If you are reading this blog, there’s a fair chance that you are an independent hotel, guesthouse, or holiday cottage owner. You’re also probably looking for advice on how to improve your marketing.
The Bad News: There are thousands of articles written by people telling you how to accomplish this.
The Good News: I reached out to a range of experts and asked them for the best of these tips.
The question I asked was, “What one piece of advice would you pass onto independent hospitality owners when it comes to the marketing of their property?”
Here are their answers.
“I would say play to your strengths. Your hotel can’t be everything to everyone and that’s fine. Find your sweet spot, whether it be location, amenities, an amazing on-site restaurant, a health and wellness focus, or even just a great price point, and play it up.
Make sure you communicate your differentiators and your personality throughout all of your marketing (website, social media etc) and tell your unique story.”
Great advice from Meisha: Find your story and tell everyone about it. We actually went into more depth about this with The Waves, Scarborough.
Brian Fitzgerald – Vice President of Digital Strategy at O’Rouke Hospitality Marketing
“I would say an independent hotel needs to protect their brand from third-parties and focus on driving as many direct reservations as possible.”
I agree 100% with Brian here: protect your brand. Otherwise, you WILL lose direct bookings to the Online Travel Agents.
“There’s no substitute for a great experience. Every dollar/pound you spend on making your hotel more comfortable, making your staff friendlier, your rooms cleaner is paid back tenfold in good word of mouth and repeat business. A lot of people think that marketing is about slapping lipstick on a pig and making the pig more attractive to potential customers. Sooner or later, folks will realise that they bought a pig. If you have a great product, your customers will be your best marketing channel.”
Stuart is a Brit living abroad in South Carolina, USA. He hosts the excellent Fuel Travel Podcast, to which I am a regular listener. The advice he gives here is spot-on! Use your customers to shout about your property. The best example we can share with you is included in our interview with Alec and Jules from The Beaches, Scarborough.
“Personally, I think that making sure that online marketing is part of a wider marketing and sales strategy is essential for having an efficient and effective presence. Alongside this, the strategy needs to have a ‘goal’ as to what the business wants to achieve from their marketing and make sure this is tracked and analysed to ensure the relevant goals have been met. I like to use the analogy of running; if you go for a run and don’t set a goal of time or distance you tend to do very little, but with a goal you often get to that point and sometimes beat that target.”
This is a great analogy from Steve. He’s gone very technical, so I’ll break his answer down into layman’s terms.
Set a goal with all of your marketing. Every pound or penny that you spend must be associated with a goal that you want to achieve. Write that goal down, stick it up in the office, and look at it every day. An example of this could be, “I’m going to spend £500 on www.Yorkshire.com this year and I want to get £1000 of bookings from it.” Then go and ensure that your listing is doing the best it possibly can. Chase up with your account manager every quarter and ask for them to send through the stats on how your listing is doing.
The biggest mistake people make is that they launch an advert and then forget about it. My analogy is this: if you have a garden, you have to continuously water it, tend to it, and cut it back to keep it appealing. If you leave it, it will overgrow and start to look awful.
The same should apply to your advertising. Just set aside 10 minutes every month or quarter to tend to your advertising and you will achieve your year-end goals.
“In hospitality, location is key and a vital part of the digital strategy, whether it is local SEO or location-based targeting for marketing campaigns. Make sure that in this competitive industry you are not just seen, you stand out. Be the authority in your physical location and go beyond your basic service offering. Don’t just please your visitors, delight them, give them a reason to come back and to tell their friends.”
This is great advice from David. Don’t just please your visitors, delight them! Ask yourself this: what is the most popular service that you provide to your customers? That’s your means of delighting your customers. Focus on it in your marketing!
“Diversify your distribution mix. Don’t be afraid to experiment and analyse which channels work best for you. Also, have full ownership and control of your direct marketing channels, especially your hotel website.”
Thank you to Siteminder for answering my question. For those who don’t know, Siteminder is now in their 10th year of changing the hospitality industry! I totally agree with these guys: test, test, and test some more. There’s no set right or wrong way to choose which OTA or website you market with. You need to figure out what is working and what isn’t, and then go from there. I encourage everyone to study the 80/20 rule.
A massive thank-you to all the experts who kindly took time out of their busy days to get back to me.