The hospitality industry had a challenging 2020 and 2021, but the picture is beginning to look a little rosier.
As consumers all over the UK gain confidence in the idea of travel and accommodation, hotels can once again consider marketing campaigns.
There is an elephant in the room here, though. Marketing can be costly, and times are famously hard for many small and medium-sized entities. Forget what you've heard about speculation being essential for accumulation, though.
Here are six cost-effective – even free – approaches that anybody can take to hotel marketing.
1. Master Local SEO
The first, and arguably more important, step to hotel marketing is understanding and mastering local SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation.
While listing directories like Hotels.com , Booking.com and Tripadvisor.com will always be popular, many people still start their search for accommodation with Google. It's essential to be as close as possible to the top of the first page.
This could be achieved with paid advertising but can quickly become a costly approach that yields a limited return on investment.
Organic escalation is much better. Ensure your hotel ticks the boxes required for local SEO by:
Creating a Google business account
Attracting as many reviews as you can
Ensuring all contact details, including telephone numbers, are up to date on all online business directories – you may be surprised at how many there are!
Making use of local interest keywords throughout your site, especially the homepage
The last step is arguably the most important but also the easiest to get wrong.
Do not assume that simply spamming your website with references to your location is enough.
Google sees through this transparent technique and will penalise your site. When embracing local SEO in your hotel marketing, aim for a keyword density of 3-5% of your total word count.
2. Social Media Hashtags
So many businesses use hashtags on social media, but so few do so efficiently. The secret for hospitality marketing is not creating a new hashtag centred exclusively around your company but instead to piggyback on existing viral discussion points and raise awareness.
Sometimes, this approach is obvious. When late January arrives, and the internet is ablaze with talk of #ValentinesDay, ensure you're marketing your hotel as a potential romantic getaway spot.
Of course, you'll be battling against an awful lot of noise on such a significant date, though. Never neglect the power of fun and silly holidays that delight the internet. Look out for a hashtag that's relevant to your offering – whether that's your business itself or just your location.
For example, if a celebrated bakery neighbours you, encourage people to visit your town – and stay with you – around #NationalCupcakeDay on December 15th. Encourage guests to take a drive to your location on April 5th, aka #ReadARoadMapDay. Help the housework-averse escape their responsibilities on #MakeYourBedDay (September 11th) with a hotel stay that offers turndown service. You get the picture.
3. Partner with local and national businesses
The economy has been harsh for many industries over the last 18 months, so any business will appreciate the opportunity to save money on marketing. Teaming up can ensure that an increasing number of guests find your hotel.
Think about local or nationwide business ventures that will attract a similar client base to your hotel. Shops that deal with the wedding industry, for example, or local eateries. By name-checking each other, you and your partner business can both enjoy the fruits of each other's marketing campaigns.
4. Target abandoned bookings
In early 2019, when the hospitality industry was thriving, an eye-watering 84.63% of hotel bookings were abandoned before checkout. There could be a range of explanations for this. Maybe the guest was window shopping for prices in the area, or even just checking availability in case they needed accommodation for an unconfirmed event. Either way, that's a lot of potential income left on the table.
Wherever possible, capture essential first-party data from these abandoned bookings before the consumers leave your site. An email address is ideal. This means that you can follow up with a message to remind the guest to finish their checkout. At worst, the recipient will ignore you. At best, you will remind a guest to stay with you, either now or in the future.
5. Keep in touch with former guests
Similar to attempting to tempt abandoned bookings back to your site, do not forget the importance of consumer loyalty. It costs five times as much to attract a new customer as to retain an existing enthusiast. Somebody that has stayed with you before knows how your hotel operates and what to expect.
You could offer a reward card for repeat guests, such as the celebrated Hilton Honours system. Be a little cautious here, though. Hilton is a huge chain, with branches worldwide – business travellers will always have access to a member of this hotel family. Smaller businesses may lack such reach, and as a result, may look a little desperate.
Instead, try to tempt people back with a discount on their next stay, or even a free meal. This approach to hospitality marketing may cost a small amount of money in the longer term, but it brings income that your hotel may otherwise have been missed.
Better yet, make the guests help you out in return for their future discount by offering it in exchange for a review on Trip Advisor and Google. This is another effective complimentary marketing stream, as more reviews will push your hotel ever higher up the local search charts.
6. Content marketing
Finally, we have content marketing. Now, let's be clear about something here – content marketing is very much a case of playing the long game. Content marketing can pay dividends if you're prepared to be patient, though. If you're looking for faster solutions, consider the five steps we've already discussed.
Content marketing aims to attract an audience to your business website by offering valuable information. Usually, this involves penning long-form blogs, but it could also include creating videos or infographics. This material is not designed to convince somebody to make a booking on the spot. Instead, you're simply raising awareness of your hotel and brand.
The beauty of content marketing is that you have no limit to the subjects you can cover. As long as they are tangentially connected to your hotel or the hospitality industry, anything goes. Create this content with SEO and social media in mind, ensuring that you get plenty of eyeballs on your website.
Eventually, you'll gain a reputation as a reliable, entertaining and enjoyable source of information. This means that consumers will immediately gravitate to your business when looking for a particular answer to a question or even just to kill time while playing with their smartphone.
Either way, the result is the same. Long-term followers of your content will always keep your hotel in mind when they need somewhere to stay in a specific town or city. Better yet, if your content is compelling enough, you'll convince your audience to visit. Naturally, when they do so, they will only have one choice of hotel.
As you'll see, hospitality marketing does not need to cost the earth. If you plan your approach carefully, you can enjoy a maximum reward for a minimum outlay. There is no reason to struggle in an uncertain financial climate. Make the most of any free hotel marketing opportunities and celebrate the return on investment they provide.