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HMA Spotlight on…Jessica Marsh

What are your main responsibilities when it comes to marketing? I always find that individuals who work in other areas of hotels are amazed at the breadth of tasks that marketing are responsible for. And I must admit – looking at the list now – I am too! As well as crafting the marketing strategy, we look after the websites, third parties, digital activity, design, photography, videography, social media, PR, partnerships, platform management and CRM. It’s worth pointing out that I do not do so single-handedly. I work as part of a small but perfectly formed team of four and, together with a few agencies, we keep everything ticking over. Whilst no two days are ever the same, the objectives for myself and my team are all based on moving individuals from an awareness level through to conversion and beyond. And although it takes many different forms, we do so through compelling content and targeted communications. What inspired you to pursue a career in hotel marketing? I studied Business Management at University and chose to write my dissertation on marketing, so it’s always been something that I’ve enjoyed. When I graduated, I worked on a freelance basis. Each client was completely different, so I managed to get a broad understanding and rule out any industries that weren’t for me. I was actually helping to look for a role for someone else when I noticed the Marketing Executive position at The Grove! It’s a hotel I’ve always known and loved, so it felt like the perfect career move for me. What piece of advice would you give marketers entering the hotel industry now? Right now, it’s a really difficult time. But in many ways, a very exciting time. Many teams, mine included, have been restructured, budgets have been adjusted and the overall direction of the hotel updated. A fresh start is always good, so my advice would be to embrace it! How has the pandemic changed you as a leader? I’m fascinated by psychology, so I’ve always been keen to understand the working preferences of those around me and indeed of myself. The most notable personality trait I possess is ‘judgement’ – so a preference for planning, structure, order and control – which is less than ideal when facing a global pandemic! If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s the importance of agility. And whilst it doesn’t come naturally, I’ve learnt that it does prevent a lot of time wasting! You’ve presented on an HMA webinar on content creation.  Do you think this is a skill hotel marketers need to develop? Marketing, particularly in a hospitality context, can be incredibly fast paced so it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day plate spinning act. My advice would be to schedule some regular ‘bigger picture’ sessions with your team so that you can regularly review activity to see what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. I wouldn’t say that content is a skill that can be developed as such, but more one cog in the machine that shouldn’t be forgotten. How do you think your approach to marketing will change over the next 12 months? Hopefully – she says with crossed fingers – 2021 will bring more stability to hotels. Once we have our hotels open once again, our attentions will turn back to encouraging guests to visit, rather than just engaging with our content. This shift will definitely warrant a change in approach, but it will be a very welcome change. I think the pandemic has caused a shift in just about everything. On a personal level, I’m sure I will feel more grateful than ever for the simple things – the ability to dine out with a group of friends for example. With a change in needs and wants, what was relevant in 2019 might not be relevant in 2021, so we will need to adjust our content and communications to adjust to this shift. What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months? Whether it’s during lockdown or afterwards, I think at home experiences are here to stay. Think – virtual cocktail masterclasses, private chefs or even recipes for guests to try at home. Given the enhanced at home experiences available, restaurant or hotel experiences will need to be elevated, offering more than could be achieved at home. Over summer and October half term, we worked with Football Escapes to offer short family breaks, where children were coached by professional footballers, such as Rio Ferdinand and they were a huge success! There also seems to be an appetite for adults-only wellness experiences and retreats. But I don’t think this appetite for experiences will be limited to leisure guests. As meeting and events business returns, I imagine creative alternatives to the usual team building or brainstorming sessions will start popping up. To market these experiences and the hotels more generally, I expect digital activity to go from strength to strength. Whether it’s on-site technology or social media adverts, digital marketing promises plenty of opportunities for creativity, including video content. One example is TikTok – as a relatively new platform, it’s one that many hotels haven’t yet embraced, but it’s becoming more commercial, so I expect that will change. If I gave you £10,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it? Firstly, I would invest in audience intelligence to delve a little deeper into the behaviour of our guests. Although we have audience segments, it would be invaluable to find out about their behaviour – what else they enjoy, which brands they are loyal to etc. Hopefully the additional customer insights would help us craft meaningful activations. However, copy alone will rarely achieve optimal conversion levels so I would spend another portion of the £10,000 on professional photography and videography, with art direction. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, I would invest further in digital advertising – search, re-targeting banners and across social media. With the ability to clearly track ROI, I always find that digital is one of the most sensible areas to spend budget, especially when campaigns are regularly reviewed and tweaked. Can you tell us anything about the exciting plans for the group this year?  2021 – and indeed the months and years that follow – will be about re-discovering the joy of travel, both in the UK and abroad. And we have so many exciting plans in store to encourage individuals to do so! At The Grove, the extensive refurbishment will be coming to an end, so we will have lots of creative activations to showcase the new interiors. At The Athenaeum, we plan to introduce a range of new private experiences so that guests can re-discover the capital. And at The Runnymede on Thames, it will be all about the great outdoors and the river that’s quite literally on the doorstep. From stand up paddle boarding to boat trips, we have plenty of exciting activities in store. But across all three hotels, we will be exploring partnership opportunities more than ever, as they are the perfect way to reach new audiences with fresh, exciting stories. As a team, we will also be looking to expand with the recruitment of an Email & Graphic Designer, so if you have experience in these areas and are looking for a new challenge, please do get in touch.

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