10 Smart Hotel Marketing Strategies to Increase Bookings
There are two types of people: those who love staying in hotels and those who hate it. I must say that I lean more towards the latter, and often find myself choosing Airbnb over hotel stays when traveling for leisure. Why? It’s often more affordable, feels less sterile, and can offer unique touches that make the place feel more homey. However, if the hotel is able to market themselves right, offer a reasonable price, and treat me like a queen, then this decision could easily shift.
The challenge of being in the hotel marketing industry is the overwhelming amount of competition. Especially with the growth in popularity of websites like Airbnb and Home Away, it’s become even more challenging to stand out against the competition to gather more bookings. While hotel marketers are all too familiar with these challenges, they are still tasked with hitting (and hopefully exceeding) their metrics, which are often tied to bookings.
So what can a struggling hotel marketer do? How do you make sure people can find your hotel in the first place, and then get so excited they can’t wait to book their stay? Have no fear: here are 10 no-fail tips to hotel marketing success!
Tip #1: Be Easily Searchable Online!
Let’s face it, technology has taken over. Long gone are the days of travel agents. Today’s travelers are empowered to do their own comparative research without even leaving their beds. So if your hotel isn’t easy to find online, no wonder your bookings are few and far between. You need to be EVERYWHERE relevant online for potential bookings so people can find you in the window when they need to book a place to stay.
Travel companies have high CTR’s and low costs on mobile in particular
But don’t rely on organic optimization alone! The SERP (search engine results page) for hotel-related searches is heavily monetized, meaning people will see ads first. In the example screenshot below, the whole screen is taken up by ads. You need to be bidding aggressively on Google’s Search and Display Networks (don’t forget hotel ads!), Bing, social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and websites like Trip Advisor and Kayak.
Don’t limit yourself to just one social platform, search engine, or travel website. While it might not be necessary to have a strong presence on every website imaginable, you should dig into your website analytics, find out where people are typically booking from, and create an engaging and competitive presence on those platforms.
Tip #2: Remarket, Remarket, Remarket
Did you know that the abandonment rate for booking hotels online is 75%?! That’s right, a whopping three out of four people start the booking process, get distracted, and abandon their experience. Who knows whether it was the pizza man interrupting their purchase, or a suspicion that they might be able to find a better deal elsewhere. Whatever the reason may be, this does not mean you should give up as a hotel marketer.
Remarketing is a critical component for hotel marketing due to the fact that travelers are distracted not only by everyday distractions (like pop-up phone notifications and crying babies), but to the fact that there are hundreds of other options they can choose from.
With remarketing, you can lower your abandonment rate and close more bookings by showing enticing display ads to people who recently visited your site, in order to remind them you’re there and lead them through the process. Try showing them a deal for a little extra incentive to book with you instead of your competitors, and make the booking process as easy as possible.
Tip #3: Ensure You’re Targeting the Right Audience
What type of hotel are you marketing, and who is your typical guest? There needs to be a different strategy for marketers of a Super 8 Motel off Route 9 compared to the Ritz Carlton on the sandy beaches of the Caribbean shores. These people book differently, travel differently, and have different budgets. That’s why tools like income targeting will come in handy. While this might seem obvious, there are even further ways to break down your audiences when it comes to marketing your hotel.
Many hotels have a variety of customers of different income levels, since they may offer rooms on the more extravagant side (like the presidential suites) and other rooms that are often sold at discount prices. These two audiences need to be broken down and targeted separately. There is even a difference for the same hotel chain in different locations. All of these things are critical to consider when crafting your marketing campaigns.
If necessary, you may need to split your audiences into two, three, or even four separate campaigns to ensure you’re sending the right message to the right prospect. And of course with tools like Facebook’s targeting options this is not as complex as it once was. Just ensure you spend the time to define your audiences so you can craft the right message to the right person at the right time!
Take a look at this Facebook ad, for example – probably targeted at a savvy business traveler with a relatively high travel budget.
But if you work at a hip hotel in LA’s Koreatown, you might want to target a younger demographic of single people, for example.
Tip #4: Allocate More Marketing Budget During Peak Booking Seasons
If you’re running a ski resort in the Alps or a strip of beach rentals on the Cape, your peak booking seasons are going to be very different. As a hotel marketer, you are most likely fully aware of when your peak booking season is, but you may be a step behind when it comes to ad budgeting. It just makes sense to spend more of your annual budget in your busiest season.
Figure out when things are busy, steady, and slow and then adjust your budget accordingly. Make sure your windows aren’t too narrow. This often requires planning ahead, but Google and other ad platforms make it fairly easy to adjust your budget on an ongoing basis. Just make sure you’re actually doing this!
Another thing to take advantage of is ad scheduling. When do people typically book their trips? Perhaps you run a hotel that gets frequent business travelers; these individuals may tend to book more during business hours compared to the folks traveling for leisure who are more likely booking during weeknights or weekends. Look at the data to determine this and set an ad schedule so your ads are only running at a higher budget during these peak times.
Tip #5: Provide Incentives to Get People Interested
Why should I stay with you over the hotel down the street – or one that’s more conveniently located or better priced? Your hotel needs to have a reason that leads your prospects to choose you over your competition.
If there are not any obvious reasons, like having the lowest prices or the best reviews, brainstorm some unique incentives and offers you can provide to prospects. For example, you could offer all first-time guests a 15% discount. Incentives are also great for creating a sense of urgency to spur people to book with you before they miss out on a special limited-time offer.
See the example below for a luxury hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They provide an entire area of their website for special offers. The one below shows a deal for 30% off when staying two or more nights, 15% off dining, and 24-hour access to their fancy fitness center. Not bad!
Tip #6: Build Local Partnerships
The chances are your hotel is not located in the middle of a desert. More likely you’re surrounded by local businesses and attractions. Whether that be well-known restaurants, shops, or yoga studios, you need to get to know your neighbors. Making friends with the local business owners is a great way to build partnerships and co-promote each other, especially if you’re marketing a boutique hotel rather than a chain.
For instance, you could partner with a popular brewery and run a contest where the winner gets a free brewery tour and beer tasting along with a discounted stay at your hotel. Building these relationships will lead to easy, effective, and affordable marketing that will definitely increase your booking rates.
Tip #7: Don’t Just Market the Hotel, Market the Location
Chances are many future vacationers are still indecisive whether or not the city or town where your hotel is located is the place where they want to use their precious PTO. This is why you shouldn’t just be focusing on the amenities your hotel has to offer. While, yes, it is smart to promote your top-rated room service and infinity pool, it is just as important to promote your location. What makes your city or town a desirable place to visit? Future visitors want to know this.
Check out this great example from The W Chicago. Rather then solely promoting their modern hotel amenities, they also promote local happenings by targeting a specific audience of festival goers. Chances are this strategy has helped them attract festival fans who weren’t even considering Chicago as a vacation option. Take advantage of the local attractions and events in your marketing, and promote what your city is famous for!
Tip #8: Ensure Your Website Is Both Simple and Breathtaking
While this might seem like common sense, there are so many hotel websites out there that are slacking in their website design. This is an instant turnoff for hotel bookers. If your website isn’t clean and attractive, then why would your physical location be? The website is often the first impression a person has of your hotel, so you need to make it breathtaking, but also usable. That means it’s simple and straightforward for users (on any type of device) to find the information they need as well as to complete a reservation.
When overhauling your website, focus on keeping the design and navigation clean, crisp, and simple. Ensure your hotel photographs are professional, high-res, and displayed in the correct formats and ratios to work for both desktop and mobile. Keep the language clear and simple, and ensure the booking process is easy to avoid mid-booking abandonment. Videos also tend to work well since they show off your space in a more thorough and engaging manner.
Badrutt’s Palace is a great example of a hotel website that embraces all of these clean and attractive design elements. Their background homepage video does an excellent job at showing off the beauty of their destination. In such a visual industry, it’s important to take advantage of the beauty surrounding your location.
Tip #9: Go Above and Beyond in Customer Service Before, During, and After Their Stay
Marketing and customer service go hand in hand, especially in the hospitality industry. If you go above and beyond for your customers, then they are much more likely to pay it forward and do the same for you in terms of stellar online reviews, referrals, and return visits.
So what does superior customer service mean? The first step is ensuring your staff is hired and trained with a customer-first mentality. While working with people can be very challenging, always putting the customer first is critical. For instance, say your hotel visitor is upset with the view from their room and there are no other open rooms available. Try to figure out if you can move them for the remainder of their stay later on, and to compensate for the trouble, provide them with a bottle of bubbly and a hand-written note apologizing for the inconvenience. These types of gestures can make a lasting impact and show the customers how you value them.
When customers are treated exceptionally well they will be much more likely to share their experiences with others, leading to more business for you. Check out these customer service stories if you’re curious about additional ways you can go above and beyond for your visitors.
Tip #10: Build a Customer Loyalty Program
Sometimes your past customers can make the best audience to market to – if they had a positive experience in the past, why wouldn’t they want to return?
Customer loyalty programs are a wonderful way to ensure customers come back again and again. Why? These programs are designed to give large discounts and special perks to returning visitors. Perhaps your program works by allowing guests to earn points and reach certain levels each year (Gold, Platinum, etc.).
Check out some of your favorite hotel websites and see how they run their programs.
If your bookings haven’t increased after implementing all these tried and true tactics, then your hotel must be located in the middle of nowhere! Seriously, though, this guide should put you back on the track to booking frenzy success.