8 marketing tools for independent hotels

Friday 16th June 2017

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.

 

With independent hotels, who perhaps don’t have the resource and budget as those owned by larger groups, they really need to make their marketing count.

In order to successfully reach customers, independent hotels need to use a combination of both online and offline marketing tools. They need to have an integrated marketing approach, which 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.

1. Audience

Firstly, when it comes to your marketing, you need to be really clear on your target audience. You need to understand where they get their information from. After all, how else are you going to reach them? So when they check-in ask them what travel magazines, and newspapers they read, and what social media they use. Have these questions set-up on your site too when guests book with you online.

As part of knowing your audience, you also need to know how they engage with you online at the moment. To do this you should start recording your stats from your website. Find out how long guests are spending on your site, what they are clicking on and how they find your website to begin with. Have they searched for it specifically or just found it by accident?

2. Branding

Branding is so often over-looked 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 want people to recognise your hotel. And you want to be at the forefront of their minds as much as possible; 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, which they can understand and communicate to your guests. 

3. Website

One of the first places potential guests will go once they have heard about you is your website. Your website needs to deliver, and give the right impression. It’s a sales tool after all.

 

As soon as a customer goes onto 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

First, 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 quick, then make sure it is!

As soon as a customer goes onto 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.

The 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 important to have some kind of data-capture element on there too, and an easily accessible ‘book now’ function.

Testimonials always work well. They add that credibility, so if you have a celeb staying, or a major VIP, make the most of it and ask whether they would be happy to sign off a quote from them about your hotel or better still, ask them to tweet about you.

4. SEO

Once your website is in place, we need people to find it. So, research key words that work for you. Something like ‘luxury hotel’ will be competitive, but look at targeting long tail keywords such as ‘luxury hotel in the Cotswolds.’ There are plenty of software packages 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 your key words). For example, you could name your blog ‘the luxury Cotswolds hotel blog’ and each blog title and post can address a certain angle, and also incorporate your key words. Fresh, continuous content is key in making your SEO work.

Talk with other bloggers, and try to get mentioned on their sites (send them news stories and opinion pieces). They also want good content to share with their readers. If you can get other quality sites (that are respected by Google) linking through to your hotel, this can be very beneficial for your SEO.

5. Mobile

Mobile is essential to your marketing. Your website needs to be work really well on every device. If you don’t allow people to easily book rooms from a mobile device,  you are going to lose guests. So make sure your hotel booking experience works just as well on mobile phones, laptops and tablets as it does on a desktop computer.

6. PR

Having the press on your side can be a powerful thing. So many hotel owners don’t think to speak to the press, which is astonishing. 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. Send out news stories, ideas for feature articles etc.

If you are hosting an exciting event, invite your key journalists. Invite travel writers from the National newspapers to come stay the night and review your hotel. If you don’t ask, you won’t get! And what have you got to lose? Build a rapport with your local press, invite them for dinner to try out your new seasonal menu, meet the head chef and other key members of your team etc.

If you are hosting an exciting event, invite your key journalists. Invite travel writers from the National newspapers to come stay the night and review your hotel. If you don’t ask, you won’t get!

Simon Bullingham, CEO & Founder, Journey

7. 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 your put people off, but do think sales. So when having conversations through Twitter and FaceBook bring people back to your site, 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.

A couple of neat tricks to put into practice…when guests check-in, as well as taking down their postal address ask them for their twitter account names. Tweet them during their stay and after. Perhaps something that can be tasked with your front of house team. Also, why not set up a host of searches, such as ‘looking for a hotel in the Cotswolds,’ so that whenever somebody tweets this you will see it, and you can then start following and engaging with them. You can set-up as many searches as you want using free platforms such as TweetDeck, Hootsuite.

Although Google Plus is still to catch on. there is still speculation around its benefits, namely what it can do for your SEO. Look at Pinterest too. Hotels are perfect settings for engaging photography – from newly weds to new dishes on the menu.

8. Video

Video is a very powerful medium. So many have it in their heads that a good video is expensive and hard to pull off. 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 twitter fodder. 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. Get those emails, 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 do it.

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 have to ensure that your staff convey the exact same message. Once you have engaged with these customers, you then have to think of innovative ways to get them to stay with you time and time again.