It sounds simple, but hotel marketing is hard. Travelers are shopping differently—social media influences decisions and smart phone booking is on the rise. With so much choice, it’s harder to earn and keep attention, manage your bottom-line, and delight your in-house guests. A marketing strategy will help.
A hotel marketing strategy is an overall game plan for how marketing activities will help your property attract guests, sell rooms and achieve profitable growth. A good marketing strategy will align to specific business goals, identify high-value guests, articulate why your property is the perfect place for their next holiday and prioritize the best channels to reach them.
Your strategy will define the “why” and “what” you plan to do. An accompanying marketing plan will take into account available budget and resources and lay out the detail of “when” and “where” you’ll act.
Is it worth it? Yes—and here’s why. It’s easy to be busy – buy an online ad, post on Instagram, create a promotion – and not achieve your business goals. Having a hotel marketing strategy helps you align the time and money you spend against a clear purpose and reaching the right type of traveler.
Especially if you have a lot to juggle, taking time to define your strategy will help you make good in-the-moment decisions and ultimately see your business grow.
Your goals for business growth give marketing a purpose. Often that means driving revenue, but sometimes the objective is increasing repeat business or improving guest satisfaction.
Can you list your top business goals for the year? If not, let’s spend a minute on what they might be. Start with your performance over the last 12 months and the key metrics you use to measure success. Opportunities to improve might include:
Knowing specifically how the business intends grow, helps marketers think more strategically about the impact their efforts need to have and their goals will reflect that clarity.
How many marketing goals should you set for your hotel?
Articulating marketing goals provides guidance for the planning, execution and measurement that follows. It’s important not to commit to delivering more then you’re resourced to achieve—missing the mark is demoralizing, and more importantly, can jeopardize the growth plan. Avoid being spread too thin by not setting too many goals – two or three essential objectives is a good place to start.
Another best practice is to articulate goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. This is known as the SMART format:
Here’s an example of a marketing goal in the SMART format aligned to a business objective.
Drive more revenue by improving occupancy
By June, reduce the number of last-minute vacancies by 15% through an “impromptu booking” program targeting last-minute leisure travelers who typically book on their mobile phones.
What is a target audience?
A target audience is a group of consumers with similar characteristics that are important to a business because they represent more potential value than the general population.
For your hotel, a target audience or “right guest”, could be a group whose desired experience closely matches what your property offers – so satisfaction and the likelihood of a positive review is high. Another possibility, is a group whose travel plans closely align to your business objectives – last-minute trips, longer stays, reduced risk of cancellation, etc.
Why should you have a target audience?
Narrowing your focus on a specific group allows you to tell a truly compelling story about why your property is perfect for their needs and support your claim with example amenities, photos and glowing reviews from previous guests who are like them. This enhanced appeal will help you win more business with the guests you want most.
Sample hotel target audiences
With millions of consumers worldwide traveling regularly, there are numerous ways to define a target audience – here are three common segments:
With expenses covered by their company, business travelers can be less budget conscious, but prioritize convenience. If your property is close to an airport or offers parking, has a stable, high-speed internet connection, a restaurant and possibly a fitness center—corporate travelers could be perfect for you.
Parents who want to relax will value convenience and opportunities to keep their kids busy but may be a bit cost-conscious. If your property offers parking or an airport shuttle service, is located close to must-see sites or activities, offers a swimming a pool or a garden and includes a free breakfast—families on holiday could be your best guests.
These travelers are typically ready to relax and enjoy. On-property golf, tennis, swimming or spa services will likely appeal. And if your location is at the beach, in the heart of the city or near the ski slopes, or offers access to wineries, golf, hiking, cycling, fine dining or must-see sites—leisure travelers may be for you.
Defining your right traveler
If your property has a revenue management strategy, target traveler segments may already be defined. If not, let’s explore how to confirm the right traveler for your property.
When it comes to marketing, it’s always good to shift your perspective to that of your guest and ask whose needs and desires can you best satisfy?
Another way to identify your best guests is to review your occupancy for the last 12 months by traveler type and review their feedback. If you work with an OTA, this will be a less daunting task. Expedia Group’s Guest Insights will help you quickly understand trends in your reviews.
What is a hotel’s value proposition?
Your hotel’s value proposition is an easy to understand promise of the value target travelers will receive if they book your rooms. It clearly explains how staying at your property fulfills their dreams and provides specific examples of how your staff and amenities will make it so. Ideally your value proposition demonstrates how your hotel is unique and better than others the traveler might consider and is supported by guest reviews (and any responses) they might read.
Your value proposition will become the foundation for your marketing messages and should be reflected in your communication with guests.
Bringing your promise to life
Photos are the most powerful way to communicate your value proposition to travelers, especially in digital channels such as your website, an OTA listing or on social media. They allow guests to see what is unique and special—the view, the room, the pool—and, more importantly, imagine themselves enjoying your property. As leisure travelers increasingly crave immersive experiences, include images of your nearby sites to help inspire them.
You’ll be rewarded. Properties with high-quality photos are viewed by travelers more often (Trivago reports 63% more clicks), are booked more frequently and for higher rates, than properties without. Our quick guide to hotel photography is a good place to learn more.
Confession time. Where you reach your target travelers is typically an extension of the programs you develop and belongs in your hotel marketing plan. But, in the spirit of having marketing goals that are achievable, understanding the right mix of channels for your budget and resources seemed important to share.
What is a hotel marketing channel?
Hotel marketing channels are the places where you can reach and influence travelers. Your website, an OTA listing, online advertising, social media, email, in-person events—these are all channels.
In fact, there are so many channels, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Thankfully the 80/20 rule applies—80% of your results will come from 20% of the channels. With the assumption that time and money are limited, we’ve prioritized popular marketing channels into whether they’re essentials, catalysts or accelerators.
These channels are the foundation of hotel marketing and are core to most distribution strategies. They require little budget and can reach millions of travelers a month.
Provides full control over how you tell your story and is the only online channel for direct bookings.
Millions of travelers shop and book travel on OTA websites everyday.
If you have some budget and a little resource, these channels build on the essentials and can boost your performance.
OTA marketing programs
Leverage existing OTA marketing programs to reach your traveler target with enticing offers
Destination marketing organizations (DMO)
Participate in DMO campaigns to encourage travel and tourism in your location.
Social Media Marketing
Post content to social sites such as Instagram where travelers go to research travel destinations.
These channels require budget, specialized knowledge, and possibly additional resources to help manage. They should be layered after Essential and Catalyst channels.
Public relations (PR)
Create consumer awareness in travel specific and local/regional media outlets
Regular outreach to previous guests and loyalty members
Drive traffic to your website with paid digital advertising campaigns
Improve organic (free) traffic to your website by adding more pages optimized for key words. Key words are picked up by search engines when travelers are searching for travel accommodations
Congratulations! You have the building blocks to create a marketing strategy that supports your growth. The next step is simple—start.
One specific, measurable marketing goal, a defined target traveler and compelling promise is all you need. The next step can be aligning the marketing you already have to that strategy. Even if you only focus on the essential channels – updating the copy, descriptions and photos on your website and OTA listing—it will help. Any new activity needs to align with your goal, otherwise spend that time enjoying your guests.