When the Going Gets Tough, Hotel eMarketers Play Harder.
By Jitendra Jain (JJ)
Sunday, 14th December 2008
As the world gets harder, better, faster, stronger in many respects, so do the ripple effects of world events.

The recent attacks in Mumbai are a prime example - hotels the world over are now scrambling to take a re-look at their security measures. In terms of broader trends, the worrying shifts in climate pales in comparison to the economic downturn now upon us. Experts claim that this recession is the worst since World War II.

The world has always gone through natural economic cycles where every decade or more we take a step back and reevaluate just where we've been going wrong…but with increasing interconnectedness, reliance on virtual financial models and technology, the house of cards has become ever so precariously balanced.

The great thing about tough times is that it separates the boys from the men! It's a cleansing process so to speak…one that rids us of old inefficiencies and forces us to look at better, smarter ways of living and doing business.

In terms of hotel operations, the year 2009 promises to be a challenging one. Hoteliers will have to shake off those cobwebs and put on their ‘exceptional service' hats. Hotel Marketers and Public Relations Managers will have to take a critical look at their spending habits and find more efficient ways to generating buzz and marketing ROI.

This environment is perfect for great Hotel eMarketers to shine and utilize the full potential of the Internet. From exploring new ways of creating consumer pull (compared to the older sledgehammer approach to pushing advertising) to making existing sites, campaigns and CRM more effective, the creative hotel eMarketer will have his hands full in the times to come.

Since the hotel emarketing niche is so new, you may be wondering just what sets great eMarketers aside from the mediocre? How do you find these people, hire them and more importantly…retain them? Here are a few thoughts and personal observations…

So what are the 5 Hallmarks of a Great Hotel eMarketer?

Great Hotel eMarketers get bored easily – More often than not, eMarketers hate repetitive work and will do anything to bring a little excitement and creativity into the mix. They require playtime to innovate and experiment…once a great idea emerges, they're usually back to business and thinking of serious ways to structure and implement their project. The most successful eMarketers will always be those who stand out from the crowd by doing things like no one else. Boredom, then, is simply an avenue to looking beyond the ‘usual'.

Great Hotel eMarketers are flexible – The Internet is in a state of constant flux and trends change fast. Great online marketing professionals realize this and welcome change…even if it means abandoning groundbreaking pet projects if they just don't make the cut for the business.

Great Hotel eMarketers have a hunger for learning – If anyone walks up to you today and claims they're an ‘Internet expert', walk away…fast! The web as we know it today has evolved just over the last 18 years, yet no other technology has impacted humanity so radically in our history. Great Hotel eMarketers are constantly learning and looking for ways to harness the power of new developments and trends.

Great Hotel eMarketers share a passion for technology – Technology is anything that applies human intelligence and imagination to generate processes and systems to improve the human condition. Great hotel internet marketers have an innate love for progress, problem solving and doing things better, faster, easier and differently.

Great Hotel eMarketers are great at sharing knowledge and networking – Competitive as they may be, great Hotel eMarketers are confident in their knowledge and passion for what they do and will always share that knowledge with others. These professionals are also great at building active and passive networks that they can constantly interact with and learn from.

For those Hotel Managers looking to get great hotel internet marketing professionals onboard, here are 5 Key Tips on hiring and holding onto them:

Hire eMarketers for attitude AND skill potential – Yes, attitude is extremely important…but in the Internet Marketing game, so is an understanding and grasp of the changing playing field. You're unlikely to find someone who ‘knows it all' (they'd either be self-employed or you just won't be able to afford them!), so look for the odd ones, the misfits…the dreamers and tinkerers who love technology, learning and experimentation…help them grow into the role.

Define the big picture and set SMART goals – Ensure you involve your hotel eMarketers in ‘big picture' discussions and strategy meetings for marketing, PR and revenue management. Not only will great new ideas come to fore, you'll also ensure your online activities are in sync with everything else. Set Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time-bound goals with your eMarketers, so you both know what you're working towards.

Leave them alone! – Once you've set those big picture goals, stop peering over their shoulders! Great Hotel eMarketers work best with a healthy dose of autonomy and creative license…the best way to ensure they pack up and leave is micromanaging them and through rigid job controls. 

Provide the right resources – Ensure you allocate the right operational resources to eMarketing activities and projects! Even if you've never done this before and are unsure of the results, take a gamble with calculated risks. While tried and tested internet marketing strategies can be planned and budgeted for, the more innovative attempts are often hit and miss. Encourage experimentation and make failures learning opportunities.

Recognize and reward success –Hotel eMarketing does have its exciting visible elements and successes, but it also involves a lot of back breaking technical work, failed attempts and constant research. Just because eMarketing is a difficult area to understand and relate to, hoteliers must avoid the costly mistake of letting it slip to the bylines. Make it a habit to celebrate successes and reward your eMarketing pro with the recognition they deserve.

Excelling in difficult times boils down to a great mix of innovation, competition and working smarter, not just harder. So in the recession to come, hoteliers need to ensure they're using the full potential of the Internet. Get yourself a savvy Hotel eMarketer who's just as excited about your business as you are. If you're lucky enough to already have one, send him/her out to PLAY even harder…and watch the tides turn.

About the author: At work, Jitendra Jain (JJ) is employed with Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Dubai as an E-Commerce Manager and handles hotel online marketing & distribution. At play, he is the founder of various online initiatives like hotelemarketer.com, thetalentjungle.com and younghotelier.com (among others) that dream, connect, educate and share all that is glorious about hospitality, technology and most importantly…the people that define our times.

Disclamer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views, developments or outlook of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

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