Where on earth do you start to start when implementing a new marketing strategy for a hotel?
In fact, how do you promote a hotel with the internet moving so rapidly with seemingly new developments every day, week and month.
Here is a simple ten point plan on how to market a hotel property:
1. A story worth sharing
Your hotel needs to have something unique, refreshing or innovative. Your hotel needs to have a story to it which people like, and think worthwhile to share with their friends.
Good service is at the basics of all of everything, this you have to get 100% right.
Being remarkable (ie. worth making a remark about) is not that hard either if you think of it. How about handing out an ice cream at check-in during the warm summer days? Or invite all hotel guests to a delicious fresh French roast coffee when they arrive at the hotel.
2. Regional and national press
PR has, and will always be, important to reach your domestic market. Make sure you build a good relationship with journalists and editors of regional and national newspaper and magazine publications.
This way if they want to do a travel story, you are the top of their list.
3. GDS and consortia
For some they are seen by many as a dying breed, but the global distribution systems are reinventing themselves, and are still an important source of business and leisure travel for many destinations.
Moreover, mega agencies like Amex, ABC Corporates Services, TQ3 Travel Solutions, World Trabel BTI and Carlson Wagonlit are very effective distribution channels to reach corporate travelers of large corporations.
4. Online travel agencies
The posterboards of the hotel and travel industry in the online age, are among the most important distribution channels.
Their commissions and models vary - analyze them well to make sure they add value to your overall strategy.
Be certain they aren’t just shifting direct business away from your direct sales efforts, but really generate incremental bookings.
Local Destination Marketing Organisations work hard to attract groups and events.
You should approach them and work together with them to attract corporate and leisure groups during low and medium demand periods.
It will help you to diversify your hotels’ market mix.
6. Tourist offices and convention bureaux
Talk to your local tourism office and find out how they can help you to promote your hotel.
Make sure you have a representative listing on their website and that you are well promoted in their office when tourists come to town.
The convention bureau should be your other best friend. You should be on the top of their list for group requests for conferences and city wide events in your destiantion.
7. Sales reps
Have a sales representative put your hotel on the local map with local businesses nearby.
Visit prospective and current clients regularly, bring the gifts, meaning smart and real gifts. Spoil them rotten, and make them addicted to you.
8. Website and SEO
You will need an optimized website for your hotel. If you want to generate direct sales through your website think keyword searches and consumer segments, before burying yourself in the design aspect.
Your store can be pretty, but you need people passing by and stepping in to have a chance at a sale. SEO is very often heavily neglected.
9. Social media and review websites
Yes, we know by now (I hope so at least) that we need a FaceBook, Twitter, FourSquare, Gowalla, YouTube page and profile.
We have to manage our presence on these social media actively and create fresh new content every week and month.
A blog is great tool for this.
Next, manage your online reputation. Encourage your guests to leave reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. Incentivise if needed.
Your profile on the hotel and travel review websites needs to be active and dynamic. Oh yeah, don’t forget to respond! You have to be involved…
Finally, hotels are starting to move beyond their own website into mobile marketing.
Don’t think a mobile app is something every independent hotel needs. Let’s start with a basic mobile website which allows you to easily navigate an image gallery of the hotel and has a simple click to call button.
From there you can work on integrating your booking engine and develop a more advanced mobile hotel website step by step.
Extra! Warning: Tour operators and wholesalers
The model is broken, and they are only a necessary evil that hotels need to use until they have redeveloped themselves into OTA / IDS style agencies with dynamic sell rates, respecting the hotels’ distribution needs.
Extra2! Warning: flash sales
One thing you shouldn’t do, and that is getting on the flash sales train. You will only dilute your business and slash your average room rate down to levels that your hotel will incur revenue losses instead of generating incremental revenue.
Extra3! Warning: dead trees
Last but not least, don’t spend too much money on printing brochures etc - we are, after all, in the digital age…
NB: More information on hotel marketing from Xotels.