Desirable guest amenities, competitive pricing, beautiful photos on a slick website– all of this is part of a successful hotel marketing strategy. However, the most important thing you can do to market your hotel is to develop relationships. Not just relationships directly with your guests, but with all the people or agencies who come in contact with your guests. In this guide, we’ll discuss the top three actions you should take right now to create a killer marketing strategy for your hotel.
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1. Make TripAdvisor Your New Best Friend
As the world’s leading travel website, TripAdvisor is a trusted source of unbiased travel reviews. According to HotelMarketing.com, 60% of American travelers consult TripAdvisor before deciding which hotel to book. In fact, based on another survey, 53% won’t even book a hotel without a TripAdvisor profile. These are two powerful reasons why TripAdvisor must be a crucial step in your marketing strategy. Not only should your hotel be well represented on this review site, you need to have an active presence.
What exactly does it mean to have an active presence of TripAdvisor? And why is it so important?
TripAdvisor affords hotels the wonderful opportunity to engage clients. “Managing your hotel’s reputation online represents the single most effective step you can take to improve your marketing,” says Tim Peter, an expert in online marketing and e-commerce strategy who runs the full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm, Tim Peter & Associates, LLC.
The first step to TripAdvisor excellence is getting listed. Fortunately, TripAdvisor makes it easy for you. Here’s how to get listed on TripAdvisor. If your hotel is already listed on TripAdvisor, you should sign up for a free business account here. This will allow you to respond to reviews about your hotel, promote your TripAdvisor listing, and update hotel information.
TripAdvisor is Just the Beginning
Once you’re confident with your TripAdvisor presence, it’s good to expand your presence to other travel sites, like online travel agencies (OTA). Consider Expedia and Hotels.com, who has over 6.5 million reviews.
OTAs can be challenging. “We have mixed feelings about those,” says Michael Parent of Coakley & Williams Hotel Management Company. “It’s kind of a bitter sweet relationship, and that’s because they do a very good job of marketing our inventory but they enjoy a high commission when they make their sales.”
You may consider entering into an agreement with OTAs for increased exposure. It also helps you put heads on beds, but be careful. Tim warns, “Too many hotels look to the OTA’s as a primary source of business, which increases the OTA’s leverage during contract negotiations and results in unfavorable contract terms.”
Tim continues, “Focus your efforts around your direct channels first, then look at which OTA’s help you reach guests you cannot easily reach on your own and do so while offering favorable contract terms. 20%-25% is simply too much to pay for reservations overall, particularly on top of any brand fees or other marketing you’re doing. You don’t need to be on every single shelf.”
Keep this in mind as you’re shopping around for the best OTA for your terms.
Here’s a list of the top OTAs and how you can get listed on them:
- Here’s how to join Expedia or Hotels.com.
- Here’s how to connect with Travelocity.
- Here’s how to work with Orbitz.
- Here’s how to partner with Booking.com.
2. Deal With Online Reviews
Tim offers this advice about online reviews: “When you respond to an online review, particularly one where a guest had a challenge during their stay, you’re not just helping the individual who posted the review. You’re also helping the next guest who reads that review understand that you want to satisfy the needs of all your guests. And that’s incredibly valuable for your future guests to see.”
Negative Reviews Can Be Positive
Don’t panic if, and when, you get negative reviews. It’s not the review, it’s how you handle the review, that will stick in the minds of your potential guests. “A poor review without a response sends the message that you just don’t care enough about taking care of your guests, regardless of the fact that it’s not true. And that’s never a message you want to send to future guests,” Tim shares.
Guests want to see how attentive you are at handling complaints. Be sure that you patrol TripAdvisor weekly, or even daily, for any comments, and always respond. But, don’t pass this duty off. It’s a good idea for upper level hotel management to respond to complaints, because it shows that the hotel is truly concerned with guest satisfaction. Here’s a great article on the subject of how to respond to guest complaints. And here’s our advice on how to respond to negative reviews.
For TripAdvisor, follow these quick steps to respond to guest reviews. If you’re using Expedia or Hotels.com, follow these steps to be able to respond directly to guest reviews. When listing with any OTA, ask if it’s permissible for you to respond to reviews. Not all OTA offer this possibility, but if they do, definitely take this extra step to enhance engagement.
Not having reviews is like being invisible. Even bad reviews are better than no reviews, if you handle it correctly. So, how exactly do you go about getting reviews?
The best advice I have is to gently nudge guests, and then make it impossibly easy for them. There’s no need to wait until checkout. During a guest’s stay, send them an email asking for a review. Then again, at checkout, encourage guests to leave a review on TripAdvisor. Finally, 48 hours after checkout, follow up with the guests again over email, asking for a review. TripAdvisor makes it easy for you with the Review Express tool.
3. Develop a Relationship With Local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB)
The first step to world dominance is with your local convention and visitors bureau (CVB). That’s right– you need to establish partnerships with your local tourism office so that they can send guests your way.
When a guest is researching things to do in your city, they’ll come across the city’s official tourism website. It’s a huge endorsement for you to be listed on the site’s inevitable “hotels around the area” section. You want to market your hotel in as many avenues as possible.
Traci Suppa offers compelling ways to maximize your relationship with tourism promotion organizations. It’s free to introduce yourself, and it costs nothing to invite key staff members from your local tourism board over to your hotel for a tour. The point is to let them know that you’re interested in marketing programs.
Contact your local CVB, and ask to be included on their list of recommended hotels. Be a part of the organization’s events. Offer to host an event in your hotel. Make opportunities for your hotel to remain at the top of mind for the local tourism board. You want them to market for you. Remember that each day, hordes of potential guests reached their site through organic search. You want them to pass on that link juice to your site and your hotel.
“Make it a point to meet with your local CVB/tourism office representatives and understand the programs they provide to hotels in your market. My experience shows that in most cases, you get out of these programs what you put into them,” Tim suggests. “By working with your CVB, you can often help influence how they position your market and your place within it.”
Two Benefits of the CVB
According to Tim, there’s two specific ways you’ll boost your marketing efforts by working with your local CVB:
- Positioning yourself within your market- You can appeal to groups and demographics that appreciate your hotel’s amenities. By partnering with the CVB, you decide how you’re portrayed. Increase your hotel’s exposure.
- Networking with other area hotels- Other hotels are not the enemy. Your marketing strategy should actually be inclusive. “I have found that when hotel marketers work together to sell their destination, everybody benefits. Don’t think of it as fighting over your share of the pie. Think of it more as growing the pie for everyone,” Tim explains.
Bonus: Setting the Right Price
We couldn’t have a guide about hotel marketing without acknowledging a pricing strategy.Revenue management can be a hotelier’s biggest headache. Especially if you’re independent or not managed by a big brand hotel chain, striking the balance between a profitable and a competitive rate can get tricky.
One misperception is the idea that you should lower your rate or just randomly quote rates to see what sticks. That’s not good for the books, and it’s also not a solid marketing practice.
To find your perfect price, you have to compare your hotel to other, similar hotels. What are they charging? What are they offering? How are you similar? If you’re charging more, how do you justify it?
There’s lots to think about when figuring out your price positioning. Patrick Landman helps hoteliers evaluate the value proposition of competitors and determine whether your price positioning strategy actually makes sense. Highly recommended reading.
RevPar is your new best friend, hotelier. RevPar stands for Revenue Per Average Room, and you calculate it by dividing the total guest revenue by the total number of available rooms.
Let’s look at an example. Say you have 100 rooms, and you sell 60 rooms at $100, you’ll have $6,000 in room revenue. Alternatively, you can sell 50 rooms at $125, you’ll have $6,250 in room revenue.
You can see from this example that it’s more valuable to sell less rooms at a higher rate, than to sell more rooms at a lower rate. Not to mention, you’re also spending less by not cleaning those extra 10 rooms.
It’s easy for hotel operators to esteem occupancy over everything else, but RevPar is actually the most important way to evaluate your hotel’s performance. Getting higher revenue per room means lower overhead.
RevPar is also a crucial part of negotiating contracts with corporate accounts. Corporate accounts guarantee a specific amount of room nights, but you don’t want to sacrifice your overall RevPar for occupancy.
Important to Remember
Remember that’s not a good long term strategy to lure guests for less than they’re willing to pay. Although it can be effective in some cases, most of the time, you’re teaching guests to expect more for less.
The better path is to price competitively and set yourself apart with quality guest service and attention to detail. Leverage your persona on popular travel review sites like TripAdvisor where 60% of hotel guests check before booking a hotel.
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You can get started on these big three actions right now. If you need some extra help or encouragement, please leave a comment below, and we’ll be happy to help you out. Be sure to check out our top 25 hotel marketing resources guide, as well. It’s filled to the brim with lots of unique ways to market your hotel like a pro. You can check it out here.
Very special thanks to:
Tim Peter of Tim Peter & Associates, a full-service consultancy, focused on business strategy, digital marketing, and e-commerce. For over 20 years, his team has focused on marketing and strategy, and has generated billions of dollars in sales for our customers. Tim Peter & Associates has worked with companies ranging from small businesses to the Fortune 100 developing and implementing the strategies and tactics necessary to help customers find and choose your business for their needs. The team works with clients in hospitality, financial services, professional services, and technology to help you grow your brand and your business. Find more at timpeter.com or give the team a call at 201-305-0055.
Mike Parent, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Coakley & Williams Hotel Management Company, a full service hospitality firm. Mike’s previous experience includes sales management positions with Potomac Hotel Group, TAJ Hotels International, Hilton, and Sunburst Hospitality. Mike served as Vice President of New Hotel Services for Choice Hotels International where he built and led a team of 20 field-based sales managers in opening more than 300 new hotels annually; he also managed Construction Services for new builds and conversions from other brands.