Red Roof Inn's CMO Marina MacDonald Does It All!

Red Roof Inn's CMO Marina MacDonald Does It All!

Marina MacDonald has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly three decades. Since November 2007, she's been with Red Roof Inn, the past year and a half as CMO. Red Roof, a player in the economy lodging sector, has more than 400 properties across the U.S., split among franchised, corporate-managed, and corporate-owned units.

As CMO, MacDonald is responsible for helping the brand achieve its annual goals and objectives by leading and directing its sales and marketing programs. In this role, she develops targeted marketing initiatives that build the brand, increase customer loyalty, and support an integrated sales program. She also interacts with the franchise community and the brand's stakeholders, maintains relationships with Red Roof's top customers, and plays an active role in field sales.

While she works with a large number of groups and people, she says the brand has two primary audiences: its customers and its franchisees. "I strive to find fulfilling solutions and compelling to build up and showcase both those audiences," she says.

That's important, says MacDonald, because Red Roof's franchise community is close-knit, and the owners feel they are important and the focus of the brand's attention. One strong piece of evidence? "Over 90 percent of Red Roof Inn franchises say they would recommend Red Roof to other potential franchisees," she says. That's the kind of validation that bolsters sales and development.

MacDonald came to Red Roof Inn following her time as senior vice president of sales and marketing for Remington Hotels, where she was responsible for leading all aspects of sales and marketing for management operations. Before that, she served as vice president of sales and marketing at Wyndham International, where she played a key role in the successful growth of 40 upscale and luxury hotels and resorts in the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico.

She maintains an active role in the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) as a member of the organization's executive committee and is a Certified Hospitality Digital Marketer. In 2012, HSMAI named her one of the Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing.

Describe your role as CMO.
I lead all marketing and consumer sales efforts, including the national account sales team, digital, social and traditional marketing, and franchise marketing.

What's unique about the CMO position at Red Roof Inn?
We have two distinct audiences: 1) the traditional consumer, who stays in our product, and 2) the franchise owner, who provides the product. In my position, I strive to find fulfilling solutions and compelling tools to build up and showcase both those audiences.

What's the most challenging part of being a CMO today?
Keeping abreast of ever-changing technological advances.

What are the 3 most important keys to being an effective CMO leader today?
Having team members who are expert in their field; competent partners who deliver on the technical side of the customer experience; and leadership that ensures all the pieces work together.

How do you prepare a marketing plan and execute the strategies?
All marketing plans are based on customer needs and wants with insight into what is being offered competitively. Strategies focus on the channels with proven track records of resonating with our target audiences.

How do you measure marketing results and effectiveness?
Metrics vary by project, but ultimately we want to see our consumer demand grow in terms of new guests and more loyalty from current guests. In terms of franchisee effectiveness: growing demand for the franchise, franchisee intent for additional projects, and willingness to recommend.

Discuss your core consumer marketing strategies and objectives.
We begin with the basics: a product that is which not only exceeds the guests' expectations, but also delivers the returns that attract new franchise owners.

How do you go about creating a "customer-centric" marketing and brand philosophy?
We listen to our guests and franchisees. 1) Guests: through active engagement in social channels and a concentrated focus on guest surveys, online reviews, and issue resolution/avoidance. 2) Franchisees: by developing personal relationships, an active consultative environment, and surveys.

Describe your marketing team and the role each plays.
The marketing team includes experts in public relations, social media, loyalty marketing, digital marketing, field marketing, and national/regional and local sales. All work together to make sure each initiative is appropriately marketed through their channels.

Why is it so important for the marketing department to have a "personal touch" when it comes to helping the brand connect with franchise prospects?
Red Roof has built a unique reputation for building personal relationships with franchisees across all departments. It starts with our owner/operator culture. With more than 100 corporately managed properties, everyone at Red Roof understands the day-to-day pressures of running successful properties and ensuring great guest experiences. Franchisees are aware they have a direct line to not only marketing, but to every department.

How does this help your franchise sales and development effort?
The result is a franchise community that feels they are the focus of the brand's attention: more than 90 percent of Red Roof franchisees say they would recommend Red Roof to other potential franchisees.

What ways/tools do you rely on to do this?
Strong channels of communication, attention to details, and responding to issues immediately.

Do today's prospects expect more from the franchise marketing department? What, and how do you provide it?
Franchisees demand more from the brand in all ways, and marketing is a huge component of that contribution: national sales, loyalty sales, brand image. Red Roof's brand contribution of 63 percent is one of the highest in the category.

How is technology changing the way franchise marketing is done in terms of one-on-one contact?
Email capability has increased one-on-one communication tremendously over the years. But we have not let that convenience replace the personal contact at the core of our relationships. Technology does provide the analytics to support franchisees and identify opportunities much more quickly.

How are you assisting your existing franchisees with more contact and transparency? What are their immediate needs?
Red Roof meets regularly with the franchise advisory committee, both in person and through regularly scheduled conference calls. Regional vice presidents of operations are the core contact for franchisees in the field and have direct access to any resource needed.

How do you work with other internal departments, and does technology help?
There are no barriers to departmental collaboration at Red Roof. All departments work together for the betterment of the brand.

How do you manage costs and budgets for the marketing department?
We manage costs by gauging ROI, and we set aside dollars to test new initiatives.

Do you see vendors as business partners? Why/why not?
We strive to identify vendors who not only have the expertise needed, but also who match our culture in terms of dedication and transparency. That creates good partnerships.

How have marketing strategies/tools changed over the past decade? How have you adapted?
The importance and proliferation of social channels has been one of the most obvious changes in marketing tools and strategies. While requiring different skills, mastering these tools puts brands of all sizes on a level playing field with consumers. It's no longer a simple matter of how much media budget a brand controls.

How is your marketing/branding strategy developed, and how does it flow through the system?
The overall strategy is agreed upon at the top levels and communicated within each division/department.

What advice would you offer to aspiring CMO executives?
Spend as much time as possible with the head of technology. Everything one does these days touches technology and infrastructure and always sticks to your core customer. Truly understand who they are and listen to what they're saying.

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