Planning Vs. Doing: You Can't Automate What You Don't Have

I have forgotten how many hotels I’ve crashed in; it has to be in the thousands at this point. While I have had many great experiences at these hotels, I had yet to experience what I would call a “wow” marketing moment after being on the premises. Sure, I’ve received thousands of promotional emails, informing me of events that happen throughout the year. But those go to everyone, blissfully unaware that the only reason I was there was to speak at a conference. 

Until this fall. While arranging travel to a conference hosted at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, I received the traditional booking confirmation and thought nothing more about it. However, the next series of emails I received just blew me away in the planning, execution and data-centric approach.

A month prior to my stay, I received an email informing me of the specials at the hotel and the ability to extend my stay and receive credits and discounts. The main purpose of the email was promotional, and an effective presentation of the Fontainebleau.



A week prior to my visit, I received an email showing me the restaurants, spa, entertainment and culinary offers available during my stay. Very little of the email was promotional; it was focused on education and presentation of the Fontainebleau as the destination of my journey.

On the day of my arrival, I received my next email formatted to my mobile. It offered the ability to check in that day and simply pick up my key card at the desk. Of course, I received the email when checking my mobile at the airport. I was immediately impressed at the forward-thinking, functional and directed purpose of this communication.

On the day of departure, an email was waiting for me as I woke up early to go to the airport. Another mobile-formatted email inviting me to check out online. Again, a no-frills presentation with functionality and ease of use at its heart.

Of course, the next day I received an invitation for a survey. While this is nothing new, and many surveys are requested by hotels and airlines, it had my attention. As with every other communication and experience at the hotel, it had resulted in getting my attention.

The next day, I received something that very few other destinations have sent, a thank you. There were three parts to this thank-you email; the thank-you, an invitation to subscribe to email communications, and an invitation to book my next stay. Interestingly, this email was back to a format that would render best on a desktop, but still mobile-friendly.

Needless to say, I am impressed by this effort. In my position, I teach companies the importance of planned communication and triggered emails, and some are getting it. However, this is the first example of a hotel that was able to plan the entire process, from the beginning of the customer experience to the end. 

Many marketers tend to view marketing automation as a way out of the hard work of thinking and planning, as the term “automation” seems to be synonymous with “summer vacation.” However, you can’t automate what you don’t have.

Triggered communication and marketing automation are both hard work. They require planning, strategy, clear execution based on the customer’s journey and specific time-based scenarios (such as knowing the likelihood of when a customer will be using a mobile device to receive specific emails). 

Companies that take the time to plan these communications and strategies by focusing on the customer journey and specific scenarios are the ones that will excel in marketing automation and triggered communications. Chances are, they were performing these things before automation was in place — they had the content in place before the technology.

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