When it comes to implementing a hotel marketing strategy, the range of approaches to choose from is vast.
Do you focus your budget on redesigning your website? Get influencers involved in social media campaigns? Partner up with local businesses and target the community?
The world of hotel marketing has never been developing as rapidly as it is right now, and even established hotels with loyal customer bases are having to reevaluate how they are generating revenue.
Increasing bookings and staying as close to capacity as possible is at the heart of every hotel’s business strategy, and with the industry only growing more competitive, an exceptional marketing strategy is the best way to ensure success.
As experts in marketing in the travel sector, we’ve always had our finger on the pulse of the most effective strategies in increasing bookings, building brand awareness and ensuring that our clients are always found by their target audience.
We’ve drawn on our abundance of industry knowledge and experience to bring you some of the best hotel marketing strategies that can deliver both good return on investment and sustainable growth.
- 1 The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Marketing Strategy
- 1.1 Know Your Brand
- 1.2 Identify Your Target Audience
- 1.3 Invest in Web Design
- 1.4 Be Mobile Friendly
- 1.5 Use SEO to Gain Sustained Momentum
- 1.6 Maximise Content
- 1.7 Partner with Influencers
- 1.8 Use Video
- 1.9 Build Partnerships
- 1.10 Develop Superior Customer Service
- 1.11 Email Marketing
- 1.12 Customer Loyalty Program
- 1.13 Final Thoughts…
- 1.14 Latest from the Blog
- 1.15 Get In Touch
Know Your Brand
You cannot have an effective marketing strategy without knowing precisely what your hotel’s brand identity is. Your brand will define all of your marketing material and is an essential part of building a positive reputation.
The best way to stand out from your competitors is by giving your hotel a unique selling point and creating a brand image that potential customers will remember. Whether this is the theme of your hotel’s decoration, the philosophy behind the service you provide or even just the tone of all your advertisements and communications, your brand will inform almost every other marketing decision that you make.
Nowadays, many customers are looking for places to stay that are unique, offer an experience with added value, or at the very least have a clear identity and target demographic. Deciding on what makes your hotel different and superior will help craft a marketing strategy with these features at its heart.
The values at the core of your business should drive this and align with your target audience. The world is becoming more and more focused on a more socially conscious approach to business, so incorporating these elements into your brand can be the difference in why people would choose to stay with you.
A great example of a hotel with a stand-out brand image is Moxy Hotels, a new brand from industry giant Marriott International. These modern hotels are marketed as fun, alternative places to stay that appeal to their young target demographic with features such as front desks that double as bars, lobbies designed for socialising and pet-friendly bedrooms.
Another notable brand image belongs to Zoku, who target the growing trend of digital nomadism by providing what they describe as ‘a home-office hybrid with hotel services’. This is a brilliantly unique idea that shows a real understanding of a target audience and what they are looking for from a hotel.
Identify Your Target Audience
Knowing who your marketing is targeting is just as important as knowing the brand you are promoting. Before you decide on the specifics of a marketing strategy, you need to identify the groups that are most likely to become customers of your hotel.
The process of identifying your hotel’s target audience can be as simple as analysing previous customer data to establish which demographics make up the majority of your customer base. You can also dig deeper to highlight specifics, such as what category of traveller is most likely to make a booking and what common values or interests your target audience has.
Analysing data to build customer profiles is also an excellent way to realise which platforms you should target to reach the most potential customers. If you have a younger demographic then you may decide to focus your social media efforts on Instagram, or if your data shows that a lot of business comes from video advertising then this is the area to invest more resources into.
Understanding your target audience will also help to establish what potential customers are looking for from a hotel experience. By identifying pain points and the way that your hotel can meet your audience’s requirements, you can create marketing content that has a high success rate.
One hotel that used customer data to create the perfect marketing campaign was Warner Leisure Hotels, who realised that the most popular spirit purchased at their bar was gin. They created a new signature gin blend for their hotels and gained hundreds of pieces of coverage with the campaign, as well as appealing directly to their target market; gin drinkers.
Invest in Web Design
As a hotel, your website is the most important platform for your business. If customers aren’t immediately engaged by what they see on your website, they won’t bother making a booking.
Effective web design starts way before templates or mock-ups are designed, with keyword research that identifies what your target audience is specifically searching for when looking for you. This information can then help to determine the exact structure of your website to optimise customer conversion and ensure that the right people find exactly what they are looking for as quickly as possible.
It also goes without saying that you want a website that looks wonderful. Beautiful, stylish web design is definitely worth investing in if you want customers to engage with your site and get a good idea of the kind of experience they’ll have whilst staying with you.
Key things to consider include having a fantastic user experience, optimised structure for SEO purposes and aesthetics that match what your audience is looking for.
Here’s a blog post that goes into more detail about stunning hotel website design.
Be Mobile Friendly
One of the most important pieces of marketing information from recent industry data is that mobile bookings are on the rise. Our lives are now dominated by our smartphones, and this means that a huge proportion of your customers are going to be making their bookings on mobile instead of desktop.
To make the most out of this trend, you must have a mobile-friendly website. If potential customers find it difficult to navigate your site on a smaller screen or find that features are not loading properly on their phones, they will undoubtedly take their business elsewhere.
When you are focusing on web design, make sure that all landing pages are also optimised for mobile use. This means ensuring that the sizing of text and images is correct, ensuring that all icons and buttons are functional, and making sure that you include links to social media and maps on your site.
Think about the booking journey too and ensure that it is as easy as possible for users to convert on the move, as often this is an area that gets forgotten about and sites fall short.
The 2019 winners of the Mobile Web Award ‘Best Hotel and Lodging Mobile Website’ is a great example of an outstanding hotel mobile site. Qbic is a city hotel brand that has a quirky and distinctive image, and on mobile their website translates all of these elements perfectly into the design, with numerous swipe-friendly elements and a booking menu that has been built to be more mobile-intuitive.
Use SEO to Gain Sustained Momentum
It doesn’t matter how much time and money you have put into building an incredible website; it won’t make any difference if nobody can find it.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) ensures that your website is optimised to get as much organic traffic as possible and that you get found by people when they’re searching for what you offer
Specialist SEO companies (Hello!) will not only be able to refine your website to help your site rank well in Google and streamline the user experience, but also to help develop a content strategy that is tailored to precisely what your target audience is searching for and wants to engage with. More of the right traffic = more bookings.
SEO is made up of 3 key pillars; technical aspects, content and links. Get these 3 things right and you will consistently improve your ranking performance and build more and more visibility for your brand.
You can read a case study here that showcases how our team used technical SEO to optimise a client’s website and increase organic traffic by 120%.
Creating content is at the core of modern marketing, and an essential part of your strategy should be the production and distribution of regular, relevant content.
Start by ensuring that all of the content on your hotel’s website is relevant, well-written, and helps to establish your brand identity.
Use SEO and market research to identify what information your potential customers are looking for, and make sure that you include this throughout your site.
Then, think about how you can use and share relevant content across other platforms.
You might start writing a hotel blog that explores topics you know your audience is interested in, make videos about your hotel and the experience of staying there or even start a podcast that will get your brand name out there.
This content can all be shared across your various social media platforms and linked back to your site, driving more traffic and engagement.
An integrated marketing approach should also help you to maximise every piece of content that you create, so a blog post can also become several social media updates and the basis for an online advert, for example.
Likewise, you can break longer videos into shorter chunks for social media channels or to include in blog content.
You can see an example of our content marketing efforts here in this account of how we gained almost 30,000 new visitors to a client’s website with only a single piece of content.
If you scale this kind of approach you can generate a huge amount of ongoing, sustained visibility in front of the people who would want to book with you.
Partner with Influencers
Influencer marketing is another relatively new addition to the world of hotel marketing, but it can have an incredible impact. Finding individuals who embody your brand values or are part of your target demographic and getting them to stay at your hotel and share the experience is one of the best ways to get positive coverage and reach a receptive audience.
When you are looking for influencers to work with, remember that it is better to collaborate with those who may have smaller audiences, but also have a following that is more engaged and likely to be interested in your hotel experience. A larger online following may look more impressive on paper, but is less likely to engage with an influencer’s content and actively support the brands they promote.
Many customers nowadays rely on reviews from influencers or peers when making a decision, which is one of the reasons why influencer marketing has become so successful. This approach works particularly well for hotels that have a strong social media presence already and is a great way to build up a large following.
One of the best-known hotel influencer marketing campaigns was Marriott International’s Snapchat takeover campaign, designed to promote their Marriott Rewards scheme. Social media influencers with large followings created clips on the app in different Marriott hotels across the world, which were then used to create advertisements and ‘snapisodes’ promoting the brand.
As well as being more influenced by peer or influencer reviews, modern customers are also more cautious before making a purchase and want to fully understand what they are paying for before they complete a transaction.
Using video to illustrate what an experience at your hotel is like is a great way to engage with this factor and enhance the experience of a potential customer researching your brand.
Video marketing is an approach that can be tied into your own social media, influencer marketing or content on your website, and is a really good way of getting a lot of content out of a single format as well.
You can create still images, short clips, transcripts and adverts all from a single video that illustrates your hotel experience, maximising your content’s potential and giving you lots of different formats to distribute across your marketing channels.
A brilliant example of video marketing comes from luxury golf and spa Hotel Gleneagles in Perthshire, who created a short film to raise its profile and illustrate the hotel’s offering before it hosted the famous Ryder Cup in 2014. This high-quality video content not only generated a lot of interest in the event, but also communicated the hotel’s brand identity and perfectly showcased the experience on offer.
No matter the size of your hotel business, building partnerships is an invaluable way of generating more brand interest, increasing the number of target audience members that you reach and gaining access to data and business insights you may otherwise have missed.
Partnership marketing involves teaming up with a non-competitive business that has a similar audience to yours and similarly aligned values. By working together to share ideas, customer data and industry knowledge, as well as teaming up for marketing campaigns, you’ll be able to raise more awareness of your brand and give both groups of customers more of what they’re looking for.
Finding a brand that offers a product or a service that you know your customer base already engage with is an excellent approach, particularly if you can think of a unique way to combine it with your hotel’s offering. The most successful partnership marketing campaigns are the ones that are unexpected, fun and add value to customer experience, as well as generating more interest in both businesses and reaching new demographics.
A particularly successful partnership came from the Hilton London Bankside a few years ago when they decided to join forces with design agency Bompas and Parr to create an entirely vegan-friendly hotel suite. Not only did the project gain them plenty of media attention, but both brands reached new, vegan and environmentally-conscious customers who were already overlapping with their existing target audiences and capitalised on the growing trend of sustainable tourism and plant-based eating.
Develop Superior Customer Service
If you’re going to promote your hotel as the best in the business, you need to make sure that the reality matches the image your marketing material has created. Quality service shouldn’t just be part of a marketing ploy; it should be an essential element of your hotel’s service.
Good customer service can often do more for your business than any number of marketing campaigns and social media posts. If your guests are impressed with the standards of service you provide, they are not only likely to return but also more likely to recommend you to all of their friends and family as well.
Try to incentivise previous guests to recommend you through things like referral programmes, discounts for people who go through your specific link or calls to share content on social media through their experience with you (pro tip – put things in your hotel that are particularly unique and ‘instagrammable’ – people will take lots of photos and tag you as their location!).
Treating your customers well will always increase your chances of receiving positive reviews online which creates an exponential impact. It’s very difficult to come back from a bad review, but superior customer service minimises the chance of a negative experience in the first place and enhances the benefits you can gain from a marketing perspective.
If you’re looking for a simple solution to keep your customers coming back to your hotel, or to increase the conversion rate of site visitors to customers, use email marketing.
This is a marketing solution with one of the best ROI rates out there and can be easily automated and personalised depending on your business goals and available resources.
Email marketing is a great way to generate repeat business and ensure that people who were just browsing will be more likely to come back and make a booking at your hotel. By sending follow up emails to potential customers who have abandoned a booking halfway through, customers who haven’t returned to your hotel in a while, or just potential customers who have subscribed to a mailing list, you can move more people down through the buyer funnel and easily increase your conversion rates.
If you don’t have an email list, or perhaps want to grow your existing list, then having a lead magnet strategy on your website is a must. Some people dislike lead magnets, but the facts are that they work and do drive conversions.
Here are a few ideas:
- A guide to the local area where your hotel is located
- A guide to secret eateries in your hotel’s location
- Discounts and loyalty programs
- Itineraries and activity plans
You can A/B test these lead magnets to see which is getting the most uptake. By placing these lead magnets on your website, you enter potential customers into your funnel. They have shown intent by being on your website and you now have the information needed to showcase what you have to offer!
Once you have their details, we recommend building a drip sequenced email campaign that looks something like this:
- Email One: Here’s your download/discount
- Theme: Thanks for downloading the document. Hope you enjoy it!
- Email Two: Feedback and thoughts
- Theme: Asking for feedback on your content, bringing the customer into the conversation, adding an easy voting system for those with little time.
- Email three: Our story
- Theme: A story led email discussing the human parts of your business, why you started your business, what you’ve achieved, where you want to go. You can include links here that go to certain pages on your website. These clicks will help you understand what type of holiday they would be interested in. Similar to the ads, if they clicked on kids’ activities, then they are probably a family, perhaps elegant fine dining, then they are probably a couple.
- Email four: Perfect for [families/couples/adventurers]
- Theme: Story led email about how your hotel is perfect for [families/couples/adventurers], based on what they clicked on in the previous email. This keeps communications relevant to the user. They have shown intent, they now have trust and hopefully, your story-led approach has given your business/hotel a human side.
- Email five: Just for you.
- Theme: Follow up with a discount, or a complimentary upgrade on their stay. Make it easy for them to book and make it feel exclusive,
The above is a general example of how to run a sequenced campaign and the themes of the campaign will change depending on what your hotel can offer. Remember, people buy from people, and by having that human edge to your campaign will help people resonate and it will help you to build trust.
Most hotel email marketing looks corporate and faceless, the industry is in desperate need of some humanisation. If you want to know more about how this automation and sequencing can work for you, check out our article “How we Use Email Marketing Automation to Drive Leads”.
Customer Loyalty Program
Whether part of your email marketing activity or a separate marketing strategy, our final suggestion to help increase bookings is to implement a customer reward scheme. This is a trend that we are seeing more and more hotels in the industry starting to use and is a brilliant way to also increase brand loyalty.
Offering your customers a discount if they book another stay at your hotel or giving them a free night’s stay after several bookings will both encourage repeat business and help to create a loyal customer base.
You could also create levels of perks that repeat customers can access after a certain amount of visits, such as free upgrades to premium rooms, free use of facilities or discounted dining experiences.
Not only will a customer loyalty program generate more business for your hotel, but it will also contribute to establishing a positive brand image and brand advocates who become increasingly likely to share your message.
A classic example of a hotel customer loyalty program comes from Hotel Tonight, which offers their regular customers a booking referral code to give to friends and family. If this code is used in a booking, both the original and the new customer receive a discount on their next booking. What’s not to like?
When it comes to developing a successful hotel marketing strategy, remember to always begin by identifying your target audience and deciding on a clear brand image. These two factors will heavily influence all other marketing decisions you make and will ensure that your efforts are targeting the right people and responding to what potential customers really want.
As new industry trends come and go and digital marketing dominates the most successful approaches, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to keep up with what methods you should be using to keep business coming through your hotel’s doors.
Our best advice is to ensure that your marketing strategy contains multiple approaches that include immediate business boosters and long-term investments, as this provides much more stability and the chance to analyse which approaches work best for your hotel.
If the hotel marketing approaches outlined in this article have tickled your fancy, why not get in touch with our team to find out more about what services we offer and how we can massively increase your hotel’s bookings, website traffic and customer base.
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