Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
3 min read August 2021 — Being adaptable to change and keeping a pulse on a constantly changing landscape are just two of the keys to remaining successful in marketing. During a conversation with Invest: James W. Hansen, vice president of sales and marketing for Kolter Hospitality, discussed what it means to remain competitive in the age of influencer marketing as well as what he believes has led to his long term success.
What initially got you into sales and marketing in the first place?
Initially, I was doing an internship at a large conference hotel in Gainesville, FL as a banquets and catering employee. I was given an opportunity to move into the sales office as a Sales Coordinator working directly for the Director of Sales & Marketing. He was kind enough to teach me everything he knew. What I learned was so profound and impactful for me, I knew I had immediately found my calling and passion in my professional life!
What campaign/initiative/program that you’ve led are you most proud of and why?
Something relevant to what we have all experienced recently. Myself and our sales and marketing teams led a campaign that pushed the message for meetings and event planners to ‘Rebook rather than Cancel’. This initiative was a marketing-led effort that was used to send the message to our planners and partners that we were happy to work with them to reschedule or postpone their events/meetings to future dates within our hotel portfolio. Our goal was for them not to cancel all together but to just temporarily postpone their events/conferences until it was deemed safe and appropriate to travel again. We garnered great success with the messaging and successfully rebooked and rescheduled a significant portion of the business that could have potentially been lost for 2021 and 2022.
What does a successful hospitality sector marketing strategy look like in the face of COVID-19?
I think there is so much that can be done right now in the face of COVID-19 from a marketing perspective. It is important to understand who your target audience is first and then be able to craft the marketing message for those travelers. For example, our marketing message and strategy aimed toward individual business travelers right now is hyper focused on sending messages that promote and discuss our hotel’s rigorous protocols for cleanliness, the fact that we are fully open and operational and our flexibility in catering to the varying needs and safety requirements/concerns for all business travelers. We have seen a tremendous rebound and growth in the business travel segment partly due to the fact that we have continually pushed the marketing message mentioned prior, and with that, it brings a sense of comfort and safety that travelers feel when they book with us or stay at any of our hotels now and in the future.
In the age of influencers, what is the key to keeping traditional marketing competitive?
Traditional marketing will always have a place in any business sector but I think that being flexible in your marketing approach and being adaptable to changes and evolution, whether it’s influencers, social media or marketing channels, is key. The key to keeping your traditional marketing approach competitive is to ensure that your content and messaging stays fresh and relevant. Oftentimes, messages sent via traditional marketing channels remain stagnant while influencers and social channels are always almost infinitely updating and evolving so as a traditional marketer you must stay up to date with your message and content to sort of ‘keep pace’ with influencers in today’s crowded marketing landscape.
What is the biggest challenge you face in accomplishing your day to day?
I believe the biggest challenge I face in my day to day, that I feel many leaders face and perhaps struggle with, is resistance to change and adaptability (or lack thereof). COVID-19 is a perfect example – it has caused the business world as a whole to rethink and change the way we meet, where we meet and how we conduct our daily activities. Those that have been open to change have thrived, and many others who are not as adaptable continue to struggle with these changes in a new working ‘environment’, which could very well be the new norm moving forward. I think this is a major struggle for not only myself but many leaders, however it is something that can be overcome with patience, flexibility and adaptiveness in our daily work and personal lives.
What do you believe has made you successful as the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Kolter Hospitality?
I believe the people in our company – our ‘team members’ – have contributed the most to my success in this role. I can attest to the belief that if you hire great, smart people, you will thrive in your role and I think over the past 13 years I have done just that. Surrounding myself with intelligent, thoughtful leaders has greatly contributed to my overall success.
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