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Three experts on international brand growth and generating sales for independent hotels

Securing a strong presence in key markets is a priority in any modern hotel marketing strategy. Depending on the experiences and preferences of the hotel management team, the approach to grow brand awareness and sales differ for each hotel or resort.

Hoteliers often ask me why is brand awareness important, if a hotel can engage local travel agents and sales representatives to generate sales?

The answer is simple. Having a sought-after brand enables hotels to break out from the price-location competition, the property will enjoy increased demand, and business will flow mostly organically.

Three different experts share their opinion and experiences

For this article, I reached out to three international experts in my network.

Jim Sullivan, Managing Director of Balcony Media. Balcony Media is a leading PR company for luxury hotels and travel businesses. They publish articles in the most sought-after media outlets, such as Forbes.

Taeho Noh, CEO of Neo Marketing Plus in South Korea, representative of Vietnam’s Danang Tourism, and a number of luxury resorts in South East Asia.

Beth Searls, Principal of Canfield Lane Hospitality (US) will share innovative ways to generate direct business in the United States.

Managing Director of Balcony Media, Jim Sullivan shares Balcony’s approach delivering compelling stories in top media for their hotel clients

At Balcony, we understand that when it comes to attracting media attention it’s more important to be sensitive to what the media wants than to deliver what the client wants to say.

Press releases that look like marketing pieces are bound to fail. If you only want to give the media what you want to say, the more appropriate venue for that communication is in an advertisement. PR is trying to do something else. We’re trying to give the media facts and access and, to the extent possible, an honest appreciation of the spirit of a place. Ideally, a PR agent is an honest broker of information about a property.

We approach clients the way we did when we were travel writers. When we do an initial visit, we’re looking for several different angles of approach on a property — angles that are sharp and will penetrate an editor’s indifference. We don’t say a place is beautiful. We try to communicate what it is about the place — the design, the heritage, the differences — that would lead someone to decide for themselves that a place is beautiful.

Our due diligence on the property is the due diligence of a reporter. What kind of wood has framed the lobby? Where is that stone from? What’s the name of those islands off-shore? In the same way that storytellers are more effective when they are giving you something to see, and not telling you how to feel, a PR agent is most effective when he or she is giving an editor something to see. We don’t say a hotel is spectacular. We try to give you enough to see so that you might make that realization all on your own.

It’s our job to gather all of this information, in as compelling a way as possible and begin sharing as much with the media.

Taeho Noh from Neo Marketing Plus shares how to build sales and brand awareness in South Korea

Like other Asian markets, the Korean tourism market does not use English as a basic language, so it is not easy for independent overseas hotels to enter Korea and build brand awareness and sales.

First of all, I will explain the establishment and sales of brand awareness online and offline. Building and selling brand awareness online is basically a way to enter through global OTA.

Of course, it is difficult to say that entering the Korean tourism market through the accommodation reservation online system has entered the Korean tourism market.

The reason is that it is almost impossible for Korean tourists to directly select a hotel, collect detailed information, and make reservations. In addition, online hotel marketing companies for specific purposes are currently emerging a lot in the Korean market and are an opportunity to intensively raise sales and brand awareness, but they have the disadvantage of continuous lack of events and difficulty expecting cooperation with local travel agencies in Korea.

The way to do offline is for hotel employees to come directly to Korea and engage in marketing and sales activities. It is a traditional method, but it is still the most used method in many independent hotels. We cannot help but be skeptical about whether we can overcome time and financial constraints and increase brand awareness and sales through meetings and events offline.

However, offline is also the most direct way to bring about the effect. First of all, it is to connect new channels that can build and manage sales networks in Korea. Through the channel, new information, events, and products are supplied in the direction desired by Korean tourists, and the method is modified through the results. At the same time, continuous promotion through travel magazines or travel newspapers published in Korea and communication with customers through online accounts will be the most effective way to revisit in the future as well as brand awareness.

Beth Searls from ITM, Principal of Canfield Lane Hospitality (US) will share innovative ways to generate direct business in the United States

Independent hotels and resorts, as with the rest of the industry, are intent on growing international/US travel business and securing the right customers that will pay optimum rates. However, unaffiliated properties bear more pressure to generate awareness, especially with leaner budgets and heightened cash-flow sensitivity than their chain-affiliated counterparts. The answer is not how to prudently spend a limited marketing budget; instead, the brilliant solution is to implement revenue-generating programs and campaigns for just a fraction of the cost. Consider how you can empower and expand your funds.

Unless you are selling out on a nightly basis, you have empty rooms of perishable value waiting to be monetized. Seize the opportunity to leverage your unsold room inventory as marketing currency, by trading it for targeted and very desirable media outlets/channels that may be unrealistic to secure within your current budget. Bartering your unsold rooms translates to buying power to bolster brand exposure, advertising, promotions, and PR. This astute strategy is a fiscally responsible marketing and financial tool.

Innovative Travel Marketing has been helping hotels stretch their marketing dollars to deliver targeted advertising and promotions for over 25 years. It has been the secret sauce for savvy luxury and lifestyle hoteliers to help gain more affluent, direct business that stays longer at higher rates.

Few would argue that prudently, well-placed advertising programs raise brand awareness, drive website traffic, and generate leads. When you subsidize these marketing opportunities with trade, you elevate them to their greatest potential and truly maximize your return on investment.

This is an optimal time to barter your unsold rooms, especially as ownership asks hotels to increase topline revenues, while at the same time continue to reduce expenses, save cash and minimize profit loss.

How to measure brand awareness in foreign markets? Why is it important?

A growing number of smart independent hoteliers sign up for continuous brand analysis tools. It makes perfect sense, as they are interested in how their marketing and brand-building efforts are contributing to their brand awareness and popularity in key markets.

Don’t deceive yourself with pseudo-solutions

During the 2010s, businesses started to make use of data recorded from various online activities and events. Today, a whole range of web and social-media-based insights are trying to solve the age-old question of measuring brand awareness.

The problem is these insights are mostly useless. These statistics were made to measure actions and interactions done within a social network, or on a website – and not to make guesses about brand awareness or brand perceptions.

The industry-standard way to measure brand awareness

The only accurate way to measure brand awareness in any segment is to take a sufficient sample from the target customers and see what percent of them are familiar with the brand. The problem with brand measurement is that traditional solutions are not affordable for independent hotels and resorts.

Brand Auditor offers a perfect solution for this, with a streamlined market research solution where clients are in full control of their market research. The continuous brand audit feature enables users to manage campaigns from just $10 daily.

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