You don't want to go there.

This is some of what we say about Brand on our website:

"Your Brand is not your logo, ad campaign or tag line. It's a supportable differentiation around which you deliver a unique value. And the moment you stop being just 'a hotel with this many rooms in this place' and start to tell the world that you're 'a hotel that is unique for these reasons,' you narrow your competitive set."

(By the way, anything with the word "luxury" in it is definitely not a unique value. Google "luxury hotel" and you will get 699 million hits. We know this for a fact because we did it.)

A Brand is what can keep you from competing on price. Without one, you may just be a commodity.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

You're getting ripped off with programmatic advertising

Clickbait. A low-down dirty shame, that's what it is.

If you want to know why some of us are so opposed to programmatic digital ad placement, all you really have to do is click here.

Bob Hoffman of the Ad Contrarian (http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/) calls it the "most eyeballs possible on the cheapest possible website." And it's a crime.

We've all clicked those sort of things now and again, but as a standard medium for advertising a reputable product or service? Please.

And yet, people do it all the time. And every one of those ads you see on one of these horrible sites counts as an ad placement. Somebody is paying for it.

Better? Place your own digital ads and don't let some heartless, non-thinking computer do it for you.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Too many toys

Too many toys.

Chats, nudges, undercuts, email captures, things sliding up and down, shooting in from the side, blossoming and this and that . . .

Websites are just too damn busy these days.  And for no good reason.

Apparently, there are droves of computer types out there working like dogs to develop a whole bunch of gimmicks and gadgets and whirley birds to clutter up your web site.

What - exactly - is wrong with have a clean, informative, well-designed website that can entice your target? In the minds of the techno-crowd, apparently, a lot.

But perhaps all these distractions just make it more diffcult for your target to get the point?

Just because somebody dreamed up some new intrusion into your website that will draw the attention of your reader, doesn't mean it's going to help.

"Less is more" has a lot of relevancy here.


Friday, October 4, 2019

On and off only works for electric cars

Off and on only works for electric cars.

(Actually, it works on other things, but this is a snappier headline than "Off and on only works on a lot of different electric things including cars.")

“Occupancy is down next month. We need to do some advertising!”

That was the essence of a panic call we used to get on a regular basis from a client who never quite bought into the fact that a steady, ongoing presence would go a long ways toward eliminating those occupancy black holes that can ruin your day.

Thing is, it’s a lot more cost effective to maintain an ongoing presence than to start from scratch over and over. Keep your creative fresh (just one ad over and over and people tend to look past it) but don’t disappear. It’s going to take more to get yourself back into your targets’ heads than if you just keep yourself there. Holding or saving your budget until you feel like you absolutely have to do something to increase flat business is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As flattering as it may be to us Ad Folk to think that all you have to do to create a bunch of short-term business is run an ad or two right now, it just isn’t so.

And even if that ad or two is built around a dramatic price-busting short-term deal, a) who wants to make a living on price-busting short-term deals and b) who wants to make a living on price-busting short-term deals?

It’s not exactly a “slow and steady wins the race” kinda thing but there is certainly a lot of currency in the “steady” part.

Remember, if you’re an independent hotel or resort competing with the big brands (and if you’re reading this you probably are), those big brands absolutely do maintain that steady stream of advertising and maintain a share of mind among your common targets.

Darting in and out of the marketplace can be hard marginally productive work.