Why we need to keep evolving

By Petra Clayton

The last few months have seen the biggest blow our industry has taken in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 pandemic has descended every hospitality business into the unknown and the rule book – well I guess that no longer existsIt’s been an incredible feat for every marketer to tackle not just budgets, but consumer demand. The predictions and scenario planning hospitality marketing professionals have been setting have taught us all the important of evolving. 

During the past few months, I’ve spoken at several virtual events, sharing ideas, ways to improve communication and most importantly how to stay true to your brand.  

I planned to write a blog many, many times but as most of us have found, the days just aren’t long enough. So I’m sharing my views from the last few months but with the emphasis on pushing ahead now and lifting our heads to look into 2021 and beyond. 

  Stay true to your brand 

Your brand is everything, not just your identity or your logo or even your core messaging. Your brand is what you live and breathe and why you do what you do. 

We’ve always been fearful of challenging or changing our brand and it’s certainly been insightful seeing some brave enough to reposition and address the ‘why?’. So, let’s continue to work on our brand, discover what makes us work and why our clients and our employees love working with us. 

Businesses who stay true to their brand will have a stronger position within the market and with their audiences for years to come.  

 Evaluate your audience 

It is without a doubt the most important focus – understanding your audience.  

Every business has had to review their clients, their guests, their visitors. You need to understand what makes them love your business or what their pain points are right now. 

The needs and expectations of your audience is changing and it will continue to change, so look to next year. What will your customers want and need? Will their behaviour change over the next 12 months and can you adapt to satisfy their needs? 

Hopefully you’ve made use of the last few months in drilling down into your data to understand your customers and their booking patterns and needs. You might even have found an emerging audience for your business or identified a market that you can satisfy. Whatever you do, don’t neglect your data and your insight. Keep analysing and evolving. 

 Employee wellbeing 

It’s been reassuring to see that so many businesses in hospitality have put their teams first. The wellbeing of those on furlough as well as those working hard to keep businesses alive was a priority for many and it’s now paying off 

The internal communication and the support an employer is vital during a crisis but it’s just as important to take some of these new habits and investments and evolve wellbeing and support programmes for years to come.  

We’ve had to create alternative ways to remain connected so let’s learn from these and don’t just leap back into scheduled weekly meetingsThe more attentive and supportive you can be, the stronger your connection will be with your stakeholders. 

 Audit and evolve your messaging 

Everyone has had to evolve and change their messages, moving from micro marketing tactics to messages of reassurance and adaptability. 

Many have realised very quickly that the art of messaging lies in the planning as well as the understanding of the brand and timing.  

It’s still important to continue to develop a weekly content management plan that outlines all your messages and the relevant distribution channels. Whether it is a thought leadership piece or an email to your database, it’s important to continue to focus on creating engaging, informative, and inspirational content that expresses your brand values and draws the reader in. 

It’s been great to see so many hotels and venues share stories of what they were up to during lockdown, but it’s important to now evolve these messages and start to bring these new messages of positivity through communication for 2021. 

 Use your channels 

With budgets under threat and short-term marketing tactics taking a priority, it’s important to try to create opportunities once again.  

Auditing channels and understanding what now works and where your audience is ‘hanging out’ is critical to spending money wisely and guaranteeing ROI.  

While your message is important, the channel you use is equally valuable in reaching the right audience, at the right time, in the right way. Remember how attention spans and engagement differs across the channels and how disruptive channel content can be. 

Hold your budget 

Following the culling of marketing spend it’s important to invest time in rebuilding your marketing budget for the year ahead. 

This isn’t just about the revival, this is about building a plan for 2021 and securing those long leads and new markets. 

It’s going to be a noisy environment for a while so make sure you reshape your marketing budget in-line with your adapted marketing approach. Plan for the short, mid and long term and outline where money should be spent, how much and over what timeframe. If you don’t have access to a significant budget, utilise your partnerships and collaborate to generate mutually beneficial promotion and positioning. You can also maximise your efforts by focusing on more niche markets with your limited budget. 

Adjust your timings 

Timing is critical and needs to be used wisely over the next six months. As we have adapted to the government’s changing lockdown approach, our plans have had to be fluid and dynamic. Scenario setting works if we get the budget and the timing right.  

This month you need to focus on preparing, analysing and evolving your approach but you can only do this by monitoring behaviour and listening to your target audience. Traditional timelines are obsolete, so focus on what your audience is doing and when they are most likely to respond to your marketing activities. 

By continually listening to your target audience, absorbing industry guidance and keeping updated with the government’s plans will help you be ready.  

Watch predictions 

One thing we have all had to be good at is absorbing huge amounts of information in a very short space of time and applying it to our business. 

Let’s keep using this insight to create more knowledge and prepare more robust plans. Use the industry trends, news and data available to create your own assumptions on what the new hospitality world will be like and where you can focus your marketing 

Evolve your offering 

Customers are at the heart of what we do, so we need to adapt to what our customers’ need. Hospitality businesses have already had to adapt, but there is still more we can change. It’s always been about putting the customer first – marketing is about customer orientation, so we need to take notice of what our customers want from us now and make sure we deliver. 

People will want security and trust in the short term, but look forward to 2021, are you ready with an offering that will support the needs of a customer in a years time? 

Whatever you do though, don’t dilute your pricing as this can have a ripple effect and driving prices down will cause issues across the industry and for your brand in the long term.  

Be ready to act 

The future may be daunting and for many you will feel exhausted but being part of this industry means we can lean on our peers to collaborate and connect, so keep sharing, talking and listening. 

Make sure your team is ready for the next era of the business. Improve their knowledge through training and development, listen them and build loyalty, so they are prepared and will continue to be strong brand ambassadors and  

Don’t neglect your discoverability too! If you can’t be found, people can’t work with you or book your servicesso continue to improve your digital presence and keep adapting! 

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