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  • Writer's pictureRyan Haynes

Digital Marketing – performance metrics that drive revenue

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

In this episode we speak with Chris Kinlock a Performance Specialist, and Billy Mohan- Senior Performance Analyst, from Journey Hospitality about the changes in performance marketing and how the industry can get a better grasp over the opportunities for digital channels and what actually works.

The pair give a frank insight to how to assess true performance and why fixed budgets needs to be abandoned in favour for performance-based. We talk through;

  • How and where Google is delivering for hotels

  • Considering investment and budget in digital marketing

  • The essential data and tracking for effective measurement of ROI

  • And the role of brand campaigns


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Programme Notes


This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors


Ryan Haynes:

Hello. and welcome back to Travel Market Life. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes. And today's episode we're going to be speaking to Chris Kinlock, a Performance Specialist and Billy Mohan Senior Performance Analyst at Journey Hospitality about Digital Marketing performance metrics that drive revenue. We'll be covering investing in Google and wider Digital Marketing measuring ROI data and tracking, and the difference between brand campaigns and performance for improving results.


Ryan Haynes:

Travel Market Life is backed by Haynes MarComs, a B2B marketing communications, and PR consultancy, specialising in the technology travel, Hospitality and property sectors, creating meaningful connections and visibility to grow. Hans Marcoms cuts through the noise to resonate with target buyers, decision-makers and influencers. From contextualizing your mission to positioning your value proposition. Haynes Marcos helps you address the issues that matter. Marketing PR and social build profile, gain, momentum shape strategy with Hanes, Marcos,


Ryan Haynes:

So, joining me now is Chris and Billy. Firstly, Chris, thank you ever so much for joining us. I know you are the performance director at Journey Hospitality, and we've seen really how Google has had a big impact on the industry and how it's really driving those direct bookings in particular. you know, we, we, we are aware of sort of the role of SEO, but also how Metasearch is playing big into the program. But what are some other key developments and changes we're seeing?


Chris Kinlock:

Well, firstly, thanks for having me, Ryan. I think there are two really big changes which are coming up within Google that are going to affect everybody but will certainly be affecting hoteliers. And those two big things really focus on firsthand experience and the growing importance of that within Google search. Now interestingly, Google always focused previously on authority. And authority came from essentially being a big name. you know, if you were the Guardian, then you might be ranking for something, whereas going forward, firsthand experience is going to make much more of an impact. And for hoteliers, I think that can boil down to one thing. And that is guest experience. you know, guest experience going to be key. And the two things which are coming out, which kind of relate back to that guest experience, number one, it's happening right now.


Chris Kinlock:

And that's the helpful content update, which has come through from Google. And the helpful content update is essentially what it says. What they're looking for is more content to be on websites, which is providing help to users. And they're defining that help in a really interesting way. And it comes back to that first-time experience. you know, it comes back to creating content for your website, which can communicate to an end user that you know what you're talking about. And we use an example, which is a really simple one, but it kind of comes up for a lot of hotels, which is the example of somebody searching for the best dog walks in the Cotswolds. Now, if you can imagine that you're a luxury hotel in the Cotswolds, that's also very dog friendly. you know, that's the kind of term which you might be looking to rank for.


Chris Kinlock:

And where the helpful content update comes in is making sure that you are providing content, which is engaging for people, which is timely. You know, is it autumnal dog walks? Is it summer dog walks? you know, what are people looking for? And helping yourself rank, you know, on Google comes back to providing content, which somebody lingers on the page, they're scrolling through, they're engaging with it, and you are providing help for them. And I think that's a really positive way of kind of looking at a content strategy and how Google is changing over the coming years if we want to be more helpful. And the second one is the bigger one, and it's going to be the one which is visible to everybody. And that's Google's search generative experience.


Chris Kinlock:

And that boils down to everybody's favourite buzzword of AI and AI being integrated into Google. But what that's going to look like for people is essentially that you've got a robot, a robot's giving you an answer, and it's trying to be as helpful as it possibly can. It provides you with a few blocks of paragraphs of text. So, you know, coming back to that search term of best Dog walks in the cot’s worlds, you know, that will begin to generate an answer, which is a few paragraphs along which says, oh, well actually looking at these areas, this is where you might want to travel to because these are your best dog walks. And it's kind of that conversational AI, which again is the big buzzword at the moment. But if you are a hotelier, if you're anybody who's looking to promote content, you essentially want to be the content that sits behind that AI.


Chris Kinlock:

You know, you want to have provided it with the most relevant information that you can so that it can present that content. And there's the kind of cynical value behind this you're at the top of the page. And ultimately that's the game, right? Like everybody wants to be at the top of the page when it comes to Google.


Ryan Haynes:

It's fascinating, isn't it? Because you can see how now the art of hospitality extends beyond the property. you know, these are the conversations that you would be having at the Front desk, at the concierge. This is the intel that you could be taking from the head of your staff and into, onto the paper of the page of the web in order to be able to get people to find you to understand the value and the experiences that you can offer. And you know, this, this content we've talked about for, for a long time, haven't we? Billy and you know, especially the role that it plays in SEO now, we had SEO that I mentioned at the beginning, and you had metasearch, which seems to be, you know, one end of the jour journey to, to where we've almost got up to recently. but I mean what other tools and approaches almost the baseline for Google should they be using within their approach?


Billy Mohan:

Yeah, thanks for having me on Ryan. I think there's, there's a breakdown into too. So, you do have that organic, that SEO strategy, which is things like ensuring your Google My Business page is got all the content that you want to have on there, that it's relevant, that you keep it up to date, things like that are really, really important. And then that you are providing content, and that doesn't just mean written content. It's really important that hotels start to think about visual content. You can already see in Google search results, that the video is, is getting higher and higher up the page. And that doesn't, that mean vertical video as well as traditional landscape video. They're pushing YouTube shorts really high up the page. So, there's a lot of work that can be done to make sure that you're visible for of those, some of those search terms, both from a written perspective and also from a visual perspective.


Billy Mohan:

And then from a pay perspective, we would always say the baseline and the, you know, the historic benchmark for Google has been searching for ads, so written ads, but there's so much more to paid visibility now. So, there are discovery ads, there's display ads, there's YouTube ads, and then there's a product called Performance Max, which essentially pulls all of those in into one, but they require visuals, they require video. And it's really important if you want to be visible across the whole suite of Google that you're factoring all of these in. So great, if you've got search ads, that's a really good place to start, but start thinking about adding some display campaigns in to make it a bit more visual for a potential customer. Like what does your hotel look like from a search campaign?


Billy Mohan:

They don't maybe know that if you've got some video, great, put it in some YouTube campaigns, and get some visibility out there as well. So, it's really about thinking about both of those areas. So organic and paid, but spreading, spreading as much as yourself as you can across, across all of them will increase your visibility.


Ryan Haynes:

Now Chris, you've, you've touched on this earlier, but just to delve into a little bit deeper is the importance of audiences and understanding your audience and who you are talking to, particularly when it comes to the hotel guests.


Chris Kinlock:

Yeah, completely. I mean it's, you know, it's the cornerstone of any marketing, marketing is knowing who your guest is and who you're looking to target. And certainly, for us, when we are looking to onboard a client, it's where we begin, you know, that audience profiling piece comes from onsite data comes from understanding how users are engaging their demographics, the locations they're coming from. And it also comes back to that keyboard research. None of what Billy was just talking about is possible without really understanding what those users are actually searching for. And that then becomes the cornerstone of your entire Google strategy. you know, whether that's a search ad, whether that's a display ad, whether that's a YouTube ad, it's understanding what are the challenges that people are looking to solve by searching, even if that is, I'm looking to book a hotel for this weekend.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean, you know, we, it it's, there are so many factors to consider there isn't there across those different channels. And you know, with Google Beauty X, you mentioned there Billy, is that you've got this performance max that just allows you to distribute from one central location across a myriad of channels to reach your specific audiences beyond Google itself and you know, its channels. Where else should hotels be investing in Digital, Marketing?


Billy Mohan:

I think it leads back to what Chris was just saying about understanding your audience and where they are. you know, if your demographics are a little bit, a little bit younger for example, then places like TikTok are a, a great place to find those, find those people, and you can do that organically at all versus paid, you know, it's totally open to doing both. but I think, yeah, really understanding where your customer base is and that can come from Intel from your receptionist, understanding who they speak to and what they're, what, what kind of people they are, whether they're, whether you are a family orientated hotel and then you maybe want to go, you know, focus on that, double down on that. But really the, the, the channel options are, are huge.


Billy Mohan:

You've obviously got traditional Facebook and Instagram meta-advertising, and you've got the new players, Snapchat and TikTok. If you've got a potentially younger demographic, you've got Pinterest, you've got all sorts of options to you from a paid perspective. But it all boils down to understanding if you've got a specific client base that you know that you want to target, where are they? And then using that intel to drive your marketing strategy in terms of what platforms you want to be on.


Ryan Haynes:

And it's fascinating because I had a conversation with Jamal Ben Amour who opened a couple of properties over in Saudi Arabia and you know, they, they wanted to social media and they just like, right, we've got to be on Facebook. And it so turned that transpired that their, their guests were not, were, were not people from outside of the UK. They're all from Saudi Arabia and they were not using Facebook. So, as you say, it's really important to understand your audience what channels they are using to communicate and how you can then infiltrate those spaces and places. Yeah. Now once you've identified all of that data tracking is absolutely key.


Ryan Haynes:

Now what numbers are we looking at really when it comes to understanding commercial success? Because, you know, you see everything from traffic visits right through to sort of bounce backs and that, you know, we look at sort of booking numbers or revenue numbers, but realistically, if you are, if you're a senior leader, what do you need to be asking your team to be specifically looking at, to under, to understand the best investments?


Billy Mohan:

Yeah, absolutely. I think the answer is, is pretty broad. I think there's, it's, it's, it's good to have more than one. I wouldn't say there's that, there's one kind of golden rule for this the metric that you need to track in order to ensure that you're driving performance. So absolutely traffic is, is really important. If you're not growing your traffic, you're going to struggle to grow your direct bookings. But we look a lot at how are you, how well are you driving traffic into your booking engine? So not just landing on your website, but actually getting into your booking engine, whatever that may be. And the proportion of that, are you able to improve that by streamlining the process on your website? We look at conversion rate as well, a really important metric to understand how valuable a channel may be to you.


Billy Mohan:

And then definitely looking at that OTA, that third party split versus direct, and you want to both grow that total number of sales and absolutely should be looking at that. But also, if you can shift that to a more direct, higher percentage of direct traffic and direct bookings, that's ideal for our clients and ultimately your return on ad spend. So whatever advertising you are doing, like we work as a rule, that 10 to one as a return on ad spend is a good number to achieve anything less than that. And we would be concerned. But you can, you know, we have channels that hit 30- 40 in terms of ROAs, but that's the ultimate number to understand is this channel performing for me now, performing for me, there is, I'm going to break that down into


Ryan Haynes:

It's not doing a belly dance, is it?


Billy Mohan:

Yeah, because you have, you have two ways of understanding performance. So, you have the traditional way, which is last click attribution. So, someone, a user clicks on a Google ad, and they directly go through and purchase really easy to track. We love that. But ultimately that's not going to potentially help you understand slightly more upper funnel channels, things like YouTube or more branding campaigns. And so that's where you have something like Google's data, data-driven attribution model, which looks at, okay, they visited through YouTube three weeks ago, then they came through ASEO article that was ranking really well, and then finally they came through Google Ads and purchased, well actually that YouTube visit was really valuable because that introduced them to the brand and so it gives value to, to that YouTube visit as well as, as well as the others.


Billy Mohan:

So, it's really important to understand both. And the great thing about Google Analytics four is it has data-driven attribution built into it. So, you can look at that, that look at it in both ways and understand the difference, but it's really important to understand how they both work if you're going to open up, you’re marketing to more than just performance-driven marketing.


Ryan Haynes:

Yeah, I agree. I mean the thing is, you know, you've really got to understand, you know, these numbers and what, what that means for your business. I mean, I've seen particularly over the last 10 or 15 years, that it's just been about driving traffic to the website, but is that qualified traffic? Is it the right audience? Is it the right makeup of a guest profile? And I guess as you say, you can see that through the proportion of people that are going through the booking stages that are then actually confirming the booking and then you're able to see that in the value of the booking, is that value of the booking going up? If the value of the bookings goes up, then that is obviously customers who value your product and they're the people who you want to be driving time and time again.


Ryan Haynes:

And you talk about this level of investment, 10 to one, so a pound investment, 10 quid return so to speak. And, you know, is it a matter, I mean there's been a change in the psyche or need to change in psyche of how to manage budgets for marketing because traditionally there's been, okay, we'll put 10% aside or you know if you're lucky to get 10% of the overall profit or revenue, which often most businesses don't even bother going anywhere near 3%, but they'll just have a lump sum and they say, right, 200,000 pounds for the year. Right or wrong way to look at it.


Chris Kinlock:

A qualified wrong. I think, you know, we know ultimately there are always restrictions on budgets, but I think from our perspective, it's that planning process that helps feed into that. So, you know, we were talking earlier about audience research, about keyword research, you know, that kind of gives you your baseline. If there are a hundred thousand people searching, you know, for relevant keywords relevant for your hotel, then try and target them and that will actually tell you how much you could be investing certainly in Google search and I think that kind of gives you your audience size, it gives you your potential audience pool and it can give you a potential return. you know, if we know that users are converting at a rate of 5.5% on the website, we know what kind of bookings we might get out of that kind of traffic.


Chris Kinlock:

And I think it's that qualification that really can be done to help forecast and prove the potential value of the Digital Marketing activity, which hotels are planning. But you know, we're also realistic. And if somebody only has to earn a thousand pounds for the entire year, then you do the best you can. And what we tend to do is aim for let's maximize the return to begin with and then we can move on. you know, you can move up the funnel once you've kind of maximised the bottom of it.


Ryan Haynes:

And as we know, all success comes down to great partnerships and that's having great teams that work well together. Now, when you are working with a hotel, you are not on-site, you are not there, but you are dealing with people who are there on-site. What do you believe, what have you seen adds the most value? So, what if our hoteliers are setting up a team to look after Journey Hospitality, you know, where will you get the most value and the most input to drive that success?


Billy Mohan:

I think it's good to have a spread from across the hotel. So, ideally, people that dealing with customers because we want to understand that customer base, but also ideally people that are working commercially on The Hotel and they understand, you know, it is really important for us to know when you're running offers or when your peaks and troughs normally occur. So, we can help feed into that. If you've got specific campaigns that you run as a business that you want us to follow, we clearly need to know about those. So, it's really about having that spread across the business. So, we have intel in all the different areas so we can do our job, like you say, as a partnership, as best as possible.


Billy Mohan:

And that's how we also try and work here. We have a spread when we work with clients across different parts of the business so that we understand as much about them, as much as they understand as much about us and that leads to a really fruitful partnership normally.


Ryan Haynes:

I was going to say, there's nothing worse than people giving you a job to do and you don't really have any insight as to what's happening in the business itself. Yeah. You feed off that as much as you do from the data analytics that you are pumping into the system anyway. So, to get that visibility into sort of, you know, the challenges and, and the opportunities available, but when we've all talked as well within the hospitality industry about the need to bring together the three departments of sales, revenue and marketing and, and essentially, you know, you are sitting digitally within with, with within the meeting point of those three, three departments.


Billy Mohan:

Absolutely.


Ryan Haynes:

Now, one thing I wanted to talk about was a brand campaign. First is performance campaigns because we've been talking a lot about performance marketing and recently, I had a chance to speak to best Western Chris Bowing about his brand campaign. Now obviously Best Western our franchise, they've got portfolios, and we work with a lot of independent hoteliers. How and when should independent hoteliers consider brand campaigns and how does that work most effectively for performance?


Chris Kinlock:

I think the broad answer is that they should always be considering awareness campaigns. There's a line, I used to work with an account manager at Facebook ads who would bring this out all the time and their line was, you can't look for growth at the bottom of the funnel. And, you know, finding new audiences is always going to be key to growing your kind of bottom line basically. So, for us, it kind of should be a default. That's not to say it is because everybody's focus is on driving the amount of return, the highest amount of return that they possibly can. But for us growing that brand awareness piece is so important. There are multiple studies out there, but there's an IAB study, which I always come back to, which talks about the kind of benefits of brand awareness on growing brands and essentially long-term brand awareness breeds long-term growth, you know, and that it was a study of I think 10,000 different businesses that are running kind of overall brand awareness activity.


Chris Kinlock:

And there's a really good line in it, which we've been using recently, which is around awareness activity is about building mental brand equity, it's taking up a place in somebody's brain. And then the kind of conversion consideration activity, which we tend to focus on is exploiting that brand equity. We talk to a lot of hoteliers about the type of campaigns we're running and often it can be, there's a 20% off offer. So, we want to push this out to as many audiences as we can. And a line that we keep coming back to is, okay, that's great, but if they don't know how good you are at a hundred per cent, then why do they care that you've got a 20% off offer? And that for me is about what building that brand equity is that's creating a story. It's communicating what your brand values are and that's the value of awareness activity beyond their kind of, you know, provable business growth that we know that comes from that.


Ryan Haynes:

Excellent. Thank, you very much indeed thank you to both Chris Kinlock and before a performance director and Billy Mohan Senior Performance Analyst at Journey Hospitality. Thank you.

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