Professional Comment

Marketing Must Have A Seat At The Boardroom Table

By Victoria Searl, Founder of DataHawks (

Now more than ever hospitality businesses cannot afford to be leaving money on the table, which is why I’m doing my best to highlight to the industry that I’ve been working in for over 27 years that it has a major Achilles heel and it’s about time that changed.

Hospitality’s Achilles heel is its misguided perception of marketing.This strongly held opinion is one that has formed over years of working in the industry –in both marketing and operational roles and was the frustration that led to DataHawks: my business, which empowers hospitality marketers with business changing marketing intelligence.

Time and time again, and often as brands go from one site to numerous sites, I have seen attempts to hire in a ‘junior marketer’ – expecting the world often with no real idea of the job role a marketer should have and almost always affording little to no budget. Of course this doesn’t work. Then, perhaps after several more years, the business decides it’s time for a more senior marketer to be recruited. By this stage the culture of marketing being ‘an extra cost’ or ‘nice to have’ – bringing to life operation’s ideas and kept busy with flyer making or photoshoots – is engrained. So despite the word strategic sitting on the job description, the marketer usually becomes frustrated and despondent and the function’s reputation as a cost centre rather than a smart investment is further perpetuated.

You see departments like operations, HR and finance are always at the boardroom table – perhaps because each department brings with them such clear and tangible data to prove their value and worth and because they’ve been deemed essential from day one. Operators have systems and spreadsheets full of data, detailing everything from margin and labour percentages to NPS to sales and cost forecasting. Finance have P&Ls going back years, while HR have churn models and exit interviews.The big boss too, will have reporting, insight and consultancy coming from every direction. Why should it be any different for marketing, who actually – with the right approach – have the potential for huge influence on increasing sales and ROI.


It’s time we took responsibility as an industry for phrases like ‘the colour- ing in department’, made by lazy colleagues who’ve never bothered to find out what marketers are capable of, and instead began taking seriously the impact marketing roles can have, from driving revenue, to new customer acquisition and importantly retention.This is all possible through using what we know about customers.

It is also time for marketers to see themselves differently and to shake off the ‘marketing role’ that has been moulded by an ill-informed hospitality sector. Placing less emphasis on long-term (who can really plan long into the future in the midst of a pandemic anyway!?) colour-coded plans, often built on a collective gut instinct and that look suspiciously like the previous one, and the one before that.

Marketers will only be able to change the way they work if they have the tools to build communications and campaigns which resonate with the right people at the right time and that means one thing should be at the centre of a marketer’s world: customer data.

Whether you know it or not, businesses are overflowing with data from wifi, pay-at-table, CRM, feedback, booking platforms. Now is the time to organize and analyse that data, to identify and profile key customer groups and trends. Defer to the marketers skills, expertise and knowledge to create smart and targeted actions based on that intelligence, which might mean operations get less of that individual’s time but will certainly mean increasing revenue for the brand.With the ability to work in such a genuinely strategic way and to make a significant impact on the success of the hospitality business, it’s high time that marketers took their seat at the boardroom table.

The truth is if you’re not putting your customers at the heart of your marketing in this era of personalisation, (100% of respondents¬ in a recent DataHawks survey said they could not confidently say who their most valuable customers were), and you’re not putting your marketer at the centre of strategic conversations– you’re going to find the next few years almost impossible to navigate and your survival as a business will become more precarious by the day.