While this pandemic has forced hotels to make tough decisions regarding their business, including but not limited to reducing their marketing spend, the fact of the matter is that these dollars will likely not be readily available even when things do turn around. With that being said, it is important to leverage your marketing budget in the most impactful areas to get the best return on investment, and there are many free and low-cost options that can be useful to marketing your property post-coronavirus. Although it will be challenging to utilize the same means of marketing and achieve the same level of campaign success as in the past, marketing will be tremendously important in the initial days and weeks when travel resumes and occupancy levels begin to increase. Having said that, we have put together a list of both free and paid marketing strategies that can help hotels recover quickly.
1. Assess current marketing strategies.
While it is safe to assume that most hotels have either scaled back or paused their marketing efforts entirely, it is important to audit what marketing strategies are still in place and their overall effectiveness. For example, if your website has a blog, which is highly recommended from a marketing standpoint, check to see which posts have garnered a lot of views. If your property created a special promotional offer that was displayed on your website, did that yield any bookings or at least boost traffic to that page? Attaining answers to these questions will help your hotel understand what marketing was effective and which did not achieve the desired levels of success. In addition, are there areas in which your marketing efforts are currently lacking, such as eBooks or infographics? If so, this downtime before things do turn around is a great time to create some of these pieces, which help to boost traffic to your website and can position your hotel as a thought leader within the hospitality industry. Even if your website could use a design update or simply a better layout overall, now may be the time to get this done, as traffic is likely lower and there will be many companies out there who will be willing to do the work at a more affordable cost as well.
2. Engage in social media.
One of the quickest and simplest ways of marketing your hotel is through social media. However, with so many platforms out there, it is important to choose the right ones for your hotel. While most hotels are likely on the tried and true platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube – there are newer platforms such as TikTok for example, which can help reach that millennial and Generation Z audience. Having said that, each of the core social media platforms have both free and paid options, and leveraging the right mix will be essential to your hotel’s visibility online. For example, if your hotel has a blog, it is advisable to post and share this content via your social media channels, which can be done at no cost. If your hotel is doing a promotional offer to drive interest and increase bookings, the better option might be to spend the money and invest in targeted ads to achieve the campaign’s goals. The important takeaway is that hotels should continue to invest time, and potentially money on targeted advertising, to reach out to their followers and grow their brand presence.
3. Market your property and staff.
With so much knowledge amongst hotel staff, interesting stories, and unique aspects of your property, why not utilize this to market to potential guests? While the hospitality industry is known for its kind spirit and willingness to go the extra mile, especially in challenging times like we are currently facing, what better time to chat with staff and create written content and videos that can be shared online. This content can be informational, insightful, or even light-hearted, which can not only help to distinguish your brand from the competition, but can also provide your property with useful and engaging content to display on your website and social media channels. For example, do you have a staff member with an interesting story or a tenured employee that has a lot of industry knowledge? If so, simply creating an informal video that talks about their experiences or history can demonstrate the human side of your property, which can go a long way in times like these. In addition, creating content like this really has no cost, which helps keep marketing spend in check, while maintaining a marketing presence.
4. Build a positive online following.
Although most hotels have setup a Google My Business and Bing Places account (if you haven’t yet, it is highly recommended to do so), many hotels are still lacking when it comes to positive reviews. While hotels are unlikely to be receiving any reviews during this time, it is important during this downtime to build a reviews strategy that can be employed going forward. Ensure hotel staff asks all guests who enjoyed their stay to write a positive review online and be sure to include the links to your review pages in any email communication to help boost traffic to those pages. In addition, for those who do leave a positive review online for your property, it is good practice to respond and thank the guest for their stay and for the kind words. Similar to the previous marketing strategy, this demonstrates a personable side to your hotel and encourages others to leave a review as well, knowing that someone will be responding to their review. Even prior to the travel officially resuming, take the time to go back and comment on older reviews and build that habit moving forward. Another great idea is to reach out to past guests who have had a good experience at your property and ask them to write a positive review, which will help to increase your overall guest star rating.
5. Establish a strategy for bookings through OTA’s.
With the dramatic decrease in online bookings due to this pandemic, most hotels have no longer been receiving reservations through the online travel agents. While direct bookings offer their own set of advantages and should be actively promoted, OTA’s offer greater visibility and increased exposure for your property. As the turnaround happens, it is important that your property is available on the OTA’s to drive an initial boost in online bookings. If your existing property management software does not have a central reservation system that directly connects with the OTA’s, such as Chorum CRS, your property will be at risk of losing out on reservations in the initial stages when travel resumes – which can be costly. One important marketing strategy to differentiate your property on the OTA’s, is to offer value-added services to attract potential guests’ attention such as complimentary breakfast or free parking. This can be exclusive to bookings through the OTA’s, which gives guests a reason to book through this method, but also helps to diversify your marketing efforts.
While there will be a lot of hotels vying for their share of the market when things begin to turn around, by employing some of the creative marketing strategies outlined in this article, your hotel can hopefully gain a competitive advantage. If you would like to learn more about Jonas Chorum and how we are helping hotels get through this challenging time, please check out our Hospitality Industry Resources page or read through some of our recent blog posts.