We know the large, branded hotels have a leg up on the competition. They have bigger budgets, name recognition, and bustling marketing departments teeming with talent.
Despite all of these odds working in favor of large hotels, hotel marketing teams at smaller, independent and boutique properties shouldn’t fret. Instead of surrendering all dream guests to their larger counterparts, smaller properties should embrace their differences. There’s plenty of room for evocative and noteworthy hotel marketing campaigns, regardless of the size of the property, just as long as the marketing messages are placed and executed correctly.
Here’s what boutique and independent hotels should know about sticking out from the crowd and attracting more guests.
Acknowledge Your Upper Hand
Yes, boutique and independent hotels do have an upper hand. It’s their ability to make memories. While large properties tend to focus on their facilities, quality, and their name recognition, guests often walk away not remembering one large hotel room from another – especially when staying with the same brands. Smaller hotels should focus on the memories and experiences that they alone can offer and focus their marketing efforts on that.
Keep It Among Friends
Reward your guests whenever they recommend you to their friends and family. The best way to do this and track it is to use a service like Flip.to, which will automatically generate whatever incentive you’re offering in exchange for guests sharing their stay via social media. Some ideas include offering a free drink at the bar, free dessert, or a discount off of spa services.
Become a Destination Icon
Travelers love local. So, embrace the freedom you have that larger hotels don’t, and intertwine your brand with your city and all that it stands for. Showcase local art, offer locally sourced foodstuff in your mini bar, create packages touting cool (not just the tried-and-true touristy) attractions and events, write about local secret spots in your blog, and partner with local businesses that align with your brand.
Don’t Go From One Idea to the Next
Be consistent. Don’t experiment with different branding or different initiatives throughout the year. Instead, create a plan at the beginning of the year and sustain it for 12 months. Only then, can you measure how successful your strategies were.
Promote the Heck Out of Your USP
First off, determine your unique selling point (USP). Explore it, then promote it consistently in places your target market goes online. Here are some samples of various USPs and how to use them to market your property:
- Your location – Keep your website fresh with special events, activities and attractions happening within walking/close driving distance to your property.
- Your restaurant and bar – Keep foodies at your properties by organizing regular culinary events and packages such as gourmet weekends, cooking classes with your executive chef, whisky and wine tastings, etc. Create videos of your chef sharing some cooking secrets.
- Your spa – Promote wellness and healthy living through other areas of your hotel by creating wellness packages and specials. Become a source of fun health and wellness tips for spa lovers.
- Your architecture/design/art collection – Engage local artists and musicians; invite arts and culture bloggers and writers to your property; and promote your hotel as a photography and videography venue.
- Your exemplary staff – Ask your staff to leave travel tips and other local secrets on social media and to share with guests when they can. Become a thought leader in the industry and offer training and special classes for hospitality newcomers.
Don’t Stick All USPs in One Campaign
Create different PR and marketing campaigns for each of your hotel’s strengths. For instance, one campaign should target spa lovers and another should talk to foodies. If you can, run all campaigns concurrently throughout the year. Don’t execute your campaign touting your spa one month, then jump to something else the next.
Reach Out to Those Who Are Doing It Right
Look at other destinations and at the small, independent hotels that have achieved what you’re hoping to. Reach out to them and ask them how they did it. Most run skeleton crews just like you and will probably feel flattered that you are looking to them for advice. You can end up helping them, as well, by letting them know what has and hasn’t worked for your property. Share the knowledge.
Don’t Get Lazy When You Have A Full House
Independent and boutique properties should be marketing year round – during their low season and during their high season. Just like housekeeping, marketing happens daily.
Written by Junvi Ola.