On television, the advertising industry may look glamorous. Marketing agencies are often viewed as high-status, fast-paced places to work, full of graphic artists, witty copywriters, and endless resources. In the real world, however, building a successful marketing strategy rarely appears as flashy as it does on TV. Good marketing content is built upon a strong foundation of data, research, and planning. Creating a thorough, focused hotel marketing plan begins the same way.
In this comprehensive guide, we’re covering the ins and outs of hotel marketing. We explore what a marketing plan is, what your hotel marketing plan should include, how to create one, and more. From identifying your target audience to measuring the success of your efforts, this guide takes you through the world of hotel marketing and provides actionable tips for improving your property’s strategy.
Create a game-changing hotel marketing plan
A marketing plan is a business’s overall game plan for advertising and marketing its goods or services to consumers. A hotel marketing plan details the strategies and activities that the property will undertake to attract more travelers, sell more rooms, increase profits, and continue to grow.
What should a hotel marketing plan include?
In addition to outlining the activities and campaigns the team will engage in, a hotel marketing plan should detail how its advertising strategies will address potential customers’ interests, needs, and desires. Build a comprehensive hotel marketing plan that includes the following:
- Your target market: Detail which demographics, market segments, traveler habits, or booking channels your advertising campaigns will target. Identify the needs and wants of current guests in addition to potential guests, travel partners, corporate accounts, groups, and meeting clients.
- Hotel value proposition: Your hotel marketing plan should include a clear value proposition statement detailing what your property does best. It should identify the primary concerns of your consumer (i.e., guest pain points) and specify how booking with your hotel is the best way to solve that problem.
- Campaign characteristics: Within your plan, detail your hotel marketing plan goals, objectives, and a step-by-step guide of how each campaign or activity will function. Include campaign dates, duration, expenses, required materials, and the direct oversight necessary for each.
- Logistical details: Demonstrate which tools, resources, services, and platforms the hotel will use for each campaign.
- Performance analytics: Establish which metrics and hotel performance indicators will be used to measure the effectiveness of various marketing strategies.
From hotel to hotel, marketing plans will vary based on the property type, business model, and specific goals. For example, advertising for a luxury hotel will, and should, look very different from a branded chain hotel’s marketing.
How do hotels benefit from a marketing plan?
A comprehensive hotel marketing plan helps ensure that team efforts and department-specific action items align with the hotel’s overall goals and objectives. An inclusive marketing plan that details each department’s role in hotel promotions keeps everyone on the same page. It outlines how the hotel’s marketing efforts will help achieve a variety of goals and objectives, such as:
- Attracting new customers
- Increasing weekday business
- Capturing more revenue
- Filling need dates
- Growing profitability
- Boosting meeting and events bookings
- Improving guest loyalty
- Driving repeat visits
- Widening audience reach
- Strengthening online reputation
- Raising brand awareness
- Building better relationships
Create a marketing strategy that appeals to everyday travelers, who want similar things from a hotel, as well as members of your audience specifically—their interests, hobbies, and lifestyle.
How do hotels identify their target audience?
For hotel marketing plans to be successful, hotels must know who their current customers are and which customers they want to capture in the future. Identify your top-performing demographics and which segments account for future business on the books by digging into property management and revenue system reports or utilizing Cvent’s Business Intelligence tools. Identify your current and target audiences using valuable resources, such as:
- Historical data. Historical reporting shows the hotel’s performance in the past, outlining occupancy rates, average rates, and other vital data. Review past hotel performance reports to identify demand peaks and valleys, booking patterns, rate fluctuations, booking channel trends, market share shifts, and previously missed opportunities.
- Forecasting reports. Utilize hotel forecasting reports to get an overview of upcoming room nights, meetings, and revenue already on the books. Look for future booking trends. Identify gaps in rate, occupancy, need dates, high-demand dates, and so on, as it will inform your overall marketing strategy moving forward.
- Market segmentation. Segmenting hotel guests into different categories based on their travel and booking habits allows revenue managers and marketing teams to identify where their business is coming from. Utilize market segment performance reports to analyze how much of your business comes from each hotel market segment, such as transient travel, group, social, corporate, military, religious, local businesses, leisure, extended stay business, and so on.
- Booking channel performance. Hotels can utilize various advertising channels to attract customers and increase their audience reach, including the hotel’s website, affiliated brand.com sites, search engines, video advertisements, social media platforms, email, print marketing, and other hotel distribution channels. Monitor booking activity from each channel. Track third-party booking channels and OTA channel performance through the global distribution service (GDS).
As powerful as data can be, the best way a hotel’s marketing team can identify its customer base is to get to know them. Spend time talking with guests, interacting with them, and reviewing their feedback. Identify every place hotel guests can leave feedback, such as your Google listing, brand.com page, or Facebook account.
Monitor and engage with reviews on each platform to form a clearer picture of how guests perceive your property. Additionally, guest comments and reviews often include specific details that the marketing team could find helpful, such as where the traveler booked their reservation, their reason for travel, or details about what they did while they were in town.
Do hotel marketing plans include the competition?
Marketing is about more than attracting people to your brand or product; it’s also about increasing your market share by capturing business that once belonged to your competitors. If you don’t know which hotels are in your competitive set, establish how your property compares to nearby competitors in size, service level, star rating, age, brand, features, amenities, average rates, and reward offerings.
- Which chains or brands are you competing with?
- Which competitors have better amenities?
- Is your hotel older or newer than the competition?
- Have any competitors recently undergone renovations?
- Which hotels are full-service, and which are focused-service?
- What’s missing in the market?
- Is the market oversaturated? How?
Identify how you stack up against each and where your hotel currently ranks in the general market. Research the marketing strategies of property in your hotel’s competitive set. Identify how, when, and where they communicate with their customers and which marketing strategies they focus on most.
- How do your biggest competitors target their customers?
- What does their marketing look like? How does it stand out?
- How do they represent their brand in marketing materials?
- Do any of your competitors have similar branding?
- How many members of the comp set are active on social media?
- Which properties have a Facebook? Which are active on Instagram? TikTok?
- Do your competitors offer virtual hotel tours?
- Which competing hotels produce the highest quality content? The lowest?
- What do you like about their strategies? What would you change?
Once you have a clear idea of how competitors target their customers, you’ll be better equipped to create compelling marketing campaigns that outshine them. Determine which hotels are your biggest competitors and track their performance in the Competitive Set Dashboard. Analyze how shifting marketing strategies or new marketing activities affect business distribution in the market.
How do you create a hotel marketing plan?
Whether you’re a seasoned hotelier or have just stepped into the wide world of hospitality for the first time, designing a marketing plan doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With so many moving parts and marketing channels to consider, it can be challenging to know where to start. Follow the ten simple steps below to create a thorough hotel marketing plan with a solid foundation.
1. Identify your target audience
Outline which guest demographics and market segments the marketing plan will target. For instance, specify which campaigns will target group travel and which activities will attract transient travelers. Are all the marketing strategies aimed at individual travelers, or are some designed to attract corporate clients and travel planners? In addition to verifying your target audience, identify which campaigns are aimed at specific dates, travel patterns, or booking channels.
2. Confirm your marketing goals
Identify the objectives and goals for each campaign and activity included in your hotel marketing plan. A particular marketing strategy may be designed to achieve a single purpose or a combination of performance goals, such as:
- Increase revenue
- Improve ADR
- Strengthen guest loyalty
- Book more events
- Increase room night production
- Attract wedding business
3. Determine your marketing budget
Determine how much money is in your overall budget so that appropriate amounts can be allocated to different strategies and marketing channels. Take advantage of budget restrictions, and place parameters on social media ad campaigns when available. For example, Facebook and Instagram allow you to determine how much you’ll spend on ad campaigns in advance and set a spending limit, ensuring that you only spend allocated marketing money.
4. Establish a specific point of view
What reputation are you trying to build: luxury, affordable, flexible, business-friendly, tech-savvy, or something else? Establish how your marketing content and strategies promote your distinct point of view. Create a style and voice the hotel will use across all platforms to cultivate a clear, distinguishable viewpoint for your hotel.
5. Optimize online content
Improving the hotel’s online content and listing consistency can substantially impact how easy it is to find your property using search engines. The more optimized a business’s content is, the higher it will appear; the higher your listing result, the more likely a potential customer will see it. As most consumers only scan the first few search results, how high your property ranks can influence whether or not travelers encounter your property or a competitor’s first.
Optimizing hotel SEO can maximize exposure and increase your audience reach, but building quality search engine content takes time. Begin by locating all hotel websites, social media accounts, OTA listings, and other venue profiles. If you haven’t already, find and take ownership of the hotel’s Google Business listing. Ensure that hotel information is accurate and up to date across all listings, and consistently work to optimize online content by:
- Reading and responding to guest reviews
- Answering questions and responding to comments
- Engaging with user-generated content
- Providing consumers with content they find valuable
- Using high-ranking, relative phrases and keywords
Improve your hotel’s ranking further by using Geolocation services like Geo-targeting, Geofencing, and beaconing. Activating your listing location will help the hotel capture customers searching familiar location-based phrases like “hotels nearby,” “Hotels in Jacksonville,” or “Virginia Beach waterfront hotels.”
6. Create exciting packages and enticing offers
Create distinct hotel packages and exclusive offers that set your property apart from others in the area and highlight what you do best. Determine how you will advertise each package (e.g., via email, on your website, and search engine advertisements) and who will receive the promotions.
Think about what incentives your target demographics will find appealing. Are you attempting to capture the business of out-of-town tourists? If so, they may find a marketing campaign highlighting nearby attractions and high-rated restaurants intriguing. A promotional campaign offering a discount on mid-week room blocks could capture the attention of a corporate travel planner sourcing in your area.
7. Organize an email marketing strategy
Email is a powerful marketing tool for hotels, allowing marketing teams to reach a large number of targeted guests quickly. If you don’t already have one, build an email marketing list. Make it easy for guests and interested consumers to join the list by creating a secure opt-in form and featuring it prominently on the hotel’s website. During the sign-up process, request helpful information regarding the individual’s travel preferences, transportation needs, room type preferences, or interests.
Reach out to mailing lists regularly to promote special offers, limited-time offerings, and upcoming events. Send guests a reminder email before arrival and follow up with them afterward regarding their stay. In addition to keeping in touch with guests, email marketing can be used to capture additional business. Set up ad retargeting emails to reconnect with potential guests who’ve interacted with your property online.
8. Set campaign parameters
Determine when each campaign will run, how long it will last, and which marketing channels you will use. Confirm how your team will track the strategy’s success and which metrics they will track to measure it. Outline who is working on the campaign, what everyone’s role is, and who will lead the effort.
9. Automate hotel marketing
Automate as much of your hotel marketing as possible to save time, reduce errors, and simplify the advertising process. Write emails, create social media content in bulk, and schedule it to go out later. An entire marketing campaign can be completed in a single sitting and designed to run automatically for a predetermined period or specified date. Automate marketing emails that regularly promote discounts, packages, and limited-time offers to keep them at the forefront of customers’ minds.
10. Track campaign activity
Track rate code usage, shifts in ADR, occupancy rates, market segment performance, changes in booking pace, and other key performance indicators to identify how well your marketing strategies and campaigns are achieving their goals. Use the Hotel Performance Dashboard to gain high-level insight into RFP, venue, and sales activity.
Evaluating the success of your hotel marketing plan
Regularly review each of your hotel marketing campaigns to track activity and performance. Identify which strategies have been the most successful, the least successful, and which could benefit from improvement. Determine which channels and strategies your target audience engaged with the most, and reorganize future marketing plans around your top performers.
A hotel marketing plan should be fluid; it should evolve with changes in performance, shifts in the market, and future forecast fluctuations. Spend more time focused on your most successful booking channels and marketing strategies while eliminating services, ads, or booking channel subscriptions that do not benefit the hotel.
Tips for maximizing marketing potential
Follow these tips to streamline advertising efforts and maximize the potential of your hotel marketing plan.
- Make content shareable and mobile-friendly
Consider how different advertising content will appear on phones, via email, laptops, or a desktop. Connect hotel accounts and social media platforms to make it easier for online guests to share and engage with marketing content. Include account handles, campaign hashtags, and direct links in hotel marketing materials so consumers can quickly jump from one channel to the next.
- Test email marketing for engagement first
Create finely segmented email lists based on consumer travel habits, hobbies, lifestyle, and willingness to spend. Split test marketing emails to identify which layouts and content types audience members interact with most.
- Embrace experiential marketing with a virtual hotel tour
With Cvent’s Event Diagramming software, hotels can create photorealistic 3D recreations of their property and invite guests to fully immerse themselves in a virtual hotel tour. Remote visitors can walk through the lobby, explore guestrooms, and experience your property from a photorealistic first-person perspective. Planners can picture their events in your meeting room and see how well your property can accommodate group travel. They can visualize what a stay at your hotel will be like before ever stepping foot on the property.
- Go social
Embrace social media as a necessary marketing channel, even if you’re not a fan. Encourage guests, potential customers, and online audience members to create and share their own content on hotel social media pages, as user-generated content is typically more potent than business-generated marketing.
- Delegate marketing tasks and channels based on strengths
You may need to become more familiar with Instagram or TikTok, but there could be an employee at the front desk or in housekeeping who already has a passion for it. Do you have a photography fan or cinema buff on staff? Could you work together to create visually compelling and engaging video content?
- Invest in hotel marketing tools and media
Photos and videos tell online viewers a lot about your hotel and can affect their impression of your property. Invest in high-quality tools, professional services, and software solutions to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world.
Consistency is a critical component of successful hotel marketing, so check into all of your accounts frequently. Regularly post content, engage with user content, read guest reviews, and consistently respond to comments from audience members. In addition to having your finger on the pulse of your audience, engaging with and responding to consumers in a timely, consistent manner will help strengthen your online reputation.
Still have questions about your hotel’s marketing plan?
If you’re looking for additional guidance to improve your hotel marketing plan, content, or execution, check out our answers to frequently asked questions below.
1. How should hotels use retargeted ads?
Retargeted email ads are sent to consumers and travel planners who showed interest in your property but didn’t confirm a booking. The ad may highlight an upgraded room type, a promotional discount, or celebrate hotel amenities to recapture their interest and move them closer toward booking.
Serve retargeted ads to individuals who visited your website and engaged in interested consumer activity (e.g., looking at various room types) but left before booking a reservation. Similarly, follow up with planners who looked at meeting room availability but didn’t submit an inquiry.
2. What kind of content should hotels use in marketing campaigns?
Attract potential customers and maintain a strong relationship with guests by providing them with content they find valuable. Keep them up-to-date on exciting area events, hotel renovations, staff recognition, and other exciting hotel happenings. Is there a nearby golf course that drives business to your hotel? If so, golf-loving guests may find updates about club events, tournaments, and course packages valuable.
3. How can hotels connect with their guests through marketing?
Build a stronger connection with current and prospective guests by providing them with insider knowledge, or an “inside scoop,” on hotel happenings. Encourage online and onsite hotel-guest engagement, and use storytelling in your marketing to help audience members make a more personal connection with the property.
Attract your target audience with a hotel marketing plan that works!
When guests and potential customers see your marketing, they should immediately associate the visual with your hotel. A strong brand identity makes your property distinguishable and easier to identify, and it lets potential customers know what they can expect when staying with you. Up next, we explore the power of hotel branding and help you build a brand identity that attracts members of your target audience.