8 Ways for Independent Hotels to Increase Marketing Success
Tuesday 10th April 2018
In today's growing hospitality industry, hotels are constantly competing with each other to attract the most guests. This mean that they are looking for the best or most innovative marketing tools to reach their target audience.
It’s important for independent hotels who perhaps don’t have the resource and budget as those owned by larger groups, to really make their marketing count.
In order to successfully reach customers, independent hotels need to use a combination of online and offline marketing tools. They also need to implement an integrated marketing approach that reflects a consistent brand message.
With this in mind, here are eight of my favourite marketing tools available for independent hotels and why I think you should use them.
Firstly, when it comes to your marketing, you need to be really clear on your target audience and where they get their information from. After all, how else are you going to reach them? So when your guests check-in, ask them which travel magazines and newspapers they read, and what social media platforms they use. Have these questions set-up on your site too so that you can capture this information when guests book online.
As part of knowing your audience, you also need to know how they engage with you online. To do this, you should start capturing insights from your website; find out how long guests are spending on your site, what they are clicking on, and how they found your website to begin with (have they searched for it specifically or just found it by accident?)
Branding is so often overlooked as a marketing tool. Hotel owners just see this as a logo, nothing more. But it is more. It is your identity.
All of your branding should be cohesive. The branding on your website and other online platforms should be consistent across all your offline channels and tools. This is essential for your business as you need people to recognise your hotel, and you also want to be at the forefront of their minds before, after, and during their stay. So get smart with your brand, make it work for you, and make it sell for you.
Remember that your staff also reflect your brand as much as everything else, so create a brand story that they can help communicate to your guests.
One of the first places potential guests will go to once they have heard about you is your website, which is why it needs to deliver and give the right impression – it’s a sales tool after all.
As soon as a customer enters your site, they will only be on the homepage for a few seconds. You need to say as much as you can about your hotel in those few seconds, and demonstrate the type of hotel you are, and who you cater for.Simon Bullingham, CEO & Founder, Journey
Firstly, you need to test your website speed. According to the latest usability research, users begin to drop off a site when its response time is longer than 2.5 seconds. That’s not very long to capture your potential customers’ attention.
Slower sites get less direct bookings, so make sure you get your website tested and if it isn’t loading fast enough, make sure you find a solution as soon as possible!
As soon as a customer enters your site, they will only be on the homepage for a few seconds. You need to say as much as you can about your hotel in those few seconds, and demonstrate the type of hotel you are, and who you cater for.
Your site has not only got to look good and read well, but also be easy to navigate (you’d be surprised how often these elements are neglected). It’s also important to have some kind of data capture tool on there and an easily accessible ‘book now’ function.
Testimonials always work well, they add that credibility. If you have a celeb or VIP staying, make the most of it and ask whether they would be happy to sign off a quote about your hotel. Better still, ask them to mention you on social media throughout their stay.
Having the press on your side can be a powerful thing. Journalists will be interested in talking about your hotel if it is of interest to their readers and listeners, so make yourself newsworthy and interesting.
If you are hosting an exciting event, make sure key journalists are on the guest list and invite travel writers from the national newspapers to come review your hotel. Build rapport with your local press, invite them for dinner to try out your new seasonal menu and meet the Head Chef and other key members of your team. If you don’t ask, you won’t get! And what have you got to lose?
Once your website is in place, we need people to find it. Start by researching keywords that apply to your hotel. Something like ‘luxury hotel’ will be competitive, so look at targeting long tail keywords such as ‘luxury hotel in the Cotswolds.’ There are plenty of tools that can help with this. Once your keywords have been sourced, make sure you use them in a natural way throughout your web content.
Start blogging on a regular basis (again including some of your keywords), and make your content relevant and accessible to your target audience. Offer helpful information about the local area and events going on nearby, and make sure you entertain! Fresh, continuous content is key to making your SEO work.
Talk with other bloggers and try to get mentioned on their sites. They will want good content to share with their readers, so try sending them news stories and opinion pieces. If you can get other quality sites linking through to your hotel, this can have many organic SEO benefits.
Mobile is essential to your marketing. If people are unable to easily book rooms from a mobile device, you are going to lose guests. Make sure your hotel booking experience works just as well on mobile phones, laptops, and tablets as it does on a desktop computer.
Video is a very powerful medium, so many have it in their heads that a good video is expensive and hard to pull off, but it isn’t. A video is the perfect platform to showcase your hotel. It helps with SEO (YouTube is a great search engine in itself), and provides fantastic social media posts. Be clever with your video, do something different, don’t just do a boring promo vid. Different gets hits, and hits get sales.
Everything you do is about building your contact base. Capture those email addresses, build that database, and then communicate. Email marketing has a massive role in the hospitality marketing mix – it provides a great platform to keep people updated with latest offers and other news. So take advantage of it.
If you are hosting an exciting event, make sure key journalists are on the guest list and invite travel writers from the national newspapers to come review your hotel. If you don’t ask, you won’t get!Simon Bullingham, CEO & Founder, Journey
8. Social media
Are you on social media? If not, you should be, because your target audience is! But be clever with how you spend your time on there. Don’t be too salesy as you will put people off, but do think sales. When having conversations through Twitter and Facebook, bring people back to your site to obtain their email so your events/sales manager can follow up.
You can’t measure the effect of social media based on the amount of likes, shares, retweets or favourites, it’s about getting the right level of engagement from the right audience. It has to be brought back to sales.
When guests check-in, as well as taking down their postal address, ask them for their Twitter handle. Tweet them during their stay and after, and encourage them to check-in whilst at your hotel.
Instagram is one of the fastest growing platforms for travellers worldwide, so it’s important to have an Instagram strategy in place for your hotel. The more of Instagram’s features you use, the more you’re prioritised in your followers’ feeds, so it’s well worth checking out our guide to making the most of Instagram’s latest features to ensure your hotel is using this channel to increase awareness and revenue.
Always consider what your potential and existing guests are seeing, thinking, doing and feeling about your brand. If you can capture guests’ attention and engage with them through your marketing, then you have to ensure that their experience is integrated throughout all platforms. If they then come to stay with you, you need to ensure that your staff convey the exact same message. Once you have engaged with these customers, it is then time to think about the innovative ways to get them to stay with you time and time again.