With its stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, and friendly, welcoming attitude, it’s not difficult to see why visitors flock by the thousands to the North Yorkshire coast every year. But with so many accommodation options to choose from, how do you make sure that your business stands head and shoulders above the rest?
We spoke to Ed Blakeley, owner of Scarborough’s Atlanta Hotel, to see how he harnesses the power of online marketing. Using his popular business’s online presence, he not only attracts customers but ensures that they return time and time again.
Ensure that you offer a quality experience
First and foremost, you have to make sure that your marketing matches your offer. Many guests will choose to patronise you based on your online presence. It is your responsibility to ensure that what they see is what they find when they check in. For Ed, this is the key to success. He adds, “Our most powerful marketing tool is our reputation and quality of the product.”
Keep an eye on your reviews
Online review sites, TripAdvisor in particular, have become the first port of call for would-be customers. Using them effectively can help to further manage the reputation of your business. Ed says, “TripAdvisor is a very useful tool. It’s still the number one point of reference that customers look at when making a choice.” Check your online reviews regularly and take on board any negative feedback. Listening to your customers is vital to ensure that you continue to offer what they want, whether that’s free Wi-Fi, a wider menu selection, or evening dinner upon request. Customer feedback and reviews are an excellent way to check the success of your marketing. Make sure you use them to optimum effect.
Engage with online travel agents, but take care to keep control
Some customers prefer to book through OTAs like Late Rooms, Expedia, and Booking.com. Because they’re so popular, these services are vital tools when it comes to attracting guests. But Ed urges a note of caution. “OTAs play a vital role in the expansion of our business, but make sure you use them, rather than them using you!”
Your website is your window on the world
Most would-be guests will use your website to get a taste of the experience they can expect during their stay. Keep that site fresh, keep it up-to-date, and, like the Atlanta Hotel, use real customer reviews to showcase your successes. Don’t forget to offer customers the chance to book directly through your website. Ed uses Eviivo to great effect. In fact, almost half of his customers now book there. He hopes to increase this percentage even further in the next few years.
Don’t forget the power of social media
After TripAdvisor, Ed finds that Facebook and Twitter are his most important tools for giving the Atlanta Hotel a prominent online presence. Ensure that all of your social media channels are updated regularly with special offers and news. This will maintain your business as a regular presence in your followers’ timelines and keep your business at the forefront of their minds. When they want to book a room, they’ll immediately think of you.
Keep guests coming back time after time
Repeat custom is vital. As Ed says, “You can’t build a successful business without repeat bookings, especially if you want to ‘stand alone.’ Around 50 to 60 percent of our bookings are repeat ones.” If you follow Ed’s pointers and offer what guests want, then this should be an organic process. Ed adds, “Repeat bookings should just happen. If you offer a quality service, many guests will want to come back without you having to market to them. It is also important for you to make it more attractive for them to book directly with you, rather than through a middleman.”
Ed’s marketing strategy for the Atlanta Hotel is so successful that, aside from business cards and word of mouth, he now does no offline advertising whatsoever. He has one last piece of advice for those wanting to follow in his footsteps: “Make sure your product matches or exceeds your image. You can have the best website in the world – which is what you need to be striving for – but if you don’t deliver the goods, guests will feel let down and they will not return.”