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Podcast: To advertise or not to advertise?

29 March 2022


Harry Fielder
Welcome to Umi and a cup of tea, the podcast for me where we discuss all things technology, marketing, hotels and travel. So crappy stuff or tea, coffee or something stronger. And we’ll jump right in. Good afternoon, Tom.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleGood afternoon, Harry Fielder.

How are you today?

Yeah, really good, man.

Harry Fielder
Good. I’m excited to be here. So, another one of our interesting sessions on digital advertising coming up. What specifically are we talking about today?

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo today, we’re looking at whether or not you should advertise, to advertise or not to advertise?

Harry Fielder
That is the question straight out of Shakespeare, as the man himself said he did indeed. So first of all, let’s get a bit of a bit of a picture of what do we mean by digital ads? In this case, what are we referring to?

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo Umi, what we talk about when we’re talking about digital ads is predominantly paid social, paid search, display, or programmatic advertising, programmatic display, and YouTube advertising. So paid social will be any social media posts that you’re not, there’s not organic, that you’re actually funding going out there, paid searches, anything on Bing, Google, any other network where you’re paying for the result directly.

Harry Fielder
So YouTube is a bit of a hybrid on social and social and paid search, or because…

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleYouTube runs through the same platform as search ads run through Google. So Google ads, but you’re using it in a much more visual way, or using it in a similar way to something like paid social. So it does kind of fall into this hybrid category, it probably touches more of the same basis as paid social, but with more similar audiences available to paid search.

Harry Fielder
That’s one. Yeah, I think we’ll try and cover a bit around the different areas of the buyer’s cycle. And what what channels perhaps suit those a bit later on. But first of all, what, when is advertising a good idea? And with that, let’s think about it quite quite focused on the on the on the hospitality and travel funnel generally. But when would you say a good idea to use different lenses?

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo I think looking at it from the perspective of the buyer cycle, like we mentioned, you’ve got different levels at which you’re going to use different types of advertising. What’s the buyer cycle innocence. And so the buyer cycle that we’re looking at here for hospitality particularly? Well, it’s for any company would be an awareness stage, where a customer is not aware of you, possibly the need for a product generally, in the hospitality industry, people are aware that hotels exist, but maybe not your specific hotel. So this is trying to get them in the stage when they’re researching generally. And

Harry Fielder
they’re also not perhaps aware that they need to travel or want to travel. It’s, it’s kind of they haven’t yet embarked on that journey of discovery.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleYes. So this is looking at generally more prospective visitors, it’s not looking at people who have any intent. So the next stage would be an interest stage. So that could be something like remarketing, that could be something like Discovery search, where the, the user is aware that they want to buy your product, they’re just not aware that they want to buy your product. And then we try to move into three stages because it’s more convenient. I know other cycles use sort of four or five stages, but ours would be awareness, interest, and then conversion. So the conversion stage is where a user has either been typed up through advertising or through organic your website, they’re a repeat guest. And then they’ll come through a channel like Google search, branded search or remarketing. And that will solely be to turn them into a customer.

Harry Fielder
So with that context, when, when is it a good idea to advertise?

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo any of these stages, there is always going to be a benefit to you from these stages. So in a conversion stage, you’re going to benefit from branded search where an online travel agency will very often be bidding on your branded terms. So the X hotel London, will be bidding on that brand term, and generally ranking above the organic rankings that that hotel would get otherwise. So what we aim to do is then come in, build a campaign that will outrank Because there’s more relevance for a user. There’s more relevance to a user from the hotel’s website and there is from And through that, we can get a really strong return on adspend upwards of 20 to one often as high as 100 to one for specific high volume areas that we have. And that is one key reason why you might want to bring people in meta search is another conversion tool where Google Hotel Ads is a good example of this. So booking a hotel directly through Google as paid advertising. And then for the awareness and interest stages, it’s important to keep that funnel topped up, because you can get people to conversion. But what you need is to be building Well, depending on your hotel, if you’re running at 100% occupancy all the time, then 40 About channel shift, then it’s about working out. Well, General shift, but also, do you have? Are those customers 100% At the moment, but you know, next year, they might not be so it’s worth doing a longer term awareness campaign.

Harry Fielder
Yeah. So it’d be fair to say then that throughout the whole funnel, if there are set A, the whole thing has to prop itself up. So the conversion is only as good as the awareness phase, that that you’re that you’re feeding into it at the start, or

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleI wouldn’t necessarily say so I would say that you can’t have an effective conversion campaign without an awareness campaign, but your conversion campaign will be more effective, with a good awareness campaign. down the track, okay. So you can, if you, if there’s a base level of knowledge about your property, there’s always going to be branded searches. And if and bidding on those, and you’re out ranking them, you’re always going to be benefiting from paying for those. Yeah, but what you can do if you’ve got these conversion campaigns running, if you’ve got awareness campaigns, you build your budget, it works for conversion, you say, well, we’ve got a little bit more budget, we can spend on things, let’s put some into awareness, that’s going to fill those branded campaigns in a few months, it’s going to fill other rooms, and it’s going to just drive traffic in different ways, and possibly find audiences that you weren’t aware of previously.

Harry Fielder
Interesting. Okay. That sounds awesome. What? So? On the flip side, when do you think advertising is not a good idea?

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo I think we talked about this earlier. And my default position there is I’ve never never not good at it, it’s always a good idea. You should always find ways, but actually, I think there are, there definitely are situations and a lot of them will be down to your brand’s image being vulnerable. So whether that’s that your website’s isn’t conducive, it’s not converting well, it’s not betraying your property, well, perhaps when

Harry Fielder
the digital brand and the physical asset are really out of whack. Quite often you have you a lot of websites, certainly on the budget side of things are massively over selling the property. And likewise, on the on the luxury end of the scale, you’ve got this stunning property that is just stunning, stuck in the dark ages, from a tech point of view and a marketing point of view.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleBut also, possibly, if it’s, you’re sending people to a website to convert, but it’s very difficult to convert. So you, you might have a website, that looks good. But actually, your link up with your booking engine is not great, or you’re not getting good tracking from it. If you’re trying to initially set up advertising, you want to make sure that you’re tracking setup correctly. Obviously, that’s not it’s a barrier to entry. But that’s a very, like, easy to overcome barrier to entry. Whereas something like having a bad website, or the other reasons that I can think of so brand safety, if there’s been a problem around your hotel, and people are searching for it. Based on looking for news, looking at the news about it. Yeah, you don’t want to be ranking for

Harry Fielder
something that’s ‘hotel with rats, London’

Tom Morgan-Grenvilleexactly. Unless that’s one of your selling points, could basically do this hotel like the London Zoo rat hotel. I think you’re on something I want to go to a router and some other reasons, which I could think of as well we had. So when we’re working, we work with Northcote who have an amazing restaurant. And whilst everyone was closed in 2020 2021, they set up food boxes, and they would drop them once a week on a Tuesday 9am

Harry Fielder
different days. But yeah, but it was a dominantly around a specific time and on a specific day.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleAnd what we would do then, is to say, Well, we know people are going to be searching for this product, we know there’s gonna be a huge volume of traffic, which would blow all of our budget for Tuesday, in a 15 minute period. So what we need to do then is pull all of the advertising back on a Tuesday morning. This is more Stewart pacing than to do with whether or not to advertise. But I think that’s a really important thing to know. And another one is, if there’s just no availability, if you’ve got no availability, or the booking window is too far in advance, or those sort of things. Sometimes it’s worth just pulling back on your ads, maybe focusing and changing

Harry Fielder
your meta search as well. When you do you can control the booking window, your bid adjustments based on your booking window, that should be an interesting one.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo moving your channels is one way of doing that. So not necessarily that you don’t have to advertise but you might want to change your advertising strategy to be more focused around something with control or something that’s gonna feed the funnel for later like awareness.

Harry Fielder
Interesting. And just a further to that the the sister company the staffers They we’ve had some fantastic coverage on MasterChef. And you know, those those particular episodes when, you know, the website would experience huge volumes of traffic, you really don’t want to be running too much too much advertising at that point because it is purely TV slash window shoppers that are just just following along. Yeah, even though you know, there were there were good revenue optics there, you know, the traffic is going to come through anyway, irrespective of the advertising that you have.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleAnd a lot of that traffic will be focused around f&b. If you’re not focusing on f&b with your advertising strategy, then it might be quite difficult, like you might just be losing budget on something that you’re not accounting for that body.

Harry Fielder
Yeah, true. So when we’re thinking about all of these, we’ve spoken about the BioCycle. What types of messaging or types of ads would you say applicable to the different phases of the buyer cycle?

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo channels, channels, particularly in different industries will be consistent throughout the buyer cycle, paid social is used throughout the whole buyer cycle for ecommerce products, clothing is really strong Instagram advertisements

Harry Fielder
buy through Instagram. Exactly.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo those sort of products work through that for hotels, less

Harry Fielder
is that because it’s more of an impulse purchase to say,

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleI think it’s there’s a more considered purchase approach to a hotel. And there are also other products that may have to be bought around it, travel flaps it our flights. So that kind of it’s a bit prohibitive of impulse buying a hotel stay,

Harry Fielder
the buyer cycle moves slower, you can’t go from awareness straight through to purchase. Yes, you have to that consideration period is is significant and has lots of other things hinging on it.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleAnd because of that, what I think for us is quite important is that we almost define the messaging. So is it awareness messaging? Is it incredibly image focused? Is it trying to sell the dream to someone on a social ad? Or is it conversion messaging, where possibly we’re running this on a branded paid search? AD, and all we’re doing is showing why your website direct is the best place to book that run. And then in between, you’ve got sort of hybrid ads. So you might have some Discovery Search, which may convert may also just be someone who is aware of what the product isn’t aware of how the product works, like what the hotel specifically does. But is looking for hotels in that area. So they might know you, and then see you coming up for luxury hotels in West London. That would be an example of discovery. Other things YouTube is generally going to be more awareness, especially for hotels. And meta search will generally be more converting. But it also depends on what you

Harry Fielder
say the richer, the rich of the content. So the more visual the content, the more focuses around awareness. And then as you as you progress through the buy cycle, it’s much more of data rich pricing, dates voucher codes.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleYes, yeah, I would, I would say that that’s pretty accurate.

Harry Fielder
Cool. So let’s say you were just dipping your toes in to all of this as as a hotel looking to, you know, look into sort of enter into the the game that is digital ads, where would you start? What would you think what would you say is the the lowest hanging fruit on which to base just some initial initial ideas and initial tests.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo I’d say, for lowest hanging fruit as a hotelier or, for example, a marketing manager in a hotel, you’re going to need to be able to justify your ad spend, and the easiest ad spend to justify is always going to be conversion ads. If you’ve got OTAs bidding on your keywords, then I can guarantee they will be which if you’re on, you will almost certainly have or Expedia Hostelworld, the list goes on. If you’re on one of these than they’re bidding on your keywords, then that’s always going to be beneficial. Putting a branded campaign up, you will get good robots, you will get an effective click through rate, you’ll get a good conversion rate, and you’ll be able to show and to judge your landing pages a bit easier because people are willing to interact with them. The other way to go would be metasearch, which is a conversion based, generally high Ross product.

Harry Fielder
And really, interestingly, Google have now launched free booking links. So if your booking engine or channel manager now hooks up with Google Hotel Ads, you will organically show among those among those listings now, which is just really fantastic.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleAnd in the same way as you know, organic search exists. I think where meta search is important there is that even if you’re organically showing You’re going to be showing considerably lower than you would if you pay for it the all of these companies, Facebook, Google, their business model is built around advertising as the key source of revenue, the free bookkeeping,

Harry Fielder
so that it’s, it’s better than it was at least you are somewhat visible.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleAbsolutely. And if no one’s bidding on your links, then you’re at the top, and you’re great. I think that the way to look at advertising as a sort of as a, I guess, if you’re trying to budget around it, you do need to consider that you are going to be penalized if you’re not spending ad money on Google on Facebook, because they are seeing you as not a customer. Whereas if you’re doing organic, organic social reaches something like 1% of your user base, now, it’s Millis crowns is nothing and organic search. If you look at how the search engine results page has evolved over the last five years, it’s gone from a lot of organic search showing up high up to almost the whole top of the page. Other than the company window, the right hand side is the Google My Business thing is paid. And so and the same with Hotel Ads, like there are free Hotel Ads, but if there are any paid Hotel Ads, they’re showing up higher like Google wants to promote people paying for their products. So low hanging fruit would be meta search or branded search.

Harry Fielder
Fantastic. Right. So to close things off, we’re going to wrap it up with three key points, I think, or I’m going to give my key takeaway, you’re going to give you a key takeaway, and then we’ll argue over the final one. So I would say for me, I haven’t really thought much about when it’s not a good idea before, like I haven’t really thought about, like the pacing and really balancing your your advertising exposure when there is a lot of PR or perhaps when there’s negative negative press and that brand safety side of things. And also, you know, it’s it’s not a great idea to advertise if a you haven’t got your tracking sorted, and B, the whole site is not that conducive to a conversion. So I’ve all I went into this thinking it’s a no brainer, you know, we should always advertise. But actually those are really important considerations to do before. What would you say your key one is?

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleSo I’d say for me, Mikey, one is the other key point that I’d like to get across is the low hanging fruit element of it, it’s, there are easy wins for almost any company, or any hotel to make. And whether that’s your brand protection campaign or your meta search campaign as almost like a gateway campaign, to get people into it and to understand to be able to show proof of effectiveness for your advertising. And to build up skills. I think we love working with clients on these campaigns and building them for them. We also love working with clients who will work on them themselves and like, tweak it and get involved with it. I think it’s such an important thing, if you’re in marketing, and you can use those as a sort of practice field as well.

Harry Fielder
I think what I’m quite interested in is is the fact that there is so many different types of messaging are used throughout the whole, the whole buyer cycle. And actually, there are so many channels, there are so many ways to communicate. And that’s what makes ads actually such an interesting and complicated but also fascinating field. You know, there’s, there’s so many so many different digital touch points and creative and all sorts of things. So while the return like the the high row asset of that branded search is a fantastic gateway, it can get very exciting and very interesting quite quickly.

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleYeah. And I think where you end up seeing those marginal gains and seeing the real benefit is when you’re putting consideration to that whole channel and what the most effective messaging is going to be.

Harry Fielder
Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for your time, Tom. Thanks for having me. We will Well, I mean, you’re here every day, so

Tom Morgan-GrenvilleYeah, cheers. Cheers. Employing me, I guess. Oh, there

Harry Fielder
We go! That’s all you’re very welcome, Tom. Well, we’ll, we’ll catch you on the next one. And have a great rest of your day. Have a good one.

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