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Hotel Marketing Ideas - 9 Steps Toward an Ace Hotelier

In this article, we will cover a full breath of hotel digital marketing strategy, in order to help you to take a major step forward in this digital age and outshine competitors to be the front runner in this industry.
By Devon Vo | EnvZone Staff
on August 12, 2019 | 20 min read
Image credit: The Leading Hotels Of The World, Ltd.

Alike other categories, with the invasion of technology, hospitality has experienced a major shift in how the industry approaches its customers, and the hotel service has no exception.

Today, millennials heavily rely on social media platforms. Specifically, in traveling, they tend to do research, get reviews and insights from peers before packing up their backpack and deciding where they’re going to stay.

As has been said, to run a hotel, hoteliers like you are required to be aware of, and also master a wide range of aspects from skills to strategies to succeed in optimizing the success of your business as well as getting attention from the tech-savvy generation.

In this article, we will cover a full breath of hotel digital marketing strategy, in order to help you to take a major step forward in this digital age and outshine competitors to be the front runner in this industry.

Increase hotel booking with 10 smart strategies

It’s challenging to be a hotel marketer, being against the overwhelming number of competitors. And it has even been increasingly challenging to compete with big players, thanks to the development of websites like Airbnb or Home Away.

However, you can win this game if you understand the rule and having besides you are several tips for hotel digital marketing.

#1 Can be easily searched online

Based on research conducted by WordStream, currently, there are more than 75% of travelers uses search engines to find hotels for their vacation.

Since the takeover of technology happened, travel agents are long gone. Just simply with their phones or their laptop, and no need to leave the comfortable beds, travelers are fully equipped to carry their own comparative research.

This has proved that as a hotel runner, you are required to make your hotel be easily found online. Barely talking, your hotel’s brand is needed to appear literally everywhere relevant online for potential bookings. Make sure that people can find you immediately when they need to book for accommodation.

However, it will not work if you solely rely on optimization. In fact, the SERP (search engine results page) for hotel-related searches is heavily monetized, which means the advertisements will come first.

What needs to be done is bidding aggressively on Google’s Search, Display Networks, Bing, social platform (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), and websites like Trip Advisor and Kayak.

Moreover, it is necessary to have a strong presence online. Yet, it is also equally important to do research on your website analytics to figure on most typical booking platforms, as to create an engaging and competitive presence on them.

#2 Clearly define who is your target audience

Depending on which type of your target audience, you will have a different marketing strategy for the hotel. As compared to a hotel located in highland, and a hotel stands near a sandy beach, their customers book differently, travel differently, and have totally different budgets.

Google Ads has introduced the tool Income Targeting to help hoteliers like you in clearly defining your target customers to have effective promotional campaigns.

Apart from the above obvious solution, there are more ways to break down your audience when it comes to marketing your hotel.

Normally, hotels have a variety of customers of different income levels, since they may offer rooms on the more extravagant side (like the presidential suites) and other rooms that are often sold at discount prices. These two audiences need to be broken down and targeted separately.

There is even a difference for the same hotel chain in different locations. All of these things are critical to consider when crafting your marketing campaigns.

Audiences can also split into two, three, or even four separate campaigns so that you can send the right message to the right prospect. Tools like Facebook’s targeting options are claimed to be useful in this case. Just ensure you spend the time to define your audiences so you can craft the right message to the right person at the right time!

#3 Dense appearance during the peak booking seasons

Each hotel’s peak booking seasons are different from each other depending on their locations. As a hotel marketer, you are most likely fully aware of when your peak booking season is, but you may be a step behind when it comes to ad budgeting. It just makes sense to spend more of your annual budget in your busiest season.

Figure out when things are busy, steady, and slow and then adjust your budget accordingly. Make sure your windows aren’t too narrow. This often requires planning ahead, but Google and other ad platforms make it fairly easy to adjust your budget on an ongoing basis.

Another thing to take advantage of is ad scheduling. If you run a hotel that gets frequent business travelers; these individuals may tend to book more during business hours compared to the folks traveling for leisure who are more likely booking during weeknights or weekends.

Look at the data to determine this and take advantage of Google ads scheduling, so that your ads are only running at a higher budget during these peak times.

#4 Introduce interesting incentives

Next, you should mind what does your hotel have that entice visitors? Maybe it is because of its convenient location, or its reasonable price. Your hotel needs to have a reason that leads your prospects to choose you over your competition.

If there are not any obvious reasons, like having the lowest prices or the best reviews, brainstorm some unique incentives and offers you can provide to prospects.

For example, you could offer all first-time guests a 15% discount. Incentives are also great for creating a sense of urgency to spur people to book with you before they miss out on a special limited time offer.

#5 Build a local partnership

When your hotel is in downtown, or a prospection area, etc., and you are surrounded by local business and attractions. You need to get to know your neighbors. Making friends with the local business owners is a great way to build partnerships and co-promote each other, especially if you’re marketing a boutique hotel rather than a chain.

For instance, you could partner with a popular brewery and run a contest where the winner gets a free brewery tour and beer tasting along with a discounted stay at your hotel. Building these relationships will lead to easy, effective, and affordable marketing that will increase your booking rates.

#6 Get the benefit of the location

Chances are many future vacationers are still indecisive whether or not the city or town where your hotel is located in the place where they want to use their precious PTO. This is why you shouldn’t just be focusing on the amenities your hotel has to offer.

Undeniably, it is smart to promote your top-rated room service, it is just as important to promote your location.

#7 Create an attracting website

While this might seem like common sense, there are so many hotel websites out there that are slacking in their website design. This is an instant turnoff for hotel bookers.

The website is often the first impression a person has of your hotel, so you need to make it breathtaking as well as usable. That means it’s simple and straightforward for users (on any type of device) to find the information they need as well as to complete a reservation.

When overhauling your website, focus on keeping the design and navigation clean, crisp, and simple. Ensure your hotel photographs are professional, high-res, and displayed in the correct formats and ratios to work for both desktop and mobile.

Keep the language clear and simple and ensure the booking process is easy to avoid mid-booking abandonment. Videos also tend to work well since they show off your space more thoroughly and engagingly.

#8 Offer a perfect full-round service

Marketing and customer service go hand in hand, especially in the hospitality industry. If you go above and beyond for your customers, then they are much more likely to pay it forward and do the same for you in terms of stellar online reviews, referrals, and return visits.

To be more specific, the first step is ensuring your staff is hired and trained with a customer-first mentality. While working with people can be very challenging, always putting the customer first is critical.

For instance, your hotel visitor is upset with the view from their room and there are no other open rooms available. Try to figure out if you can move them for the remainder of their stay later on, and to compensate for the trouble, provide them with a bottle of bubbly and a hand-written note apologizing for the inconvenience.

These types of gestures can make a lasting impact and show the customers how you value them.

When customers are treated exceptionally well, they will be much more likely to share their experiences with others, leading to more business for you.

#9 Promote the customer loyalty program

Cross-sell customers is also a brilliant strategy. Once your past customers had a positive experience in the past, they can make the best audience to market to.

Customer loyalty programs are a wonderful way to ensure customers come back again and again. These programs are designed to give large discounts and special perks to returning visitors. Perhaps your program works by allowing guests to earn points and reach certain levels each year (Gold, Platinum, etc.).

Hotel Marketing Ideas and Advice

Take People on a Virtual Tour of Your Hotel

Brandon Gaille, Podcaster, The Blog Millionaire

One of the biggest barriers that people face in choosing a hotel is knowing what their room will look like. By providing a virtual tour on your website, you’ll give your prospects an idea of what they should expect so that they can immediately visualize the value of what you provide.

Run a Digital Ad Campaign

Umar Brimah, Co-founder, Cedar+Black

If you are a smaller hotel without the resources of a national advertising budget, you need to go all-in on digital advertising. Running ad campaigns on social media is extremely underpriced for how effective it can be.

You can get started by diving into your customer relationship manager (CRM) and looking at the existing data you have about your past customers. Use that information as a basis for your initial target audience. You will get more data as the campaign progresses. Use the process to build and refine your audiences.

Then, create lookalike audiences that you can use to target new customers. This strategy is guaranteed to increase awareness of your business. Increased foot traffic will follow.

Use Fresh Content to Answer Customer Questions

Jignesh Gohel, Founder & Marketing Head, OLBUZ

Content marketing is one of the best and most effective ways to increase hotel bookings. I have been working with many clients from the travel and hospitality industry and have successfully implemented this practice for quite some time.

The first step in this practice is to find out all of the different questions or problems your target audience has and create detailed content solving those problems. This will help to build the audience’s trust in your hotel or brand and will increase the chances of converting them into customers.

I suggest going to Quora and finding a list of questions related to places near your hotel location. You will find a bunch of queries associated with the location, such as “best places to visit around / things to do around / best food to taste in X city,” etc. Create content about these topics on your website and you are done.

Use SEO to Get Found

Natalie Athanasiadis, Owner, Ormi Media

Organic search engine traffic remains one of the most profitable channels for hotels. The hotel space is incredibly competitive both online and offline, so every activity needs to generate a great return. Your hotel SEO consultants should be working with your property to create content and build visibility for a diverse set of searches that cater to all of your target guests and their needs at each stage of their buying journey.

By focusing on generating organic visibility and showcasing direct benefits to guests, you will achieve great increases in revenue with very little outlay.

Use a Hotel Scavenger Hunt to Engage with Guests

Jamie Moran, CEO & Co-founder, Scavify

One of the best ideas I have seen was the Kimpton Hotel Palomar’s “Live Like a Local” campaign. The hotel set up an interactive scavenger hunt, encouraging guests and city residents to complete challenges around San Diego that helped show off what living like a local meant. This included going to iconic landmarks, visiting local restaurants and bars, and highlighting the San Diego culture.

Here’s one example of a challenge people had to complete: “San Diegans love a good fish taco. Take a bite out of your favorite and share the photo with hashtag #livelikealocal.”

Maintain a Local Events Calendar

Marcus Clarke, Founder, Searchant

As a small or independent hotelier, you have the luxury of creating a website that will fully engage your guests, so be certain that you update it with events that might be of interest to them—especially local events that don’t happen all the time, like food festivals or carnivals.

Ask Your Guests for a TripAdvisor Review

Mark Hayword, Hospitality Blogger, Mark Hayward

Having multiple positive reviews on TripAdvisor is extremely important. Hotels with lots of reviews can attract new guests due to popularity. Keep in mind that it’s not permissible to ask for positive reviews, but if you provide a good service, reviewers should leave a good review.

Communicate with Your Customers on Social Media

Patrick Landman, Founder, Xotels

Hotels stand to gain a lot by marketing on social media. You can use social media to speak directly to your guests and foster relationships. You can announce specials, tell guests about activities, and even show your photos on social media—for free.

Create Special Packages for Group Events

Maksym Podsolonko, CEO, eazyplan

Small hotels have numerous marketing opportunities when it comes to hosting group events, but these are usually overlooked. Here are three popular ones:

Family and friends’ reunions – Create special offers for private groups up to your capacity. Include a special menu and drinks package and throw in a small accommodation discount to increase your revenue.

Offsite meetings – Reach out to local businesses with a special offer for half-day, full-day, and multi-day meetings. They will need rooms for management meetings away from the regular employees, marketing research, groupthink sessions, and so much more. Postcards addressed to the assistants of different departments in a company will bring a much better result than Facebook ads.

Intimate weddings – Did you know they are becoming a trend? Weddings for only 20 to 30 guests are becoming very popular. Target engaged couples year-round and get a nice revenue from your food and beverage department for catering for the wedding.

Talk About Your Loyalty Program

Jennifer Nagy, President, jlnpr

Get your staff to talk about your loyalty program with your guests. This will engage them and get them to be more active members of the program, which will increase your bookings. Loyalty programs really do work, and they’re not just for the big brands—small, ultra-boutique hotels can also get in on the action.

Create Cohesive Branding Both Online & Offline

Simon Bullingham, CEO, Journey

You will want to have a cohesive and identifiable brand both online and offline. Use your branding to market by using video, your website, offline methods, and more. Wherever you tell your hotel’s story, be consistent.

Use Agile Marketing for Your Hotel

Sam Wetson, Marketing Manager, 80 Days

Are you paying attention to the market around you, or are you simply focused on getting heads on beds? Use agile marketing (which connects your business marketing to timely news and events) to keep up with market demand.

Create Digital Guides

Sophia Borghese, PR Consultant, La Galerie Hotel

Fewer people (especially those in the younger generations) are picking up hotel lobby brochures. However, these people still need advice about what to see and do. In a fully “lit” city like New Orleans, there are a ton of things for people to do, so knowing where to begin can be hard. As part of our digital marketing, we’ve created numerous city-related guides to help our visitors.

For instance, we’ve done guides for Mardi Gras, Festival Season, and more. We find that people like having a guide they can check on their phones.

Compete with Airbnb by Having a Personal Touch

Alex Shashou, President, ALICE

There has been a lot of discussion around the impact Airbnb has had on the hotel industry. In order to stay competitive, hotels need to find ways to stand out. One way to do this is to encourage your staff to be attentive to each guest. Make them feel at ease and cared for.

Answer questions and be ready with suggestions for where to go and what to eat, along with information about what is going on around your area. Having a person offer guidance is a way to differentiate from the online-only interaction of an Airbnb.

Develop a Relationship with Local Tourism Boards & Chambers of Commerce

Matthew Aversa, Chief Executive Officer, Twenty One PR

For hotels, it’s important to stay in touch with the local tourism boards as well as other associations that could further business. Tourism boards assist with placing events and reaching out to press around the country, and they are valuable resources for staying in touch with other local businesses.

Tourism boards, convention and visitors’ bureaus (CVBs), and destination marketing organizations have the job of bringing visitors to an area and promoting the businesses in that area. Therefore, it’s important to have a good relationship with them.

Use Video Email Software

Kiah Treece, Marketing & Real Estate Writer, Fit Small Business

The first time I opened my inbox and saw a video that someone had prepared for me, I was amazed. I now recommend videos for hotel marketing, courtesy of a service provider called BombBomb. It is well worth the cost. Videos are viewable on any device, and your guests will love getting them.

You can use them to welcome first-time guests, to show them a little about the property, or even to just send them a birthday message. 

Incentivize Customers to Market on Your Behalf

Jeff Kear, Owner, Planning Pod

You should offer awards and incentives to guests who make fun or quirky videos of your hotel and post them to social media. Videos are by far the most viewed items on Facebook, and Google continues to push YouTube videos in its rankings, so online video marketing can be a great niche to appeal to younger demographics.

You could offer a discount to anyone who posts a fun video about your property to YouTube or Facebook, and you can also add the video to your YouTube channel and promote it there.

Market the Local Area, Not Just the Hotel

Richard Gornall, Proprietor, The Hideaway at Windermere

Holidaymakers want an experience, not just somewhere to sleep. Your hotel obviously plays an important part in this, especially if you offer spa features and other experiential activities, but don’t overlook the importance of marketing the town, city, or area where your hotel is located.

If you do have a countryside hotel, pick out some of the best walks and trails, recommend local bike hire companies, and offer everything your guests can use to improve their stay.

Partner with Local Establishments

Scott Selenow, President, Immerse Agency

Weave your hotel into the fabric of the local community by developing partnerships with local institutions, venues, museums, and cultural centers. Provide some space for them to display rack cards and coupons in the hotel, which will act as added value for your customers.

In exchange, require them to place a link on their website for out-of-town guests to take advantage of your hotel deals. Generating these partnerships won’t cost you a penny and will pay dividends when you have ambassadors for your hotel working at local institutions in the community.

Harness the Power of the “Selfie Generation”

Brandon Wright, Marketing, ThoughtLab

Millennials crave three things: experiences, Instagram, and avocado toast. Take advantage of two of these three loves by creating an environment that asks your guests to share their vacation memories from your hotel on social media.

Have an empty wall? Invite an artist to paint a mural so beautiful and unique that guests can’t help but pause for a picture. Tying your brand to the positive memories made and shared by your guests will increase not only organic reach but a brand loyalty.

Get (and Manage) More Online Reviews

Cassie Bottorff, Fit Small Business

Whether planning vacations in advance or looking for a place to lie their heads on a quick stopover, travelers are likely to check ratings and reviews before choosing a hotel. Encourage your current and past guests to share their experience at your hotel online, making it easier for travelers to see why they should stay at your establishment.

Focus on PPC Advertising

Richard Plant, Head of Digital Marketing, Up Hotel Agency

All hotels need visibility on online travel agents (OTAs) like Booking.com and Hotels.com. However, this shouldn’t be prioritized overtaking direct bookings. Hotels can lose approximately 20% of room revenue from room nights through OTAs.

Small hotels should, therefore, challenge OTAs in search results. To achieve this, use Google AdWords (PPC ads) to appear high in Google search pages—as high as OTAs.

Actively Remarket to Decision-Makers

Mark Irvine, Sr. Data Scientist, Wordstream

As a recently married man, I can vouch for the fact that even if I find a hotel I love right away, I’m seldom the key decision-maker in my own purchases. Since we have to coordinate our travel with our partners, family, and friends, we’re likely to search several times over a few weeks before ultimately booking our rooms.

Knowing this, it’s particularly important to make the most of remarketing to the same or similar audiences; keeping your brand top of mind for purchasers during this decision process is key.

Offer a Complimentary Stay to Travel Writers & Bloggers

Jeffrey R. Orenstein, Ph.D., Travel Journalist, Simply Smart Travel

One tactic that seems to work well is to offer a complimentary stay to travel writers who have readers in the demographics/locations of your target market. It is very likely that they will write a fair and usually quite good article about the property.

Host Events at Your Hotel

Michelle Garrett, Public Relations Consultant, Michelle Garrett

Host some events to help market your hotel. Invite groups in to visit and host a luncheon or cocktail hour for them. Groups like wedding planners or even chambers of commerce could help you gain exposure and promote you to new customers.

Engage Your Website Visitors 24/7

Kelly Main, Marketing Writer, Fit Small Business

Since guests can be looking at your site at any time of day, there’s no guarantee that their questions will arise during your help desk’s normal business hours. Freshchat gives you the power of automated live chat for hotels, 24/7, 365 days a year. Best of all, the basic version of Freshchat is free to use. Click here to launch your own free account.

Create a Google My Business Page

Alex Bar, Owner, Third Temple Digital

It is always a good idea to add specific information about your hotel on Google My Business. This includes pricing, rooms available, contact information, photos, and reviews. Doing this increases the chance that your hotel will pop up in Google searches. A lot of people first check these suggestions because they usually provide the most basic information very prominently.

Make It Easy to Book a Room on Your Website

Michael Leander, Consultant, Michael Leander

Make it simple to book a room on your website by testing the flow and making sure the booking process is smooth, the pages load fast, and that it is obvious where to go to book. If customers don’t immediately see what they are looking for on your website, they will just leave to find a place that makes it less time-consuming.

Partner with a Sports Team Coming to Your Area

Ishveen Anand, Owner, OpenSponsorship

Piggyback on sports events being held in your area by hosting athletes or partnering with the team/event. Sports events bring in a ton of tourists, and sponsoring the athletes or events will give you visibility and access to all the fans.

Create a Package That Includes Local Activities

Rodger Roeser, CEO, The Eisen Agency

Put together a series of packages (including amenities at the hotel) that coincide with an area/regional “things to do.” If the area is known for local wines, for example, tie in a program that would include things at the hotel that engage those interests (e.g., a wine tasting at the hotel).

Then, you can market it on Facebook based on people’s interests (such as people who have wine as an interest) as opposed to just randomly trying to market to “travelers”.

Use Instagram to Give People a Glimpse of Your Hotel

Mindy Scraper, Founder, Mindy the Lion

Consumers are using Instagram as a primary method of research to decide which hotels and resorts feel like the best fit for their needs. There’s an assumption that hotel-generated web content can be misleading, so consumers have turned to social media to peruse user-generated content of the property to see what the resort “actually” looks like.

Their first impression is often the hotel’s own Instagram page, so it’s important to run a well-groomed account that greets these researchers with authenticity and professionalism.

Avoid Being Understaffed with Smarter Staff Scheduling

Ryan Fyfe, CEO & Founder, Humanity.com, Inc

Hotel guests hate waiting. They don’t like waiting for you to show them their rooms or to get a drink at the bar. Happy, satisfied guests who never have to wait are more likely to give you free marketing via word of mouth.

How can you make sure that your hotel is never understaffed, but at the same time, keep your labor costs down by not blindly overstaffing? You can do so by using advanced, data-driven employee scheduling software.

Create a Landing Page Aligned with Your Ads

Neil Andrew, Marketing Manager, PPC Protect Limited

Use a landing page just for ads so that you can capture the email address of those who are interested in your hotel. I see a lot of people using their homepage for their ads, but a landing page lets you tailor the message to align with the ad. Focus on the key benefits of your property on the page instead of explaining everything from scratch. This makes visitors much more likely to convert.

Use Location Targeting in Ads

Will Haswell, Business Development Manager, Adzooma

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in the right locations can help your hotel compete. You should focus your attention on the places that you know will be looking to visit your area. PPC and social media advertising are effective ways to attract a large amount of traffic to your site in a short amount of time. The budget can be increased, scaled back, or even switched off whenever necessary.

Use Google Business View for 360-Degree Tours

David Erickson, Principal, e-Strategy Media

Google has a program called Google Business View, where you can hire a certified photographer to shoot a 360-degree photographic tour of the interior of your business. This is exactly like the Street View feature of Google maps, where you can take a virtual tour of a city as if you are driving through it, except it is an interior view of a business.

Ask Influencers to Market Your Hotel

Kurt Uhlir, Founder, Uhlir Ventures

Many marketers think influencer marketing applies primarily to big business, but many of the smaller businesses I’ve worked with have seen great success working with influencers. Each influencer is unique, so make sure you’ve done your homework to know what he or she is interested in before reaching out.

Make It a Habit to Respond to Comments

Mikki Stith, Account Strategist, Coalmarch Productions

Too many companies don’t respond to comments, shares, and mentions on their social media pages. If you are only using social media to publish content about your hotel, you are missing the big picture of engaging with your community.

It’s hard enough to get your followers to engage with a share or a comment. Respond to customer comments and reviews. Get to know the people who follow you and reward the followers who took the time to comment or engage.

Use Twitter to Provide Exceptional Customer Service

Kristin Tao, Account Executive, IT Retail

Use Twitter to help respond to customer comments and questions. If your hotel receives a Tweet with a comment, complaint, or question, respond as soon as possible to let your followers know you care. If there is a complaint, find out the whole story and respond in an apologetic, understanding tone.

Final words

No matter how you approach your marketing online, first thing first, a well-defined strategy is needed to be in place. As a hotelier, you must make sure of your hotel marketing’s efficiency. By using the above guide and experts’ advice as a starting point, you are now fully equipped to customize your own marketing strategy to streamline the booking process and heading toward potential clients.

This article is also credited to FitSmallBusiness, WordStream

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