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Horwath Bastow Charleton Case Study

The internet provides businesses with a range of opportunities to reach out and connect with existing and potential customers. It also affords customers the opportunity to research and review a company’s products and services and to connect with that company in real-time. With the wide range of digital channels available, the customer has never before been in such a position of power when it comes to influencing other consumers.

If your customers are online, then your business needs to be online. While at times, it may seem that the customer is in the driving seat, there are many tools and techniques available that businesses can utilise to ensure that they are optimising their digital platforms.

Here are 5 tips for companies looking to develop and implement a digital marketing strategy:

1. Choose the right social media channels for your target audience
Not all social media channels may be relevant to your current or target customers. In terms of the types of customers you are trying to reach, what does their average day look like? Where are they spending their time and are there opportunities for them to see or hear about your brand during their day? Where do they look for information? Who do they ask?

In 2016, Ireland spent over €114m advertising on social media platforms, double what was spent in 2015 (IAB Ireland Adspend Report FY 2016). With over 90% of Irish adults having a presence on at least one social media account, it is more important than ever to ensure that your company is engaging with your customers on the right social media platforms. Research how your customers consume content and make sure you’re there. Once you establish their touch points for making a purchasing decision, you can then create online communications to directly target them. Remember – One size doesn’t fit all!

2. Map the customer journey
An important point when developing a digital marketing strategy is to map out the customer sales funnel. A clear understanding of your typical customer journey will show how they progress from the initial awareness stage through to making an actual purchase and on to retention. You can then design messaging that is relevant to each stage in their decision making and map it against the relevant online channels for your customers. For example, at the board awareness stage your target customer will be looking for more general information about your company and the range of services and products you offer. Whereas, at the decision making stage, they will be more interested in the detail around service delivery, after sales support, price comparison, testimonials and case studies.

3. Create an adaptable digital marketing strategy
Given the evolving nature of digital marketing, with many new trends / tools / techniques / platforms emerging on a regular basis, your digital marketing strategy should be as flexible as possible to allow for these new opportunities. Having a well thought-out strategy will provide guidance on the direction of your digital marketing activities as well as a roadmap for implementation. It should clearly outline the role of each channel or platform within the overall marketing strategy, but it should not be set in stone. Rather, the strategy should be able to evolve with the company and its customers over time, responsive to changing market trends and able to incorporate new tools, techniques and platforms.

4. Set goals, assign targets, track activity and measure performance
It can be easy to make significant investments in your website, online advertising and social media platforms but these investments need to be reviewed and analysed on a regular basis to ensure ROI. Clear performance metrics and KPIs need to be outlined and activity tracked and measured against these targets.

Online advertising, including ads that are posted on social media platforms, should be A/B tested and tweaked where necessary to optimise their performance. Similarly, when developing a website, it is important to have clear objectives and performance targets with analytics in place to measure and monitor activity. Social media can be time consuming, so it is vital to have a clear focus to the activity and defined objectives set.

Different online channels and platforms will have different uses within an overall marketing, and specifically a digital marketing, strategy. A key benefit of digital media lies in its accountability – through careful planning and measurement it is easy to see what is or isn’t working well and adjust accordingly.

5. Resource adequately
It should be evident from the above that in order to create and implement a digital marketing strategy, it will require investment in terms of staffing, time and financial resources. Depending on the size of your business, the resources available and the level of online marketing activity planned, you may require a dedicated person or even a team. But for many smaller organisations responsibilities could be incorporated into a current staff member’s role. However, for any digital marketing strategy to succeed, it is important to ensure it is adequately resourced and a central part to your overall marketing strategy.

If you would like to learn more about the development and implementation of an impactful digital marketing strategy and how we can help your organisation build an integrated marketing plan, talk to a member of our consulting team.

Pictured; At the launch of the 2017 Hotel Industry Survey, Mairea Doyle-Balfe, Director and Aiden Murphy, Partner, Crowe Horwath.

Concern about competitiveness as average rate in Dublin are now €128, well ahead of the previous record of €121 set in 2006

Room rates at Dublin hotels have reached an all-time high, eclipsing the prices of the last boom, as prices in the capital surged at nearly twice the rate of the rest of Ireland over the past year, a major piece of industry research has found.

The annual Crowe Horwath hotel industry survey shows that average room rates in Dublin rose almost 15 per cent in 2016, as a capacity crunch and a huge influx of visitors from the US swelled the performance of many city properties.

The average rate in Dublin is now €128, up from almost €112 last year and well ahead of the previous record of €121, set in 2006.

Nationally, including Dublin, the average rate is €104. In the midlands, it is €91.40, up 8.6 per cent, while prices rose 10 per cent to €93.25 in the southwest, which is also a favoured destination of US tourists.

Sky-high occupancy rates are an indicator that the hotel sector is at full stretch, especially in the capital. Occupancy of more than 82 per cent in Dublin means that the city’s hotels are full about 300 nights of the year.

Average occupancy elsewhere in the State runs at up to 69 per cent, with the midlands recording the largest annual increase.

No competition in Dublin

Aidan Murphy, a partner with Crowe Horwath, warned that competitiveness in the Dublin sector is being eroded.

He also cast doubt on a prediction by Fáilte Ireland that the capital would welcome another 5,000 hotel rooms on stream by 2020 to plug the supply gap.

“I think it will take up to 24 months longer than that to deliver what is needed,” he said.

The escalating rates of Dublin hotels, many of which were bought for knockdown prices by foreign investors, will bring renewed focus on to whether the sector really needs continued stimulation via a 9 per cent VAT rate.

The last government introduced the special rate as a “temporary” measure in 2011 to stimulate a then-moribund industry. Despite an impressive recovery since, the industry has lobbied furiously for the rate’s retention, on the basis that a return to 13.5 per cent would harm competitiveness.

This argument is undermined, however, as hotels hike prices at a rate far higher than the VAT subsidy.

Less attractive

Mr Murphy argues, however, that any change to the VAT rate would be likely to make the sector less attractive to investors, and would hamper efforts to boost capacity to take advantage of booming demand. The Government is thought unlikely to change the VAT rate in the upcoming budget.

Mr Murphy claimed hotels needed to become even more profitable to stimulate further building. Larger hotels generated almost €16,400 profit per room in 2016, compared with €13,600 per room the previous year.

“At the current profit levels, it is a 15-year payback [for investors],” he said.

He said Irish banks only lend about eight times profits for new hotel projects, leaving a large funding gap for developers.

As well as Dublin, he said more new hotel development was needed to meet supply in Cork and Galway, while extensions to existing hotels should be enough to meet demand in other regional locations.

To order your copy of the 2017 Hotel Industry Survey please contact Sinead O’Rourke.

This article appeared in the Irish Times 30th August 2017.

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