Hotel Online Special Report

Hotel Common Sense
Marketing Plans Must Be a "Living Being"
They Cannot Sit On Shelves!


by John Hogan, MBA CHA MHS, June 2004
“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.”
Author Unknown

One of the hardest things to do in a hotel is to turns goals into reality.  Too often, those goals may be thought of and discussed, but not written down or acted on.   When they are written down, it is as a memo or perhaps as the introduction to a marketing plan, but with no or inadequate preparations to make those goals become reality.

Caring hotel owners, managers and sales managers at every size hotel and brand share the goal of satisfying guests. Many have ideas on how to accomplish that profitably, but then they do not create the road map on how to convert those goals into fact.  Without a workable, measurable plan, the hotel will likely fail to reach its true potential.  Doing only the “same old things” will at best yield some mirror of the past and the increased competition is not “staying the same.”

Budgets are created to provide a projection of income and expenses so there are “no unexpected surprises.”  Marketing plans are created to make sure that there is a “master plan “to meet those budgets, yet most of us have all seen detailed plans that sit on a shelf somewhere for up to several months at a time.  Someone may then decide to “see where we are in the plan,” but usually at that point some of those “unpleasant, unexpected surprises” have already been discovered. If business levels are acceptable, the plan may be declared a winner, and stay on the shelf until time to plan next year. If business is poor, the previous manager is too often blamed for inadequate planning and no further discussion is held on the execution of the plan.

Sales activities, marketing plans and financial budgets all require regular attention, monitoring and tweaking.  While all may forecast twelve months of anticipated volumes and activities, the market changes almost monthly and someone must review, respond and follow-up to those changes. 

Below are some critical steps to make marketing and sales plans work:

1.  Those responsible for the plans should be involved in making it.  Getting people to buy into a plan is much easier if they helped create it.  Owners and managers obviously have final approvals, but the individuals charged with the responsibility must have input regardless of title.
2.  Goals must be attainable.  Unrealistic goals will make people give up before they try.  Goals that are too easy defeat the purpose of the plan.
3.  Goals must be specific and include time frames. For example, X number of sales calls per week, attending Y trade shows attended in the appropriate month, amount of rooms booked this period and the revenue associated with it, etc.
4.  Goals must have specific methods for reaching them, such as personal visits, working old files, follow-up calls on outside leads,  cooperative ventures with the brand on promotions, etc.
5.  Action plans and steps are the heart of any successfully implemented marketing plan.  This means each person has particular assignments to complete by certain dates.  This can be finalizing advertising for Labor Day promotions, contacting all the athletic directors’ offices of visiting sports teams for the local college (by sport) by month, the dates planned to participate in sales blitzes with other hotels of the same brand, etc.
6.  Once the actions steps are reviewed and approved by the manager or owner, a follow-up system needs to be implemented. Each month, the action steps need to be individually reviewed. In larger hotels, several people may complete that.  In smaller hotels with the GM frequently assuming at least some of the sales activities, it means setting a specific time (the first Tuesday of each month at 4:30 PM for example) to update the action steps planned were met and to decide if options need to be considered for the current month.
7.  Goals must be measurable.  You cannot change the economy, but your actions can change how your hotel fares.  When reviewing the financial numbers monthly, it is relatively easy to compare revenues or profits with budget or last year.  With sales actions steps, it still requires comparing results with the plan.  This means matching sales calls planned with those completed, examining participation in brand programs, etc. 
8.  Using eCommerce measures and date from Smith Travel, Hoteligence or a series of other proven resources is becoming an essential. 
9.  Staff performance appraisals must be done regularly, and ideally quarterly. This does not suggest quarterly financial reviews, but giving regular and formal “report cards” to staff.  We all like to know how we are doing and waiting for an annual report is usually too long and what might have been easily corrected in April has become a bad and regular habit by November. When the financial review does come, connecting the sales actions completed to the plan makes logical financial sense because the results are usually apparent.
10.  Finally, the question comes to how make this potentially dry document “alive?”   The most successful hoteliers and sales professionals I know have found one consistent way to keep the momentum going.  Rather than wait until a certain season or time of the year when budgets and forecasts are due, these successful individuals schedule a regular monthly review above and beyond the previous month review identified in #6 above.  This session updates the statistics by day of the week to see if trends have moved.  The session will look at the total volumes, revenues and RevPAR figures for the month just finished and they will then immediately project the forecast for that same period NEXT year a full 12 months out.   This forecast may be changed in the budget preparation cycle, but it is likely the most accurate recollection of potential and reality will come immediately after the period is over. 

Valleys can be identified and action steps set into motion to fill those holes much faster.  In other words, the plan remains “alive” and responsive to the changing market. 

Marketing and sales plans are only effective if managers, owners and sales staff view the process as living and important.  Regular reviews of tactics that do and do not work are essential to long-term success.

Think Tank 
Questions of the day
These questions are offered to stimulate discussion about the way we do business.  There is not necessarily only one “correct” answer – the reason for this section of the column is to promote an awareness of how we might all improve our operations.

1.  Who sets goals for revenue or sales activity at your hotel?
2.  Is anyone accountable at your hotel for tracking trends and occupancy/revenue statistics?  If yes, who reviews and acts on them?
3.  How often does the person who is responsible for sales get feedback?  If you as the manager or owner are the one responsible, do you measure your activities and time spent against a plan with regularity? 

Contact me at 602-957-5810 or anytime and remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication or of Best Western International. A variation of this article can be found in LESSONS FROM THE FIELD.

John Hogan, MBA CHA MHS is the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for Best Western International, the world’s largest hotel chain.  Best Western International has more than 4,200 hotels in more than 80 countries and is one of the worlds most established and recognized hotel brands, founded in 1946 in California.

He serves on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity including the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the AAHOA Education and eCommerce Committee and is the Best Western liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.

He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from the University of Northern Washington.  His professional experience includes over 30 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He is a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA), a Master Hotel Supplier (MHS) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor for 20 years, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independents hotels.  Prior to joining Best Western International in spring of 2000, he was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He has conducted an estimated 3,000 workshops and seminars in his career to date.

He has published more than 175 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available on from HSMAI and other industry sources. 

He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing work on his Ph. D. which includes a 2nd book – The Top 100 People who Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.


John J. Hogan, MBA CHA MHS 
Director, Education & Cultural Diversity
Best Western International -
6201 N. 24th Parkway
Phoenix, AZ 85016-2023 
Phone 602-957-5810
fax 602-957-5815

"...we all need a regular dose of common sense "

To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.Online Search

Home | Welcome! | Hospitality News | Classifieds | Catalogs & Pricing | Viewpoint Forum | Ideas/Trends
Please contact Hotel.Online with your comments and suggestions.