Hotels seeking to attract new guests to their property face the challenge of a crowded marketplace and a lot of competition. There are other hotels promoting their offerings, online travel agencies (OTAs) advertising cheap rates, and sharing-economy competitors like Airbnb offering unusual accommodations. Getting your hotel or resort to catch the eye of a prospective guest, let alone getting them to follow through with a booking, can seem like a serious challenge. In many cases, marketers are tempted to follow the OTA’s lead by competing on price, and promoting special packages or discount offers. While this can create a short-term boost in bookings, it does little to create loyal guests over the long run. Instead, marketers should consider these five impactful marketing strategies.
1. Embrace Emotion
While discounts and special offers appeal to your audience’s mind (and wallet), effective content marketing should speak to their heart. Create messaging that strikes viewers’ emotions, whether that’s aspirations for luxury experiences or a desire for rest and relaxation. A powerful tool to do that is virtual reality. In a recent study of viewers who took a virtual tour of a Carnival cruise ship, 66 percent of people who viewed the experience said it excited them, almost as many said it gave them a “sense of joy,” while 58 percent described it as “amazing.” These are tangible emotions generated by a VR experience–not something a typical online ad might be expected to elicit.
2. Tell a Story
In the same way, an effective campaign for your property will showcase its unique story. Images or videos of your luxurious offerings are a good way to catch viewers’ eyes, but to keep them interested, you need to put your property’s story front and center. What makes it unique? What sets it apart from similar hotels or resorts? It may be the friendly people who work there, the special experiences only your property provides, or the high level of hospitality visitors can expect. Whatever it is, put these offerings front and center.
The closer you can get the viewer to feeling like they’ve been to your property, the more likely they will want to experience the real thing.
3. Encourage Sharing
Truly powerful marketing messages, whether videos, stories, or interactive experiences, are ones that viewers will be eager to share with friends and followers. Use social media platforms to promote your messages and embed links that encourage viewers to share after they’ve seen it. Take advantage of Facebook’s shift to a “video-first” approach, as well as its 360-video tools to post video content on the site that’s more likely to get shared.
4. Offer Value
While you should avoid promoting the monetary value offered by your property, there are plenty kinds of other value that you can showcase in your promotions. These could be roundups of local attractions, practical guides for business travelers, or recipes of a popular dish your property is widely known for. If your promotion provides a clear takeaway for the viewer, they are more likely to remember it and connect positively with your marketing message.
5. Make it Immersive
Find ways to approximate the experience of visiting your property. Nothing is going to replicate the real thing, but the more you can do to evoke the sensory experience of what being at your hotel is like, the more it’s going to impact the prospective guest. In addition to images, consider video; instead of standard video, consider experimenting with 360-degree video; beyond 360-degree video, make the experience even more immersive through fully interactive virtual reality experiences. Whatever steps you take, the closer you can get the viewer to feeling like they’ve been to your property, the more likely they will want to experience the real thing.
Be bold – Be loud.
There’s a ton of competition out there. Perhaps not in your region, but in the world as a whole. Maybe your resort is undisputed as the #1 resort in the area. However, you are competing against destination locations across the country.
Find your competition and be louder than they are. Use better graphics. Offer a more attractive message. Boldness pays off in the world of marketing your business.
Give your visitors a great experience before they arrive
People hate disappointment. The worst experiences in the world occur when we have great expectations for something, and are subsequently let down. A savory food commercial that ends up being just an ordinary hamburger. Yuck.
Potential travelers, for some reason, are a little more idealistic. Their imaginations are sparked by a sense of adventure.
Does your website respond to this spark? Post vibrant photos: cabin interiors, decorated rooms, food, people enjoying themselves, the resort surroundings – anything that will help paint a picture for your online visitor. Make it easy for them to see your rates and to book a stay. (This should go without saying, but make sure the links and pages in your website all promote the user’s experience, as well.)
Offer valuable seasonal sales
No one can resist a good sale. If there’s a slow month in your calendar and you’d like to draw in some new faces, offer a valuable seasonal sale. Feature it prominently on your homepage, post it to social media, and put it in flyers.
Give it a catchy name (Romantic Getaway Package), make it worth their while (book a 3 night stay for two, get a $50 gift certificate for a steak dinner), and watch for the results.
Be on Social Media
Facebook remains the central hub for social media – do you have an active Facebook page? Do you use it and keep it updated? Facebook offers incredible opportunities for advertising and interacting with current and potential customers at an extremely low price.
Find a talented guru to help you build a successful social media strategy from the ground up. With some nurturing, it can be one of the foundations for your online presence.
Respond quickly to your non-fans
Online reviews can make or break a booking at your resort. If a potential visitor is researching your services, and comes across 3 negative reviews – and no positive ones – it’s bad news for you.
For each negative review you get, make sure to publicly respond in the same area – and not with an “I told you so!” Respond with an apology (the customer is always right) and a wish of goodwill. Be sincere. It should be a sample of superior customer service. Remember, you are not posting this for the benefit of an unhappy customer, but for the benefit of potential customers.
On the flip side, encourage guests to leave reviews when they stay at your resort to amp up a more positive presence in these areas.
Kill them with kindness
Examine every step of your tourist’s journey, from the first Google search to their check-out stop at your main lodge. Where can you enhance their experience?
Maybe you leave them with a complimentary chocolate. Maybe you team up with a nearby restaurant to offer a discounted meal. Maybe you write a better confirmation email when they book a stay. Whatever it is, killing them with kindness will keep your resort business alive and thriving.
Develop mailing lists.
Develop mailing lists of your best weekend customers and stay in contact with monthly emails listing midweek special offers and promotions.
Remind them that midweek is the best time to visit local shops and attractions; away from the weekend crowds. Mail them midweek discount vouchers too.
Use your imagination and create special one-day conferences, poetry readings, art shows, and other cultural events for during the week.
These are especially popular with people in their late 50s and early 60s and importantly these are the people who often have the most disposable income. Think about holding exhibitions of students’ work in conjunction with local schools and colleges.
Promote your space to local companies who could use it for meetings and social events.
Be clever and target companies that have branches or offices elsewhere so visiting delegates may need accommodation.
Create and promote special packages.
Packaging allows you to mask actual room rates with features, which add value to staying at your hotel. If your hotel offers additional services like fitness classes and spa treatments, package them together with accommodation for a really great deal that encourages guests to use services they may not have previously thought about.
Promote midweek weddings.
With more people working freelance or flexible hours, weddings during the week are becoming more popular; especially for second marriages or older couples who value the intimacy of a quieter occasion
Speed up Your Hotel Website
Slow site speeds can fracture your conversions rates. Research shows that up to 75% of people will leave for a competitor’s site to avoid dealing with delays.
When you’re looking to boost loading speed, wading through the technicalities can be tricky.
Research shows that:
- 67% of consumers consider clear, detailed images to be very important and carry even more weight than the product information and customer ratings
- Travelers are 150% more engaged with listings that have more than 20 photos than with properties that have only a few photos (TripAdvisor, 2013)
Images pack a huge emotional punch and can help turn casual visitors into guests. But that’s only if you’re using them correctly.
Be Benefit Driven
Don’t list your hotel’s features like this:
- A great spa
- A safe and fun play area
- A spacious conference room
Instead, explain how these features translate into benefits for your potential guests and say:
- We have a health spa and gym. That means you can let your hair down and unwind after a busy day
- We have a kids’ play area, so you can indulge in quality time with your significant other
- We have a spacious conference room, so you can hold meetings comfortably and communicate more effectively by using our boards and projectors.