Thanks to a robust OTA market and the growth of services such Airbnb and Vrbo, it’s never been more of a challenge for hotels — of every kind — to break through the noise and get past gatekeepers. In 2022, it’s crucial for hotel owners and managers everywhere to put in place comprehensive hotel marketing strategies that drive more direct engagement with guests.
But where to begin?
COVID-19 touched nearly every aspect of the hospitality industry, including marketing. Some traditional marketing and advertising methods have still proven to be effective. However, many new tools and best practices that were developed to deal with the pandemic have proven to be very impactful.
Now is the perfect time for hotel operators and marketers to find creative ways to stand out from the crowd and provide additional value to their guests.
Canary’s team of industry experts has put together the following list of 12 smart hotel marketing strategies that help give you a competitive edge, reach more potential guests and increase direct bookings.
1. Ensure You're Targeting the Right Audience/Traveler Types
In order to be successful in the hospitality industry (or in any industry, really), you first need to understand your customers’ needs. You should be well aware of what kind of traveler you want to attract before you begin any marketing efforts.
But how does one identify the right hotel target audience or guest persona?
Start by asking these questions: What motivates your potential customers to choose your property over others? What can you do to reach them? How do you learn about your guests and better connect with them?
Guest persona analysis helps you understand what kind of guests you want to attract and how to market to them.
Here is a list of traveler types:
Hotels with a clear understanding of their guests' needs and demographic interests can cater to them more strategically and make the necessary changes to their marketing efforts.
2. Create a Great User Experience for Your Hotel Website
Although a large percentage of hotel bookings come from Online Traveling Agencies (OTAs) or metasearch engines, your website is still a powerful marketing tool when it comes to attracting new guests and retaining existing ones.
Your visitors need to be able to easily see prices, room availability, specials and booking options online. Once they decide they want to stay at your hotel, it should be quick and easy to make a reservation through the site. An intuitive user interface is essential to making the sale. Be sure to address any usability issues that could cost you a booking.
Here are some additional tips that will help you create an engaging website that drives more reservations:
Create engaging content such as virtual tours, photo galleries and videos
Emphasize important information such as “Book Now” or “Review Us” CTA buttons
Make sure the website provides a seamless user experience and is easy to navigate
3. Be Easily Searchable Online! Have Good SEO
In order to rank well in search engines, you need to make sure that your hotel website is optimized for search engines with keywords. With good search engine optimization (SEO), a hotel has a fighting shot at outranking competitors and attracting the most bookings possible.
SEO for hotels is often less expensive than other forms of marketing. And yet, it has the potential to bring the same number of bookings (or more) than you would get by relying upon costly, traditional advertising methods such as billboards, TV ads, print advertisements or paid directory listings.
Some of the most important SEO techniques include:
Essential to building a loyal clientele is capturing guest information. However, this is a slightly less straightforward process for many hotels than you might think. One blocker to capturing guest contact information is the way OTAs work. When a guest books through an OTA, the hotel receiving the booking only sees a masked email address.
To capture as many emails as possible, be sure to offer guests the opportunity to submit their information whenever possible through the guest journey. Your website should have a CTA button to sign up for a newsletter or join a loyalty program. You may also wish to leverage guest experience technology, like Canary, that can help you collect guest names and emails through the check-in process and throughout the guest journey— even for customers that book through OTAs.
5. Send Customized Emails
Once you have email addresses collected, it’s time to set up some campaigns! Email marketing has proven to be one of the most effective ways to market a hotel. The practice involves maintaining a subscriber list based on various market segments and reaching your target audience with personalized messages.
You can also use email marketing to send special offers and promotions to your customers, or reach out to guests after they've stayed at the property to encourage them to send feedback, leave a review or sign up for a rewards program.
6. Use Remarketing/Retargeting
When it comes to hotel reservations, there are so many options, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. The abandonment rate for booking hotels via the web is about 75 percent. As a hotel marketer, you can useremarketing, also known as retargeting, to reach users who have already visited your site and may have started the booking process, but did not complete it.
Retargeting can be done through the use of the following tools:
Personalized website popups and ads
Facebook Travel Ads
Google Hotel Ads
In today's world, modern hotel searchers are more online than ever, so hoteliers need to be present and retarget on several platforms. By doing so, you give yourself the best possible chance to capture more reservations.
7. Provide Incentives for Direct Bookings
Direct booking is the most advantageous way for hotels to get reservations because they don't have to pay commission to a third-party, and they have more opportunities for cross-selling or upselling to guests.
Direct booking is also beneficial for the guest. In addition to maintaining a relationship directly with customers, the hotels can provide guests with certain benefits more easily, including:
The best prices and special promotions
A more customized stay
Easy changes to reservations
8. Build a Customer Loyalty Program
Hotel loyalty programs are an ideal marketing strategy to reward guests and encourage them to return again and again.
Hoteliers should consider implementing a rewards program that includes a tiered approach, customized offers based on customer profiles, and frequent customer feedback.
Rewards could include free or discounted upgrades on future stays, birthday discounts and more.
9. Develop Local Business Partnerships
Guests want to know what makes your hotel stand out from others. They expect you to deliver a memorable experience. A quality relationship with your local businesses community is an essential part of your success as a hotelier, and can help you deliver an extraordinary customer experience.
Special treatments for your guests, like a platter of cheese or a box of gourmet truffles, a spa treatment or a cooking class, and other local happenings can all come from local businesses.
Another idea is to collaborate with a car company and allow guests to drive sports cars — just as the Rancho Valencia Resort in San Diego did. The property teamed with Porsche to provide an incredible guest experience like no other.
By partnering with local businesses, your guests will be delighted by the variety of choices available to them while staying at your hotel. Just remember it’s important to understand customer profiles and cultivate the type of experiences they would want.
Both the hotel and the local businesses can benefit greatly from such partnerships. Market the location, not just the amenities at your hotel! Future visitors will want to know what makes your location desirable to visit.
10. Maintain Your Online Reputation & Watch Those Reviews
Online reviews and recommendations are essential when it comes to attracting new guests. The majority of your guests will check reviews and ratings when deciding whether or not to stay at your hotel. We cannot stress how important your online reputation is to your overall hotel marketing strategy.
To improve your hotel reputation management, try these tactics:
Stay active on social media and engage conversations with guests
Share your positive reviews
Monitor your competitor’s reviews
Of course, the real key to reputation management is guest satisfaction — once you have satisfied customers, you can encourage them to leave reviews that will boost your overall ratings.
11. Increase Marketing Budget During Peak Booking Seasons
Hotel marketers need to prepare for peak booking seasons. This means increasing marketing budgets during seasonal rushes, such as winter months for a ski resort resort or summer months for beachfront properties.
Here are a few examples of where that marketing budget may be deployed:
Local advertising via billboards and radio advertising
Video production highlighting seasonal promotions
PPC and SEM Campaigns
High and low booking seasons should always be considered when planning a marketing budget.
12. Emphasize Safety in Hotel Marketing & Guest Communications
Safety should always be a priority for your hotel guests. The pandemic made consumers more aware of the importance and necessity of cleanliness and public health protocols than ever. These expectations are not going to go away. Therefore, it is essential to communicate any information that will put guests at ease during their stay about the measures your property has taken to ensure a safe environment.
Here are a few steps you can take:
Let your guest know that their rooms were just cleaned and enumerate your cleanliness protocols
Provide access to hand sanitizer stations and enforce social distancing measures if/when necessary
Communicate all public safety measures currently in place clearly to your guests clearly
13. Provide an Excellent Guest Experience
Hoteliers around the world know how important it is to provide a high level of service to every guest. It’s beneficial for brand development, customer loyalty and increases revenue!
But how do you provide the best guest experience possible?
Here are a few ideas:
Help your guests customize their room preferences before they arrive
Check often to ensure guests are happy with hotel services and amenities
Surprise your guests with presents, appreciation notes, a signature cocktail or local experience
Ask guests for feedback and suggestions
Implement a flexible cancellation policy
Train and prepare your staff to handle any situation
Encourage your staff to be creative and accommodate all requests (within reason)
Hotel marketers should always try to come up with out-of-the-box ways to give your customers a unique experience that they can only get at your hotel. From big gestures to tiny details, look for fun and unique ideas to make your guests feel extra special.
As you can see, all of these hotel marketing strategies are built around creating value and great guest experiences. Knowing your customer profiles, providing a fantastic level of service at every touchpoint, being searchable online, and experimenting with a variety of marketing ideas will make for more happy guests and increased bookings.
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