Independent hotels face several challenges in order to survive in the highly competitive hospitality industry. Unlike chain hotels who have big budget and large marketing team to position their brand and attract business, Independent hotels often have very limited budget and small marketing team. However, Internet marketing has become a blessing for such independent hotels who can make the most of this cost-effective medium to reach out to their target audience.
Apart from online marketing options, there are some important tips and techniques that can be used to market independent hotels and to gain the fair market share without spending any money on Ads.
SMART Hotel Marketing Plan
At first, create a marketing plan that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART). Don’t just create one for the sake of having one. Your marketing plan should dictate your current status and the practical result you want to achieve in a given time frame.
A good hotel marketing plan also includes SWOT analysis based on actual data, not assumptions. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Also, find your Unique Selling Points (USPs) and promote them wisely but not all in a single campaign.
A comprehensive and documented plan will help you remain on track and achieve your goal. Once ready, you need to discuss the whole plan periodically in exhaustive detail with the teams especially the Sales & Marketing team.
Relationship with Local Trade Bodies and Associations
Prepare a list of trade organizations who are mainly involved in import and export business. Then, get your hotel listed on their directories and publications online and offline so all members notice your presence and offerings. Maintain a good relation with the personnel working in the secretariat because they are the ones who can recommend your hotel to their customers.
Besides, you should arrange corporate night program annually where you can invite key stakeholder in your target market to visit your property. Thus, you can make them your spokesperson in the market who will not only buy from you but also contribute to the ‘word-of-mouth’ advertising.
Participation in Request for Proposal (RFP) or Expression of Interest (EoI)
MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions/Events) is a very large market segment that deserves your due attention. This market is also known as ‘Meetings Industry or Events Industry’. MICE customers usually request for proposal online or offline and ask for a price quotation for their bulk purchase of rooms or meeting venues with foods. So, this is a great opportunity to harvest huge revenue with minimal cost and effort.
To ensure your timely participation in the bidding process, you have to be looking for such opportunity on the Internet and other sources like newspapers. Websites like Sabre can help you take part in the negotiation process in exchange for their subscription. However, it’s well worth the money you spend for their subscription.
Social Media Marketing
In this Internet era, online marketing is taking over the marketing world by storm. The good news is that unlike traditional marketing, most of the digital marketing channels are still cost-effective. Therefore, using them to your advantage will bring good results.
Due to the explosive growth of social media user base, it is wise to have a separate social media marketing plan. After finding out where your target customers spend time socializing and networking, join in and contribute to their conversation naturally in order to build trust. Yes, people buy from people who they trust.
Usually, hotels send an after-departure questionnaire to the checked out guest requesting him/her to take part in a Guest Satisfaction Survey such as Medallia. If you have this type of experience measurement system in operation, you should include a question as to which social media platform(s) the guest use so you can adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. In addition, your need to motivate your staff so they willingly contribute to your social media marketing initiatives with their active engagement.
These days, high quality and expert freelancers are available to take full charge of your digital marketing program saving you a huge amount of money you would otherwise have spent on an In-House digital media executive. Usually, the freelance digital media coordinator will also write lean content for inbound marketing on all social platforms. The sooner you take the professional support of a Digital Marketer, the better the result will be in terms of harvesting the fair share.
Do you think Email marketing means spamming? The answer is a big no. It is, in fact, very effective as it establishes a direct communication between you and the potential buyer. Yes, Email marketing is still a very important part of marketing. To do it right you have to make all online channels especially website and blog lead generation machine. If done right you will have a robust email database for your nice content to market directly.
Staff should be well trained to acknowledge and value your repeat customers and build a meaningful relationship with them. They should make every attempt to collect the business card of the guests whenever possible especially during check-in, check-out, and dining at the restaurant.
Thus, you can grow your guest database and email them with targeted content like thank you mail after departure, birthday greetings, and offerings, etc. These are very small things but make a big difference, resulting in making them a loyal customer.
Dynamic, Optimized, and Responsive Website
Your website is a window of your hotel and a great marketing tool as well. A truly dynamic, optimized, and responsive website acts as a Salesperson who works 24/7. A properly optimized (Search Engine Optimization - SEO) and professional looking website builds trust among your visitors and converts them into buyers.
Video testimonials from your customers are of very useful that establish your credibility upfront. However, in order to market the hotel with the help of your website, it is advisable that you do the following.
Firstly, dynamic website with integrated booking engine will show your up-to-date room inventory and offer instant booking facility. So, visitors can reserve rooms, restaurants, and banquet venue automatically without hassle. Moreover, websites like Amadeus LinkHotel distribute your live inventory with dynamic pricing to major GDS (Global Distribution System). As a result, GDS Travel professionals will be able to book rooms directly from the platform helping you generate thousands of room night each year.
Next important thing is optimizing your website for search engines. Without proper optimization, your website will not be displayed on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and will not get enough traffic that you actually deserve. Unlike paid optimization such as Google AdWords, organic SEO will cost you an affordable and reasonable amount of money.
Finally, you have to pay attention to the user experience. Nowadays, customers use a variety of devices to browse websites and purchase what they need. And, most of them are using smartphones or tablets to book flights and hotels. So, it is very important that your site is absolutely responsive to all device size. If possible, try having a mobile version of your website to offer a pleasant experience to your visitors.
Travel Review Sites and Online Reputation Management (ORM)
Nowadays, a growing number of potential customers read online reviews first before they make the booking with an unknown hotel. So, travel review sites like TripAdvisor play a vital role in making the purchasing decision. That’s why it is of utmost importance to maintain a good ranking on review sites especially on TripAdvisor and Yelp. You can tie up with such review sites and Online Travel Agents (OTAs) to promote your property in return for a commission paid to them.
Your Digital Media Manager should constantly monitor and manage your online reputation and safeguard it from unwanted reviews. S/he will always look for negative review if any and then will address it very promptly keeping your reputation intact.
In conclusion, you should make the most of Internet marketing options before long. Effective online marketing will help you get ahead of the competition. In addition to having a freelance Inbound Content Marketer and Digital Marketing Expert, you need to automate the whole operation and marketing system with the help of an ‘All-in-One’ marketing automation solutions like Revinate.
You may have nice suggestions to share with the readers. Please feel free to do so in the comment section below. Besides, the author may be contacted for additional advice and is reachable at Ebarak.Hossain@XpertWriter.com.