Hospitality and Marketing have worked hand-in-hand for generations, molding the way we view products and experiences within the hospitality industry. Before we dive into how marketing and technology (like social media) shapes the hospitality industry, let’s take a closer look at what marketing means.
Marketing is the act or process of selling or purchasing in the market (Merriam-Webster). Oftentimes, we may think marketing only applies to the act of physically selling an item but the term surpasses that. Hospitality marketing merges both the consumers' desires for a high-quality experience with reliable brand strategy and success, with the end goal of a repeat and high-paying guest.
Technology is an amazing tool that runs our daily lives, both personally and professionally. “The challenge for brands is to connect with customers through all devices in real time and create campaigns that work across social media, display advertising and e-commerce” (Benady, 2014, How Technology is Changing Marketing). As the technology industry quickly evolves, marketers and business professionals merge those new aspects into the world of hospitality.
Hospitality marketing consists of a few strategies for success (Concordia St. Paul, 2016):
Merging these four strategies creates a strong and ever-changing hospitality marketer. Having the desire to research, bring personal and professional awareness to the company, promote the company through an inviting hospitable lens, and building long-lasting relationships to, in the end, bring those consumers back for more.
Marketing acts as a building block for any business, within any industry - hospitality being no different. Over many years, the world of marketing has evolved across multiple platforms. What started off in print newspapers evolved to highway billboards, television commercials, and social media ads. The quality and complexity of marketing campaigns can mean the difference between a successful quarter or a not so successful one. You may think of marketing as selling an item to a consumer where hospitality marketing “must sell tangible as well as intangible products” (Concorida St. Paul, 2016). Many hospitality professionals have similar goals in mind - to provide an exceptional experience to their guests all while turning a profit and increasing visibility to new clientele. As you can imagine, marketing plays a pivotal role in enticing prospective guests and keeping returning ones. Take a moment and think of a marketing campaign within the industry that has caught your eye. The first one that comes to mind is Hiltons’ Expect Better, Expect Hilton with Anna Kendrick. Kendrick was Hilton's first-ever celebrity-focused campaign which, according to newsroom.hilton.com, was receiving a positive response from consumers (hilton newsroom). What may seem like a quick commercial, most likely took months or years to execute and deliver. Marketing is an art form, merging both business strategy and fresh creative outlook to hook consumers in and keep them coming back for more.
Marketing, Technology & Hospitality – Working Hand in Hand
Marketing, Technology, and Hospitality – these disciplines have a great amount in common. A marketer is a resource their organization can rely on for the most up-to-date tools to reach new guests and retain existing ones. Technology is an ever-evolving world that enables marketers to reach customers within milliseconds with just the click of a button. Hospitality merges all of marketing and technology together to bring a product, experience, or both to a guest who is looking to visit a new city, celebrate with a drink, or explore new cuisine.
Hospitality marketing merges the three disciplines to form a unique career role within the world of hospitality. Marketing is a vital business factor contributing to a corporation's success; without it, the company loses strong connectivity with its consumers from an internal and external lens. Like mentioned earlier, the four concepts of marketing include Research, Awareness, Promotion, and Relationships (Concordia St.Paul, 2016). Market research is a crucial component for understanding your current and ideal consumer. As marketers, your role is to drive your ideal consumer to the brand you represent – starting with market research.
Researching your ideal guest and brand strategy provides vital information that may have not been known prior. According to O’Connor, market research is one of the most important steps when working towards the success of a company. “The potential market for your products or services can be defined as the pool of consumers or businesses who would consider purchasing them.’ ‘Do you offer the lowest price? Unparalleled services?’” (O’Connor, 2013, Forbes). Market research allows you to understand your ideal guest, figure out what you do differently than your competitors, and use that edge as a catalyst for future marketing initiatives. Take hotwire.com for example; the budget-conscious booking site allows for guests to use a lottery system to garner the best deals on hotels, car rentals, etc. without seeing the name of the hotel prior to booking. Hotwire.com noticed the need for budget-friendly rental options with the creative edge of a lottery-type system.
Garnering brand awareness through multiple avenues is the second step in successfully merging marketing and the hospitality industry. Building brand awareness 20 years ago may have been seen through paper ads, billboards on the highway, and even door-to-door flyers. In today’s market, brand awareness mostly comes in the form of technology and social media. According to a case study published by Orbit Media, marketing campaigns, even grassroots ones, can result in increasing brand awareness. Orbit Media surveyed three Chicago non-profit organizations, one being Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), that was able to garner high traction through different social media posts. Through garnering brand awareness, marketers are able to use the brand-buzz to further marketing promotions and relationships with guests.
Promotions could be a seasonal spa-sale for a hotel brand, a winery offering exclusive deals for members, or exclusive promotions for a company's cardholders. A familiar example of industry promotions is a credit card with travel perks. For example, Hilton Hotels has an exclusive collaboration with American Express on a Hilton Honors credit card. With no annual fees, the credit card advertises bonus points, 7X points on Hilton purchases, 5X points on grocery & dining, and more. Promotions can also take the form of social media or email campaigns. Exclusive sales and discounts are a very popular form of email marketing, which merges the world of marketing and technology together. Email marketing has an average ROI of 3,800% (Salesforce) and 3.7 billion (statista) global users which holds immense marketing power that many hospitality groups take advantage of (Vos, Orbit Media).
Lastly, creating and maintaining a steadily increasing relationship with your ideal guest results in strong brand equity and a higher return on investment. Everyone’s end goal is the same: to garner more guests and impressions that result in greater spending dollars (through a form of hotel bookings, flights booked, items purchased, etc.). An example of a company that has an amazing relationship with its consumers is the Walt Disney Company. For decades, the Walt Disney Company has produced marketing content to entice guests to stay for various reasons. The company often uses emotion-driven clips of family, friends, joy, and excitement, the idea of what happiness looks like in the Happiest Place on Earth. Although their advertisements change on a year-to-year basis, they keep the overarching theme of welcoming happiness at the forefront. According to Burns, “Disney tells stories first, develops and sells products second” (Burns, 2015, Forbes). Through storytelling and garnering trusting relationships, Disney is able to keep its guests coming back for more. Many hospitality companies can learn from a company like Disney who has worked for decades to garner the trust of thousands of consumers.
The end goal is similar for many hospitality companies: to increase brand visibility, spending dollars, and repeat guests. Through marketing and technology, the world of hospitality unlocks a mass of opportunities for growth.
Marketing and Technology work congruently towards a mutual goal; when one evolves so does the other. Technology, since the birth of Facebook, has been an incredible tool for all organizations to use. Raining from organic to paid media, marketers can choose to focus on garnering attention through grassroots efforts or through spending dollars (or a little bit of both). Marketing technology comes in all forms like:
- Social Media marketing through platforms like Facebook
- Email marketing through platforms like Gmail, using platforms like GoDaddy or MailChimp to launch those emails
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills to ensure all wording on one’s website is attracting the most views with the least amount of spending dollars
Using technology to a marketer's advantage provides an endless world of possibilities to a company’s growth. The world of technology may seem daunting but learning one skill at a time is the best way to learn.
Key Operational Processes
For any marketing professional to strive within this field, one must be adaptive and ever-learning. “Long gone are the days of one-size-fits-all advertising and competition based solely on price” (Haque, 2018, Entrepreneur.com). As the complexity of the industry grows, so does the complexity of skills needed to perform various roles. The more skills you bring to the table, the more hirable & beneficial you are to the company you are working for. Think about marketing like an Instant Pot ®. The Instant Pot ® has 16 magical features that minimize the tools needed in a kitchen (steaming, air-frying, etc). Similar to a marketing professional that has multiple streams of knowledge, like analytical skills, communicative skills, industry knowledge, and more. You want to strive to be the Instant Pot ® in a sea full of generic 1-skill cooking devices. Some key operational processes that every marketing professional should have are described below.
Effective communication is an extremely important concept as a hospitality marketing professional. Who better to explain the importance of effective workplace (and personal) communication than Jenna Wilson? Jenna, creator and CEO of Career Civility, is an expert communicator. Jenna is passionate about the people behind a brand. Through her organization, she strives to instill effective communication throughout many industries. Below, she shares her thoughts on workplace communication.
Jenna with Career Civility:
"Entering the workplace, in any industry, is new, exciting, and uncharted territory. One of the most sought after skill sets employers look for in prospective employees is effective communication. And yet, very few managers, leaders, and team members know how to cultivate effective communication in their day-to-day work lives. That changes with you! Effective communication starts with listening and observing the environment around you, it is successful when all parties give clear expectations, and it continues to evolve over time. When interacting with any organization - whether it be in the interview process, on your first day, or even years down the road - always observe your environment. Take inventory of the people in the office -- Who is the “fun one”? Who is the quiet and serious one? Who is always interacting with the leadership team? And which employees are eager to help others? Communication is unique to each individual. It can be important to observe and listen to how others are communicating in their workplace. It helps to get a pulse on how the organization operates from a personal relations standpoint. From there, you have the ability to start creating your own communication guidelines and expectations. When working with a new manager or team member, do not be afraid to voice your expectations and boundaries. It is not rude or out of place to explicitly ask what is expected of you. In fact, it will probably be a breath of fresh air. Be confident in your ability to effectively communicate. And be confident in the fact that you may not know it all - and that is okay. New work environments are tough because questions can sometimes come off as incompetent. However, when being vulnerable to asking questions, it showcases that you are open to learning, it reinforces your ability to listen and it gives others the opportunity to do the same! If all else fails, you can follow these quick dos and don’ts.
- DO listen without multitasking
- DON’T assume everyone communicates the same way you do
- DO ask how people prefer to be communicated with
- DON’T be afraid to ask for help
- DO bring your whole self to work!"
(Jenna Wilson, 2020, Career Civility)
Analytical skills are important to comprehend as a hospitality marketer. As marketers, we are tasked to understand the ideal guest that the company would like to attract. A luxury hotel brand may strive to attract a different type of guests versus a local brewery and the guest they strive to attract. Understanding your audience and forming that communication between them is what makes a successful marketing strategy. Behind that blanketed statement are some fine-tuned pieces like analytics and data. “...You’ll be using data-driven insights to understand your customers’ needs in a rapidly evolving world, enabling you to proactively evolve your products alongside those needs. Many of the successful new ‘disruptive’ businesses - including Uber and Airbnb- are using data and its analysis as the cornerstone of their entire business model” (Haque, 2018, Entrepreneur.com). The data that is gathered can mold a marketing strategy to its top potential, attracting the ideal guest and resulting in more dollars spent. Being able to utilize data programs, like Excel, along with decoding what successful data may mean for the organization is vital. Take the role of a Marketing Strategist for example. A key proponent in your role is compiling the desired data, analyzing it, and turning those findings into digestible business content for other executives to use. These executives will then use that data to make larger business and/or marketing decisions.
The hospitality and tourism industry is fast-paced, with money being spent by the second. According to ustravel.org, “Direct spending by resident and international travelers in the U.S. averaged $3.1 billion a day, $128.6 million an hour, $2.1 million a minute and $35,700 a second”... “In 2019, $1.1 trillion in traveler spending generated a total of $2.6 trillion in economic output and supported a total of 15.8 million American jobs.” (US TRAVEL). These numbers directly reflect the guests that you will be working with, whether that be directly (like in an operational position) or indirectly (like in a marketing role). With a fast-paced environment comes high time-management skills. According to indeed.com, here are 10 ways to improve your time management skills (Indeed.com, 2019, career development) :
- Start your tasks early
- Set limits for what you’ll say yes to
- Give yourself breaks
- Prioritize your tasks
- Schedule your tasks and their deadlines
- Organize your workplace
- Learn your patterns of productivity
- Use technology to help keep you accountable
- Focus on one task at a time
- Reinforce your good habits
This list should be used as a guide and personalized to your lifestyle. For example, I often use both Google Calendar (refer to point #8) AND a physical planner to keep myself organized. Find what works for you through trial and error and your path to success will be limitless.
Tip: Use the time-management skills you are best at as talking points during interviews.
Willingness to Learn
Taking initiative and showing a willingness to go above and beyond is ranked the 3rd skill in the top 8 skills to succeed in the hospitality industry (Burton, 2018, highspeedtraining.co.uk). With the increasingly competitive nature of the job market, it’s important to be a jack of all trades. Although that term may seem overwhelming, take small steps to truly learn different techniques that can benefit not only your workload but your chance of getting hired and staying employed. For example, a smaller hospitality company may require you to wear multiple hats within a role. You may be running social media platforms, creating analysis reports, content creating, and even some website coding. On the other hand, a larger hospitality company may have niche roles like social media manager but having additional skills will not only help your resume stand out but will also help with promotions. Some extra skills you can add to your wheelhouse include but are not limited to:
- marketing certifications (search engine optimization, social media management, consumer report management tools)
- coding knowledge (HTML, CSS and Java)
- graphic design knowledge (photoshop and illustrator skills are a plus)
- communication sciences knowledge (understanding the psychology behind the consumer who you are targeting) & more.
Staying up to date within the industry through articles, academic journals and podcasts along with added skills or even a focus within your major can be the difference between your resume and a competitors.
Tip: If you are interested in a certain field of hospitality marketing, like the beverage industry, look on working towards additional certifications like your Sommelier License.
Lastly, do you have any fun skills that you can bring to your role as a marketer?
- Are you a writer? Start a blog.
- Are you interested in viticulture or fermentation? See if your university or college offers sommelier licensing or get a job at a local tasting room. This can help grow your knowledge of varietals and food pairings.
- Are you interested in sustainable hospitality? Join or create a sustainability committee or club.
These are additional talking points that could act as a potential focus in a future job or as an interesting conversation starter during networking events.
After completing his Hospitality and Tourism bachelor's degree from Purdue University, Mitchell Foresman found an innate passion for sustainability within hospitality. Throughout his first few years working within the hospitality industry, he was able to work on a magnitude of sustainability projects at his property. His involvement in various sustainability projects, like reducing overall hotel energy consumption and donating what would have been food waste to the Chicago Bridge Project, didn’t come without quite a bit of leg work. After starting his career with a large hospitality company as an Assistant Executive Steward, Foresman expressed his interest in furthering the sustainability practices within his property. Since then, he was able to collaborate with various teams within the hotel and within the company's corporate offices; resulting in great changes for his property, community and city. Since then, Foresman is pursuing a masters degree in Sustainable Tourism where he will be graduating in 2022. You can find Mitchell Foresman on LinkedIn.
Basic Management Functions
As a marketing manager, here are some basic management functions you can expect; these may vary depending on the hospitality organization you are working with.
Through your role as a marketing manager, you will deal with:
- Project Management
- Consumer Engagement Planning
- Data Analysis
- Time Management
- Project Allocation (to others on your team or within other teams)
- Budget Allocation and Finance Allocation
- Emergency Communication (sometimes taking place after-hours)
- After-hour Event Planning
- Creative Meetings
- Creative Planning
- Content Strategy, Content Creation and Content Forecasting
- Countless meetings with various stakeholders within and around the organization
As a marketing professional, you are often tasked with building the bridge between the tangible and intangible service that the organization offers with the business objectives of the business.
Types of Organizations
As a marketer, you work with multiple stakeholders both internally and externally to your organization. For example, a marketing strategist working for a large winery will work with multiple people like creative, advertising, finance, operations, corporate business individuals, and sometimes outside vendors. A marketing strategist at a local bed and breakfast may work with the owner of the company, sales individuals or non-marketing individuals, and any external partners if creative work is outsourced. As a marketer, you play a pivotal role in merging business and operations. This circles back to the importance of communication and time management skills.
Marketing Associate - Smaller/Medium Company
Marketing Associate - Large Company
Wearing multiple hats. This marketer may work on multiple marketing aspects along with other tasks like graphic design, administrative work, sales work, etc.
Focusing on a specific sector of the business but still may have meetings with multiple stakeholders internally and externally
Fortunately for marketers, the industry is only growing. Marketing, like front-of-house operations or engineering, allows for the business to thrive and flourish. Each role within a hospitality industry plays an important part in the overall growth of the company, similar to a cog in a machine. The hospitality industry is constantly looking for sharp marketing and social media professionals to fine-tune their brand. Typically positioned in a corporate setting, marketing within the hospitality industry can mean everything from marketing new talent to marketing new business. As a marketer, it is your job to rope the new or existing guest in for more. You invoke curiosity and ultimately, spending dollars.
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing, another career path within hospitality marketing, is a quickly evolving career path. Social Media Marketing merges the world of tech and marketing through cohesive branding and company voice.
Through a quick internet search, you can find a multitude of position listings for roles for all experience levels. Social Media Marketing tasks include:
- Content Creation
- Content Mapping, Scheduling & Visualizing
- Content Editing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knowledge
- Analytical knowledge
- Organic and Paid media knowledge
- Communication between internal and external partners
- A personal curiosity and passion for social media
What started as a foreign concept generations before has become a staple position within many companies. Social Media Hospitality Marketing includes travel influencers, corporate partners, business individuals, and both internal and external stakeholders. Why is Social Media Marketing so important in the world of hospitality? “Companies utilize social media to form online communities to build new business models that include a new product marketing channel (Chung & Buhalis, 2008; Ulusu, 2010; Yang et al., 2008), and build strong relationships with consumers by overcoming limitations of time and place (Bolotaeva & Cata, 2010; Sigala, 2003).” (Kang, 2011, Pg. 11).
With a dedicated degree and level of skills, you can achieve a role that targets a niche field. Our social media platforms drive almost every industry we consume from. If that interests you, it can be your career. Moving forward in a career in social media, you want to make sure you establish yourself as a great social media manager versus a “good” social media manager. Like I mentioned earlier, boost your resume with some skills like:
- Content Creation, Editing, Mapping and TrendForecasting
- Adobe Suite knowledge
- E-Mail Marketing Tools knowledge
- Social Media Scheduling Tools knowledge
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program knowledge
- Social Media Scheduling program knowledge
Utilize tools like LinkedIn Learning (a tool that may be free through your college or univeristy) to increase those skills.
Tip: If you are interested in working for a specific company, connect with various employees via LinkedIn. Networking never starters too soon!
As social media and technology evolve, so does the hospitality marketing industry. Social media is a technology that is ever-changing, with new additions and changes happening almost by the minute. Staying on top of industry trends through news outlets, business reports, and professional resources will provide the best knowledge to keep you ahead of the curve.
Social Media Marketing is a great role to enter the world of marketing where you are either working in-house or at an agency. Let’s break those two down with the chart below.
Agency - business out-sources it's marketing to an external company
In-House - all marketing collateral created within the business
As a marketer within an agency, you often have multiple clients at once working on multiple tasks at hand. Oftentimes, you wear multiple hats to get things done.
Oftentimes, this can save the company money and keep talent and company marketing tactics behind closed doors.
Some companies use a combination of both in-house and agency marketing.
The Pros of working in an agency:
The pros of working in-house:
The Modern-Day Marketing Path
The modern-day marketing role can have many faces depending on the company you work for - which is a recurring theme throughout this chapter. I’ll be focusing on two aspects of marketing, marketing strategy, and social media. Keep in mind that a marketing-focused hospitality career can mean much more than what I provide for you here.
Marketing strategy is a sector that falls under marketing; similar to consumer engagement, analytics, user experience design, communication sciences, and more.
Larger Companies vs. Smaller companies (and what that means to market as a role)
Large Company: Corporation
Small Company: Start-Up to Mid-Level
Social Media marketing is another industry that may pique your interest within the world of marketing and hospitality. Our social media platforms drive every industry and organization you consume from - and it can be your job too! What differentiates a good social media marketer from a great one?
|A Good Marketer||A Great Marketer|
|Familiar with trends that interest them but doesn't push themselves to discover other industry trends||Stays current on industry trends through news outlets, social media, and industry publications|
|Personal user of digital marketing channels||Understands the inner-workings of digital marketing channels|
|Always uses their strongest, specific marketing skill||Continues to develop themselves to maintain a diverse set of marketing skills|
|Prefers steady, unchanging environments||Embraces the ever-changing marketing environment|
|Working to strengthen their time management skills||Is organized and a master of time management|
Within the last decade, social media marketing has become a booming career opportunity for many industries. According to google.com/trends, the term “social media marketing” showed little to no interest in 2004. In 2007, when the first iPhone was released, is when the term, and rightfully the job market, started to take off. From 2010 to 2017, the term showed a 50% increase in interest - increasing steadily since then. Hundreds of Social Media Marketing roles are being posted to job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn daily. With the improvement of technology, the field is increasing which also means the competitiveness is increasing as well.
Marketers work to ensure a successful strategy for hospitality organizations. The hospitality industry is able to use those disciplines to attract their ideal guest and acquire a higher profit. Hospitality, like any industry, runs like a business. Marketing is a piece in the puzzle that completes that business model.
The enticing thing about a career in hospitality marketing is its need and transferability throughout many industries. As a professional in hospitality marketing, you can expect to work for a wide range of companies including:
- large wineries, distilleries, and breweries
- Restaurant Groups
- Lettuce Entertain You, Darden, Yum! Brands, Landry’s, Bloomin Brands
- Hotel Brands
- Hilton, Marriott, The Four Seasons, Hyatt
- Single Entity Hotels
- The Breakers Palm Beach (one of the last family-owned single-entity hotels in the US)
- Sustainability Initiatives (Corporate)
- Sustainable hospitality is an evolving avenue within marketing. A role like this would most likely take place in a corporate setting.
- theme parks, museums, tourist attractions
Within these avenues of hospitality comes a wide range of marketing roles one can pursue. Like many other positions, working ‘up the ladder’ is a traditional path for many in marketing. Keep in mind that a marketing role as a coordinator or assistant will evolve and grow into a manager or vice president down the road. If you are starting off with little to no experience in hospitality marketing, I would suggest working towards an internship with a hospitality company first. This role doesn’t have to be specifically in marketing but allows for a better understanding of hospitality companies and how they operate. Once some entry-level experience is achieved, one can expect to pursue roles like Marketing Coordinator, Social Media Marketing Coordinator, Email Marketing Analyst, and more. The terms Coordinator, Assistant, and sometimes Analyst will often be a job title for an entry-level marketer. With a few years of experience, one can expect roles like Marketing Strategist, Vice President of Marketing, or Marketing Manager to name a few. These positions, depending on the type of company you work for, can vary on actual responsibilities. If you are working with a smaller hospitality group, you can expect to wear multiple hats. A day can move from graphic design work to SEO brainstorming to copywriting. If you are working for a larger company your role may focus on a more detailed task at hand. In the end, everyone is working towards the same goal which is to garner more brand awareness and bring the organization more money. A helpful note to keep in mind is to envision yourself in a role 5 years down the line and understanding what roles may get you there. Taking a role that may not be your “dream” position may just be what will push you towards a promotion or that “dream” job in a few years. Taking risks and keeping an open mind will push you towards marketing and hospitality success.
Marketing and Social Media roles will range in pay, description, and detail depending on the company and city that you are working in. For example, what a marketing strategist does at the Walt Disney Company is far different than what a marketing strategist may do for a smaller startup company in Chicago, Illinois. Many marketing positions have a starting salary ranging between $40,000 - $55,000 per year. With five years of experience, you could be making $80,000. With ten years of experience, you could be making over $100,000.