Believe you or not, there are still hotels out there that don’t think they need a strong digital marketing plan in order to drive more bookings to their properties. Although they may be able to maintain their revenue, their customers are, sooner or later, migrating to the internet to check reviews, rates, amenities… So, this means that eventually they will book in another hotel with better online exposure.
Every hotel needs a marketing plan.
It doesn’t matter if you are sales manager in a property that holds a big chain flag or if you own a small family hotel. Your revenue can improve a lot if you spend some time planning your digital marketing strategy. Ahead we will be discussing some steps to start a digital marketing plan that will help you to strategically differentiate from your competition.
Due to the new way of booking, it is really important for hoteliers to accommodate in their marketing plans a chapter dedicated to digital marketing. It must include:
- Production of quality content;
- Social media strategy;
- Distribution through different channels;
- Reviews management;
- Online branding;
- Online presence;
Targeting your customers
The first step in a successful marketing strategy is defining who your target customers are. This information will allow you to focus your message, differentiate your services and go after the right channels, in order to reach people who might buy your product.
Targeting your customer is important because doing this; you are able to be present exactly where your potential client is looking for you. For a hotel, it means be present in as much online channels as possible, very well represented by descriptions, photos, videos, virtual tours, e-books and etc. It is also important be sure that your hotel can be found in as much languages as possible, spreading your content in local channels as well, increasing your online exposure.
Digital Branding & Differentiation
Branding has a deeper meaning to hoteliers. Since hotels don’t sell a product but an experience, it is important to be able to transmit it with your branding. It goes way beyond your logo. It is important that all your sales material and your online content reflect the experience you want to provide to your guests. They need to feel it and be compelling to book at your hotel, and not in the hotel next door, because your experience sounds more appealing to them. Below, the points to build a strong branding strategy:
Are You Differentiated?
One major key to effective branding is to find what your unique selling proposition is. This means that you need to highlight what is unique in your hotel. This process starts with your brand name and logo, but goes to your advertising, to your employee uniforms, etc. It is important to create a signature of your branding, and be consistent with it, especially in your sales tools: Your visuals. If your hotel is a beach resort, or oriented to business clients, you need to explore your differential and show it through the images your potential guests will look to during the shopping process.
Consistency is another key ingredient for branding. Since hotels sell experiences, start to impress your potential guest since the first contact: Producing quality visuals and investing in rich media and also, distributing it constantly to as many channels as possible. The fundamental rule is: Be different yet consistent.
Do You Communicate?
One important question to your branding strategy – Do you have a plan for communicating it? The best way to communicate something is using the internet. Being digitally integrated means that every unique point of contact your hotel has to offer your customers is covered with quality and fresh content.
Understanding the customer
In order to have a successful marketing strategy is important to understand what your customer really wants, not just what he says he wants. In the past, this process was long and expensive, involving focus groups and surveys. Those are actually good tools still, however, especially in the travel industry, you can use review websites such as tripadvisor to track customers experiences and identify points you have to improve, or better: Get to know your strong features from the client’s perspective.
Other ideas to get to know your client better:
Join Target Customer Forums, Groups, Blogs and Channels. Identify which channels your customers are using to address their issues related to hospitality and join those websites.
See what companies with the same target customer are doing to attract visitors. If other companies have been successful at reaching your target customer online, you should take note of what they are doing. While it isn’t always easy, there are many free online tools such as alexa.com that allow you to research websites and give you information about where their visitors are coming from.
Is important to keep your strategy aligned with the market and also have a close eye on what your competitors are doing. Those actions will help you correct and improve your strategy every day, putting more effort on those points that generate more return and change those that don’t. The first step is to put together a competitor spreadsheet that identifies critical customer characteristics and allows you to differentiate (keeping consistent with your branding).
Another point that needs to be covered by the strategy is how the industry time-line looks like in the future. It is possible to have a response to competitor’s actions. Spending some time building an emergency plan for a hypothetical worst case and also studying majors industry shifts that are likely to happen in, let’s say 2 years, will give you time to prepare now and be ready when the change comes.
Digital Marketing Tactical Plan
After targeting your customer, building a strong branding plan, finding out your unique selling proposition, communicating it to your customer, and also having knowledge about your competitors and how your industry time-line looks like in the near future, is time to start the action.
Determine the distribution channels you want to use. The reason why marketing on the internet is so powerful is that there are a huge amount of channels to use, and almost every potential customer is online for one reason or another. You can use several online channels such as: Social media, affiliate marketing, email campaigns, search (organic & pay) and, of course, the OTA’s.
There are thousands of websites specialized in selling travel online. To be present in all of them, with fresh and quality content is a must have for any hotel’s digital marketing tactical plan. There are companies specialized in distributing hotels online. They get your content and spread it all over the internet in different languages, so you can reach more potential customers.
Two additional tasks to make your digital marketing tactical plan successful:
1- Monitor to determinate what channels your customers are using most.
2- Determine which channels your competitors are not using. This might help you to avoid a bad channel or explore a new one.
Results and Feedback
After all this effort, is time to analyze your results and get feedback from your customers, to adjust your strategy accordingly. A good tool to help you in this process is Google Analytics. Using this tool you can track the amount of visitors to your website during a particular marketing campaign how long they stay on each page and others.
We hope you have enjoyed this article and that it can help you improve your digital marketing plan. If you have any doubt, feel free to leave a comment below, of find me on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or visit my home. By Portál, the Penguin.