It’s a common dilemma for hoteliers: should I handle my property’s digital marketing in-house, or work with a third-party?
An in-house approach is often seen as being more efficient, unified and transparent. We get it. When everyone is, literally, under the same roof, you can keep tabs on the process, steer the ship and potentially save a few dollars along the way.
However, compelled by these apparent advantages, many hoteliers overlook the potential pitfalls of in-house marketing and fail to fully consider the upside of hiring a qualified third-party.
Here at Wallop we’ve observed this first hand: it’s common for us to speak with hoteliers who have previously attempted in-house digital marketing with limited success—or, in some cases, outright catastrophe. It’s not for lack of trying, so why is this?
Over the next three posts, we’ll discuss a number of examples in detail. Granted, we are a bit biased, but what quickly becomes apparent is just how important the tools, capabilities and expertise of an experienced partner are to driving ROI and avoiding costly pitfalls.
The Cost vs Benefit of Working with a Digital Marketing Agency
First, let’s take a birds-eye view of what digital marketing should be trying to accomplish and where in-house teams most often fall short.
Digital marketing should have a single, overarching objective: to increase your bottom line. For hotels, this typically takes the form of generating revenue from direct online bookings. To calculate your net gain from any marketing activities—whether it’s building a website, running ads, or maintaining your online presence—you’ll also need to consider the investment of resources: time and money.
Hotels who keep their marketing in-house are usually aiming to preserve one or both of these resources. In our experience, however, things often take the opposite course through missed opportunities, errors in execution and unanticipated quagmires.
This is usually due to one or all of the following obstacles faced by an in-house team:
- Their access to tools, data and resources is limited, reducing their ability to spot opportunities, act upon large data sets, and maximize potential revenue.
- They’re not equipped to ensure the security of the property’s web assets or they fail to maintain the accessibility features of these assets, inviting malicious activity or lawsuits.
- They’re not specialists. Their knowledge and experience in any single area of marketing is not sufficient to navigate unexpected difficulties and create a superior web experience for guests.
Let’s take a closer look at some specific examples from our experience.
Common Pitfalls of In-House Marketing
Example 1: The In-House Google Ads Campaign
In January 2020, we helped a boutique resort restructure its Google ad campaigns. Previously, they had been running campaigns in-house with a heavy focus on branded search terms—that is to say, bidding to have their ads displayed to people searching them out by name.
To all appearances, the property had been achieving great results with this approach, so it took some convincing to have them pass the baton to us.
The first thing we did was revamp the keyword structure of their campaigns and remove the branded terms. Revenue from ads dropped around 43% over the following three months.
A failure? Hardly. Over the same period, we saw a nearly 100% increase in overall transactions through their website and a 39% increase in users. Organic (i.e. non-paid) conversions increased by 75% and their ad costs decreased by 24%.
The previous success of their ad campaigns had been at the expense of cannibalizing their organic traffic and missing out on opportunities to introduce their business to users who didn’t yet know their name
What’s more, we were able to make full use of Google’s machine learning tools for their campaigns—something they had not been doing prior. This allowed us to bid on a much wider range of keywords, gather more data and get better ROI for every dollar spent on ads.
Our expertise with these tools and workflows developed from hundreds of similar campaigns allowed us to enter the scene and make an immediate impact.
Example 2: The In-House Targeting Plan
Many hoteliers have insight into who their guests are and where they are coming from, gleaned from years of first-hand observation at the property.
It’s common for properties to come to us wanting to target specific zip codes and feeder airports. Their research and experience tells them these are the key markets to go after.
Often, however, data can tell a different story. And in digital marketing, data should always be your guiding light—even when it clashes with your hunches and experience. Having a team qualified to gather and interpret the right type of data can illuminate which regions and segments are truly most likely to convert.
Sometimes the most useful insights from data are those that nobody sees coming. Take for example a luxury resort client of ours in the southwest US. By using the right tools to gather and read their data, we discovered that a user who has previously demonstrated interest in trips to New Zealand is 61.7x more likely to book at their property.
Over time, we can leverage these types of insights to build really profitable campaigns for clients—and they’re not something the average in-house team would be able to infer.
In our next post, we’ll take a look at some additional examples of where in-house marketing can go awry, focusing specifically on SEO strategies.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about what it’s like to work with a digital marketing agency and how Wallop can help you achieve your marketing goals, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the other posts in this series: