Six marketing communication tips for hotels
Freshfield’s Emma Rawlinson discusses what hotels should be doing to influence key audiences, boost enquiries and secure reservations.
- Consistent marketing
After a buoyant few years, 2015 is shaping up to be an interesting year for hotels. Hotel owners and general managers have wisened-up to the demands of the modern day guest and instead of relying solely on word of mouth recommendations and advertising, are turning their attention to new and effective marketing tactics. However, there’s still a tendency to dip in and out, and such a fragmented approach doesn’t yield the desired results. To gain any competitive advantage, marketing needs to be consistent and well planned.
- Importance of a well-structured website
The back-bone of any hotel’s marketing strategy is a successful website. We’ve moved on from the days where just having a presence online was enough. Now, ensuring your hotel owns an attractive, easy to navigate, easy to book website is more important than ever.
Firstly, let good photography do the talking – it will be the first thing that draws the customer in. Next, ensure your navigation is really simple. You need people to discover more about your facilities so help steer visitors to exciting extras such as award-winning dining facilities, luxury accommodation choices and wedding packages. Call to actions need to be crystal clear or your web visitors will drop off. Badly designed or coded booking engines embedded in your site can deter potential customers from booking. Finally carefully craft your copy. Team up with a partner or agency that fully understands your goals. This will not only put you pride of place in search engines but will also guarantee your key messages are well communicated.
- Tell your story
You are only as good as the story you tell and hoteliers are using content to fuel modern marketing. Not only does a good news story have appeal to external media such as magazines and newspapers, but can help maximise your owned media platforms too (website, social media pages and e-newsletters to name a few).
Think like a publisher and generate regular news, securing coverage in target publications, as well as engaging people on your own channels to raise your profile. It could be that the hotel’s more unusual spa treatments are attracting guests in their droves or an exciting re-development will transform the hotel, offering a new suite of modern and luxurious accommodation. Sharing what’s going on gives an insight into life at the hotel.
- Understand the new generation of customer
There will be guests who return because they trust the brand but there’s been a step change in how prospective customers make an enquiry or reservation. Those looking for a leisure break now carry out research online, seeking travel recommendations, checking out picture galleries and engaging with you via social media for a road-test.
Those in the sector are smartening up and understanding the true value of engagement, personality and customer care. Utilise your social media channels on a continuous, consistent basis, giving thought to clever social media campaigns and you’ll see a boost in bookings. You’ll also make it easier for your customers to make an informed choice. One of our clients Stanley House, still new to social media, is starting to reap the rewards. One piece of Facebook content was so relevant to its key audience that a direct wedding enquiry came on the platform within two minutes of putting the post live.
- A winning partnership
Sometimes an ideal tactic to communicate key messages is right under our nose. Explore the opportunities to form partnerships with those who can influence the customer journey.
For example, Lancashire-based hotels are making the most of Marketing Lancashire, the county’s leading public body aimed at driving the visitor economy through tourism board Visit Lancashire. With thousands of monthly web visitors, an active social media community and access to an email subscription of over 70,000, it’s assisting those in tourism increase their presence.
It’s not just external organisations that present opportunities. Hotels with the added bonus of a luxury spa are driving awareness by forming joint initiatives with its product houses. Often, they have a huge social media following and loyal fans which can be tapped into by offering exclusive discounts or competition prizes.
- React the right way
Everyone has an opinion and customers aren’t shy at voicing them online. Of course they’re not always right but think professionally before reacting to reviews you don’t necessarily agree with.
Recently 47 King West, Manchester hit the press for all the wrong reasons. Clearly not in the mood for criticism after a negative review was posted by a customer, the manager responded to comments online with a stream of derogatory remarks about the group booking. The shocking customer service grabbed the national headlines and the owners will no doubt pay for the error in judgement.
Those that do it well understand that every business has its faults. Identifying problems can assist in preventing comments from gaining momentum and contacting customers before they contact you is a tried and tested method. This should always feature to some degree in your marketing strategy. Others go further and put social and media monitoring in place for all mentions of the brand so it’s easy to see what people are saying. It also makes it less of a challenge to spot a negative review. Just remember when responding, the same golden rules of customer service still apply.