Evan Crawford, VP of Marketing at Pyramid Global Hospitality
Evan Crawford, VP of Marketing at Pyramid Global Hospitality
The Hotel Moment podcast — episode 82

A first-party data relationship: an invitation to go deeper

In this episode of the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen Stephens, Revinate CMO, and Evan Crawford, VP of Marketing at Pyramid Global Hospitality, reveal that collecting guest data isn’t just a transactional experience — especially when you’re collecting first-party data. Crawford explains that this data type opens an array of digital engagement opportunities to explore and go beyond surface-level guest communication.

Listen in and find out how to use first-party data to your hotel’s advantage while imparting value to your guests along the way. You’ll also gain inspiration of how to leverage a variety of media channels like digital streaming.

Red, yellow, and blue lines to indicate soundwaves.
Headshot of Karen Stephens

Meet your host

Karen Stephens is Revinate’s Chief Marketing Officer and runs the sales, marketing, and customer success teams. She has more than 20 years of experience in the industry alone.

On the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen speaks with leaders to draw out their experiences and insights. She is also a Francophile and Prof K — a coach, a mentor, a guide to the people who work with her.

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Intro/Outro – 00:00:02: Welcome to the Hotel Moment Podcast, presented by Revinate, the podcast where we talk to leaders in the hospitality industry. If you’re looking for trends, perspectives, and stories from leaders in travel and hospitality, you’re in the right place.

Karen – 00:00:21: Hello, and welcome to the Hotel Moment podcast. I am your host, Karen Stephens, the Chief Marketing Officer of Revinate. And today we are thrilled to have Evan Crawford, a strategic hotel marketer and thinker. With an extensive background in brand development, Evan brings a wealth of experience as Vice President of Marketing at Pyramid Global Hospitality. His journey in the hospitality industry spans over a decade, marked by roles ranging from regional marketing management to corporate leadership, and all underscored by a passion for travel, online marketing strategies, and emerging technologies. Evan’s innovative approach to leveraging technology to enhance guest experience and optimize revenue streams has positioned him as a thought leader amidst the intersection of hospitality and technology.

Welcome, Evan.

Evan – 00:01:04: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Karen – 00:01:05: You know what? I’m really happy to have you here. And most people listen to this podcast, for those who are watching us on YouTube, we are sitting in a very unique room here. We are actually together in the same room at NAVIGATE Miami.

Evan – 00:01:16: No Zoom.

Karen – 00:01:17: No Zoom. I know. It’s kind of cool. So this is really fun to be able to do a podcast live.

Evan – 00:01:22: Absolutely.

Karen – 00:01:22: Okay. So I have a couple of questions to get started here. So your journey in hospitality has been marked by quite a few diverse sets of roles. So what initially sparked your interest in the field and how did you make your way over to your current position?

Evan – 00:01:36: Yeah. I mean, I kind of fell into the industry almost by accident. I don’t know if I want to tell the entire story.

Karen – 00:01:43: Let’s do it.

Evan – 00:01:43: You want the whole story?

Karen – 00:01:44: I want to know. Yeah. This is interesting.

Evan – 00:01:46: Well, if you really want to get down to the beginning, my mentor, who actually still works for Pyramid, is a gentleman named John McMullen. He’s an excellent sales professional and great marketing mind. And he was the director of sales and marketing for a resort down in St. Lucia. And his nanny was actually my girlfriend at the time.

Karen – 00:02:05: Nice.

Evan – 00:02:06: And so we got to know each other and he just needed some help. I was in college and started working for him in an assistant role and kind of graduated from college. He promoted me, and just started kind of learning the ropes of the industry — both sales and marketing. And, you know, just kind of progressed from there into, I think, Sales and Marketing Coordinator role and on up to a Marketing Manager role, all working with resorts in the islands. And it was incredible.

Karen – 00:02:34: Yeah. That’s a good life.

Evan – 00:02:35: Yeah. Really just, I have to say, without John, so John, if you listen to this, I love him. But without him, I would not be here today. That is for sure. And yeah, he’s been an extraordinary mentor, but I really kind of just fell into the industry, to be honest with you.

Karen – 00:02:49: Wow. That’s so cool. So what is your degree in? What were you studying in college?

Evan – 00:02:51: Communication.

Karen – 00:02:52: Communication. All right. Cool. So we’re in the camps.

Evan – 00:02:54: So I’m not far off.

Karen – 00:02:54: It’s not like we were, you know.

Evan – 00:02:55: Yeah. More the hospitality part is what I kind of fell into. But it’s my blessing, for sure.

Karen – 00:02:58: Yeah. So, you’ve been in hospitality from the jump then. So, right out of college.

Evan – 00:03:04: Yes.

Karen – 00:03:04: Wow. That is fantastic. Yeah. So now you’re at Pyramid.

Evan – 00:03:08: Yeah.

Karen – 00:03:08: So can you just give our listeners an overview of how big is Pyramid? What does the portfolio look like? And what is your role there? Or how do you integrate across all of those things?

Evan – 00:03:17: Sure. Yeah. So we have 200 plus properties in total, both brand and independent. I work specifically with our independent properties in our luxury and lifestyle division. The collection is called Benchmark Resorts and Hotels. So overseeing those, we have, I think, 70 or so independent properties. So that’s kind of where I fit into it. But yeah, really, really large company. To be honest, it feels smaller than that, which I think is great because I have a lot of great connections throughout the company and it’s a pretty great family. So I enjoy it a lot.

Karen – 00:03:47: Yeah. That’s very cool. So 70 independents, I think what’s always interesting about managing independents is that all of them have their own kind of unique feel. Like that’s kind of the beauty of it, right? You have the power of a big management company that’s able to standardize and do a lot of things. Every single hotel has its own flavor. So can you talk a little bit about how you approach that when you acquire a new hotel?

Evan – 00:04:09: Sure.

Karen – 00:04:09: How do you really figure out how to market and bring it into the fold?

Evan – 00:04:12: Yeah, well, I think, you know, most importantly, you want them to retain their own unique identity.

Karen – 00:04:17: That’s the whole point, yeah.

Evan – 00:04:18: So I think as we’re marketing the entire collection, it’s about where do we connect the dots? How do we showcase and highlight these unique experiences and these extraordinary destinations while also kind of connecting them, whether it’s through, I don’t know, themes and mountains and golf and spa and these common experiences? But, I think it’s really important to highlight the differences and the diversity because people want a diverse set of experiences. I think when things get too homogenous, I don’t know if they get bored necessarily, but you want to do things that are unique and have new experiences. And what we really focus on is not just the box and the bed. It’s more about the destination and how you immerse yourself in the culture and cuisine et cetera.

Karen – 00:05:01: Yeah, you know, it’s really cool. We’ve been, so as I mentioned, we’re here at NAVIGATE. And a lot of what is coming up here is the importance of emphasizing how the hotel fits into the local community and the local — and we know that younger generations coming up really prioritize that. It’s way beyond, as you said, Ed in the Box and all of that.

Evan – 00:05:18: Absolutely.

Karen – 00:05:19: I think it can be interesting if we talk a little bit about personalization because you’ve got 70 independents. You want them to operate, look and feel like an independent. But on the back end, can you talk a little bit about how you’re capturing guest data because you really want to be able to cross-promote, right? You know, this is a beach destination. Who else do we have at the beach? So talk a little bit about your approach to that and how you think of it.

Evan – 00:05:40: Yeah. I mean, well, to start, I think we probably can all improve in the way we do that. It’s an ongoing challenge, especially with, like you said, you have these unique properties. But in also many cases, they have varying systems that may be in place of different properties. So, obviously doing some work with Revinate to that end. But also we work with a partner called Laasie for a customer loyalty program who obviously integrates with Revinate. But using systems like that, we have no intention of being Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors. That’s not the goal. But first-party data is extraordinarily important. So the more we can cultivate that first-party audience has tremendous benefits to that. And then if we can enrich those profiles through systems like Revinate, then it can become that much more powerful.

Karen – 00:06:23: Really powerful. So I think if we talk a little bit about first-party data, as you mentioned, that’s kind of the gold standard, isn’t it? Because I think especially for younger generations, as we mentioned, I don’t think that they’re really interested in points. I think they’re interested in experiences. So can you talk about how you use that capture? What are the touch points at the hotel? I know there’s tech stacks going on below, but when you take over a hotel, how do you get them to think about how they get that data and leverage it?

Evan – 00:06:48: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, obviously, the reservation process and those interactions through check-in, mobile registration, website opt-in – I think a key element to first-party data capture is lowering the bar for receiving it. I think so often we’re asking for the blood type of the firstborn, too, in order for them just to tell us about themselves. I think lowering the bar for engaging with us, and then offering some sort of value to them in order for them to engage with us. So whether that’s a Laasie with some sort of instant gratification, or it doesn’t have to be always discounts, but some sort of value add for them to provide us with information about them. And then as we’re trying to get them to tell us more about themselves, continue down that path. But we don’t have to start by asking all of the questions. Start with a low bar, and then we can learn more about them. And I’m a communication major. So, you know, one of the most basic communication principles is peeling back the layers of the onion. And it’s all about, I tell you something and then you reciprocate and eventually we get to the core, right? You know, and I think that remains true with how we engage and that can be through digital engagements or in person, but we can’t just immediately go to the most personal questions and expect to get much of a response.

Karen – 00:08:07: 100%. You know, it reminds me of, you know, I’ve done sales for a long time. And when we very first rolled out what’s now called Revinate Marketing, it was called Inguest back in the day. And then, I don’t know what we were thinking, but we were like, “Oh, we’re going to pre-qualify these prospects and we’re going to ask them 20 questions.” I mean, everything, “What’s your OTA?” I mean, I don’t even know. But the bottom line is we would ask all these questions and then we would go, “Okay, great.” And here’s my demo. It’s like, what, if you’re going to ask the question, make sure that you’re giving immediate reward for that answer, right? So it’s like, we’re not just asking for the sake of it. And I think that that’s really important. You know, if you’re going to get the data, make sure you reward the people for giving you the data. So it’s very cool. As the landscape of digital marketing continues to evolve, what strategies have you implemented at Pyramid to leverage emerging technologies and platforms for effective customer acquisition and retention? So we touched on some of it, but…

Evan – 00:08:59: Yeah, I mean, I was just having a conversation last night. I think one area that’s really important is being where our customers are, whether that’s with messaging engagement or just anywhere that if we know a consumer is in a place, let’s not force them to go somewhere else to engage with us. I think that’s key. But it’s from like a media perspective. We’re playing a lot in the OTT space with streaming media, just taking a lot of the ways we can do targeting through digital media advice and taking that into more of a traditional form of media.

Karen – 00:09:28: Oh, wow.

Evan – 00:09:29: With television and streaming television or streaming audio. I think that’s really exciting.

Karen – 00:09:34: Wait, wait, you got to tell me a little bit more about that. So OTT, what does that stand for?

Evan – 00:09:37: Over the top.

Karen – 00:09:38: Okay, OTT, all right.

Evan – 00:09:40: But, you know, the Hulus of the world.

Karen – 00:09:42: Sure.

Evan – 00:09:42: So that’s the way people are engaging with television.

Karen – 00:09:45: Yeah, that’s right.

Evan – 00:09:46: And it’s far more cost-efficient than doing a big media buy in a major market through Comcast or, you know, one of the cable providers. And it’s just more highly targeted and qualified. So that is certainly not a new media channel. You know, people have been engaging with these streaming platforms for quite some time. But as far as a top-of-funnel kind of prospecting, media channel is important to us. And we’ve seen quite a bit of success there. And I think just getting better and I kind of qualify that because we’re not perfect at this.

Karen – 00:10:17: Sure, sure.

Evan – 00:10:18: But doing a better job of segmenting our audiences and really understanding who they are, engaging with them at the right time with the right message. I think probably any business could always continue to improve at that.

Karen – 00:10:30: Yeah.

Evan – 00:10:30: But the better our data is, the better our capability to do that is.

Karen – 00:10:34: Yeah. And I think, you know, hospitality, we all love it. It’s such a wonderful, unique industry. But we are a little bit behind most of the time.

Evan – 00:10:42: Too far behind.

Karen – 00:10:43: So now we are getting better and better. And certainly that’s what Revinate seeks to do as well is to make sure that you can understand your guests and really personalize and target. So that’s very cool. That’s the first time I’ve heard about the media buys on streaming.

Evan – 00:10:54: Really?

Karen – 00:10:54: Yeah, I’m sure. I mean, but I’m just saying I do a lot of podcasting. Yeah, yeah. And that’s the first time. So that’s a really cool strategy.

Evan – 00:11:01: Yeah.

Karen – 00:11:01: I really, I love that.

Evan – 00:11:02: Yeah. I mean, it’s.

Karen – 00:11:03: It’s portable too.

Evan – 00:11:04: Yeah. And it’s definitely. But in these things all rely on — you got to make the investment in video. You know, I didn’t mention that, but almost every social platform is prioritizing video over still images. So that’s something that we need to prioritize at each individual hotel is saying, “Hey, you know what? We need to invest in our assets because without quality assets, you can’t do all the great things over here.” So-

Karen – 00:11:27: 100%. Because if you’re going to do it, you got to do it right. You can’t go halfway.

Evan – 00:11:30: Yeah.

Karen – 00:11:31: Because that’s just not right. And cheesy.

Evan – 00:11:34: 100%.

Karen – 00:11:35: And I’m sure, again, with our industry, a lot of times people have been doing things a certain way for so long. And they think that this is the way to roll. So I’m sure that that’s interesting as you start to kind of win the hearts and minds to think a little bit outside the box.

Evan – 00:11:47: 100%.

Karen – 00:11:48: Yeah.

Evan – 00:11:48: Absolutely.

Karen – 00:11:49: Very cool. So what kind of key insights have you had from NAVIGATE? Is there anything? I know we’ve had a lot of sessions today we’ve been in and out. Is there one speaker or an idea that you’ve come away with that you’re like, oh, that’s either they’re speaking my language or that’s not something I thought about before?

Evan – 00:12:04: I mean, clearly the CDP. That’s kind of the foundation of everything that we need to do.

Karen – 00:12:12: Awesome.

Evan – 00:12:12: Until we connect all the dots and eliminate as many silos as possible. And silos don’t just exist with data. They exist with various partners. But if we can make sure that we’ve got one hub for where our data is going, and where it lives, and where we’re going to leverage it. I think that is of the utmost importance. And it influences literally every decision we make from how we’re spending our media dollars outside of, you know, outside of Revinate to how we’re engaging with our customers on property. It really is kind of everything.

Karen – 00:12:43: Everything.

Evan – 00:12:43: To what we’re doing. And without it, it’s not like you can’t function or anything like that. You kind of get one arm tied behind your back.

Karen – 00:12:49: You don’t have all the information. Yeah.

Evan – 00:12:51: That’s probably what I’m most excited about.

Karen – 00:12:53: That’s great. Because that was the keynote from our CEO, everybody. So that’s the Customer Data Platform, which we actually launched officially today. So that is very exciting. All right. So I know that you came into this industry by luck.

Evan – 00:13:05: Sure did.

Karen – 00:13:06: Dating the right person who had the right boss.

Evan – 00:13:08: Happened to be the wrong person.

Karen – 00:13:09: Oh, eventually. A bridge person, we’ll call it. Yes. So any advice for anybody who wants to get into the marketing arm of hospitality? If you were, you know, talking to somebody in college today that were trying to figure out how to break into this industry, what advice would you give?

Evan – 00:13:24: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if this is necessarily limited to hospitality, but I would just say be curious and always be trying to learn on your own. And my mentor kind of empowered me to be this way, but he would recognize he didn’t teach me everything that I know, but he gave me the freedom to kind of explore and honestly, a lot of guessing and checking, you know, just seeking out your own answers. But I think that starts with being curious and wanting to understand new things or new technologies or learning revenue management or, you know, I’m in marketing, but it’s important to understand sales and the sales process. So I think we tend to gravitate towards what we’re comfortable with and what we know and are an expert in. But by diversifying your knowledge set, I think you can become far more powerful.

Karen – 00:14:11: I love it. That is great advice. Well, thank you, Evan. My guest has been Evan Crawford, who’s the Vice President of Marketing at Pyramid Global Hospitality. Thanks for the conversation.

Evan – 00:14:20: Thank you very much for your time.

Karen – 00:14:21: You got it.

Intro/Outro – 00:14:22: Thank you for listening to the Hotel Moment Podcast. Make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you’re watching on YouTube, please like the video and subscribe for more content. For more information, head to The Hotel Moment Podcast is presented by Revinate.

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