Great location, excellent amenities, world-class service, and comfortable accommodations – you have all these in place. But are travelers and tourists aware of them to actually book a stay in your hotel? Having an excellent hotel means nothing if no one knows about it. This is why having a great hotel marketing strategy should be a priority.
In this guide, we’ll give you the most essential tips to market your hotel to your target market and stand out from competitors.
1. Make Sure You Have A Website
Having a website is one of the most fundamental pillars of hotel marketing. Did you know that 95% of consumers do their research online before making travel purchases? At a time where consumers’ default action is to log onto the internet when searching for travel-related needs, you want to make sure you have a professional and credible-looking online destination to showcase your hotel and services.
Your website should be able to showcase your hotel information, contact details, room rates, amenities, photo gallery and have a booking mechanism.
If you don’t have a website yet, you are missing lots of opportunities to be found by potential customers. Here’s how you can get started:
Create A Website Easily & Inexpensively
Cost is one of the reasons why some businesses don’t create and maintain their own website. The cost of engaging web developers and graphic designers are usually expensive, and small businesses would rather spend it on something else,
However, a lot of website builders – both free or with minimal fees – are now readily available for anyone with or without experience in building and designing professional-looking websites. You only need a concept, a theme, and your website copy.
Check out our instructions on how to build a website for less than $3 per month.
Show Up In Google Search Results
After building your website, you want to make sure your website appears as one of the top results when people search Google for hotels in your area or city. You can achieve this by doing the following:
- Build citations for you business and making sure you are listed in as many online directories as possible, such as Yelp and Google My Business. You can start by scanning your listings and find out how well your business currently shows up in local searches.
- Use Google advertising so your ad shows at the top of the search results page when someone searches “hotels in [your area]”.
- Optimize your website for SEO by making sure you are using the right and appropriate keywords such as “hotel” and “accommodations.” Google analyzes the content of your website and picks up keywords that it associates with your website. Because of this, you want to make sure you are including the right keywords that you want to rank for multiple times within your site. If done correctly, your website will show up in the search results when people search for those keywords.
Once you have your website up and running, make sure that you’re observing its performance in helping you with your hotel business.
Jennifer Phillips, Vice President of Marketing and Client Services at Traktek Partners, offers a pro tip:
“The key to a great hotel website is constant improvement. Always review analytics to see what is working and what isn’t. If the site begins to decline in traffic or bookings, make adjustments quickly. This may require some changes to your SEO or SEM strategy, new imagery, or a redesign of the site. Oftentimes, small changes in a website can alter results considerably. For example, one image of a hotel property may drive bookings significantly more than another because it shows the location in a better light.”
2. Have An Excellent TripAdvisor Profile
Apart from checking your website, the other thing that a customer will do before deciding to book a stay in your hotel is to check available online reviews about your accommodations and services. “Managing your hotel’s reputation online represents the single most effective step you can take to improve your marketing,” says Tim Peter, who runs the full-service ecommerce and internet marketing consulting firm, Tim Peter & Associates, LLC.
If there’s only one review site that you have a presence on, it should be TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is the largest travel review site in the world and has an average of 390 million unique visitors every month. According to TripAdvisor, 83% of users from all around the world “usually” or “always” refer to TripAdvisor reviews before finalizing their booking decision on a hotel.
You can get listed on TripAdvisor for free. When you’re present on TripAdvisor, there’s a great opportunity for customers to find you online, leave feedback, rate your hotel, and give recommendations to other travelers. It also allows customers to upload photos showcasing your hotel and services, helping you garner user-generated content.
The obvious risk in having a profile in TripAdvisor is that you open your business to bad reviews. However, whether you like it or not, people can add your hotel into review sites, so it’s smart to be proactive and build your profile and have better control over the quality of your profile.
Once you’ve signed up, make sure you’re using TripAdvisor’s features to its full advantage by populating your profile with as much business information as possible like adding your hotel description, contact details, website link, photos, and integrating your booking calendar so visitors can check out your hotel’s availability at their preferred schedule.
3. List Your Hotel On Online Travel Agencies
The next step after establishing your TripAdvisor profile is to expand your presence to other travel sites, especially online travel agencies (OTAs).
OTAs provide all the booking functionalities a hotel owner needs – and more. It provides the booking platform, reviews and ratings from travellers, hotel information, and is available in various languages.
There are currently two OTAs with the biggest network of partner booking sites, Expedia and Priceline. Both companies make it easy for hotels to have a presence in all of the booking sites that they own. For example, once you sign up as an Expedia partner, your hotel will be automatically listed in Expedia-owned sites, including Hotels.com, Expedia.com, Trivago and Travelocity. Similarly, when you sign up to be a Priceline partner, you will be present in their partner sites, such as Booking.com, Agoda and Kayak.
Be Cautious About OTA Fee Agreements
While OTAs can be efficient in getting you dozens of reservations, they don’t do that for free. The OTA takes a cut from the booking that is as low as 10% or as high as 35% – the percentage commission varies largely based on the location of the property and the type of property. Large chain hotels pay less than independent hoteliers.
For this reason, “OTAs can be challenging. We have mixed feelings about them,” says Michael Parent of Coakley & Williams Hotel Management Company. “They do a very good job of marketing our inventory but they enjoy a high commission when someone books our hotel.”
Tim advises, “Too many hotels look to the OTAs as a primary source of business, which increases the OTA’s leverage during contract negotiations and results in unfavorable contract terms. Focus your efforts around your direct channels first, then look at which OTAs 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.”
At the end of the day, it is best to find a balance between OTAs and your direct bookings. New hotels who have not established a reputation or name yet can definitely benefit from being present in OTAs as these sites greatly help in showcasing hotels that travellers won’t discover through mere desktop research.
In the long run, however, make sure that your OTA presence is just an additional option among other methods of booking a stay in your hotel. OTAs can greatly help raise your profile to travelers, but your direct bookings will still give you greater profits.
4. Deal With Online Reviews
It’s not enough to have information about your hotel online, you also need reviews. Reviews can make or break your hotel, and it’s not in the way you may think.
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
No matter how good your business is, you are bound to have an unhappy customer or two. The best way to address negative reviews is to respond to them by answering their concerns or offering a solution to their problem. While this might not always appease a displeased customer, it shows other people visiting your profile that you are listening to their complaints and are willing to rectify them.
Check out our article about how to respond to negative reviews.
Respond Quickly To Reviews
Responding to reviews should ideally be done within 48 hours since it was posted by a customer. If it’s a negative review, then you should respond as soon as possible and try to resolve or address their complaint.
Responding to all positive reviews is not necessary, especially if it is just a mere ‘thank you’ from the guest. Be selective and respond to detailed and elaborate positive reviews to thank the user for taking extra time to leave a great note about their stay in your hotel.
Ask For Reviews
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 their Review Express tool.
5. Have Good Local Promotional Activities In Place
While your main clientele are tourists and travellers who are not living in your area, nothing beats having locals recommend your hotel to their visiting relatives, friends, or acquaintances. Because of this, it is important to establish an excellent profile among those who live in your area by engaging them in various ways. Below are some ideas on how you can do so:
Make Your Hotel Pub Or Restaurant A Go-To Spot For Locals
Most bars and restaurants of hotels are ignored by visitors because they are looking for establishments with “happenings,” a great crowd and enticing events, and usually find hotel restaurants quiet and unfrequented – make your hotel an exception to this.
Start by luring locals and converting them to being your regular customers by offering discounts on food, having nightly happy hours, airing sports programs, or inviting bands and performers. Basically, just make your hotel bar or establishment a fun place to be at. Not only will your local bar be a hit for locals, but they will also be most likely to remember your hotel when someone asks them for a recommended place to stay when visiting your city.
Build Relationships With Local Establishments
Hotel or no hotel, having great working relationships or partnerships with other establishments in your area is always a must for businesses. It opens doors for recommendations and referrals, especially if you are willing to return the favor – it’s another form of low-cost advertising.
Start this by approaching nearby establishments such as restaurants, spas and salons and gyms and exploring possible partnerships or deals with them. For example, if you are a B&B without massage services, you can create a partnership with a spa and bundle their services to some of your accommodation packages. You can ask these establishments to have a stack of your brochure in their reception counters and vice versa.
Apart from commercial establishments, also explore leaving your brochure in nearby local attractions and striking deals and partnerships with them.
Participate In Local Events
Does your city hold concerts, local festivals, or even wedding expos? If so, make yourself visible in these high traffic events by exploring ways to participate.
For example, you can partner with a company selling tickets to concerts and bundle the tickets with a discounted stay in your hotel. Another example is participating in wedding expos where you can rent a booth and design the space similar to the actual rooms or suites of your hotel.
Additionally, try to find out if there are networking events or social gatherings that are open for businesses to participate. You can meet potential partners, customers, and even suppliers in these types of events, expanding your network as well as your market reach.
6. Connect With Your Local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB)
The most effective way to be well-known in your area or city is to tap your local convention and visitors bureau (CVB). 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 “hotels around the area or where to stay” section. You want to market your hotel in as many avenues as possible.
According to Tim, there are two specific ways you’ll boost your hotel 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.
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.”
7. Create A Loyalty Program
A loyalty program rewards customers who regularly and frequently patronize your business with discounts, freebies, or other promotional incentives. It’s an effective way to get a repeat clientele.
While any business can create a loyalty program, it’s particularly well suited for hotels. Business travelers will often visit the same city multiple times, and even people who travel for leisure may make multiple trips to your city. A loyalty program can encourage them to stay at your hotel every time they visit your city or area.
The most common loyalty offering is a free night’s stay or discounted night’s stay after a customer has booked your hotel for a certain number of nights. However, you can also include dining in your hotel bar, spa services, and other hotel offerings under the loyalty program.
Here are some perks you can offer as part of your loyalty program:
- Give them a discount on their first booking
- Award them points every time they book a stay at your hotel or refer someone to stay at your hotel
- Give them points for any purchase of services in your hotel’s establishments – restaurant and bar, spa and wellness, booking of function rooms for events, etc.
- Have a monthly offering for different kinds of services every month (e.g. one month, offer a free spa treatment for previous customers)
- Offer birthday deals like 50% off on accommodations or free spa or salon treatments
Having a loyalty program will definitely require a certain amount of investment and creativity from your end. However, it’ll help you build a strong customer base that will not only keep coming back for your hotel and services – but also refer you to their visiting family and friends. Learn about loyalty program software, so you can automate your discounts.
Bonus: Setting The Right Price For Your Accommodations
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, which stands for Revenue Per Available Room, is a measurement hotels use to determine how well their hotel is performing. It measures performance based on how many rooms are usually filled and the average rate per room. RevPar is calculated by multiplying a hotel’s average room rate by its occupancy rate.
For example, a hotel’s average rate per night is $125 and its current occupancy rate is 80%, the hotel’s RevPar is therefore $100. Hotels can use RevPar to assess or determine the cost that they can price their rooms depending on the demand within a particular period of time to maintain achieving their average target revenue.
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.
Bottom Line: Hotel Marketing
Marketing your hotel doesn’t need to take a huge dent on your marketing budget – you just need to be strategic on how you do so and you’ll be on your way to receiving regular bookings at your hotel. Just take the tips we’ve shared above one step at a time.
If you have most of the items above in place but still need more creative ideas on how to market your hotel, check out our Hotel Marketing Ideas – 25 Ideas Direct From The Pros.