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Exclusive with Kirill Shmelev


Stankevicius interviews marketing experts from various industries to get a unique perspective and in-depth professional insights about the ever-changing marketing industry including important roles of advertising and public relations.

In this interview we talk with Kirill Shmelev who is a sales and marketing director at Marriott. Kirill has an interesting international background, and he has shared with us his career insights on marketing.

You have an interesting background working at international companies around the world in Dubai, Bangkok, Saint Petersburg and even Armenia. Could you tell from your experience how sales and marketing interact with each other and how important is for these two departments to work together?

The answer to the first part of the question, in my opinion, may vary depending on the size of the company and the type of business you are in. In small firms, for example in the real estate, even though marketing can be basic and traditional (telemarketing, billboards, mass mailing) and can be done by the sales agents themselves, it does have a direct impact on your company's performance. In larger companies sales department is responsible for lead conversion, marketing department's main focus is lead generation and its usually done by different people, sometimes not event part of a department but even based in a different country. In both cases it is extremely important for sales and marketing to have the right setup and have a constant communication. Failing will result in either low quality of leads or low closure rate.

What were your main challenges that you have experienced in your extraordinary career and how did you overcome them?

My carrier is rather a “man’s purpose search”, as I’ve started to work when I was 18 and changed spheres a few times, finally landed in the one which is closer to my heart which is hospitality. "Take care of associates and they will take care of the customers." This is what Mr. Marriott has put into his company’s DNA being its main core value ever since. Paradoxically, finding these associates is the main challenge wherever I go. It can’t be limited to experience or education, you have to be really open minded, finding those sales superstars, who are sometimes sitting behind the desk somewhere in a bank or even serving coffee at the café next door. I hire attitude as this is the most difficult (most of the time impossible) entity to develop or change, the rest you can teach.

When it comes to hotel marketing, how do you actually do marketing for hotels? What are the goals and how do you reach them?

Speaking of hotel chains, marketing is really complex. Huge part which has the highest impact on the company's image is done by the corporate and the regional marketing teams. Hotel on-property marketing team usually consists of one or two people, if it’s not a cluster of hotels or a 1000+ rooms complex. Main focus is on the local market awareness. Marketing specialist works closely with other departments, especially F&B, promoting outlets, it’s activities, special offers, etc., and creating the active community of loyal customers. Largest part of it is done via the social media. Another aim is to attract individual guests internationally and from the nearby regions or cities. I see it as “directing and strengthening” the flow of the global company's marketing initiatives and activities using company’s own and 3rd party resources.

The goals are very much depending, while on the property type it could be social media engagement score, marketing activities and events related to property awareness, number of room nights produced via the hotel website, number of restaurant reservations done via the website, etc. Keys to achieving the goals as per my experience include proper communication between the departments, following the strategy, time management and continuous feedback from the management.

How do you perceive marketing activities between different companies and countries? Are the activities usually the same or they vary somehow based on some local metrics?

The activities do vary on the number of local metrics. Some markets are really traditional so people, for example, read newspapers and it is one of the most powerful resources for marketing. Some are just entering into the social world with some services being commonly used by people and some (sometimes most popular in other regions) are almost unknown to the audience. For example when I was opening the hotel in a small town in Russia I faced situation when people were just getting to know Instagram (and it was in 2018) so to better understand their hot buttons you could study people’s behaviors at any larger region 5-6 years back and then only decide your strategy. Other regions are already so much into the digital world that the marketing investments are controlled by the systems and changes are being made few times a day automatically. I think you need to do your research of the area you are based in, talk to people and see what works best there, though I think nothing beats a well-organized marketing event with number of activities focused on your brand. In hospitality we do it quite often.

What is your favorite marketing tool that you can’t live without?

Instagram, if it can be called a tool, mailchimp is great for email marketing and Google Analytics for your website.