Chris Jack

What are your unknown unknowns?

Chris Jack
But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
— Donald Rumsfield - United States Secretary of Defense 2002.

I love this quote from Donald Rumsfield and I remember hearing him make this statement live on CNN about 16 years ago.

It stuck with me because of its simplicity and truthfulness. It also applies to marketing hotels and is one of the biggest frustrations that I have to deal with when talking with hotel owners.

It is a basic truth that if you don't know something how can you assess, prioritise or manage it? The simple answer is that you can't because that is logically impossible.

The problem that every single hotel has right now (regardless of their success) with their online presence and marketing, is that there are many things they simply don't realise are wrong. Wrong is a strong word, and things can be wrong either objectively or subjectively.

For example, there may be typos or spelling mistakes on your website copy. I am sure there are some on this website and probably even this post. That is objectively wrong, unless of course that word has different spellings in different regions. Then it becomes a subjective wrong, depending on where you happen to be reading the post.

The point is that right now I know based on probability that you are leaving money on the table. There are things that I could prove are wrong both objectively and subjectively, of varying degrees with your branding and online presence.

The question is, how many of these things are you actually aware of and how many will remain unknown and impact negatively on your revenue for the foreseeable future?

And these are probably not difficult or expensive things to fix, once you are aware of them.

This is exactly why continual online presence audits by third parties are so important. Whenever I write a blog post or create a new page on this website for example, I ask my wife to read the post and discover what her perspective is.

Often she will identify errors that I simply didn't see at the time I proofed the post. Had I returned to the post or page in a weeks time I may well have noticed these things. It could be the tone is wrong, there are grammatical or spelling mistakes, or that I have overlooked the SEO implications or any number of things that could be improved.

Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be a correlation between the star rating or average daily rate of a hotel and the mistakes they are making. Even top hotels with large marketing budgets seem to be making glaringly obvious mistakes in terms of their online presence and branding.

No-one is immune to these errors and therefore every hotel benefits from routine online presence audits by third parties such as Locus Focus. As hotels are dynamic places with constantly changing menus, events and seasons there seems to be even more potential for hotels in general to make mistakes and not even be aware of them.

So the question is what are your unknown unknowns? What are things right now that could probably be fixed with your branding, copy, website design, room descriptions etc. that would result in greater clarity, visibility or conversion for your online presence?