7 Things to Do Differently in 2020, and Budgeting for It Now!

Considering the many marketing options available, it requires an astute leader to develop a sales and marketing expense budget that is mindful of business needs, incorporates new ways of doing things, and doesn’t forget about key expenses that aren’t going away—such as salaries, benefits, and travel.

During my recent travels to various hotels across North America, I developed a list of seven things that should be incorporated in your budget for 2020. In most cases, they are old standbys that have been eliminated and need to be re-introduced with today’s employee and environment in mind.

1. Invest in Your Sales Team

Many sales managers have experienced only good times when their job was largely juggling incoming leads. Learning how to find need period business, building relationships, and closing the sale are skills that are lacking and need to be revisited and re-energized. They’re part of a good sales training program, and every sales person, regardless of their tenure, should participate in at least one in 2020.

Do you know how well members of your sales team are selling the hotel? Are buyers likely to buy from them? The only way to really know is by regularly conducting mystery shops with each salesperson to understand how they are selling. Are they dropping the rate too quickly when they encounter a price objection? Are they following up on a timely basis?

Finally, since e-mail is by far the most used mode of communication in today’s sales environment, when was the last time that anyone really looked at what salespeople are saying in their correspondence. Is it grammatically correct and, even more importantly, using vocabulary in a way that sells the hotel? Written communication training is paramount in today’s world of sales. Hotels that have embraced this important tool have a leg up on their competitors at winning more business.

2. Boost the Hotel’s Exposure on Social Media

For good or ill, social media is here to stay. In too many hotels, I’ve seen the task of responding to reviews on TripAdvisor, Facebook and Yelp, to name a few, farmed out to a number of different people depending on which business unit received the comment. Consider assigning one department to manage all communications, from restaurants to guestroom feedback, with just one person responding, and training a backup for sick days and holidays. This way, the reactive messaging is consistent for all areas of the hotel.

This same person would also be responsible for developing and overseeing content for social media feeds as a proactive activity. This will require creativity and collaboration with the various departments in order to capture newsworthy photos of events, menu changes, interesting tidbits, and other opportunities.

It will probably mean an addition to staff and will require reviewing existing positions with a new lens.

3. Augment Hotel Imagery

Websites and digital brochures require an architectural type of photography, which shows each guestroom, food and beverage outlet, and function room without people and no special décor in order for the customer to envision themselves there. When was the last time your hotel had a photo shoot of all areas of the hotel?

In today’s marketplace, a second photo shoot is required that will result in more lifestyle/experiential images. It helps customers paint a picture of possibilities. This type of photography is often more expensive, requiring the hiring of models and developing a story, and it has a limited shelf life. Both types of photography are necessary and typically require different photographers who specialize in either type of work.

Video is also important; however, it’s best to forgo the 3D virtual tour of the meeting space and re-direct your dollars toward short videos that tell your target audience a story. For example, if your goal is to increase business from families, produce a professional-level, two-minute video, telling the story of a family arriving and highlights of their stay at the hotel. Post this on social media and your website.

4. Amplify Your Trade Show presence

No doubt your sales and marketing expense budget is trade-show heavy, as often this is the best (and sometimes only) way to meet your target buyer. With so many hotels in the same situation, you need to break away from the crowd and be memorable. How do you do that? Come up with a creative approach that focuses on the one thing you want your buyer to remember. If you give them more than that, your message will get lost in a barrage of information.

For example, at one trade show, a hotel hired a model to act as a butler. He was dressed in a butler uniform, complete with a silver tray, and walked around the room cleaning client’s glasses and offering hand sanitizer. It definitely made clients remember this hotel!

5. Re-Energize Sales Basics

Did you know that 72% of all group business is awarded to the first hotel that responds to a lead? This means that response time is getting shorter and shorter. Too many steps in the process impacts the ability to respond to leads quickly.

Even with all of the advanced technology, a review of the sales processes and workflow must be conducted periodically to ensure they aren’t becoming too cumbersome and impeding response time.

6. Eliminate Barriers to Getting Things Done

While sales processes ensure that industry standards are implemented and make the workflow easy and flawless, it is also important to assess and discuss the undercurrent of ‘how things are done around here’ from a behavior perspective. This is another way of talking about the hotel culture. Is it conducive to working effectively toward booking business, or do distractions, such as gossip, bureaucracy, and lack of accountability, hinder sales effectiveness?

One measurement of the organizations culture is the employee-engagement score for the department. A score below 80 requires immediate attention, preferably with an objective, outside expert to help get behind hidden issues and barriers that are impeding the ability for the hotel to truly be successful.

7. Strengthen Sales Leadership

The most important component of whether a hotel will be successful in 2020 is the strength of the key leaders: the general manager, the director of sales and marketing, and the director of finance (in my experience, the three most important roles in the hotel).

Given this reality, you need to ask when the hotel last invested in these key people. Keeping them fresh with the support of a leadership coach or an executive training program is especially important during this low-employment era, when recruiters are constantly calling about new opportunities. Doing so reminds them they are valued and keeps them motivated and focused on the job at hand.


Incorporate these tips into your sales and marketing expense budget. If you are struggling to figure out how to do that, please accept my offer of a complimentary consultation of up to one hour to review your sales and marketing expense budget and receive my recommendations on what to eliminate so you can add one or more of the above actions.

If you have already completed your 2020 expense budget, I’ll provide recommendations on the next steps to implement these ‘must do’s’ to stay relevant in 2020 and beyond.


"Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow."
William Pollard, physicist and Episcopal priest

AND because we just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock musical festival and couldn’t resist a second quote...

"When I played Woodstock, I’ll never forget that moment looking out over the hundreds of thousands of people, the sea of humanity, seeing all those people united in such a unique way. It just touched me in a way that I’ll never forget."
Edgar Winter, musician

Take the Next Step Now

Hire Jo-Anne to discuss how to do things differently in 2020. Simply reach out to her at
[email protected]

About Jo-Anne Hill

Founded by industry expert Jo-Anne Hill, JH Hospitality Consulting dramatically improves revenue and profitability in creative ways at hotels around the world. Her strategic thinking, skill, and practical approach to problem-solving come from hands-on experience at companies such as The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Mandarin-Oriental Hotel Group, Dorchester Collection and Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts.

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