“You need to have a redesign because familiarity breeds a kind of complacency.” -Timothy White

2017 blew in like a long-awaited whisper and will most assuredly go out with a bang. Let’s hope your marketing campaigns will do exactly the same. Complacency is out and being engaged is so definitely in! The hospitality industry has taken a huge hit in 2016, especially in oil field areas like Texas and Oklahoma. It is more important than ever that you double up on your marketing efforts and start off the new year with basic marketing tips that will boost your more expansive advertising campaigns and kick start higher revenues. There is no better time like the present, so let’s get started.

Below is a list of five simple steps that you can take as an owner or general manager to guide your staff and kick start your property into higher revenues. The best thing about this list is it’s almost 100 percent free or very affordable to accomplish and, hopefully, are steps you are already taking or have taken before and just need to do again. It is important to engage yourself with your property, and if you have no one in house to do it, then it is smart marketing to outsource so that all your financial goals are met.

1. Compare your property with your local competitors. This is something every hotel, in every market, in every season, and during a slow or busy economy should do. If the hotel next door is busier than you are, what are its rates? What does the property website look like? What is that property doing that you are not? What are all the properties doing right now? Know your market! This will help you figure out what you need to change or update to get the business other hotels are taking from you. Maybe it’s time to try something new. Look at hotels in other areas to see what they are doing to attract customers in. Be bold; think outside the box. Train your staff to do this for you. Every month, send a staff member to stay at one of your competitor’s hotel. Preferable a new staff member who can find out what is working and what is not at other properties so you capitalize on it.

2. Be trendy! Take the time to review what the top technical trends are in the hospitality market. Not all of them are top dollar gadgets or implementations. Is your website updated? Are the photographs of your property on your website showing your greatest side? Do you have a virtual tour, because if you don’t, there are affordable options including the ever-popular virtual tours using inexpensive VR goggles? Your web designer should be able to do all this for you, and in fact, should also give you a free analysis of what is needed to keep you up to date and trendy!

3. Review, review, review! How are your TripAdvisor reviews - good, bad, just ok? Are you responding, are you soliciting reviews? This one is such an easy one. It is a priority with my properties because I travel quite a bit and use TripAdvisor as a guide in most cases when booking. Train your front desk staff on the importance of your hotel TripAdvisor rating. Outsource to a company that does review management for you so that you are always 100 percent up to date. It works! Attach a TripAdvisor card to a candy bar and give to “happy” guests at check out. You know who they are, find them, pamper them, and ask to give a review. As a GM or owner, meet and greet guests. If they do a review of your property, they will note that you took the time to shake their hand or meet them. Guests love to feel special. If your 2017 marketing plan includes goals, please let this be a big one. Offer a staff party with gift cards if your hotel moves up a notch in the Trip rating. Let TripAdvisor work for you.

4. Be engaged! Whether you are a Holiday Inn or Super 8, you must have a presence in the social media platform. Create a Facebook, Twitter and/or Google Plus account, upload pictures of your property, include property information and a button to “book now” where applicable. Post events that are happening in town with discounted rates. Post pictures of your staff with a welcome to our home for the (holidays, for a Super Bowl party, etc.). Have special nights with refreshments or happy hour inviting guests and post it everywhere. Post a quote every day, one day inspirations, and the next day something humorous. There are many companies that you can outsource this to that will not only create a presence for you on many media platforms, but will manage your presence as well. Encourage your guests to check-in on Facebook and take a picture with them. Let the world know who you are.

5. Hire and Empower! This one makes the end of the list and could possibly be the most important of them all. Hire staff members that want to be empowered. What does that mean? Come on, we have all been guilty of it, including me; hiring bodies with little or no experience. Could be because of a last-minute shortage or could be because there is a lack of experienced applicants. Whatever the case is, if you are just hiring bodies, then unless you train them to be sales and customer-focused employees, you will do all the work instead of having staff that can be enabled to take your property to the next level. Most hotel owners are not content with just one property. They want to buy, buy, buy, build, build, build, and invest, invest, invest. It’s how we do it. Hire staff that has the knowledge and experience to push your marketing and sales in a proactive way so you can focus on building on your portfolio. Train, train, and train again. Encourage your staff to want to be more than just front desk agents; help them feel empowered. It will lessen your work load and you will have more than just bodies; you will have a powerful sales force! If online marketing is not your niche, then find a company that will do it for you. You can never have enough sales and marketing agents working for you that will help your financial bottom line.

That makes my top 5 to do list starting the year. Easy, simple, affordable steps to help you jump start your hotel marketing efforts or campaigns. On a sheet of paper, write the following in bold letters: Know your market, be trendy, review, be engaged, hire and empower! Do not be afraid to outsource your social media, review management, or any marketing for your property. There are one-stop shops that will do it all for you for low-monthly fees. Let that be your everyday mantra and put it in a place that your front desk agents can see so they know your goal is to help them become empowered and engaged with every guest that walks through that door.