It seems we can’t go a week without news of a hotel property breaking ground or an old favorite planning to expand. In fact, more than 114,000 hotel rooms are expected to open in the U.S. in 2017—a 15% increase compared to the actual number of hotel openings in 2016. And in 2018, new hotel openings are expected to increase by another 16%. Is your property marketing ready to compete?
Unfortunately, even in hypercompetitive growth markets such as Seattle or Denver, marketing budgets don’t always keep pace with the competition, and many properties find they must do more with less. Luckily, big reach doesn’t always require big resources. Read on for a few ways you can cut through the noise and better engage with both current and future guests.
1. Trade Discounts for Emotional Connections
While travelers still love to find a bargain, an emotional connection is more likely to seal the deal when planning their travel. CMO.com says early messages to travelers—particularly leisure travelers—should focus on their travel experience. Global research by Expedia Media Solutions found while prices and deals are important, unique experiences and activities play a bigger role in the initial decision-making process than discounts. What’s more, 65% of consumers are influenced by brand content when making travel plans, which creates a major opportunity for properties.
Your blog and site content should engage potential travelers with stories of how your area’s activities and experiences will create memories to last a lifetime. How local scenery will make them fall in love with the region. Where to find food they’ll dream about for years. And how your people will make a lasting impression. Blog posts don’t have to be extensive and lengthy; 400-700 words will do the trick. And consider tapping local experts as “guest” bloggers to lighten the load. Often, bloggers, social influencers or even other business owners are willing to pen a few posts for an in-kind trade.
2. Review Your Reviews
On average, business travelers read five reviews before booking, while leisure travelers read an average of six to seven reviews, according to Tnooz. Although leisure travelers tend to use a negative review as a reason to remove your hotel as an option, a negative review will not automatically remove your property from a business traveler’s list of choices, as they tend to use reviews as more of an assessment tool for what their experience will be versus a decision-maker.
A survey done by TripAdvisor reported 62% of users agree that seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally makes them more likely to book, and that an appropriate response to a negative review tends to improve their view. Actively managing and responding to reviews—both positive and negative—on sites like TripAdvisor shows business travelers that your property will do their best to rectify a situation if something goes wrong during their stay, and gives the consumer confidence someone is paying attention to feedback.
3. Supercharge Your Social Strategy
From creating those vital emotional connections to defusing a negative experience in real time, social media is one of the simplest—and most critical—tools in your marketing kit. It’s a powerful and flexible communication platform that can streamline your team’s engagement with guests at every point of their booking journey, from discovery to checkout.
It likely comes as no surprise that people under 35 spend almost four hours per day on social media, but what you may not know is that nearly half of people earning more than $200,000 per year prefer social media over live interactions for customer service. Some of your most desirable guests may just be one post away from booking.
When evaluating your social media strategy and where to invest, there are a few key things to consider before you begin:
- Do you know what platform(s) your customers use most often? Social media preferences vary by demographic, so matching your social media strategy to your customers’ is important. Look at your platform insights pages to see who is following you and how they’re currently engaging before you plan future content.
- Where do you need to engage with customers most? What systems do you already have in place? How you use social media will be influenced by when and where you connect with your guests. Investing in social search is key if you need to grab customers in their travel research phase due to new competition. And exploring dynamic guest profiles or rewarding guests who tag your property will teach your team more about what guests want from your property and what was enjoyed most during their stay.
- Who on the team is the best fit to create content and monitor guest posts? On-site content generation is critical, but keep an open mind about looking outside your immediate team. Select someone who gets out and around the property regularly, has a good sense of your property’s brand, and a solid grasp on what type of content works best on your key platform(s).
- What communication guidelines work for you and your customers? Effective social media is not a one-way street. Only 20% of your content should be property promotion. Most of your content—a full 80%—should consist of real conversations, sharing guest posts, sharing content about your city or destination, and being sincerely customer-relations-focused. Timely and highly engaging content is inspiring to travelers, even if they aren’t currently staying with you, serving to attract new customers and build loyalty.
Powerful marketing needn’t require a huge budget. If you remember it’s about the guest experience—not the guest transaction—you and your team could be making a truly happy customer.