How Do I Market My Hotel?

People often ask me how to get started in marketing a hotel. Usually this pops up during Q&A after a program or in the midst of a loud cocktail party just before dinner. It's a tough question, because I would need at least a day to get started. I developed the following outline as a response. Hopefully, it will help you and your owners.

Your job in marketing is to show those customers whose needs match your product how your hotel can fulfill their needs better than the competition.

To do this in a logical manner, follow these steps.

Look at your product

Make a list of the strengths and weaknesses from the customer's point of view and how you plan to improve your product with responsibilities, a cost estimate and completion dates.

Look at your competition

To market your product properly, you must know the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor so you can emphasize your strengths in areas where you know they are weak. Also, get a full rundown of rates/prices to help you set yours.

Look at your marketplace

First, list all the market segments that give you business. Then research what additional segments are generating business for your competitors. Then add other segments that will generate business in the future due to changes in your marketplace.

Position your hotel

This relates to how you want the buyer to perceive your product based on a realistic appraisal of it in relation to the competition and the marketplace.

Look at your needs

After looking at the status and trends of your business, prioritize your needs — in other words, when do you need the business?

Select the market segments you will solicit

Take your list of market segments generating business for your area and ask five questions before selecting segments:

  • Does our product meet the needs of this segment?

  • How does our competition meet the needs of this segment?

  • Does this segment meet our needs?

  • How much business are we getting from this segment? If you are getting some business from this segment, that suggests there is more out there. If you aren't getting any, you must decide whether this is due to a lack of marketing effort or whether the segment offers little potential.

  • How much time and money will it take to solicit this segment versus long-term potential of the segment?

Develop a written plan for each market segment

Each of these should include:

  • A clear description of the kinds of business you intend to solicit from this segment.

  • A clear definition of target customers for the segment.

  • Rates to be charged.

  • Special plans/packages and promotions that will be used to attract this segment.

  • Goals by month.

  • Strategies or the action steps you will take to reach your goals using sales, direct mail, advertising, internal merchandising and publicity.

  • Budget; go back through your strategies and price each step out by month.

Constantly monitor

Set up a reporting and evaluation system to compare your performance with your goals

Review and adjust

Review your progress and make adjustments in your plans on a regular basis.

Use of this outline by bright hotel people will result in an annual sales and marketing effort of which all managers and employees will be proud.

Tom McCarthy, CHME, CHA, spent half his career with Hilton and Marriott in sales, advertising and public relations and half in his own training and consulting business, Hotel Professional Education and Consulting of Falls Church, VA. He is a past president of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and a member of the HSMAI Hall of Fame. He can be reached at or 703-931-0757.

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