Claire Celsi is the Director of Public Relations at Lessing-Flynn in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Hotel Pattee is a gem on the Iowa prairie, located in Perry. The hotel is set to close (again). And it's sad, because it could have been avoided.
When a property such as the Hotel Pattee - which is 45 mins from downtown Des Moines - is left to market itself, failure is assured. The hotel's management failed to plan for and spend money on marketing of the hotel. Let me elaborate.
The Hotel Pattee would never be sustainable on its own. It's in a lovely small town, but there aren't enough business customers to keep it afloat during the week. On weekends, it's an attractive destination for couples, but without anything to do in Perry, it's attractiveness is very limited. The Hotel foolishly invested in a fancy salon last year. What it should have done is invested in the entertainment that was offered in the lobby and lounge. Also, it provided two measly little rent-a-bikes for hotel guests. It should have really taken advantage of the fabulous trail system and hosted bikers and rides at least once per month.
Another total wiff by the hotel's management: They didn't market to their own proven customer base. Despite being a customer on numerous occasions, I did not receive a postcard, email or text message letting me know of specials or room deals. I never received a note from the manager thanking me for my business or noticing that I hadn't been back in more than a year. They squelched the opportunity to use the rich data they already own.
Don't even get me started on the social media aspect. Whoever was operating their Facebook page didn't know how to spell. And they never figured out how to use Twitter, despite numerous customers who consistently tweeted their praise to the @HotelPattee handle. A day late and a dollar short, the social efforts never took off.
Each category of product has a different level of spending that should be planned for marketing and put right into the budget, just like expenses for staffing, cleaning and supplies. Without a consistent marketing effort, even the best hotel is doomed to fail. The Hotel Pattee had a number of mitigating factors such as its isolation, which in some ways made it even more important for marketing to be implemented from the beginning.
Another important note: Sales is NOT marketing. Sales professionals work their contacts to get people in the door and make relationships. But those efforts should always be backed up by a smart marketing plan. Unfortunately, the Hotel Pattee never hired an outside company to conduct serious marketing and public relations on its behalf.
Here we are. Lots of broken hearts. One of Iowa's gems is once again closed. I hope the new owners invest in marketing and public relations from the first day it re-opens.
And I hope I get an email asking me to return.