With such a heavy focus on increasing group bookings at hotels, it’s no wonder that marketing often gets the short end of the stick throughout the hotel industry. It’s the same reason that you’ll see robust sales teams but skeleton marketing crews, or a director of sales and rarely a director of marketing. Your best defense? Arm yourself with – at the very least – online hotel marketing basics that will build you a solid and substantial foundation for your hotel marketing efforts throughout the rest of the year. Here’s a strong place to start.
1. Identify Your Audience
Before you embark on any type of marketing, do this. You may think you know who your guests are, but often times, I see hoteliers have wishful thinking. They’ll say their biggest market is business travelers, when really it is FIT. The error comes from the hotel WANTING more business travelers. In other cases, hotels want to be something to everyone. The hotels with the most success in marketing are the ones that take the time nail down who their audience is. Take the time to write full customer profiles, complete with demographics, job title, travel habits, etc of your typical guests. Knowing your audience will provide the direction for all of your marketing tactics.
2. Write Down What You Want
Again – don’t skip this step. Too many hotels do that and end up missing the mark completely with their marketing efforts since they didn’t know what they wanted in the first place. So, set out your goals. What exactly do you want to achieve overall with your marketing? Identify goals for each marketing campaign you commit to. What do you want more of? Brand recognition, stronger brand loyalty, exposure to specific customers and markets?
3. Create Enticing Packages and Market Them Consistently
Entice potential guests with creative packages that will persuade them to book. Develop some tried-and-true packages, such as romance packages that include dinner for two and artisan chocolates. These are boring, but they sell. Also, develop packages that are unique only to your property and that are based on destination experiences.
Partner with a local cooking school to offer guests a cooking class using local ingredients, a scavenger hunt company to show guests your city’s secrets, or a food tour company that will take your guests on a one-of-a-kind tasting journey to local mom-and-pop owned restaurants. Then, push those offers consistently using all of your marketing channels – your Website, social media channels, and email newsletters.
4. Choose Your Social Media Channels
While social media is now an necessity for hotels, it is NOT necessary to be on every channel imaginable. Find out where your audience hangs out online. Look at your comp set – do they have active Facebook pages abuzz with activity, while their Pinterest accounts remain sadly dormant? Take a cue and get on Facebook pronto. Social media allows your hotel to build a community of past, present and potential guests, while also giving your brand a place to interact with these customers. You can also push exclusive offers, survey your guests, offer destination help to guests, and address customer service issues.
5. Invest In Quality Marketing Assets and Media
Whether you like it or not, travelers will ‘judge a book by its cover.’ To your guests, your digital assets, like your photography or marketing videos, reflect your property and the experience they’ll have there. So, don’t go cheap on building your visual marketing assets by hiring your nephew who is dabbling in camera work (you’d be surprised how many hotel owners do this).
Skip the grainy, poorly lit images and shaky marketing videos shot on your iPhone. Present the best side of your property by investing in quality vendors to create your marketing materials or else risk looking like a place people DON’T want to stay at.
Also, shoot as many room types and public spaces in your hotel as you can. Hotel guests want to see exactly where they’ll be staying at, the areas they’ll hang out in, etc.
6. Develop a Strategy for Email Marketing
No matter how much attention social media is getting, email still stands as a solid and incredibly powerful marketing tool for hotels. You can interact with your guests by sending them relevant details and helpful tips before they check-in, send out exclusive offers to a targeted audience (repeat guests, guests from certain locations, etc), and keep past guests updated on what’s new at both your hotel and your destination.
7. Teach Your Guests What to Expect At Your Property
Travelers are hungry for details that will impact their stay. So, avoid being vague (“We’re close to all major attractions!”) and instead practice giving precise information that will help them explore your destination and make the most of their stay (“We’re just a 15-minute drive to Pike Place in downtown Seattle.”) Tell them what attractions are around you, within walking distance, driving distance, etc.
Do the same with your hotel and its amenities. Offer up the details that tell the story of your property and better paint the picture of your experience. Instead of marketing your restaurant generically as “a fine-dining Italian restaurant,” describe the experience accurately with “Taste regional Italian recipes and locally sourced ingredients in our intimate restaurant that overlooks the Hollywood Hills.”
8. Nail Down SEO
According to a Google study, 65 percent of leisure travelers begin their travel search online, especially after a destination is selected. So, it’s vital that your hotel Website gets noticed during a guest’s online search. Hire a SEO specialist and content strategist to optimize your hotel’s Website with the right content, tags and pages.
9. Encourage – and Respond To – Guest Reviews
Travelers will always believe other travelers over you. So, encourage traveler reviews both during and after guests’ stays. Don’t let the amazing experience you offer guests go unnoticed, so encourage and ask for the feedback. Here are some ways to do that.
Whether they’re crummy or glowing, reviews are the perfect opportunities to allow your customer to stumble or shine. Your responses will influence how future guests in the research phase see you and help them to decide if it is worth staying with you. Never know what to stay to an angry reviewer? Here are some brilliant ways to respond to negative reviews.
10. Go Mobile
Today’s travelers are searching and booking on tablets and their smartphones, not to mention using their devices for virtually every portion of their travels. They’re checking into their flights, hailing a Uber or Lyft, receiving changes to their travel itineraries and booking their hotel for the night. So EVERYTHING you have has to be optimized for all marketing platforms. In addition to your Website, this includes your booking engine, your email marketing, your sales pages, proposal forms, photo galleries, etc.
What marketing essentials would you add to this list? What causes you the most issues? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Junvi Ola.