Next up in our HMA Spotlight series is Steve Manfield, Area Marketing Director UK & Ireland for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. Steve also won the Wild Card category at the Hotel Marketing Awards 2014 for Radisson Blu’s The Experience Meetings Roadshow.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your history in hotel marketing
I’m Steve Manfield and I am a hotel marketer! I have been working in hospitality marketing for virtually my entire career. I started as a junior co-ordinator for the Special Events department at Hilton, creating and marketing specialist event packages for the UK leisure market. This was a great role to cut my teeth in the industry, in everything from direct marketing to revenue management and operations. I then held various roles in both the International and UK marketing teams at Hilton before moving to my current role at Carlson Rezidor.
What’s your current role?
I joined Carlson Rezidor 4 years ago as Marketing Director for the UK & Ireland. My role is essentially marketing our global proposition to the domestic audience, and covers everything you would expect from a full mix role – from brand marketing to tactical promotions, e-commerce, loyalty, F&B, product..….it’s quite broad!
What style/type of hotels are they?
With over 1400 hotels globally, we have brands that cover all market segments – from luxury with Quorvus Collection through to budget with our latest brand Prizeotel. Style and design is the common thread through all our brands, our core brand Radisson Blu having a strong design heritage and a reputation for hotels with iconic and stand-out features – not many brands can boast of hotels with wine towers or 25m tall aquariums in their lobbies! We opened our first Radisson Red hotel this year which is a brand built upon bold design, taking inspiration from the worlds of music, art and fashion.
What are your main responsibilities when it comes to your company’s marketing?
My responsibilities are split between developing and executing the broader marketing strategies for the leisure, business and MICE segments in the UK and Ireland in line with the global plan, and managing a team of local marketing managers responsible for the hands-on execution of all marketing activities for the individual hotels in the region. And I make the tea…!
What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to digital marketing at present?
Put simply, reach. With the ever-growing cost of online acquisition and the dominance of OTA marketing spend, maintaining good visibility across all stages of the customer journey and driving cost-effective traffic is a major challenge, of course not just for us but all hotel companies.
Understanding the true value of digital channels is also a challenge and an area of particular focus for us currently. Getting a real view on what role a channel plays in an online sale is critical.
What is your most successful social media channel for the company and why?
We’ve had good successes on Facebook from a paid advertising perspective due to the huge audience opportunities and targeting capabilities. This has also been the social media channel that has had the biggest organic audience growth by far – it’s the most natural for a hotel brand to be present on – and we have been steadily growing referral traffic and interactions.
Going beyond using social media purely as a promotional platform, we see how our guests tell our story better than anyone, so we’re focusing on turning guests into ambassadors and amplifying guest content from social media channels through our owned channels.
What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months?
Virtual Reality (VR) is starting to feature more in campaign strategies by certain brands, and think this will continue to be a growing trend as technology improves and becomes more accessible and cost effective. We have been using VR successfully already, producing virtual experiences to showcase new hotels and design schemes to investors and clients.
If I gave you £25,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it?
Research. Dedicating budget to test market assumptions or creative, or to learn more about a customer’s underlying needs, is seen more as a luxury than a necessity and I don’t think you can ever have enough customer insight. Where do I send the invoice?!
What are you currently steering clear of with regards marketing strategy or implementation?
Although social media remains a hugely important part of the overall brand strategy, we are actually moving away from running property specific social media channels. Perhaps controversial as social media is seen by so many as being critical, but I would question the true value in an individual hotel being on social media and dedicating the resource to maintain the desired quality and frequency of messaging – just look at the interactions as a percentage of total audience for the average hotel Facebook post. Not to say that for certain types of property this can’t work, but from a portfolio perspective we have other priorities currently.
What can you tell us about the plans for Radisson Red and what is it like to market such an exciting new brand?
There are ambitious growth plans for Red and we are aiming for 60 hotels in operation by 2020. With the second hotel about to open in Minneapolis and 14 already signed, it’s had tremendous investor interest across all markets. Red is definitely a “marmite brand” but is gaining a lot of cut through already, it will be exciting to bring to the UK. Our first hotel is scheduled to open in early 2018 in Glasgow.
What’s your ultimate career goal?
To develop and launch a new brand from conception. That would be utopia for me! I’m a hotel boy through and through so hopefully one day will get that opportunity within the industry.
What piece of advice would you give marketers entering the hotel industry now?
To not get pigeon holed in one specific discipline, and to develop a good understanding of the operation, not just the marketing function. It’s too easy for marketers to sit in the office and lose sight of what happens day-to-day in the hotels – get out there and experience the customer in their environment!
Many thanks to Steve for sharing his experiences and some top tips for modern day marketers in our industry. If you would like to participate in a future “Spotlight” feature, or would like to nominate a colleague, please email us with full details at [email protected]