Navigating the evolving digital landscape requires strong partnerships. How do you assess the quality of a good relationship? Best Western Hotels & Resorts CMO Dorothy Dowling shares the three questions she always asks herself.
As someone who has been in marketing and sales for over 30 years, I’m often asked for advice on how to stay relevant in an ever-changing, increasingly digital world. How to juggle relationships with different stakeholders at Best Western — our customers, our hotel members, and our partners. And how to innovate our marketing so that we build a lasting, profitable brand.
Our people are at the heart of everything we do at Best Western, and this extends to our partnerships as well. It’s important to find partners that understand your business goals and that can provide new opportunities for your brand to grow.
I like to go “high, wide, and deep” with our most valued partners. Here are three things I always ask myself when I’m evaluating a new or existing relationship.
Does this marketing partner bring a unique perspective and insights?
A big part of my job is to drive growth for the Best Western brand, and I look for partners that can give us the “high-level view” of our industry with unique insights. We’ve relied heavily on insights from partners like Google to understand how our customers are using digital throughout the travel journey.
The best insights shift our perspective and give us clues about how we can take action.
The best insights shift our perspective and give us clues about how we can take action. We need to evolve with our customers today and in the future — how they think about travel, interact with brands, and what they expect of brands across channels. For example, we learned that when people in the U.S. begin their accommodations research with search, their journeys are simplified with 31% fewer touchpoints.1 That tells us that seeding our brand with new and potential customers in digital early on can have a big impact on consideration. This helps inform our audience search strategy.
Such unique insights about the customer journey help inform my conversations with internal stakeholders about the importance of marketing — and how, when, and where to invest our marketing dollars.
Are they challenging us in new ways?
Having partners who challenge us to expand our thinking with new opportunities is also important. Can we go “wide” with a partner by mapping new opportunities and identifying new global teams to partner with? At the same time, the best partners I’ve worked with understand that our budget is not unlimited, and we rely on them to help us be bold, but resourceful.
Most brands, including our own, started their online marketing initiatives with search. Search continues to be a high-performing channel for us, but the team at Google challenged us to look beyond search and other traditional channels we've relied on. We’ve worked closely with the team to innovate and diversify our initiatives to keep pace with consumer behavior. Focusing on online video as a channel to complement our traditional TV campaigns has allowed us to take a data-driven approach to insights, create relevancy with specific audiences, and experiment with our brand messaging.
With this in mind, we’ve become early movers in video for our high-priority summer campaigns. Our recent partnership with FameBit by YouTube gave us a chance to enhance our own successful influencer program by leveraging a new creator community already ingrained in the YouTube platform.
The engagement metrics for this campaign surpassed expectations by achieving 2.2M views and 13.6M minutes spent with our videos — the equivalent of 25 years of watch time. We also saw searches for our brand across Google search and YouTube search increase by 6X after the campaign ran.
Identifying partners that keenly know our business and help us create new value is key.
Can they help us grow for the future?
Going “deep” is about understanding the inner workings of our business. Driving bookings and loyalty with travelers in a competitive and evolving category like accommodations is challenging, and we rely on partnerships to extend our brand beyond our owned channels. Identifying partners that keenly know our business and help us create new value is key. This is where we can use data to build more engaging customer experiences and future loyalty.
Across our search, display, and video campaigns with Google, we combine insights with automation strategies to differentiate our messaging for potential customers and people who are already Best Western Rewards members. For example, we can highlight special partner promotions to our members who are also AAA or CAA auto club members. Many marketers are hesitant to share customer insights and data with their partners, but I’ve always looked at results to guide our decisions. If there’s a measurable impact in line with our business goals, we should lean in to the opportunity. Delivering results also helps build a foundation of trust.
Looking ahead, I see many more opportunities to continue the journey we’re on with partners who can help us anticipate the needs of our customers online, connect with them through the right messaging, and bring them to the Best Western brand. Establishing trust and identifying the right value-creation partners takes time. But getting this right helps our teams deliver better experiences for our guests — now and in the future.