Developing a Digital Marketing Strategy for Your Hotel
Hotel digital marketing is more important than ever before. It’s fair to say that the hospitality industry will never be the same after 2020. It has unquestionably been one of the hardest years our industry has ever faced. Rather than curse our bad luck, however, we prefer to stay positive and take proactive steps to ensure we bounce back stronger than before.
In recent years, we’ve seen massive changes in customer journeys, with online research, booking and communication becoming the norm. The first half of 2020 has accelerated the adoption of new technology by many groups who have previously been reluctant to ‘go digital’. With that in mind, we now believe it is essential to combine hotel revenue management with digital marketing in order to maintain and grow revenue.
The challenge with hotel digital marketing is to understand increasingly complex tactics while competing on an ever-growing playing field. That’s why we’ve created this guide with practical, effective digital strategies you can implement to increase your direct bookings.
Hotel Digital Marketing Strategies
1. Understand The Customer Journey
One of the most common marketing mistakes is to focus on what you want to say, not what your customers want to hear. The way to correct this is to consider the journey customers go through before, during and after their stay.
Most people have heard of a marketing funnel. The basic principle is that a customer will become aware of you, then consider their options before committing to the purchase. However, this doesn’t help us to understand what they are thinking, feeling and doing.
Google has suggested a more insightful model as part of its micro-moments strategy. This strategy has uncovered five different phases that travel customers flow through:
Dreaming – the customer wants to get away, but they don’t know precisely when or where. Captivate and inspire them rather than trying to sell to them
Planning – the customer is actively researching. This is the moment to focus on your USP – specific features which make you a better choice than your competitors.
Booking – the customer is ready to book but may need to be convinced. Fear of missing out, customer reviews and time-sensitive offers can help seal the deal.
Experiencing – gone are the days of carefully planned itineraries. Now guests can research and book on the go. Add value by offering ideas and activities during the stay.
Sharing – the customer shares their experience via social media and review platforms. Sharing user-generated content can make guests feel valued and encourage others to book.
By understanding this customer journey, you can align tactics and messaging which resonate with your guests. This can immediately improve the relevancy and effectiveness of your digital marketing.
2. Let Revenue Management Data Guide You
Market segmentation from your hotel revenue management audit will provide excellent insights for your digital marketing strategy. There are several ways to segment your market, including demographics, group size, length of stay and affluence. However, one of the most useful for revenue management and digital marketing is to segment based on the purpose of the booking.
By segmenting your market by the reason people book, we can match hotel digital marketing tactics and messaging to specific behaviours and motivations. For example, leisure bookings will typically involve long ’dreaming and planning’ lead times, social proof, and recreational criteria for multiple guests. Business trips, on the other hand, will be functional, budget-driven and focused on convenience.
Next, your competitive analysis and rate value assessments will help you identify your unique selling propositions. If your pricing is more expensive than your competitors, messaging can focus on quality, service and luxury. If your rates are cheap, you can push price and value as a core message. Other factors include hotel facilities, proximity to local attractions and transport links.
3. Be Visible Online for Relevant Search Terms
With more than a third of accommodation searches starting on Google, SEO is more important than ever. While it can seem like a dark art at times, it comes down to three simple pillars.
Firstly, your website must be technically correct. Search engines must be able to make sense of your site and crawl your content. Your site must also be stable and quick to load.
Next, you need to conduct keyword research and optimise your content for relevant search terms. We don’t recommend competing against OTA for broad terms. Instead, focus on more specific aspects of your hotel. Instead of ‘hotels in Paris’ think ‘romantic hotels in central Paris’. You’ll have more chances of ranking and attract more relevant web traffic.
The final pillar of SEO is backlinking. When other websites link to you, your website is deemed more credible by search engines and moves up in the rankings. Links can come from travel bloggers, brand partnerships, travel operators, local amenities and any other genuine, relevant website.
4. Test & Learn with ‘normal’ Google Ads
While Google Hotel Ads are an excellent tactic for customers who are ready to book, let’s not forget those still dreaming and planning. The research those customers are doing will almost certainly involve Google as well. For these customers, we recommend trialling regular Google Ads.
These ads appear at the top of search results and offer more flexibility. Use the insights from your SEO research to inform the keywords you target. Again, we do not recommend competing directly with OTAs. Instead, continue to focus on more specific ‘long tail’ keywords with less competition. If you’ve already optimised your website for these terms, your Google Ads will achieve better quality scores, making them more cost-effective.
Ensure your text ads and landing pages are relevant for the keywords, but feel free to A/B test different messaging. You can quickly learn which features are most attractive to potential customers, allowing you to optimise the messaging across other digital platforms.
5. Master Metasearch
As with many hotel digital marketing tactics, it can be hard to gain traction on metasearch against large groups and OTAs with big budgets. With that in mind, the first key to mastering metasearch is to prioritise your budget and efforts on the right channels.
It’s no secret that Google has made great strides in the metasearch market. Their budgets, brand and ownership of so many technologies make it almost inevitable that Google Hotel Ads will dominate the market. We’d certainly recommend making the most of this channel while competition is relatively low.
Next, don’t try to outbid OTAs. Instead, promote a lower rate and the added trust that comes from booking directly with your hotel. The ‘Official Site’ badge which comes with Google Hotel Ads is particularly helpful here.
Finally, you need to stand out among the other hotels before you bid against OTAs. Make sure you do everything possible to optimise your Google My Business listing. Promote your key USP, upload professional photos and videos, enhance your street view and most importantly generate as many positive reviews as you can.
6. Retarget & Incentivise with Facebook Ads
Facebook is a hugely powerful advertising tool. However, targeting users based on their interests alone can be a guessing game. Even if the user is interested in visiting your hotel, there is no guarantee they are ready or able to make a booking.
A better option starting with Facebook Ads is to retarget website visitors. Retargeting can be narrowed to specific URLs, meaning you can advertise to people who have visited particular pages on your website in a chosen period. From here, you can choose to retarget people who viewed a location, a room type, or even those who started a booking but failed to complete. According to Wordstream, this ‘abandonment rate’ could be as high as 75%.
These people are almost certainly in the ‘booking’ phase but not yet ready to commit. They may be waiting for a better deal, unsure if your hotel will meet their needs, or feeling nervous about spending their savings. You can trial a combination of incentives, different options, and social proof to determine which is more likely to seal the deal. Retargeting can also be used to reward existing customers with loyalty bonuses for booking again.
7. Balance Form & Function on Your Website
Your website is your window to the world. It’s the first impression that many guests will have, and you need to ensure that it exceeds expectations. With 40% of travel site visits coming from mobile, you need to achieve this wow-factor across all devices.
You can think of your website user experience in the same way as your hotel guest experience. Just like your property, your website should be sleek, stylish and match your brand. But that is no use at all if the functional elements let you down.
Design and layout should be clean, with navigation which matches users’ expectations Photography and video should be up to date and professional. Wording should be clear and provide the details customers need to make decisions. Most importantly, the booking process should be prominent, straightforward and quick to complete.
8. Sell the Experience. Not Just the Hotel.
When people are ‘dreaming’ and ‘planning’, you must sell the location and experience just as much as the accommodation. During this stage, your potential guests might not have decided on which country to visit, let alone which area.
Consider everything guests might like to eat, drink, see and do during their stay. Then focus on those nearby and easy to arrange for you and guests. These can include everything from a cute cafe or market to climbing a mountain. You can promote these selling points as extensions of your own offer throughout your hotel digital marketing.
9. Form Brand Partnerships
By promoting local activities in your hotel digital marketing, you can test and learn which appeal most to your target customers. It’s then worth approaching these to formalise a brand partnership. Discounts or added value for your guests can be very persuasive, especially for group leisure bookings. However, there is a less obvious benefit to these partnerships in the form of backlinks to your website. Each link from a partner’s site increases your domain authority and boosts your SEO.
Implementing a successful hotel digital marketing strategy is not easy. It takes time to build brand awareness, find the right customers and generate bookings. However, by coordinating your revenue management and digital marketing, you can drastically shorten this learning curve and drive far better results from your digital marketing.
If you’d like to find out more about revenue management and digital marketing for hotels, please get in touch today. We can offer a free 30-minute consultation or contact us for an informal chat and some friendly advice.