In the fast moving business of hotel management and marketing one of the key challenges is understanding the constantly shifting needs of travellers. A challenge well understood by seasoned professional Yvonne Seator, Group Marketing Manager at one of Europe’s fastest growing hotel management companies, BDL Management.

Our strategy has been streamlined to focus on understanding our customers better. We’re devoting more time and resources to this than ever before.  Similarly, we’re looking at ways to better reflect guest behaviour (e.g. browsing and booking travel on mobile and tablet devices) in our online channels in a much more focused way than ever before,” says Yvonne.

BDL Management manage a diverse portfolio of hotel brands ranging from Holiday Inn to Ramada Encore and Crowne Plaza, as well as a number of boutique properties like Princes Street Suites and Grand Jersey, which attract a diverse clientele.

With our wide geographic spread and range of nearly 50 branded & independent properties, including serviced apartments, our target audiences are extremely varied. Using our customer data, we’re now delving deeper than ever before into the MOSAIC profiles of our guests and using this information to inform marketing campaigns.”

Data is at the heart of how BDL Management aims to evolve, using its online channels to gather information, which it can then utilise to tailor communications to best meet traveller trends and needs.

Yvonne continues; “To innovate and continually evolve our online channels we need to reflect user trends, providing instant access across all channels to best value hotel rooms across the UK.

“With our new CRM system we’re providing pre & post stay targeted emails, to offer our guests more before and after they visit us.

“We also use Revinate, a social media & review monitoring tool to help us understand the guest experience, as well as monitoring guests’ social media interactions with our hotels. This is used by our hotels to understand how well they’re meeting guest expectations and allows us to interact with our guests, whilst they are still in our hotels. This is invaluable in helping us shape a guest’s stay with us, which exceeds their expectations.”

Of course this is easy to say, but much more difficult to implement, especially if you have multiple hotels, each with a different target demographic. Each hotel’s communications channels are managed by their respective teams and should maintain a unique ‘voice’, however while it is important to depict the individual character of the hotel there must be a level of consistency to uphold the quality of the parent brand.

It gets ever more complicated when you add social media into the mix. Given the multiplicity of ways customers can communicate their approval, or not, of their experience the management of a brand’s online reputation is becoming more and more of a headache for marketers.

Social media is essential for all of our hotels but which channels vary for every brand and are also dependent upon the ‘personality’ of each individual hotel property. For some hotels, it’s Facebook, for others it’s Twitter in combination with Pinterest and LinkedIn from a corporate audience perspective,” says Yvonne.

What matters more than the channel is the degree of engagement e.g. listening, getting involved in conversations, providing helpful advice to guests, adding value and accurately representing what the hotel is about to disparate audiences.”

Online has never been more important for the hotels sector, offering fantastic opportunities to make new and stronger connections with audiences, whilst boosting the brand image and exposure. For BDL Management, online bookings are increasing year on year and their users expect instant access to information on the go, meaning the company has had to remain proactive and responsive to technological advances and evolving online user behaviour.

Yvonne explains; “Digital channels are at the heart of our hotel business, with mobile/tablet bookings doubling in volume every year.

“Building a partnership with your digital agency so that they really get to grips with the values and goals of your business and understand your different audiences is the key to success in the online space.

“Having invested in developing new responsive versions of our websites with After Digital and implementing mobile booking engines for our unbranded properties, we’re continually striving to find ways to allow our guests to get to the information they want, as quickly as possible.”

Overall, it is this focus on putting the customer at the heart of everything that has supported BDL Management’s rapid growth into one of the most successful and thriving hotel management companies in the UK.

 Our thanks goes to Yvonne Seator and BDL Management for their participation in this article, the fifth in our series of client features. We'll be talking to more clients about their businesses and the challenges they face in the coming months and bringing you more interesting insights.