11 Hotel Marketing Strategies to Book More Guests
January 15, 2020
Today, hotels not only have to compete with other hotels, but also with new players like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Homeaway, to name a few. Hence, it is imperative to think beyond just the standard hotel stay to attract more customers when developing your hotel marketing strategies.
There are essentially two kinds of travelers – those who prefer staying in a hotel, and those who don’t. In order to attract both types of customers, hotels need to step up their game and deliver more than just an overnight stay. With that in mind, the most successful hotels focus on building a brand that resonates with audiences and targets the unique needs of each customer segment.
It’s crucial to challenge the status quo. Experiment with the various tools and techniques readily available to businesses that help with brand promotion and driving market demand. Gone are the days of being able to rely on doing the same marketing tactics over and over again. Today, there are ever-evolving new trends and innovative technologies that can be leveraged in your marketing strategies.
This article covers 11 hotel marketing strategies that will help you maximize your booking numbers, as well as lay a strong foundation in building an influential and resonating brand for your hotel.
1. Ensure Your Hotel Website is Top Notch
In the time of all things digital, having a great interactive and, most importantly, responsive website is the cornerstone of any solid marketing strategy. Your website is not only your virtual address but it’s also a virtual sales pitch that can convert a visitor into a customer. Potential guests will always look for your website and check out various sections before making a final decision.
If you’re looking to build or revamp your hotel website, here are a few tips to ensure your hotel website design is user friendly and maximizes conversion rate:
- Make sure information is where guests expect it to be. We’ve been trained to expect hotel website navigation to be set up in a certain way, such as having hotel locations and room booking as the first options to browse. The methodology of using familiarity to make decision making easier is known as cognitive fluency.
- Keep the navigation bar simple. Too many options for visitors to choose from can damage your booking conversions. For example, instead of putting every type of room, just create a link to a ‘Rooms’ section. From there, you can create landing pages for each type of room for visitors to browse.
- Use the serial position effect. A visitor’s attention is heavily paid to content that’s at the beginning and end of your webpages. So, place important call-to-actions like the ‘Book Now’ button at either ends of the page, with lesser important elements in between.
- Ensure loading time is minimized. Even though it’s essential to use good quality videos and images on your website, it shouldn’t be at the cost of making your website too heavy to load. Slow-loading websites act as a major deterrent for visitors to stay on the website or visit again.
2. Create Content for SEO Optimization
While having a great website is a solid start, it won’t be of much use if visitors can’t find it. The hotel sector is one of the most competitive online markets, with individual hotels and hotel chains competing against online travel aggregators and price comparison booking sites. That’s where search engine optimization comes to the rescue to ensuring your website is discoverable by potential guests.
Most consumers nowadays prefer to look for booking options themselves instead of using a travel agent. Your best bet at being discovered is if your website appears on the first couple of pages. To get you to that spot, there are a lot of local SEO tactics and strategies that hotels can use to optimize their website content and structure.
Here are a few ideas:
- Start with keyword research. Your hotel’s website may rank organically for a number of terms based on your location and related web page content, but knowing the specific keywords your target audience is searching for can help take your website to the next level in terms of generating traffic and bookings.
- Create relevant local content. Once you’ve done your keyword research, you’ll then be able to create local content that users who click through will be able to view. The local content will not only help you promote your rooms and hotel services, but also increase the relevancy of your brand with the local area.
- Optimize your title tags and meta descriptions. Unless your hotel is a well-known brand that already has a strong following, it’s unlikely that many people are searching for your hotel’s name. A way around this is to add your targeted keywords to your content’s title tags and meta descriptions. Best practice is to place them at the beginning because these will be the first words that users see when the search results show.
3. Tell a Story Through Your Content
Since hotels are all about offering a memorable experience to guests, a successful marketing strategy benefits greatly from using a storytelling approach. In a world of convenience and instant gratification, incorporating an element of human touch and relatability is an impactful way to stand out from the crowd and create a meaningful connection with you audience.
When crafting your brand’s story, make sure it’s authentic and aligns to your brand values and personality. People can see right through a disingenuous message. As long as you stay true to your brand, it will be easy for people to react and connect to your story. Ensuring all aspects of your content marketing strategy incorporates elements of your brand story will create consistency and a greater overall degree of brand awareness among your audience.
4. Invest in High Quality Video Marketing
The video marketing trend is on the rise and one that’s definitely here to stay. Video content can have significant impact in driving website visits, educating consumers about company products and services, and most importantly, attracting bookings.
For the hotel industry in particular, video content is an optimal medium for showcasing the hotel property and guest experience to prospective guests. Promotional videos can include site tours, highlight nearby attractions and guest testimonials.
The constant influx of new technology into the market will also allow you to take your video marketing to the next level. Virtual reality videos are becoming increasingly popular for the hotel industry because they have the power to transport people from one exotic place to another.
Typically, VR is best suited to high-end luxury brands with a hotel star rating of four or five, but any type of brand can take advantage of the tool if they offer a particularly unique experience that would be appealing to potential guests. The technology is able to showcase a product or experience in all its glory, thereby heightening the sense of exclusivity. If you have multiple properties or large hotels with extensive grounds and internal spaces, VR is a great way to immerse audiences.
5. Curate Relevant Content for Your Hotel’s Social Media
Social media is perfect for the hotel industry because it’s so focused on visuals. Hotel brands have so many features to show off inside and outside of the hotel, from the rooms to the façade to the surrounding towns and vistas.
When people travel, they’re looking to experience something different so evoking that wanderlust can easily be done through social content.
Here are a few tips on best practices when it comes to social media marketing for hotel brands:
- Focus on what sets your brand apart. The smallest details can have the biggest impact when competing in a hyper saturated market. When it comes to creating social content to promote your hotels, pay attention to the products and services, no matter how minute they may seem, that set you apart in creating a truly individualized guest experience.
- Research hashtags on a frequent basis. Hashtags are one of the most important elements of social media, especially highly visual channels like Instagram. They make it easy for people to find content and topics they’re interested in, or browse and find inspiration. Do some research into the most popular hashtags being used by your audience and create relevant content for your posts. For example, if one of the services your hotel offers is to host weddings, use hashtags like #hotelwedding or #weddingdestination since this is where people would be looking when searching for the perfect venue.
- Encourage conversation to help build your online community. When your guests post about a great experience they had at your hotel, it has a significant impact on building trust with your audience. Comments and user-generated content generate much stronger traffic and awareness than any other social interaction. By regularly encouraging and attracting comments on your posts, you’ll gain followers more quickly since people often take an interest in what their friends are discussing or what they see trending. Think of an interesting or fun topic to post about that’s relevant to your hotel brand and ask your followers for their take on it.
6. Embrace the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Review Websites
- 96% consider reviews important when researching a hotel.
- 79% will read between six and 12 reviews before making a purchase decision.
- 88% of travellers filter out hotels with an average star rating less than three.
- 32% eliminated those with a rating below four.
- Four out of five people believe a hotel that responds to reviews cares more about its customers.
- 85% agree that a thoughtful response to a review will improve their impression of the hotel.
A positive guest review can go a long way in building a great hotel brand and reputation. Even negative reviews, if handled appropriately, have the potential to improve credibility. For example, if a negative review relates to a product or service that can easily be modified, it’s a great way to make improvements to the guest experience and show your audience that you’re proactive in addressing their concerns.
7. Take Advantage of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
In order to stay competitive and be discoverable in the online world, hotels need to be tapping into every revenue stream relevant to their brand. Pay-per-click advertising is an important part of a hotel’s digital marketing strategy and has the potential to be one of the most impactful on bookings.
To ensure your PPC strategy is as successful as possible, consider these three best practices
- Target segmented audiences and speak directly to them. Establishing an average customer profile, such as a recently married couple or a bleisure traveler, can help you decide where to focus your investment and bids. Additionally, with PPC, you have the ability to market to different segments based on geography, time of day and device. All that data will enable you to create specific copy and offers that will appeal to your market.
- Choose the right keywords for your ad campaigns. Expensive, high volume keywords such as “cheap hotel” or “best hotel” don’t target your specific audience and quickly eat up your budget. Instead, include longer tail keywords such as “best hotel in near ” into your PPC strategy. Chances are that competition and cost per click will be lower.
- Include ad extensions in your campaigns. Take advantage of extensions that give specific calls-to-action to users such as visiting site links to check out a hotel or book a room. Call, message and location extensions allow users to get in touch with your hotel or find directions on Google Maps. On the other hand, price and promotion extensions allow you to advertise prices for rooms, products and services.
8. Re-Engage Guests with Remarketing
With such easy access to information, consumers visit up to 38 sites before booking a hotel. So chances are, if your hotel is the first one they visit, they will not make a reservation and you probably won’t even make their short list once they’re ready to make their decision.
Remarketing is one of the many hotel marketing strategies that allows your hotel to stay top-of-mind and reconnect with guests who have visited your site. It allows you to serve them ads that remind them to come back and visit your website again. This is normally done with some sort of incentive, such as a unique discount. This type of visitor re-engagement is a much more cost-effective way of converting users into future guests at your hotel.
Here are three ways to use remarketing tactics and grab the attention of your future guests:
- Use Google Analytics to see what types of potential guests are visiting your hotel website. You can filter users by which pages they visited or, if they started the reservation process but didn’t finish, where they dropped off. These actions indicate that there was interest in staying at your hotel but for whatever reason, they decided to continue with their search. Within Google AdWords, you can create specific display ads to be shown on the Google Display Network to those previous visitors. To drive them back to the website and book, you can give a discount or special offer like a free spa treatment or room upgrade.
- Use remarketing lists for search ads. In addition to display ads, you can also remarket via traditional text ads. The same approach applies in that, when a person visits your website, the next time they go back to Google to continue their hotel search, they’ll see your text ad within the search results.
- Reconnect with your audience through Facebook dynamic ads. Instead of going through Google, you can remarket to website visitors who log onto Facebook. Your ads appear in the timeline feed and act as an additional touch point and nudge in promoting users to choose your hotel.
9. Attract and Retain Using Customer Loyalty Programs
In this highly competitive industry, every guest counts when it comes to booking revenue. Retaining previous guests is just as important as attracting new guests. That’s where a well-planned hotel guest loyalty program helps to create a steady and sustainable flow of repeat bookings.
A hotel’s customer loyalty program must offer enough value to travelers that would entice them to book a room with you again. Consider designing a program based on the following statistics from the Collinson Group, industry experts on loyalty and benefit programs:
- 61% of travelers opt for loyalty programs that offer a broad spectrum of rewards.
- 40% of travel loyalty program members would tell friends and family about a program following a positive redemption experience.
- 41% of Millennials joined a travel loyalty program because it was easy to use.
- 33% of travel loyalty program members would actively encourage family & friends to join the program following a positive redemption experience.
- 68% of millennials display loyalty to a hotel brand that offers them the most rewards.
10. Use Email Marketing for Drip Campaigns
The need for diversified marketing makes it essential that hotels leave no stone unturned in attracting more guests. Email marketing is a very effective way to build guest loyalty, encourage brand engagement and increase direct bookings through targeted communications and promotions. In addition, it’s cost efficient and easily automated, which makes it an ideal marketing tactic for busy hoteliers.
Here are three tips for maximizing bookings through your email marketing campaigns:
- Grow your email lists organically over time. Build your list by making it easy for guests or prospective guests to sign up. You can get your customers to actively join your email list by adding a simple sign-up form to your website communicating an incentive like the chance to win a free stay. You can also include an opt-in checkbox, or a link to your sign-up form, in your post-stay survey or any other marketing communications.
- Optimize email campaigns for mobile. A massive number of your emails will be opened and viewed on mobile devices so your content needs to be able to respond to any screen size. If you’re using email marketing software, make sure their templates are responsive, and avoid using large image files and long paragraphs. When trying to convert users into paying guests, it’s essential to make the experience as seamless as possible
- Personalize your email content. Email marketing can easily be automated and lists can be emailed en masse. However, that doesn’t mean your emails should appear like a generic mass mail-out. To avoid this, personalize your emails as much as possible to build relationships and encourage engagement with your hotel and brand. An approach to this could be to create sublists that target specific audiences. For example, if you have a new spa package, you can identify guests who purchase spa services during their visits and send them an email informing them of the promotion. Segmenting by corporate clients, service users, family travelers, etc. will help you send the right content to the right customers.
11. Create Unique Guest Experiences with Personalization Marketing
Personalization is a key factor in creating a unique experience for each guest. In a study conducted by Google and Phocuswright, nearly six in 10 U.S. travelers think that brands should tailor information based on their personal preferences or past behaviors. If done successfully, 76% of U.S. travelers would be likely or extremely likely to sign up for the brand’s loyalty program. With 36% saying they would pay more in return for receiving more tailored information and experiences, the demand is high and the impact on bottom line is significant.
Personalization and customization can mean a lot of different things, such as knowing the guest’s name when they walk up to reception, being offered specific promotions they’d be interested in based on previous behavior or the ability to modify their in-room experience, with hotel amenities like by selecting their pillow type or an aroma scent for the room.
In the end, it’s really about making the customer feel they are not just getting another big box experience. Incorporating technologies that allow for data to be transferred between reservations systems and hotel operations, and using data from post-stay surveys will enable you to make informed decisions on how best to create those unique experiences for your guests.
Marketing in the Hospitality Industry
More players in the market have resulted in stiff competition for hotels all over the globe. This ever-growing sector makes it imperative that hotels keep up with marketing trends and stay adaptive to market needs in order to book more guests.
An essential take-away is to keep things simple and transparent. Place yourself in the customer’s shoes when developing your marketing strategies to get a better sense of what the guest experience is like at all stages of the journey. The right combination of some or all of the hotel marketing strategies highlighted in this article will set you up for success in boosting your bookings.
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