The panel of expert speakers featured no less than David Barrett, CEO of Hype Global; professor and digital marketing guru Dr Ian Fenwick; and Jon Cannon, Executive Assistant Manager at the Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach and a board member of the Phuket Hotels Association marketing committee.
The event*, held last Thursday (Dec 1), was moderated by BCCT Board member David Cumming, VP and Area General Manager for Onyx Hospitality Group.
Of all the basic concepts that needed a reminder, noted Mr Barrett, was that just having a website is not enough in today’s fast-paced world of interaction. Websites must be 1) regularly updated; 2) have relevant content; and 3) be “reachable” on a variety of devices (phone, tablets, PCs).
Without this triumvirate, even the simplest forms of web presence will fail as without the regular updates they will fall on search-engine rankings, leaving them invisible to potential customers, guests and clients, and without relevant content, visitors to the website will simply click somewhere else, he explained.
“Know your audience,” Mr Barrett said plainly. “You need to audit your content, define your user experience and plan the timing of your content delivery.”
Looking at the high-end of intelligent digital marketing, Mr Barrett also pointed out that data from users was rarely integrated into operations.
“Every time a person accesses the internet, there is so much information available that is not used. We know what device they are using, where they are, how they reached the website, and all this is available to be properly used in creating a digital marketing strategy,” he said.
Regardless of which forms of online presence a business chooses, whether it be a website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter – they all boiled to one critical concept, he added.
“Put simply, everything you do becomes your reputation online. It is as simple as that,” Mr Barrett said.
Dr Ian Fenwick, Visiting Professor of Marketing at the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration at Chulalongkorn University, focused on dodging disappointments, and how simply launching online advertisements were unlikely to succeed if they did not satisfy key core requirements.
First, was “Not a dash of digital”. “Do not just create a website or start a social media account and expect it to set getting good results. It must have a consistent useful presence.
“Also, remember that the people you are marketing to are participants – not an audience. You need to engage them, inspire them to take action of their own, even if it is sharing a post or clicking through to your website all the way to actually buying your product or service,” he said.
Dr Fenwick pointed out how the nature of interruption – the traditional basis of nearly all advertisements over radio, TV and now even online – was changing into extreme segmentation. Marketing campaigns, and advertisements alone, now need to be highly engaging – or at the very least very informative or entertaining, but best both – in order to be even accepted by a viewer.
This was best achieved through stories and theatre, he noted.
“Don’t forget that boredom and irrelevance is only one click away,” he cautioned.
A successful advertisement or campaign was also no justification for a victory parade, he added.
“Test. Improve. Repeat – this must be done over and over again to make sure that all the good hard work does not go to waste,” he said.
Jon Cannon, EAM at the Novotel Phuket at Kamala, noted how the current explosion in online marketing poses key challenges to the hospitality industry.
“There are new competitors (to the accommodations market), such as Airbnb, also new technology alone is posing serious challenges,” he said.
Citing a recent industry survey, Mr Cannon pointed out that 76 per cent of Millennials use friend’s recommendations when looking into booking a hotel, only 15% used travel agents – but 95% of travellers read peer reviews.
“And 65% of people overall used smart phones to research or book their hotel,” he said.
To keep pace with the digital revolution, hotel franchises have responded with expert diversification of managerial roles in hotel franchises, Mr Cannon noted.
“There used to be Sales & Marketing Managers, now there are Sales managers and Marketing Managers, and now even Content Managers,” he said.
On the ground, technology was also a key factor for guests’ experience, Mr Cannon said, pointing out that of all modern conveniences offered at hotels, WiFi speeds were critical.
“As soon as a guest checks in, they’re on their phones connecting to the internet. If you have just one guy who starts using large amounts of bandwidth, that can cause problems for other guests and not such a nice experience for guests who see WiFi as a basic service at their hotel while they’re on holiday,” he added.
Increasing bandwidth was often not as simple flicking a switch, and takes planning, budget and commitment to ensure it meets guests’ needs, Mr Cannon explained.
While the challenges are presumed to keep coming, Mr Barrett wrapped up the point during the Question & Answer session after the panel presentation that: “Now doubt that digital marketing benefits the customers.”
“You don’t need to be an expert, but you must be a storyteller – as people expect content to be regular and engaging,” he surmised.
* The event, part of the BCCT’s renowned Phuket Business Dinner series, was organised in collaboration with French, German and Netherlands-Thai Chambers of Commerce.