Marketing can often seem like a bottomless pit of possibilities.
The days of investing in only a few marketing channels are long gone. Now, there are endless ways to reach potential guests and drive direct bookings, leaving some hotel marketers paralyzed or flustered over the overwhelming task of choosing what to focus on.
So, we’re here to narrow down the field.
We’ve compiled a list of the strategies that have actually worked for us and our clients this past year.
Call it our secret sauce, if you will.
We fully recognize that there are no magic bullets that work for every property and market, but these are some of the consistently effective tactics that have proven to drive revenue, expand reach and boost direct bookings in 2016.
Let’s get started:
1) Crafting an Authentic and Unique Story
There’s a reason why storytelling became one of the top buzzwords of practically every industry. People are drawn to emotions, stories and engaging narratives rather than facts, figures or hyperboles. Creating stories that both educate and delight are the foundation for authentic conversations with guests. Before telling your own story, think about your hotel’s main demographics and what drives them. Determine what makes you more unique than your comp set. Then, tell the story only you can tell… and tell it consistently with rich visuals across all of your marketing channels.
2) Harvesting Guest Generated Content
It’s one of the universal truths of marketing: consumers will always trust their family and friends over you. Smart hoteliers are using the power of ‘word of mouth’ marketing and leveraging it to their advantage. By encouraging and incentivizing current guests to post images and videos onto social media while they are staying with you, effectively makes your guests a potent extension of your marketing team. Recognizing this, we recently launched Tout, which makes it easy to discover, capture and obtain rights to content created by your own guests. Guest generated content holds multiple benefits: They’re more authentic, more trustworthy, and more creative than anything your marketing could have produced. Best of all, you won’t have to invest any marketing dollars to obtain new images and videos for your future marketing campaigns.
3) Positioning Your Hotel as the Epicenter of Your Destination
Today’s travelers are increasingly drawn to the life-changing experiences that lie within reach of your hotel’s front doors. They want to experience a destination like a local and crave front-row access to unique discoveries and immersive experiences that are unlike anything they can find at home. Forward-thinking hoteliers have caught on to this shift in traveler sentiment and are now touting their properties as the center of the destination experience. Share what’s immediately within walking distance, including quirky coffee shops and cool wine bars, as opposed to lazily pointing to your lobby’s Starbucks and restaurant wine list. Clue guests in on local secrets and involve all front-line staff (not just concierges) in learning as much as they can about your immediate neighborhood and destination.
4) Reducing Vendor Fatigue
Let’s face it. The more marketing vendors you work with, the more chaos and complications you’ll face with even the simplest of tasks. Managing separate, disconnected vendors to handle your booking engine, advertising campaigns, digital marketing, email marketing and your brand website means you’re paying more, holding less vendors accountable for producing ROI and wasting time managing and relaying messages to multiple vendors. Pare down your marketing team to as few vendors as possible so your marketing campaigns can have more impact on your bottom line.
5) Better Mobile Booking Experiences
Guests rely on their smartphones throughout their entire travel journey, from research, to booking, to sharing experiences post-stay. In fact, up to 21% of hotel bookings are made on mobile devices. Hotels got serious about their mobile experiences in 2016, investing and making improvements to mobile-compatible booking engines, responsive websites and marketing emails. By providing improved mobile experiences, hotels can streamline direct bookings, encourage social media sharing, communicate promos and offers, and reach potential guests any time of the day. Plus, today’s travelers expect mobile-enabled experiences, like digital check-in and communication with hotel staff via text. Investing in mobile is paramount to your success in 2017.
Metasearch’s value to hotel guests is undeniable: Travel consumers are provided with all the details they need to research and book a stay, including customer reviews, hotel information, location and real-time pricing and availability. Smart hoteliers leveraged metasearch to garner more direct bookings through their brand sites, rather than through OTAs. Whether they paid per click or via commission on bookings (such as on TripAdvisor or Google), these metasearch portals were attractively cheaper than traditional OTAs and gave hotels access to travel shoppers who were further down into the booking funnel.
7) Trip Advisor Commission Program
TripAdvisor has always been one of the most trusted travel resources around the globe. Their TripConnect Instant Booking program allows you to connect your hotel’s inventory and rates to your TripAdvisor business listing, giving your hotel a direct conduit to the huge global audience trolling TripAdvisor every day. And by charging lower commissions than OTAs and allowing hotels to ‘own the guest,’ (i.e. contact info) TripConnect Instant Booking has proven to be one of the more attractive new alternative marketing channels to enter the mainstream in 2016.
8) Social Advertising on Facebook
There are many reasons why Facebook advertising is one of the best advertising channels around, but our favorite is this: They are amazing at reaching target audiences. No other social channel has the intelligence that Facebook has on its users, including age, gender, location, demographic, interests, behavior and the names of family and friends. And, advertisers can use this to their advantage. Not only can you target your audience with laser-sharp focus, but you can also receive real-time analytics and enjoy some of the lowest ad pricing around. Plus, Facebook is still the king of social media channels, with more than 1 billion users across the globe, so your potential audience is vast.
9) Listening to Your Guests
Your guests and meeting attendees are the direct window to your hotel experience and your future success. Whether its reading and responding to guest reviews or simply engaging them in the lobby, talking to the actual real humans that consume your product continued to be a winning idea in 2016.
Take 30 minutes to converse with guests staying at your property and the meeting delegates lingering around your conference space. Ask them about their stay and what you can do better. All of this intelligence can be used to lock in future group business and to improve your hotel experience.
10) Applauding Your Team
Your success rides on the skills and energy of your team, so smart DOSMs made time to give them the praise and recognition they deserve. Genuinely giving kudos to your marketing, catering, banquet and sales staff will boost morale and job performance. In other words, happy internal employees equals better (and more) external business. So, don’t hold back when dishing out the applause.
Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com