9 Critical Issues to Consider Before You Buy Hotel Email Marketing Software
In today’s rapidly changing, increasingly digitized economy, email marketing software has become the lifeblood of savvy hotel marketers. It can often be the determining factor between success and failure both for your marketing campaigns and for your brand.
But today’s marketing software landscape is flooded with thousands of solutions offering varying features and benefits: There were, in fact, more than 3,500 solutions on the market as of 2016, and that number is likely to only go up.
That sort of environment can make it nearly impossible to find the right marketing technology for your hotel.
Here are nine valuable tips to help you make the right decision for your brand, whether you’re a small group or an independent property, to enhance your core hotel marketing initiatives.
1. Determine the ‘Why’
Before you begin any sort of hotel email marketing software selection process, you should ask yourself “why”: Why do you need it? Uncover the top five things that matter most to you, which is how you will define success in this process.
For example, as a hotelier, you might need an automated solution for confirmation emails. You might be looking to reach out to past guests to win repeat bookings. Or, you might want to implement an upsell strategy to incoming guests.
Once you have specific goals in mind, those central issues can help you to determine a detailed list of the problems you are looking to solve. How big are the problems? What sort of impact can this software have on your bottom line? Answering those questions can lead you to uncovering the core features you require in your hotel email marketing software.
Vendors can then discuss with you how their software can help you. Once that process is complete, companies that you feel comfortable with can compete for your business through the RFP process.
2. Advance what’s working
When we’re searching for solutions, we tend to focus on what’s not working and what we need to fix. But in the case of buying software, you should carefully look at existing behavior and advance what your team is doing right instead of just starting from scratch.
Analyze and share your current workflow processes, and make sure you pay just as much attention to what is working as you do to what isn’t. Put it all out there. You want your email marketing solution to make your marketing processes easier and better, so it’s important to zero-in on current solutions that already help do that.
3. Beware of ‘walled gardens’
There are thousands of marketing solutions available to you. Since hotels vary so much in terms of budget and team size, it’s best to pick the right combination of solutions to solve the individual needs of your hotel: By working with only “best-in-breed” products, you can create a high-level hybrid solution that can more effectively solve your marketing problems.
That’s because there is no Swiss Army knife in marketing software. No one company can provide a universal right solution that will work for all businesses in every industry—and none should make that claim. The only right answer is the one that is specialized for your industry and fits the skill set and needs of your team specifically.
As such, when looking at potential partners, make sure their software can connect with other software, like your property management system, that you are currently using or are considering using in the future. A seamless technology integration saves SO much time and allows your hotel’s marketing team to be more efficient with their resources. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.
4. Keep it simple
Software should be easy to use and to adopt. If you aren’t careful, you could hand over an advanced solution to your hotel’s marketing team with 50,000 extra bells and whistles that they won’t ever use. It’s easy to build software that can do everything, but it’s much harder to create something useful, concise, and targeted.
This is especially important for hotels, as they tend to have higher rates of employee turnover than many industries. The easier and clearer your email marketing solution is to use, the easier it will be to train future employees to leverage it to its full potential.
5. Know the trends
It is difficult to keep track of all the micro shifts happening in the marketing industry, but there are also lots of macro trends—which are easier to identify and keep up with. Knowing what they are specifically will help you make sure you pick the right software for your hotel’s needs.
6. Stay in your lane
Unless you’re a hospitality industry giant like Hilton or Marriott, you should not build your solution in-house.
I understand how tempting it can be to want to build something that’s customized, or to think that your internal solution might work well. But, no matter how talented your IT team is, there are many factors beyond the initial build.
For example, marketing software companies are continuously building, maintaining, supporting, innovating, iterating, and assessing. Then they do all that again and again. These are highly skilled teams who spend all of their time getting this one thing right. It is highly unlikely that in-house IT teams for independent hotels or small groups have that amount of time to give to only one area of the business. It’s also unlikely they have the time to keep up with the ever-changing technology in the marketing world, and as such, an in-house solution is likely to fall behind modern technology.
Your best bet would be to take advantage of the innovations of the marketing software industry so that you can devote more resources to what you do best – serving your guests.
7. Prioritize buy-in
Prioritize buy-in, high and low and on all ends, from executives to practitioners. When you understand the business needs of all involved, you’ll find yourself in an advantageous position.
Even if you found the ideal software solution for your business, it’s nothing without buy-in from the people who are above you and below you in the chain of command.
After you get that buy-in and put the software in place, take care to schedule regular check-ins. Ask these people how it can be better and how it can be evolve; everyone’s perspective is valuable. Purchasing software is the starting line, not the finish line.
8. Understand the importance of ROI
Software can be a major investment for your company. You must be able to provide a measurable value to that investment by proving ROI, especially as a part of getting that aforementioned buy-in from your general managers and other key decision makers.
The first step is to know the audience you are proving ROI to. Who is the budget holder, and what will affect that person most? For example, if your stakeholder is numbers-driven, then show hard data – show how much money this software is making your hotel in directly booked revenue. Or maybe for some, the soft metrics of things you just can’t quantify will resonate more. That might mean items like the reduction of wasted time going back and forth with an agency.
You should also seek to match ROI to the earlier “why” – the key requirements you wanted from the software and the key pain points you are hoping it will solve. Doing so can help determine real value.
In addition, remember that investment returns require investment in the first place: Don’t go for the cheapest software just because it’s the cheapest. You are likely to get what you pay for. When determining the budget, measure the potential impact the software could have on your bottom line.
Finally, continuously prove ROI by scheduling regular check-ins with your key stakeholders.
9. Go for it: Avoid paralysis by analysis
Although making deliberate, calculated decisions likely makes you a responsible leader in your hotel’s organization, in this case that approach may not be to your advantage. Make the decision to go for it, and jump in with both feet.
Technology changes so rapidly that you can’t afford to allow the sheer volume of the choices and your analysis of them slow down or paralyze your decision-making. Make speed and adaptability your friends. That means allowing your processes to account for both quickness and the constant change of technology.
And, perhaps the most important thing to take into consideration here: If you don’t like your current solution, the best part is, you’re just renting it. Move on to something that will work better for you.