Alexander Daniels Professional Services got the opportunity to spend some time with Lyn MacDonald who is the Group Marketing Director of Macdonald Hotels & Resorts and arguably one of the most commercial Marketing Directors in Scotland right now. Her passion and sheer determination for what she does is so clear to see and it really is no wonder the success she has achieved to date.
LK; Hi Lyn, thanks for your time today and giving us an insight into the life of a Marketing Director for the UK’s largest independently owned Hotel Group. You’ve been with Macdonald for nearly two years now, what is the achievement you are most proud of since joining?
LM; How time flies when you’re having fun, pardon the cliché, so true though, right?! Reflecting on the past two years highlights the number of milestones reached and goals achieved, where do I start and how do I pick only one? We’ve successfully increased campaign revenue by 56% L4L, YOY, achieved look to book website conversions over 5.4%, implemented the group’s first ever CRM with all 8 data feeds being fully integrated to give a single customer view, we’ve launched a shiny new website with enhanced functionality and an instant rewards area, we’ve admired our wrapped Tram on the tracks in Edinburgh, and launched the first ever Resorts TV Advert on STV… the list goes on.
However, all this is only made possible when surrounded by the right people. Building such a passionate and conscientious team must be a key highlight for me. The team may be small; however, they provide national support across all segments to our hotels and resorts. We launched a weekly Sales & Marketing Email [Edition 43 was shared last week], which is sent to the entire business, sharing current campaigns, sales incentives, results, marketing hints and tips and toolkits to support lead generation and conversion.
LK; You have such a solid background in the hospitality industry; Shropshire Leisure, Thai Leisure Group, G1 and Macdonald Hotels, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing the hospitality industry from a marketing perspective over the next couple of years?
LM; I have always loved a high energy and fast-paced environment, with the opportunity to influence budgets and try new things to improve brand reach and customer engagement… I have always had all of this in abundance from the hospitality industry. Hospitality is a service-led industry, today’s customer is more informed and has a stronger voice thanks to social media. We need to ensure we move with the times, keep up with the latest tech, without forgetting about traditional methods which too often become over-looked.
Thinking from a hotel perspective, the challenge of OTA (online travel agents) and TPI (Third Party Intermediaries) remains, we should embrace these relationships. Give them a place within our commercial strategy. As a sector, we need to be able to work with these channels, get the % split of business generated right, find the sweet spot for each hotel, rather than taking a single group view… then work hard to meet our guest expectations and engage in more attractive loyalty programs, so next time, our guest books direct!
Alongside this, the ever-changing landscape of technology should be embraced by hoteliers. Considered and implemented with the customer at the centre of the decision-making process.
LK; What is your most hated business expression?
LM; ‘Chain’…I hate it! How depressing and boring. I’ve been proud to work for ‘groups’ of brands within entrepreneurial-led businesses. A collection of fabulous venues, yet part of an overarching brand name and identity, however, they all have a USP. Macdonald Hotels is a great example of this…a group of hotels, each with the solid DNA foundation of being part of the Macdonald Hotels & Resorts brand, yet each has their own nugget of greatness such as location, listed buildings, the biggest bedrooms in the city, hidden bars in function rooms, grand entrance halls with listed wallpaper, Scotland’s Wedding Coordinator of the Year, the friendliest concierge…the list goes on.
LK; You have a very impressive track record and have climbed the marketing ladder very quickly to Board level. For those starting out in their marketing career and who aspire to reach Board level, what would be your best piece of advice?
LM; My advice is, be yourself with quiet confidence and know your numbers. Don’t be afraid to try something that may not work, not all marketing campaigns are successful and not everything you try will work first time. The media mix is forever changing and will continue to evolve. Don’t lose sight of traditional methods, integrating these alongside newer channels can add real impact to your campaign.
I pride myself on staying true to customer needs, understanding customer expectations and selecting channels which maximises return on investment. I enjoy sharing marketing updates in the board room, no matter how tough those meetings can be. Be able to show results and the impact of your marketing activity, as this will help secure more budget in the future. Be open and honest about failures too, highlighting what you think went wrong and show the solution or improvements you’ll deploy next time. Work with passion, commercial awareness and integrity.
LK; What do you look for when hiring in to your team?
LM; My golden rule when I am looking to add to my team is always ‘hire talent, train skill’. I strongly believe there are elements which come only from raw talent, certain traits which can never be trained. Yes, consideration is given to the skillset and experience, however, their ability to gel with existing team members, add value and grow within the role, all comes from their personal attributes and how they come across during interviews.
LK; Finally, you appear to be very well networked and a consistent contributor to social media discussions. For those out there who may want to pick your brains, are you open to extending your network over a coffee?
LM; Yes, I do enjoy networking on LinkedIn, if I feel I can add value to a discussion, I can’t resist contributing. Yes, always open to coffee (dry January is easy, as long as I have coffee) and would love to share hints and tips where I can add value. I’ve also been keen to explore volunteer non-executive direction positions, particularly within the charity sector, would love to add value where possible, in and around other commitments.
LK; Thank you for meeting with us today and allowing us a sneak peek into the career life of Lyn MacDonald.
For anyone who may want to take advantage of having a coffee with Lyn, please contact Lauren Kennedy at Alexander Daniels on firstname.lastname@example.org