We asked Alan Young, the President and Co-Founder of Puzzle Partner Ltd. to share his thoughts on what it takes to be successful in hotel digital marketing today based on what he’s learned in his 25+ years in travel and hotel technology.

Read this article to learn:

✔ What matters most in any hotel digital marketing strategy
✔ Why the hotel industry has forgotten how to engage guests
✔ How to use storytelling, social media and mobile to increase engagement

Alan Young

Alan Young | LinkedIn
President and Co-Founder
Puzzle Partner

John McAuliffe: If I were new to hotel digital marketing what would you suggest that I focus on to be successful?

Alan: Digital marketing is multi-faceted and means different things to different people and companies. Regardless of how you define digital marketing, what really matters is that you know what you want it to do for you.

So, before anything else, you need to figure out what your priorities are and be able to answer this question: What is the end goal of our digital marketing strategy?

John McAuliffe: If one of my goals were to increase engagement, how would you suggest I do that?

Alan: Our industry looks at guest engagement as being a communication methodology and they’re not really engaging with the guest, they’re talking to them not with them. Digital marketing is not about servicing guests, it’s about engaging them. We’ve forgotten how to engage with guests.

Digital marketing is not about servicing guests, it’s about engaging them. We’ve forgotten how to engage with guests.

John McAuliffe: Why do you think we’ve forgotten who to engage with guests?

Alan: We believe that technology will take care of engaging with guests for us. Yes, technology can and does facilitate guest engagement but in an industry where customers take up residence in a room that’s owned by a company, a relationship actually needs to be developed.

Let me ask you this, what’s the difference between a standard room in a Marriott, a Hilton, a Hyatt and a Starwood?

They’re all 350 sq. foot rooms. They all have flat screen TVs. They all look basically the same. So how do you differentiate your hotel?

John McAuliffe: Good question. What do you recommend?

Alan: By telling stories. Very few hotels post guests’ stories on their websites but its stories that help build relationships and engagement between the brand and the guest and differentiate the hotel from the rest.

The hospitality industry as a whole needs to start sharing stories about their hotels and their guests. When you use your guests’ photos to tell your hotel’s story, you start creating fans of your brand. This only happens when hotels stop being fearful about what guests are going to say about their brand or property and start encouraging and embracing it – good, bad or indifferent. It’s one thing for someone to rant or rave about a hotel in a written review, it’s another to post a picture that says it all.

When you use your guests’ photos to tell your hotel’s story, you start creating fans of your brand.

John McAuliffe: Have you seen any hotels or brands that share stories really well?

Alan: Kimpton has always been great at telling stories about their properties and guest experiences. Progressive hotel companies like Two Roads Hospitality are much more “open” while public companies never want the truth to be out there. No matter how big your brand is, we live in a world where the information will get out.

John McAuliffe: How can I leverage social and mobile to increase guest engagement with my hotel?

Alan: I suggest using social media to bring social advocacy to the forefront of your digital strategy and empower your guests become advocates of your property by sharing their photos, videos and stories.

In terms of mobile, everything you do needs to have a mobile capability. To take that a step further, mobile engagement needs to be first and foremost, meaning the conversation should be two-way. Hoteliers tend to forget that digital marketing is not about sending someone an offer and hoping they take it.

John McAuliffe: To wrap it up, is there one piece of advice you would like to leave me with?

Alan: There’s one common thread that runs through everything I’ve shared. It’s that digital marketing needs to become more personal. That’s something you want to keep top of mind as a hotel digital marketer.

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