When I think about the changes in hospitality marketing over the last ten years or so, the first thing that comes to mind is the need for immediacy and the way marketers have had to adapt to this need.

I should tell you now, I don’t typically sit around thinking about this; but I was asked last week to give a speech on it, so the topic was on my mind for a few days.

When I started in hospitality, marketing was already on the verge of big changes – the days of handing over the budget to the agency and having them build a media and PR plan that we actually stuck to throughout the year were already coming to an end.

Email marketing was pretty new and growing rapidly, though segmenting the database wasn’t really being done yet, and digital’s potential was just beginning to be tapped. Pay-per-click wasn’t yet completely embraced in the industry by independents, let alone any type of demand side platform digital media. Our web sites weren’t yet behaviorally-targeted and Facebook was in its infancy.  But digital’s movement forward had begun, and it was quickly picking up speed.

The biggest change in hospitality marketing I’ve seen – in large part, I think, necessitated by the recession – is the need for immediate action. Now we’re able to see real time data on our business levels, and with this comes the need to shift marketing strategies and tactics quickly to both anticipate and react to those shifts in demand.

Good thing we have so many new tools at our disposal to quickly impact that shifting demand, tools that let us turn the dial up or down on a moment’s notice:  PPC, social channels, hyper-targeted email marketing, mobile campaigns, guerilla initiatives, and the list goes on and on. But these tools are only useful if we know how to use them.

In many ways, I think the difference between the marketer I began as and the marketer I’ve become mirrors the way the customer’s purchase cycle has changed over the years. I mean, the path is no longer linear, where you learn certain tactical skills, and grow into learning management skills, then grow into director skills.

I’m all over the board now – like a Swiss Army knife.  I’ve run a marketing department for several years, overseeing the strategy and direction of the marketing effort, managing the expense budget, managing our external partner relationships, managing owner relationships, but I also know how to do the things needed to execute. Tell me what you need, and I can find a tool to make it work. This could be building and deploying eblasts to specific past guest lists, building a pdf one-sheeter for the group sales team, or building Facebook ads and pointing them to a specific user.  I can still write a pretty good press release, only now I know how to write it for search engine optimization.

My point is, hospitality marketers have to be versatile – to be strategic and see the bigger picture, but we also have to be tactical – to not just say “here’s what needs to be done”, but to actually get it done.  We have to be creative, come up with the ideas that are going to grab attention, but we also have to be analytical – to measure the return and report on the results of what we do. And we have to figure out how to get it all done while still making sure we keep up with Google’s latest changes to search, and while responding to these new consumer reviews over here and learning about the three new social channels that just popped up over there.

Marketing is more exciting than it’s ever been – it brings enormous potential to have an immediate impact. And to make the most of these opportunities, our skills have to stay razor-sharp. But this constant learning and ability to have an immediate impact are what keep the work fun.