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Even Smaller Hotels Must Plan Their Work and Work Their Plan

David M. Brudney, ISHC, September 18, 2012

I just returned from teaching a class on sales and marketing to a representative group of franchisees, independent owners and GMs of U.S. properties with fewer than 200 rooms.

Although most of my consulting practice over the years has focused mostly on fullservice, upscale and heavy group-oriented hotels, I’ve always managed to keep an eye out for how business is conducted at the smaller properties.

Besides, when Karen and I travel on leisure trips and we’re not patronizing some historic small inn or a charming B&B, we very often stay at Holiday Inn Expresses, Hampton Inns and Best Westerns.

The sheer numbers alone demand my keeping current with these smaller hotels. According to AH&LA (excluding properties less than 15 rooms):
  • 75% of all 52,000 U.S. hotels are 150 rooms or less
  • The average size of all current U.S. hotels is only 96 rooms
  • Nearly 65% are located in the suburbs and small towns
The topics that resonated best - - and prompted the most spirited class participation - - were social media, revenue management and OTAs.

What surprised and alarmed me the most, however, was the lack of awareness, experience and even basic interest in topics such as marketing planning, marketing plans, direct sales in general, and neighborhood or backyard marketing in particular.

I came away with the impression this group thought marketing plans were something done only on Mars.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” – John Wooden

Marketing plans are an industry standard - - every successful hotel has a written/detailed marketing plan that is signed off on and used periodically throughout the year as a benchmark to help measure progress and make necessary revisions.

Given today’s market dynamics, larger hotels have begun replacing the traditional marketing plan with “strategic conversations” where an executive committee revisits marketing and sales activities weekly - - at times even daily and hourly - - making necessary and timely adjustments.

Despite the impact of online travel reviews and ratings, OTAs, and brand website booking pages, an argument can still be made that 80% of all hotel reservations are either made from - - or influenced by - - a 20-block or 20-mile radius of every hotel.

Successful hotels plan on how to penetrate that 20-block or 20-miles radius. And that requires a commitment to producing a detailed and measureable marketing plan.

This will require some work and effort on the part of the hotel, to be sure. Researching who the customers are is part of the market analysis component. Equally important is the product analysis and the competition analysis - - two pieces of any plan that enable owners and operators to understand and accept their property’s strength and weaknesses, and what differentiates their product from the competition.

One of the most important elements - - again, for those smaller hotels with less than 200 rooms - - is to put in writing and commit to a detailed plan for overall direct sales.

If a smaller hotel has no dedicated sales department, no staff member charged with direct sales responsibilities, then the GM or owner must assume that vital role.

Direct sales primary action steps include: 
  • Identifying local/area KGBs (key generators of business)
  • Identifying targeted audiences (business travel, leisure and group)
  • Identifying potential local/area alliances and collaborating partnerships
  • Conducting a S.W.O.T. test for property and primary competition
  • Establishing goals and measurement metrics
  • Scheduling regular outside sales calls
  • Making those calls!
  • Recording vital information into a sales software/contact management tool
  • Follow up appointments and prospect site inspections
Without a formal written plan, any outside sales call program becomes hit-and-miss and very difficult to track. Far too often the program leads to the GM announcing, “I think I’ll go make some sales calls today.” Not a good idea.

Direct sales is just one component of a sound marketing plan and must be fully integrated with other elements that include advertising, promotion, merchandising, pricing, distribution channels along with social media platforms, travel and trade shows and budgets, of course. But
I’ll stop at direct sales for now.

There are dozens of marketing plan samples online if your property does not have a formal plan or if you are interested in creating one. In addition, most franchise companies offer marketing plan templates to franchisees. Templates may also be found on my colleague John Hogan’s site. And experienced hospitality marketing consultants are available to help both in person and online.

Plan your work; work your plan. Measureable results will follow. And you will have more confidence along the way.


David M. Brudney is a charter member of International Society of Hospitality Consultants

David Brudney & Associates – - 760-476-0830 -

David M. Brudney, ISHC, is a veteran hospitality sales and marketing professional concluding his fourth decade of service to the hospitality industry.  Brudney advises lodging owners, lenders, asset managers and operators on hotel sales and marketing “best practices” and conducts reviews of hospitality (as well as other industry) sales and marketing operations throughout the U.S. and overseas.  The principal of David Brudney & Associates of Carlsbad, CA, a sales and marketing consulting firm specializing in the hospitality industry since 1979, Brudney is a frequent lecturer, instructor and speaker.  He is a charter member of International Society of Hospitality Consultants.  Previously, Brudney held hospitality sales and marketing positions with Hyatt, Westin and Marriott.


David M. Brudney, ISHC, Principal 
David Brudney & Associates 
Carlsbad, CA 
760-476-0830 Fax 760-476-0860 
(c) 760-994-9266
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Also See: You can’t microwave marketing experience / David Brudney / July 2012

Collaborative Selling Necessary with Meeting Demand Returning / David Brudney / May 2012

PCMA's Successful Experiment With Hybrid Meetings / David Brudney / March 2012

Mike Leven Bullish on Las Vegas Group Demand / David Brudney / December 2011

Optimistic Forecast Bodes Well for U.S. Hoteliers / David Brudney / October 2011

Paid Search Producing Positive Results for Hoteliers / David Brudney / August 2011

It’s Time to Revisit the Art of "Check-Building" and "Add-Ons" / David Brudney / July 2011

Potential Business Lost by Hotel Sales Department Interruptions and Lack of Focus / David Brudney / June 2011

That Commitment to Excellence is Harry Mullikin’s Legacy / David Brudney / May 2011

Hybrid Meetings: An Idea Whose Time Has Come / David Brudney / April 2011

Next Gen Hotel Sales Pros Hungry for Storytelling / David Brudney / March 2011

Upselling Works Best Upclose and Personal / David Brudney / February 2011

Adapting to Change: Hotel Sales Professionals New Year’s Checklist / David Brudney / January 2011

Hotel Sales Professionals: Would You Buy What You Are Selling? / David Brudney / December 2010

Meeting Planner Voices Concern over Demand Return / David Brudney / October 2010

Value of Face-to-Face Meetings Resonates Even More Today / David Brudney / September 2010

Expect Hotels to Pare Back on Perks in 2011 While Implementing Modest Increases in Room Rates / David Brudney / September 2010

Good News for Meetings-Driven Resorts: Site Inspections and Bigger Group Bookings are Back! / David Brudney / August 2010

Kimpton Is Bullish on Fourth Quarter 2010 / David M. Brudney / June 2010

Landmark Decision by Arbitration Panel on Aviara Resort / David M. Brudney / April 2010

Group Business Comeback in the Cards / David M. Brudney / March 2010

Applying Five Tenets of Hotel Sales and Marketing in These Tough Times / David M. Brudney / January 2010

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