The show must go on…
Yes, we find ourselves in a global crisis, but at the same time people still need to be updated, the wider audience need some inspiration and hope at a time like this and quite frankly – the show must go on.
I am a huge believer in continuing marketing at a subliminal level in times of crisis. I am definitely not suggesting you go out with hardcore sales promotions but update your SEO, retain your google adwords, stay active on your social channels and have meaningful, engaged conversations with your audience.
My core advice, at a time like this, is to revisit the basics and focus on the foundations. We will come through this, hopefully stronger and wiser, and when we do I really want you to be ready to get into market with a bang, rather than playing catch up, the early bird catches the worm…
Now is a good a time as any, to provide genuine, helpful and smart quick wins for your audience. There is so much noise out there that we are inundated, it is all too much and sadly there are a lot of platforms and messages that we just can’t trust either.
Here are my top 11 Hotel Marketing tips, for a time like this. Many of these tips can be applied across various industries, not just hospitality, they are basic marketing principles.
1) YOUR BRAND – it isn’t going to stop just because of COVID-19. Now is the time to be seen and be heard, highlight your brand story and promise – what can you do for others and how can you help them. In my line of work, inspiring people is a core reason for being. Travel and Hotels are catalysts for inspiring travel, with amazing imagery and video footage of destinations and fabulous hotels or resorts that make it onto a bucket list. Use this time to mix it up a bit. It can be a bit of the Doom & Gloom series when there is a crisis going on, so why not broadcast the highlights of your brand and business, they will want and need you sometime in the near future, keep reminding them why.
2) COMMUNICATION – Be authentic and true to your brand values and promise, don’t try to be what you’re not. Be very open and honest and get to the point. This is not a time for waffle. Connect with your audience and engage with them, in a meaningful way.
Your Team – this is the time to be open, transparent, thankful, caring and respectful of your team members. Up the ante on your communication to them – email updates, a video from the CEO, Webinars, internal newsletters. Stay in touch with them and let them know what a brilliant job they are doing and that you are there for them.
At a time like this, when there is so much data and information, it is a great time to create and update FAQs, it is important to ensure your guests and travellers are completely up to date and can get answers effectively and efficiently, from a Digital Marketing perspective this is also a great way to drive content marketing and increase your organic reach.
3) BE CREATIVE – I have been overwhelmed and impressed by the expanse of ideas that have come out of this situation, here are just a few that spring to mind…
Gyms – renting out spin bikes and conducting online video classes.
Pilates Studios continuing to teach their members at home – all you need is Wifi, a mat and a screen.
In house dining closed down, think outside the box – Cafes & Restaurants – packaging up meals and literally placing it in your boot, as you drive up to their back door, fully encompassing social distancing as well as a great service.
Do you have a spa in your hotel, perhaps you could do some online tutorial videos on how to do spa treatment at home.
Get your in house Gym team to create some videos on at-home workouts.
Your chef can do some online “at home cooking creations” or simply prepare take-away meals
Cocktail Hour – videos on making the perfect cocktail at home
4) PRESENT GUESTS WITH ADDED VALUE – Providing added value is an old favourite and is always a great strategy to get your audience to book direct. The idea here is that you are influencing individual guest experiences, convincing your guest their money is being invested into a worthwhile experience and allows them the flexibility to make the choice – offering free parking, breakfast, gift cards, room upgrades or discounts on their future stays.
5) DIGITAL MARKETING ACTION LIST
If a number of people are like me, and love to travel, then I strongly suggest the hoteliers of the world maintain digital presence, as I want to be inspired and I want to plan my next trip so I am searching (a lot)!
- Review your website – is it a seamless experience for a browser to get more info or just book. Remove as many barriers across the entire customer journey, as you can, to encourage a purchase. Each page should be easy to navigate, look good and be quick to load – and do I need to say this (but I will) it needs to be mobile friendly and optimised.
- Check your content – is it up to date, are the room categories still relevant, have you updated all of the images from the last photo shoot, have your restaurant hours changed, is there a new service you have added that you forgot to add to the site – the list is endless. Get onto tht website and audit the hell out of it!
- Virtual Reality – whilst you’re fixing up your site, have you thought about VR? This is one of the fastest growing hotel marketing trends,essentially it alters the users perception of reality, you are recreating certain amenities as a digital experience- jumping into the infinity pool with spectacular views; explore my room before I arrive, how could I set my wedding or company conference up. With these virtual experiences you are literally able to present your hotel upfront.
- Review your Digital spend and optimise the performing channels, remove the upper funnel and low ROI channels and get targeted.
- Data & Personalisation – guests are attracted to, and see the value in, hotel offerings that cater to their specific needs and wants. Review your guest history data and start to prepare smart and targeted guest campaigns – offer a value add or discount on in-room dining if the guest has a pattern for ordering room service, a guest is a roving salesperson and always has a car – offer x nights free parking, they come every year for the same event/celebration so target ahead of time to encourage them to book and sweeten the deal for them.
- Social remarketing – my favourite, if you’re shopping around and like me, you spend a great deal of time on your socials, then having a little reminder of that hotel or holiday destination pop up isn’t a bad thing. It also indicates to the hotel that you are further down the purchasing funnel than most.
- Metasearch – increase your visibility and increased traffic on search sites like Google or partner up with someone like TripTease.
- UGC – User Generated Content – travel is one of those things that bring people closer together. Encouraging online content that is created and shared by guests, whether it be video uploads, photos of the hotel or of their meal, blogs etc… means you are endorsing audience trust. All of this footage and sharing is coming from a real “guest” who has experienced your product first hand and is sharing it to the masses. Doesn’t come much richer than that.
- Social Media Marketing – times like this mean you have the chance to connect emotionally and thoughtfully with your followers and audience. It is critical that you balance being top of mind with strong engagement but don’t go beyond what is reasonable given the circumstances. As long as your content is relevant to the times, and you can give your followers a chance to engage and ask questions or provide feedback, then you are on the right track. Twitter is really great when you want to share facts about how your hotel company is responding to COVID-19, focusing on the relevance of this information to your guests and your team – your #1 priority. Why not take a look at your Hotel Image Library for some lifestyle shots and think of what is needed now… a bed and fluffy pillows to lay back and catch up on some reading; an inspirational image to inspire meaningful content around meditating; can you share a funny story from your travels over the years; here’s our guide to a spa treatment at home. Ensure your content is empathetic and real, don’t feel nervous about scaling back on posts a little, quality over quantity.
6. PROMOTIONS & INCENTIVES – Not a good time to bombard and offer unrealistic deals. And definitely don’t tease me with an instant offer that has a timeline (when I can’t travel to use it) but create relevant offers and messaging. For example, during COVID-19 lock down, people either needed larger sized accommodation – apartment style, to self-isolate in or maybe even just escape to and therefore apartment hotels were in a great position to be able to promote the offer of space and kitchens/work spaces/laundry – everything you have at home.
Incentivise & Reward – you would have seen how the airlines have kindly frozen status in rewards programmes, at no cost. Hotel loyalty programmes are doing the same. Encourage future bookings and offer a hook to automatically move up to the next tier with X night booking. All of this is great, it shows you care and value your customers.
7. CONTENT REMAINS KING – Review and update your Website and SEO. Adapt your content across your Social Media platforms to stay relevant, on message, valuable and memorable.
8. BUSINESS & SALES REVIEW – Cut costs where you can, hoteliers are renowned for thinking outside the box and thinking about the bottom line.
Work together with your owners, be transparent and explore how you can collaborate to protect investments, but more importantly use this time to further develop your relationships.
Team training – everyone is a Salesperson right now. Make sure your front-line team members are equipped and armed to sell a room or close a sale quickly.
9. STAY STRONG – HOLD YOUR RATES – as much as lowering rates may seem like the best thing to do in an economical crisis, try to resist this urge. Remember rate dropping becomes a hoteliers price war, guests don’t really care about this. A guest wants to see a fair price, value for money and they are normally seeking a specific location or a specific experience. Don’t sell yourself short because it isn’t going to increase your profit line, it becomes a bidding race to the bottom amongst your competitor set.
10) PLANNING – It’s a great time to reflect. Step back and look at the bigger picture again. Now is your opportunity to re-hash that business plan and make sure you are planning 6-12 months out, we don’t know the expiry date on this but what I can promise you, is be ready when it does end, you don’t want to be caught short when business picks back up.
11) MENTOR – why not take this time to reach out on LinkedIn and across your contact list and see if anybody needs an ear. Perhaps they need some advice or want to bounce an idea off of you, maybe they just need someone to ask them “Are You Ok?” .
As a hotelier who can survive this terrible downturn, you need to know your guest and tailor your marketing accordingly.
Lastly, this is a time to come together as a community, it is a time to collaborate not compete.
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