Updated: Mar 22, 2019
Our Managing Director, James Hacon provides a checklist of areas you should consider when building your sales and marketing team and strategies. “While most other departments look after aspects of guest experience and the way a brand looks and feels, the marketing team should be the glue that bonds it all together. Someone who knows your brand inside out and can spot and tell great stories will put you in good stead in a world where content is king” Can we graphically show someone changing their face?!!!
Hospitality leaders are finally starting to value the importance of great sales and marketing as businesses turn from expansion to increasing market share given the saturation in dining out.
At this year’s Restaurant Marketer & Innovator European Summit, we saw a host of intelligent, passionate and inspired marketing leaders share strategies and tactics they will deploy in 2019 to fight for those sales and position their business for long-term success.
Marketing, as a discipline, is much more than promotion of products, it’s about creating, keeping and satisfying customers. While most other departments look after aspects of guest experience and the way a brand looks and feels, the marketing team should be the glue that bonds it all together.
Strategic-level marketing overarches the whole customer journey and puts the customer at the centre of decision-making. In this modern view on marketing there are three distinct disciplines – customer, commercial and brand.
The customer function centres on three areas:
Insight: At strategic level it’s vital you listen to customers, understand the market place and your competitors. Use this insight to guide your proposition and business development. The latest feedback tools will allow you to get a handle on your customers’ views on an almost live basis, avoiding dedicated survey costs and providing information you can react to instantly rather than ahead of big development projects. The biggest opportunity in this area lies in having an insight manager who understands data and feedback analysis and who’ll develop easy to digest insights with recommendations to operational and development teams. With so much data at our fingertips, these positions will grow exponentially.
Customer service: All businesses receive some form of inbound communication from guests, be it online feedback, reviews, social media or email. Forward-thinking businesses realise listening and engaging boosts the amount of guest feedback they can use to gain insights, improve the business, convert enquiries and improve digital presence. Depending on the size of business, this can be a role in its own right. These responsibilities have a distinctly similar skills base –empathy, good writing skills, an ability to embody the brand and a lot of patience. It naturally makes a role of its own within bigger businesses as a guest relations or customer service manager.
Direct marketing: With all that customer data, the amount of non-personalised, promotion pushing messages the industry sticks out is unforgivable. While some do it well in our sector, most don’t and we are way behind experiential sectors such as travel. It’s time we upped our game and started treating people as individuals, not a statistic on our dashboard. When collecting data, with the right set-up at the front end, well-placed, content-driving self-selecting segmentation and some clever analysis, you can revolutionise your open and conversion rates. It’s time to start thinking about lapsed customers, sending the right message to gain that one extra visit a year so many see as the holy grail. Once more, this calls for someone who understands data and can build out segmentation models. If really skilled, you could find this a dual function with insight but you’ve got to remember you’re unlikely to get this person to carry out the content development too, they are very different skill sets
The commercial arm is where it becomes a lot more tactical and focused on driving measurable direct returns from your marketing and sales activities. There are four distinct areas:
Local marketing: Marketing is increasingly about digital and having so many key channels online can lead to shared content becoming relevant to the brand’s wider estate rather than site-specific. There are always local angles and opportunities to get your message in front of the right audience. A local-based approach is growing in popularity, with many larger brands employing dedicated marketing managers to look after a cluster of sites or creating a marketing ambassador programme that benefits from local knowledge. If you aren’t considering this structure, it becomes even more important to work with site-level operators to help them activate the brand locally.
Inbound sales: Do you know if your availability is being optimised? How about the conversion rate of inbound enquiries? The time it takes to get back to someone who enquires about an event? Are you effective in converting opportunities? Do you know how many phone calls your business receives and how many get answered? I’m always surprised to find businesses that invest heavily in marketing but nothing on converting enquiries. Every hotel has a revenue manager responsible for the availability, channels and rates on offer. This is within the sales and marketing function, not finance. Any business will have a natural flow of enquiries and reservations, which you hope will increase thanks to marketing. If not doing so already, optimising this area could be your easiest win. The late-night sector has led the way in the growth of pre-booked covers by concentrating on in-bound sales management and conversion.
Outbound sales: Across the sector we find an array of approaches to outbound business development, from those nailing call centre activities to those with a site or regional business development structure. Many blend local marketing and outbound sales, which I personally find unhelpful as it crosses disciplines while marketing aspects of the role are often prioritised as they can be more fun and less traceable. There are businesses smashing outbound and relationship-based sales, particularly where there are considerable corporate or high-net-worth clientele to be had. The key is finding business development managers who are dynamic and hungry to sell, who will get on the phone, email or LinkedIn to chase opportunities and keep in touch with existing clients. It takes hard yards and is relentless to say the least. Be wary of sales teams spending too much time hosting but not setting up events, it’s one way of building corporate business but not the only way and, again, can often be an unnecessary distraction.
Digital: Generating enquiries and traffic to your website is vital. It’s about being visible through search, online maps and the best third-party sites and using that visibility to drive traffic to your own website before converting or capturing data. We’re talking search engine optimisation, digital and social advertising, then website optimisation. Far too many boards accept big numbers as marketing success, whether its web hits, database sizes, followers or reach. Frankly none of this matters if it doesn’t convert in the end. Someone who can drive online conversion is worth their weight in gold. There are some nifty tricks in this area experienced digital marketers know. One I picked up is how people regularly search for offers or deals, so having your proposition packaged in the right way to capture this traffic and convert it to a specific call to action is a great win – as is capturing traffic through dietary requirement searches to special landing pages.
It’s the area many small marketing teams concentrate on to their detriment, especially when senior leaders want to see direct and tracked results on their spend. Brand should be the thread of all of the above, making it feel cohesive. There should be a clear brand strategy in place for any business with an external face. You should be clear who you are – your purpose, proposition and personality. This should show through in everything you do and guide you. That said, I know far too many marketing leaders who think their role is purely guardianship of the brand. This guardianship should be based on customer views and insight and ultimately deliver commercially, otherwise what’s the point in having the brand (or marketing team) at all. I’m alarmed when I hear of too many rules surrounding a brand, it’s easy to be smothered. Marketers need to remember their job is about maximising the exposure and brand, not protecting it. Unfortunately, many use it as a weapon to defend their decision or inaction, which causes frustration and a lack of cohesiveness with the rest of the business. At the end of the day, your brand is only as good as your interaction with customers – it lives, breathes and will evolve naturally.
Two other key responsibility sets that have become increasingly important in the social age are:
Storytelling: Someone who knows your brand inside out and can spot and tell great stories will put you in good stead in a world where content is king. Telling a good story will help you get your message out via all your key channels – website, social, email, in-store and internal communications. We often forget the latter as we concentrate on customers. If you follow Danny Meyer’s principle of enlightened hospitality, you’ll know you concentrate on making your team happy and they’ll make your guests happy. Why do we spend so much time communicating with customers but not internally? The same with design. If you’ve got a great storyteller, make internal communications part of their role too. Storytelling is becoming as much about the visuals as the writing, traditionally separate strings but increasingly overlapping. If you can get someone who can write stories and produce great photos and videos, so much the better.
Visual: For many brands the aesthetic is what makes them distinct. Having a clear style can make or break a campaign and make a major difference in your brand’s pulling power on the high street. This is an area that’s usually outsourced, which is great, but if I’ve learnt one thing managing and working with agencies and freelancers, there is a degree of chemistry in getting the right match in terms of design. I’ve never worked with a designer who delivers on all briefs. It’s worth working hard to find someone who really “gets it” and aligns with your brand on a deeper level. If working with an agency, be sure to ask for that specific person to lead on your design.
You’ll notice I’ve not talked about creativity in this article. Having worked with so many clients, brands and campaigns, I know there’s no exclusivity on where great ideas come from.
You should engage far and wide to find them, internally and with customers and agency partners. I know that’s a long list and they aren’t mutually exclusive in terms of skills, but what it hopefully provides is a checklist of areas you should consider when building your sales and marketing team and strategies.