Monday, 21 November 2011

About Me – Not your typical internet marketer

Hi there!
Thanks for visiting my blog. I certainly don't consider myself to be a traditional online marketer. I am an accounting and finance person by profession who after 4 years of working on Bay Street (Toronto’s version of Wall Street) decided that it was time to come back home to my lovely island of St. Lucia and help take my family business Bay Gardens Resorts to the next level.
Bay Gardens Resorts is a highly successful, locally owned hotel chain consisting of 3 hotels totalling 195 rooms in Rodney Bay Village, St. Lucia’s entertainment capital. But maintaining such high year round occupancy and profitability in the face of the Great Recession is not easy and we have been just as affected by the tough economic times as anyone else. 
With my background as a Chartered Accountant (CA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) everyone on the Board and in management assumed that I would focus on internal controls, accounting, banking, balance sheet reconciliations etc (you know the stimulating stuff that I got my formal training in). And I have done a lot of that, but what nobody bargained on was the amount of my own time that would be spent on internet and social media marketing and business development.
It might seem strange that an accountant would develop such expertise but it actually makes perfect sense. I’m a business person first and foremost and my accounting and finance background means that I understand return on investment. No matter how you look at it all marketing dollars spent are meant to generate additional profit (not just revenue but incremental profit margins over and above the cost of the marketing itself). Yes, sometimes it is difficult to measure the ROI from certain types of marketing (PR, TV ads etc) but no hotelier would spend good money on any of this if they did not think it would benefit their bottom line in some way.
Internet Marketing – Great ROI for Small Hotels
That’s what I love about internet marketing. It is so much easier to measure your ROI. When you place an ad in a magazine or in a tour operator’s brochure don’t you wonder how many persons actually read and respond to these advertisements and actually make a booking? It is not impossible to measure the response to these types of ads but it is really tough. With internet marketing it is much easier to measure your return on investment. I know how many persons visit my website from a Facebook or Google Adwords campaign and furthermore I know how much revenue is generated from it. I can even tell you which city generates the most revenue from my online marketing activities and what room category persons from a particular zip code booked most often.
I think that the internet provides an excellent medium for small, independent hotels in smaller markets (such as the Caribbean) to gain amazing exposure to a variety of markets that are prohibitively expensive to break into via traditional marketing methods (TV, print, radio). Best of all I have seen it first hand from the perspective of an owner/manager who is not an internet marketing guru. And because of my financial background I can speak first hand of the financial impact that our increased focus on online marketing has had on our bottom line at Bay Gardens Resorts in terms of increased occupancy and ADR and better ROI on marketing spend.
Internet Marketing – Not just for “techies” and “gurus”!
There are a lot of so-called internet marketing experts out there and they charge anything from $100 – $200 US per hour and up to do things that you can honestly do on your own. Some of the things that I manage in house (with the assistance of my talented marketing department) include:
1. Set up and management of various social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin Youtube) and advertising through these media. We have perhaps the most active hotel Facebook page on island ( with 4000+ fans and counting.
2. Set up and management of various pay per click campaigns including Google Adwords, Yahoo/Bing, Bookingbuddy, Travelzoo, Kayak, Expedia among others. 
3. Limited search engine optimization (SEO) – we did outsource some of the more complicated functions but the basics were done (and is still being done) in house
4. Email marketing using Constant Contact - great tool that is really easy to use and affordable.
And much, much more on top of my other functions in accounting, finance and general operational management.
My goal with this blog is to empower independent-minded owners, general managers and marketing managers with information that I have gathered through experience with a variety of internet marketing methods. I am also hoping to get ideas from you about some of your own experiences with internet marketing as well as hospitality management overall.
Happy reading!
Sanovnik Destang, CA, CFA, Google Adwords Qualified Individual
Assistant Managing Director, Bay Gardens Resorts
Board Member, St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA)

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