Hospitality Marketing Today

"Thanks for all your help with our website and your suggestions. We get so many comments on our web site. Web reservations are going great. Your other marketing advice is working well too!"
-Kathy, Innkeeper
Inn at The Rostay, Bethel, Maine


Hospitality Marketing in 2014

When it comes to marketing one’s hotel these days… an old cliché has never be truer… “the more things change, the more things stay the same.” What? Wait a minute, with the lightening fast change of communication, email, Internet, and social marketing how can that possibly be you ask. Things are changing so rapidly marketers can barely keep up!

Allow me to regress for a moment and hopefully you will understand why I make this bold, even crazy, claim. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, successful destination Inns and Resorts discovered that repeat business was key to their success. If they stake out there USP (Unique Selling Proposition), and put out a great product, people would come and enjoy it and return year after year. Most highly successful Inns and Resorts knew that repeat customers and word of mouth were the best marketing one could do.

Now I am going to contradict myself and tell you, “times have changed.” What has changed is that guests no longer return to the same place year after year. The Internet has shown people there is a vast world out there and thousands of places they can vacation in and enjoy. While it is true, many families rarely return to the same place twice, let alone year after year the advent of the Internet and most recently Social Media sites (Google Plus, Facebook, TripAdvisor, YouTube, Twitter, Pontrest, Flickr, etc.) has made the experience and “viral networks” (aka “word of mouth”) more important than ever.

So lets start at the beginning, what is your USP? What makes your resort, hotel or lodging property stand apart and really differ from the competition? What makes people say, “wow, I have to go stay there because …” Ok, you have determined your USP, that one thing that sets you apart, makes you different, make you unique, makes you better than everyone else, makes a “must visit destination.” Now what?

Who is your target audience? Very few resorts can be all things to all people. What subset of the population is going to be most interested in your getaway? Did you determine your USP was delivering the ultimate Romantic Getaway so your target audience is couples? Or is your USP a family vacation and your target audience is families? Know your audience.

Now Deliver! You must now deliver to your target audience. Make sure your product is easy to communicate, and the staff is well trained and you can deliver the ultimate getaway for your clients. Because if you deliver the product, guests will be your best marketing and tell the world via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Trip Advisor, Google Plus and other sites. Conversely, if you do not deliver a great getaway, even more of them will tell the world!

Everything is different now!
We just showed how many of the basic concepts of successfully running your business are the same as the 80’s and 90’s, but how you get that message out is entirely different. “Back in the day,” we had newspapers, magazines, TV and billboards to get our message out there. Today, we have the Internet, email and social networking sites. So what steps should your hotel take now? Assuming you have carved out your USP, you are ready to start letting the world know about you.

Website. Now your web site can be developed and designed to communicate your USP. Here are several of the key ingredients to a successful web site.

Photography. Strong professional images are the first step in this process. Nothing will make your web developer and web site look better than good quality professional photography. You need strong images and the only way this is going to happen is with a professional.

Copy. Write killer copy. Now copy must be written to entice the visitor and entice the search engines.

Video. Professional Video - a professional video should be produced on your property and clearly displayed on your web site.

Social Networking. Facebook, You Tube, Twitter, Trip Advisor, Google Plus - these accounts must be set up and monitored and some of them clearly linked from your web site.

SEO - Search Engine Optimization - as the site is developed for the end user, it is also being developed in a Search Engine friendly manner allowing it to be easily found by the Search Engines.

Email Database - your new website needs to have a place your customers can easily sign up for your email database.

Now once you have done all of the above, you have the basics covered. But if you are going to be successful, you are never actually done… now you will have to keep the web site constantly updated with specials and packages. Engage your customers via periodic emails, specials, contests and surveys. Reply to their posts on Facebook, Trip Advisor and other sites.

Finally, when customers are giving you bad reviews - do not ignore and/and blame the consumer. The truth hurts, and it is time to go back to square one and address your product before you are buried under an avalanche of bad press. So as I started with, you must put out a superior targeted “must have” product - that has never changed.

Written by Greg Burke,
President, IMS-21
Hospitality Marketing Professional since 1982