How to Market Your Hospitality Business

Practical tips from 32 year veteran Craig Webb

In this podcast episode, Liam Carolan interviews Craig Webb, a hospitality veteran on how to market your hospitality business. Craig shares his journey from dishwasher to hotel general manager, discussing his digital marketing success during a challenging period.

He predicts a divide in the industry between automated and full-service hotels. Craig now runs a digital marketing agency, helping businesses with SEO. He emphasizes personalized experiences and premium pricing.

The interview offers insights into Craig's journey, digital marketing's impact, and changing guest preferences in the industry.

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How to Market Your Hospitality Business
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Timestamps (audio)



[00:00:00] Liam: Okay, so thank you for tuning into the Boostly Podcast. You're listening to the Boostly podcast that helps, and gives hosts the tools, the tactics, the training, and most importantly, the confidence to go out there so you can go out and get more direct bookends. I'm Liam Caroline. I'm Mark Simpson's co-host, and this is the Spotlight Minis series on the Boostly Podcast, where we shine the light on services and businesses that you need to know about as hospitality.

[00:00:23] Host or as an owner today, we've got the amazing, uh, Craig Webb. He's been a Boostly member for several years. Um, he's. Had 32 years in hospitality, which is amazing. So lots and lots of experience. And 17 of those was as general manager for a hotel. Um, he's now started up his venture called Web Marketing, where he focuses on helping people with digital marketing and search engine optimization.

[00:00:51] And today's episode, we're gonna be diving into both his journey in hospitality. And so you can pick up tips and tricks, from his 32 years worth of experience. But then also we are gonna be talking about what you need to be considering in your hospitality business regarding digital marketing and SEO.

[00:01:08] So let's dive into it. Welcome along, Craig.

Craig Intro

[00:01:10] Craig: Uh, lastly Yeah, thank you for the introduction. Um, well, I think you've covered everything. Yeah. 32 years in hospitality. Started just washing up. Um, and then. Just grew from there. I carried on while I was, while I was at college, and didn't know what else to do.

[00:01:24] When I left college, I was always gonna be a police officer. That never happened. Uh, cause I just kept getting promoted in hospitality and ev people kept leaving, you know, to do other things and I kept getting promoted. So never, never looked back really. And before I knew it, I was, I was a general manager, uh, with Bespoke hotels.

[00:01:40] I've got about a hundred hotels around the country and I've managed about, Six or seven hotels for them I can't even remember now. Um, all around the sort of Cowa Oxford share area. Um, Heathrow sort of, uh, and different, um, different markets. Some leisure, some tourism, and some sort of commercial, corporate-type hotels as well.

[00:02:02] Um, so I've sort of seen, seen everything in the industry from weddings, conferences, events, weights, uh, you know, you name it, I've, I've pretty much done it. Um, but my love of digital marketing came when I was lumbered into a hotel that was in administration. It was, um, It must have been about in 2008 when there was a crash.

[00:02:27] And the property was managed by Bespoke, but um, owned by the bank and was given to Bespoke to manage. And, you know, it was like, there are the keys. We'll pay you to manage it and look after the place and it's your job to get it sold. Um, so we need to turn those red figures black and, you know, make it look like a good business proposition for someone to buy.

[00:02:50] So if I, if I did a good job, I was gonna be out of work, if the hotel would be sold, um, But I. I just thought, well, how can I do this? So I don't have anything to spend. How can I improve the hotel? How can I change its fortunes? And digital marketing was just becoming a thing. Facebook people didn't have Facebook pages for businesses, and I think I was one of the first people, in the UK to have my hotel to have a Facebook page.

[00:03:19] And people are commenting on it, going, Well, you can't do that. And I said, well, why not? There are no rules to say why not? So, you know, I had like three or 4,000 followers on Facebook before anyone even had a Facebook page. And I was doing, um, competitions on a Friday, giving rooms away. I was, you know, leaving away on this stuff.

[00:03:38] And, um, yeah, it just grew and grew. Instagram wasn't even a thing then. Twitter wasn't a thing. Um, and I think most of them I've kind of ignored as they've come along. But then when I, because some of them, they never become something, do they, all these different things that come along. These, um, these new websites, most of them are just a flash in the pan.

[00:04:00] So I tend to wait to see if it's going to become of anything and, um, and then learn and do a deep dive into it, such as Instagram, Twitter, and uh, um, LinkedIn is a very good one. So I do a deep dive into them, learn them, apply the trade, and, and. Put that into use for the hotel to get free business. So, that's what I did.

[00:04:24] Um, but I just thought, how do I get customers? So I, I just started doing Facebook, reaching out to the community, uh, and try and do everything that I could do that was free to bring business to the hotel. And it just grew and grew from there. I just kept doing it and became an expert, I suppose.

Any Perceptions that have changed?

[00:04:40] Liam: Is there any perceptions that have changed generally about hospitality during the time that you've been Uh uh, uh, in hospitality?

[00:04:48] Craig: Oh, well, I, I think most of your audience is s t r kind of hosts. And, I'm speaking from a hotelier background, which is slightly different. I've always worked in full-service hotels, you know? Mm-hmm. Carry the bags, afternoon tea, spar service, all the rest of it. Um, I think we are going to see a divide in hospitality, certainly the service level side of hospitality.

[00:05:12] I think we're gonna see more of the. I want to say the Wetherspoon type, the low service, you know, go in order on your app. The food comes from a microwave in the kitchen off a conveyor belt, and you know, it's as cheap as it can be and there's no staff cuz we all know the cost is staff. Um, at the other end of the scale, I, I think we're gonna miss a lot of that middle market stuff.

[00:05:35] Um, the pubs and the rural pubs and the community pubs are gonna struggle. But then the high-end hotels, the traditional hotels that give the full service will be charging way, way, way, way more because their staff want to pay properly. And people appreciate having, um, the knowledge of a sommelier, the knowledge of a, uh, a, a dormant and a, you know, a porter and that sort of thing that can help them.

[00:06:04] Uh, with their stay and the local knowledge and all, all that sort of stuff, so, As I said, I think we're gonna see that divide and, and more and more people are going to want to have that human connection and be willing to pay for it. So I think people need to start deciding now what they are, are they full automation?

[00:06:24] Uh, the key is on their phone. They're just check-in, by Bluetooth. It's all automation. They won't touch a human being. And that's it. Or they get full service. They're met at the door, they're given a welcome pack. They talked about the local things to do in the area. Um, you know, they're given, a welcome basket of eggs and bacon for their, for their se um, self-catering accommodation.

[00:06:48] Yeah. They've gotta decide, because we, we got, I think we're gonna see a split. Um, and you've gotta be, you can't be one foot in each count. How.

[00:06:56] Liam: No, I love that and I love them, the insight into that as well, because I certainly, if I'm travelling for work, I'm that first category, I'm like, yeah, let's just, I'm, I'm happy to just get, you know, into a place, um, the, the kind of like say Wetherspoons, McDonald's type model.

[00:07:10] Um, yeah. But certainly, if I'm taking my other half away, I, you know, I want it to feel. Feel great. Do you know, I want the entire experience to be, um, sort of concierge services and, and things like that to, and, and I don't mind paying for that. So I can see that camp where. One is one, one is the other.

Why the change and what is the plan now?

[00:07:30] So yeah, it's an interesting insight. Um, mm-hmm. So, Craig, let's talk about the, um, what you're doing now. So, you've moved from hospitality those 32 years, and only as we record this, only a week ago, you, uh, you finished your, your, your hospitality sort of journey and you've started your digital marketing ma, uh, agency.

[00:07:50] So talk me through That's right. How that came about and, um, what, what the plan is now.

[00:07:55] Craig: Well, I've al already said, I sort of started doing digital market for hotels quite a lot of years ago. Um, and so Mark came into my life through a, I think it must have been a Facebook message. I can't remember how he got me in his funnel, but I was sucked into his, his sales funnel about five or six years ago.

[00:08:14] Um, and it resonated with me cuz I was already on that journey. But I was self-taught. I felt I felt I needed a little bit more. Guidance and LY came along, and it helped me accelerate that. So that was about five or six years ago. I implemented that at work and then went further still. I've then been doing my own, you know, Facebook does things, Google does their own, you know, free courses.

[00:08:39] I've, I've been absorbing all of those and learning, learning more. Um, I think during the lockdown, that was about when we, now, two years ago or so, I, I set up my company in lockdown cause I had a fear of, of not going back to work. I thought, is the hotel even going to open? Um, and where our hotel was based, um, I managed three hotels, sorry, two hotels.

[00:09:01] There's a third hotel next door that didn't reopen it, it went into administration and it's, it's still not a hotel now. Um, and I could foresee that could be an issue. Um, so I, I set up my marketing company, got some clients. My, I kind of, uh, my target audience at the time was digital marketing for hospitality.

[00:09:21] Now hospitality was closed, so I was probably wasn't very clever there. But, actually, I did get some clients and some, some were pivoting, um, doing different things like food production and that while they were closed. So, so I did get some clients in lockdown, but I then had to kind of let some of them go.

[00:09:37] When I went back to work, which always nodded away at me cuz I was wondering what could have been and how could I have succeeded. Um, so yeah, the back end of last year, quarter four, I thought let's have a, let's have a real effort to get some clients again. With a view to, um, having the clients in quarter 1 20 23.

[00:10:02] And if it works, cuz I can manage the hotels and the clients at the same time. If I've got enough business, I'll, I'll let me, I'll let my salary go and, and go full-time work for myself. So, you know, I just put myself out there and lo and behold it happened very quickly. I was hoping perhaps to be by the end of March, but, um, yeah, I finished at the end of January, uh, and here we are.

[00:10:23] So. Congratulations. I'm excited. Thank you.

[00:10:26] Liam: That's amazing. And do you know what I'm pleased about this? A couple of points, which I wanna pick up. Uh, first of all, that, you know, we, with Boostly's help as well, that has given you more confidence to, dive further into digital marketing, which is amazing.

[00:10:39] It certainly did the same for me, um, in, in my sort of journey. Um, then you also mentioned that, uh, You know, during lockdown you pivoted, which there's a lot of businesses, a lot of people listening will remember that time. Very freshly. I certainly do. And how I was, I was like, do I need to go and get a job at Morrison's?

[00:10:57] You know, what? What do I need to go and do? Cause that was pretty much the supermarkets were the only thing. Still, still running at the time. Um, the, the great thing is that the side effect from that period where everyone had stopped for a while is, are they're able to do exactly what you've done there, which is pivot into awesome businesses and, and carve out journeys for themselves, which is, is amazing.

What are some things a host can do?

[00:11:16] So congratulations, on the switch over to digital marketing SEO. So let's dive over into that. What should most of the people listening to this, like say, are gonna be hospitality owners of, of some description? So, What should people be considering when it comes down to particularly search engine optimization?

[00:11:33] Because it's something which for me as a host, I always think of just going, oh, it's, it's a lot of, you know, what's the, what's the benefit? How long is this gonna take? How much money is this gonna take? What would you say are some of the things that a host can start to do, um, an action fairly fast? Um, you know, after listening to this podcast,

[00:11:54] Craig: Okay, well, the first thing I would say is that everyone wants a quick win.

[00:11:59] They, they want immediate gratification. They want some, they want to post something on Facebook and for the phone to ring within 10 minutes. Well, let's face it, it's not gonna happen. Um, you know, Facebook and social media, it's great. It gives you a message out there. So you've gotta think of social media as yours, your kind of message that's going out regularly.

[00:12:20] It might bring you a. A short-term booking. Uh, that's the same with Facebook ads and Google Ads that will bring you a. Your short-term win, s e o is your long-term win. That's your planting your trees for next year, the year after. That's establishing your business. You're building a really good base and looking after your future.

[00:12:43] Yeah. So you, I kind of say to people, you've got to do both. Um, so you've gotta look after tomorrow to get a booking. That's your social media and you've got to look after your next year's bookings. That's your s e o. Um, and if you always think like that, I think you can build a business quite nicely. Um, now the second part of your question was about what people can do.

[00:13:04] There are plenty of free tools out there. Um, AHF is one of them. Uh, Neil They've all got introductory free offers where you can use it for three months or a basic, um, freemium service, and it will tell you what's wrong with your website. Um, even if just some of the things that are wrong with your website.

[00:13:25] Well, I can tell you now that most people are not doing it. Um, I, I, I do SEO audits quite a lot and, and on audit people websites now. In nine out of 10 people's audits, the score comes back to about 75%. Well, just by fixing some really basic things, you'll be at 85 or 90%. So I know you're gonna be ahead of nine, nine outta 10 of your competitors just by fixing, fixing some broken links, adding some more content to your, to your page, um, you know, getting your keywords right.

[00:13:59] And that will look after your future business. You'll then outran, uh, the b and b down the road or your local competitor.


[00:14:06] Liam: Thank you. If you're listening in on the Boostly podcast or if you watch it on the YouTube channel, we know there are a lot of places that you can put your attention and I appreciate you putting it with Boostly.

[00:14:15] Uh, that's it for this episode and we look forward to seeing you on the next one. Craig, were there any last, uh, moment questions or, or anything I missed or comments?

[00:14:23] Craig: Uh, no, I don't think so. Just thank you to, uh, you and Mark for everything you do. Thank you. Having a blast. Gonna get it on the Boostly podcast.

[00:14:31] Bruce Lee led Bruce Lee cuz it's so hard on the tees Loose leaf. Making up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.