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Effective Online Marketing for Premium Hoteliers
By feature writer Joe Boon
Trying to get yourself noticed in the massively competitive hospitality industry can be a struggle. But don't worry! The digital world is here to help.Below, we offer a guide to the critical practises necessary to promote your establishment successfully online.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of online marketing for hoteliers, it is important to establish one overriding attribute that should be found in all of your online content. Professionalism. For a hotel, indeed, any website to be taken seriously, it is imperative that content is created and managed by professionals. If your website looks amatuer, then so does your establishment. So before we begin remember, quality comes above anything else in online marketing.
Professional & Mobile Friendly Website
Success doesn't come for free and a successful website is the all important foundation stone for promoting your establishment online. All hoteliers must remember that the website will be the first connection that prospective guests make with their hotel and so the content and design has to be of the highest standard.
As the world goes mobile, it is important that you go with it. Responsive design will enable your site to adjust for different screen sizes. For example if someone is looking at your site on a tablet, iPhone or desktop, the site should adjust to suit that device and for ease of use. A great example of a responsive hotel site is the Hotel Lago Di Garda. An efficient CMS (Content Management System) will allow someone without technical knowledge to easily update your site on a regular basis, without having to get someone to code the changes.
Whilst building an attractive and functional website will likely require a decent budget, a high quality, mobile friendly website is essential. Your website is representing your establishment, and just as you wouldn't let your hotel fall into disrepair, you should ensure that your website is both well designed and well maintained.
Content; Copy, Photography, Video
It is important to remember that you are attempting to sell a premium product and your content should reflect this.
A professional, creative approach to copywriting will be necessary to ensure that any text on your website relates directly to the nature of the hotel. It's no use writing for a low-income family when you really want to attract guests looking for luxury and a high-end service. Make it easy for guests to view the contact details, amenities on offer and any other relevant information they may need to find. Remember, staying in a luxury hotel is all about ease and comfort, guests don't want to waste time hunting for information.
Employ a professional photographer to capture your establishment in all its glory. Consider the use of short videos to show off your hotel but steer clear amatuer or cheap service's as they will only cheapen your hotels image. Below are some great examples of hotels using professional and attractive content to maximise their appeal.
Use newsletters to keep reasserting your brand in front of existing or potential customers. Share offers, events and news to tempt customers into a weekend away. Exclusive offers such as champagne on arrival, complimentary tickets or even a free car park permit for the nearest beach will encourage loyalty to your brand and establishment.
Having a professionally designed template and email confirmation that suits the style of your hotel will help your hotels status as a premium establishment, again you don't want to cheapen your image with a poorly put together newsletter or shoddy template.
Email is such a powerful communication tool and it's important to take full advantage of it. Make sure you try to harvest new emails offline and online to add to your contacts list. You can get new emails when users make a booking, leave a review or check out. You can also offer incentives to sign up to the newsletter.
There are tools out there which make this whole process simple such as mailchimp but be careful not to lower the quality of your brand and image by the "do it yourself" approach. Using experienced designers and marketers can be priceless and rewarding.
Social Media is now the #1 activity on the net, and with over 1 million businesses integrated with Facebook. If you're not connected to social media, your competitors most likely are.
The benefits of social media are huge and the limits are virtually boundless limits. However, it is important that you really take the social media bull by the horns. Don't become intimidated by interaction with your customers. Embrace it. If you're going to be shy and fail to regularly respond to your customers and commit your time to social media, then it is better not to bother at all.
Social media can help to not only promote your hotel, but to differentiate it from the thousands of others that may be operating in your local area. Be sure to use social media to make your establishment unique, and to ensure that you don't get left behind.
The key to Facebook is interaction, so interact! Invite your guests to comment before, during or after their stay and post pictures or videos of their holiday, all the while ensuring that you reply with concise friendly responses. When posting, give your customers information that they will value, but beware! Overposting is something nobody enjoys.
Some simple content ideas to share on your page are local upcoming events, offers/promotions or upcoming good weather such as a predicted heatwave. You can even incorporate a booking engine or a room service page that allows your guests to make reservations and order room service at the click of a button rather than through the phone.
Facebook provides you with a free platform to not only promote yourself, but for people to share your content with their friends. Don't miss out on free promotion. Ever.
Hoteliers worldwide have already made innovative use of social media for their own gains. Hyatt Hotels launched a virtual concierge service enabling them to connect with their guests through a virtual front desk, offering a 24/7 mobile personal service.
In a world where everyone is connected, Twitter offers you a platform for quick fire response to customer enquiries and a targeted approach to reach new guests. Surprise users by finding hashtags or tweets relevant to your establishment or area and respond to them without them expecting it. For example, you could respond to people asking about hotels in your area or complaining about your hotel visit. The Four Seasons luxury hotel chain are great practitioners of twitter interaction, always taking the initiative to communicate with their customers on a personal basis.
Google+, Google Places, Google Hotel Finder
The Google Hotel Finder is a search engine for hotels that also appears in the main Google search engine. To get listed you need to sign up to Google+ or Google Places.
Registering with Places & Plus will increase your visibility on Google and its many divisions. Below is an example, if you search Google for "The Signature MGM Grand hotel" you get the following results. The section on the right is taking data from Google Places & Google+. There is an option to book, get directions, phone, see reviews. This is all very valuable information and you are making it much easier and quicker for users to find.
To get the most out of these tools make sure you enter as much data about your hotel as possible.
Foursquare is a location-based social network that allows users to check in to the location they are visiting and share it with their social media connections, as well as allowing comments and reviews to be tied to the location. Foursquare is an indispensable tool for building a social media buzz and positive reaction towards your establishment. For a guide to setting up and utilizing Foursquare- head here.
Pinterest may perhaps only be suitable for hotels who really promote their aesthetic value over anything else. If you have lots of interesting visual content to tantalise and tempt customers to your establishment, then Pinterest could prove to be an invaluable addition to your social media armoury. For a guide as to how Pinterest works for businesses- visit here or here.
Loyalty Programs are made even easier with social media and have a greater opportunity for personalisation. Take advantage of your social media accounts to get to know your customers and build up a database of their likes and dislikes, tying this into an effective Email campaign as discussed earlier. Royal Dutch Airline KLM used social profiles such as Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter to find out information about a passenger before surprising them with a unique gift, based on their personal profiles.
Build Trust and Reliability through Online Memberships
Membership groups such as the Preferred Hotel Group offer to promote your hotel through directories and their website if you are willing to become a member. Alternatively becoming an AA approved member will build a reputation for trust and reliability amongst the public. All of these associations are website based and applications are completed online. Costs and methods of achieving association do vary, but the value of having that approved plaque above your doors could do wonders for your reputation and for your business in an industry when trust and reliability rules supreme.
Review Sites; TripAdvisor, Expedia...
Review sites such as TripAdvisor and Expedia can be a double edged sword, but with high risk there comes high reward. The Daily Mail recently produced a report on the dangers of TripAdvisor, gaining great traction amongst an assortment of hoteliers who had all suffered from unnecessarily vicious reviews or fraudsters aiming to cut down the competition. Still, whilst getting negative reviews isn't great, being seen as responding to negative comments in an effort to resolve them is certainly a positive for potential customers, such as the Cavendish Hotels reaction to bad reviews. Just be wary and ready to intervene to counter fraudulent reviews and disgruntled customers. For more information on dealing with TripAdvisor, ReKnown have published this article.
Welcome Bloggers and Critics
Prospective guests often need a human opinion before making their final judgement, and travel bloggers are one source of information that they may well turn to. You may choose to launch your own blog to build a better base of customer interaction, allowing for instant personal feedback and the chance to add a human, friendly element to your establishment. Give guests an incentive to write a blog post about their stay, perhaps a complimentary bottle of wine for their next stay or a discounted offer. A personal report is good publicity, especially if they are recommending your hotel to their readers and fellow members of the public.
Across the web there are hundreds of regular publications and e-zines such as Wanderlust and Destination, who all directly appeal to a relevant audience. Magazines such as Itchy Feet welcome guest contributors regularly, so if you feel you can create an interesting and informative article then go for it! Depending on who it is you write for they should allow you a link back to your hotels site, promoting you to an interesting audience and boosting your SEO.
Google Adwords (PPC)
Most people are aware of ads in the Google search engine but for those that aren't, most searches have 3 ads appear at the top of the page and 8 on the right hand side. The majority of these ads use a payment system call PPC means the different companies bid on how much they would like to "pay per click". There are a lot of companies out there that try to manage their own PPC but it can be a very complex beast. You will get much more money for your buck if you find a good specialist to work in house or within an agency. A number of agencies will take their fee out of the money they will save you.
Google HPA program
The Google HPA program is a way of advertising in the Google Hotel Finder similar to Adwords PPC, you can see an example of the ads below. This isn't available through the normal Adwords back office and you have to work with companies that have partnered with Google. HeBS Digital offer this service and explain the service in more detail here.
While SEO is hugely important in promoting your establishment online, its vast and constantly evolving nature means that it is difficult to cover without an in-depth detailed approach. The best advice when dealing with SEO is to avoid aggressively marketed "quick fix solutions" offered by pirate SEO agencies looking to make a quick buck. The truth to SEO is that there are no quick fire solutions. Too often will businesses employ a quick fix solution that has them as the No.1 search time one day, and then plummeting down the rankings the next. Your digital presence is far too important to leave in the hands of an amatuer, so be sure to find an agency that really knows their stuff. This article has some great tips on picking the right SEO agency.
Display ads can offer a bit of a mixed bag. They allow you to target a multitude of websites with banner advertisements, but often level your ads at a customer base who not necessarily be searching for a hotel. It is possible to target specific areas, such as sites containing negative reviews of your competition, or using retargeting to saturate a customer after they have visited your site. Once again, Display Ads are a complex and difficult beast to control so getting a specialist will give you the best results.
There are hundreds of directories on the net that all offer you the option to be listed. Not only will these additional links help out your SEO but it will place you within searches that may bring traffic to your site. Directories can range from global to local and are normally completely and utterly free!
The overwhelming message to take from the article is this. Quality dictates reputation. As with anything that advertises itself as premium, the final finished appearance of the product has to live up to the expectations of the customer. For your hotel to effectively market itself online as a premier destination, you must ensure that the entirety of your online presence is a functional, polished display the truly represents the nature of your establishment. Likewise, social media is an invaluable tool for online promotion, but only when handled correctly. If you are unwilling to apply your best efforts then it is better to forget about it and focus on something else. While it is expensive the use of a professional agency or an in-house operative, experience and expertise when dealing with your online presence will be invaluable in the long term.
Don't cut corners. Ensure quality through every facet. Interact with your customers. Good luck and happy marketing!
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