Confessions of a Hotel Marketing Firm: Top Ten Most Dangerous Mistakes in Hotel Marketing – Part 1

September 24, 2012 • By
After 25 years of working with hoteliers around the world, we’ve made every mistake in the book. Strangely enough, that’s why most of our clients hire us… Because we’ve made mistakes at someone else’s expense in the past, we’re less likely to make costly mistakes on their account in the future! Here’s a list of the top ten mistakes we’ve made (and corrected) that inhibited client revenue, how many are you still making?   Mistake No. 1 Believing You Can Market a Product That is Fundamentally Bad We used to think great marketing could outshine a bad product (also known as “Putting lipstick on a pig"). The truth is that a bad product will always kill great marketing. The product IS the most important component of your marketing. If your rooms, your amenities or your location are bad, you can’t hide behind fluffy ad copy. No matter what you say, no matter how hard you sell, you're in for trouble with the guests you do attract. And they'll trash you… big time, on the spot and online. They'll be waiting for you at the front desk. They'll be complaining out loud in the lobby. And they'll be bashing you all over the Internet. Even before they leave the property. So if you do have an inferior product, whatever you do, don't over hype it. Fix it instead. The higher you raise the expectations of your guests, the greater their disappointment. And their anger. The truth is, you only have two choices when your product isn't what it needs to be. You can fix it. Or you can adjust your rates so your clientele can live with it. If you decide to improve your product, start by raising your level of service. That's usually the easiest area of improvement to address (and least capital intensive). Get rid of bad apple employees. Raise the bar for the rest. And stick to your new standards. You can also improve your product offering by creating special packages that put the emphasis on the best of your features and amenities. In other words, sell what you deliver best. Mistake No. 2 Tolerating Anything Less Than A+ Performance From Your Website Not so long ago, killer websites were a luxury, not necessity. Now, before today’s travelers go anywhere, they go to the Web. They research. They investigate. They compare you to your competition. And all they have to judge YOU on is YOUR website. It’s up to you to make the very most of that prospective guest’s initial visit. The longer they stay, the greater the possibility of a booking. In fact, the most critical job of your website is to get them to book directly with you. Here are some absolute musts for your site to be the most forceful weapon in your arsenal:
  1. Make certain you greet your visitors with a clear, simple statement of exactly why they should stay with you.
  2. Tell them what makes you uniquely different in the most concise, most memorable way possible. This is called your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
  3. Use quality imagery, both stills and video, to illustrate your property in the best possible light
  4. Call your visitors to action. Give them incentives. Give them a sense of urgency. Offer them deals they won’t want to miss out on and let them know the clock is ticking on the offer
  5. Make sure your booking engine is world class. If it’s unfriendly and just plain clunky, you’ll actually lose business in the booking process
  6. Some hotels now get more traffic and bookings from mobile devices, so make sure your online presence is compatible with iPads and mobile devices, which account for a steadily increasing amount of traffic for all hotels and a fortune in bookings.
  7. Welcome meeting and group travel decision makers. Make them feel special. Speak their language. Invite them to visit and encourage them to see for themselves
  8. Enrich your site with all that your location and surrounding area has to offer. Give your visitors details and let them go as deep as they’d like in exploring the area
  9. Equip your site with the latest technological tracking and retargeting tools you need to continually hone in on your target audience.
Mistake No. 3 Not Having a Plan Trying to market a property without a comprehensive/consensus Sales & Marketing plan is like trying to start a relationship without understanding your partner’s values. Success depends on knowing where you’ve been, who you are and what your goals are. Your plan needs to have the endorsement of ALL your stakeholders and itemize the steps required to increase revenue. You need a strategy for each feeder market and core target segment (leisure, group, travel/trade, etc). You also need to identify the specific obstacles to achieving your sales projections and the tactics necessary to overcome them. ADR, AOR and RevPar data must be documented and projections need to be made. A campaign specifically aimed at meeting planners may also be required. And if you are a flag hotel, the role corporate marketing will play in meeting your projections needs to be included. Also, an assessment of F&B competitiveness may be required, with plans for making specific improvements. Critical aspects of the property itself may need to be evaluated and areas of improvement need to be identified and budgeted for. Factors beyond the gates of your property and beyond your control must be also documented and dealt with. Are there changes on the horizon of the competitive landscape? What will the effects be of pending shifts in airline schedules? How long will the bad press from a recent natural disaster linger? Finally, every bit of guest feedback available must be taken into consideration in planning where you put your emphasis in the year ahead. But is all this work really necessary? Wouldn’t all that time be better spent doing, rather than planning? Not when you’re your property’s success depends on it! Mistake No. 4 Failing to Properly Arm Your Group Sales Force No matter how appealing your property, no matter what your competitive edge, if your key sales people don’t have compelling tools, sales won’t happen. Group and meeting planners expect exciting “infotainment” material at their fingertips. Provide collateral that speaks directly to meeting planners. Educate them. Inspire them. Put special packages together for their groups. Prepare an annual calendar of local events. Provide a menu of transportation options from the airports that serve your location. Include pictures and videos of previous meetings you’ve hosted… these can be very powerful motivators for new clients. Your sales material and web content must convey the unique ambiance of your property, instantly communicating how your property can deliver a flawless, memorable experience that will make the Planner look like a star! And in today’s world, your sales collateral cannot be confined to ink on paper. You have to tell your story equally well in all electronic formats, whether presented on a large-screen laptop, a crystal-clear iPad or a smartphone/iPhone. Mistake No. 5 Not Taking Social Media Seriously According to a recent study, six out of ten travel shoppers change their mind after reading reviews from previous guests on social media sites.  Why is social media such a critical new component to your property's marketing success? Social media has transformed consumer behavior from simply searching and reading to actively sharing, reviewing and participating. Travelers now post reviews, photos and itineraries…which impact how potential guests make purchase decisions. Because travel is seen as a luxury, travelers are much more prudent with their vacation dollars and are investing more time educating themselves before booking their destination or hotel. Social media allows them to validate their options by reviewing previous travelers' experiences. Once you connect with past guests on Facebook for example, you are able to communicate an ongoing stream of promos and messaging to your audience with no incremental marketing cost. And then, every past guest who befriends you via social media becomes a free word-of-mouth evangelist for your property! Social media creates an unlimited digital accelerator for word of mouth advocacy. This virtual evangelism by your guests can have a tremendous impact on your hotel’s revenue... and reputation!  Social Media also gives properties the opportunities to engage guests in two-way communication at every point of the vacation experience, whether it’s someone shopping for a hotel, a dissatisfied past (or current) guest or delivering cost-effective messages to your past guest fan base. Here's a few more ways smart hotel marketers use social media to increase revenue:
  1. Show your customer care and transparency by responding to ALL reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp and other sites.
  2.  Add new Facebook apps like Flip.to which enable bookers to spread news of their booking using Facebook’s intrinsic sharing platform.
  3. Utilize the “voice” of the hotel across the social sphere to clearly define the hotel brand and shape the demographic of the hotel’s following. By actively engaging with guests (pre, during and post stay), properties are in greater control of their online reputation and will see more frequent, positive reviews as a result. 
Hope you enjoyed Part 1 of Confessions of a Hotel Marketing Firm. We'll have part 2 up shortly.

About Tambourine

Tambourine is an ROI-obsessed marketing agency driving demand, revenue and brand awareness for travel and leisure clients since 1986. The Company creates inspiring digital experiences and engaging campaigns that produce measurable results. Based in South Florida and New York City, Tambourine recently received Gold and Platinum Adrian and Magellan awards, the largest and most prestigious travel marketing competitions, representing this year’s top marketing campaigns from across the global hospitality industry. We are the instrument many of the world’s most advanced marketers use to create a steady beat of traffic and revenue growth. We provide a 360º integrated marketing program that delivers predictable ROI and a sustainable sales and marketing rhythm for your brand. Learn more at https://www.Tambourine.com

advertising, hotel marketing, Mistakes to Avoid, Top 10