One of the most challenging and fun things about running the joint yourself is that you get to be everything. Jill thinks I spend too much time trying to be the Managing Director and Chief Executive, but that’s another story. Kitchen Assistant? That’s me. Waiter? That’s me too. Front-desk person? Yes! Tour-guide? That’s me. Except that tomorrow it might be Jill - although that means I’d have to be Housekeeper…
I enjoy all the responsibilities which go with developing a great place to stay, but there is one role whose hat I wear with a greater degree of uncertainty: that of Marketing Director.
We’ve done all our own promotion and marketing so far, although we’ve had some fantastic help from one or two marketing-savvy friends. They’re more than just savvy – they’re experts in their field. But I confess that it’s a role I find difficult to slip into. I still squirm when I remember my discomfort in the conversation with a dear friend, who is an expert in ‘bringing a brand to market’. He asked me eagerly ‘So, what is it that you’re selling?’ I looked blank. OK, look, I know I should know the answer to this, but you’re going to have to help me here. He clearly thought that by repeating the question with added emphasis on the ‘IS IT..’ part, that the dawn of realisation would suddenly sweep over me. It didn’t.
Another pal, a lifelong marketing man, gave us a deep and meaningful consultation, and handed me a great, thick, empty notebook, with the words ‘Marketing Strategy’ written on the front, and various pencilled chapter headings throughout. He’s left loads of blank pages between headings, as if he clearly expects us to fill them with brilliant and incisive ideas. I find myself writing in artificially large letters.
These guys are clever. They know how to get us to buy stuff. Most of the world would just get on and do what comes naturally, and because it comes naturally they believe they’re doing a great job, and that it can’t be improved. But now that we’ve been guided to the other side, across the perilous divide of unknowing and uncertainty, now we can see how important it is to have a marketing strategy, a PR strategy, a cohesive online presence, and a media kit. I’m even beginning, with a little help from my friends, to know what one or two of these terms actually mean.
Not that we looked like marketing newbies when we had a three-minute feature in BBC1’s Songs of Praise last Sunday. No siree. Hey – I should write that item in my strategy notebook. (Do you ever make a list of things you’ve already done, and then tick them off, just so you can see how much you’ve achieved?)
We had a call, out of the blue, from a BBC researcher, whose friend had stayed with us. They were making a SoP programme in which Aled Jones was walking the Northumberland coast, and they wanted him to meet some people along the way. Aled was a really nice, ordinary chap, and didn’t seem at all like a megastar. I even helped him connect his iPhone to our wireless network.
The resulting programme was really good – a great advert for our region (although I’m sure SoP wouldn’t see themselves as tour guides.) We were really glad to be part of it, telling something of the story and ethos of SCH - and getting a free plug on BBC1 which my marketing friends would dream of. Perhaps I won’t let on to them that this was entirely accidental – and let them think its all part of our carefully co-ordinated marketing strategy. Cool.
You can see our little contribution to the programme down below, (and it also contains the programme's introduction, so it's 4 mins in total) and the whole programme is available to watch for one week on BBC iPlayer. After that, you’ll have to buy a copy of the DVD from our Publicity Materials and Marketing Promotional Activities Reinforcement Catalogue.