Eight Points to Propel Your Hotel Marketing to the Next Tier
Hotel Marketing is arguably tougher than a lot of the marketing I do on a day to day basis. In lots of cases I’m saying “oh, you don’t want to go there? How about over here” (Timeshare Exchange), or “Just come to the city. You’re already interested. We’ll put you up somewhere great.” (Vacation Rental)
The individual hotel is a tougher sell.
Competition between hotels, in a limited market, all of them seeking their piece of the same limited number of local visitors is a tough business. Hotels need to be fiercely competitive because there probably won’t be an unlimited flood of guaranteed visitors in any given year.
Here’s what I learned in 18 months slinging content for one of the finest little equestrian centers and boutique country inns outside of Cooperstown, New York.
If rooms are the only thing you’ve got, they better be the very best they can be. Otherwise, make sure your food is exceptional, make sure there are a lot of things onsite or with support onsite for guests to do. On Bedbug Hill they not only book equestrian package vacations, but they are renowned for the most fantastic food – Northern Italian Food – anywhere in the area. They’ve also got a working CSA ranch (members buy annual shares and get an allotment regularly shipped to them) and a dining club means folks keep coming back for more of that food. They are also famous for being no-nonense, friendly, open and giving hosts.
#2) All of the above is Content, too
Even if diversifying doesn’t lead to huge new revenue streams, if you’re breaking even you’ve got something else to build content on. Not just your hotel rooms now, but what you’re cooking, (every)where the ingredients came from and all the things that went into them. Hopefully, you’ve also got some good news from the events you’ve been hosting, or even hosting guests for. A nearby baseball game that brings guests in is fair game. But then so is the convention, the wedding up the street and all those celebrations for which out of town guests would be better off holing up for the night (or a few nights) than driving back home.
You need to be in the front row when ever anyone is inviting anyone else to town. Partnering to host any guests to conferences, meetings or educational events are a great time to offer more and better services. Even very small meetings are an opportunity, and for that matter, if spaces allows, hosting events like these are also a terrific way to fill up your hotel.
#4) Befriend the Big Guys
No matter who is bringing a lot of people to town, (in Cooperstown it’s the National Baseball Hall of Fame) make sure they know who you are. All of your museums, parks and attractions are in the business of bringing in people, whether they’re bringing them in for work or for their own customers. Check out all of their websites. Know who they are and how they work in the social media. They might be more on Facebook (b2c) or more on LinkedIn (b2b) but in both cases, if they are there then you’ve got an opportunity to be social with them and to share their content. Get in the habit of sharing it, commenting and highlighting the things they are doing and what they’re interested in.
One of the things that has made B & B Ranch really stand out has been it’s steadfast adherence public and often restated values. In the B & B’s case, they can be reflected in the quality of homegrown and locally grown foods, but also in the outdoor activities and animal husbandry they practice. These things work wonders for building a following and a community and the kind of people who will do some marketing on your behalf. The point is really, stating what your business believes in and stands for makes for a great excuse for knowing lots of similar minded people. Selling is not a value.
#6) Prioritize Attractions
If everyone is coming to town for the Baseball Hall of Fame, then concentrate on the less-important events and the less well known attractions. In fact, the secret places and the hidden treasures of your area are what will make you into the expert in your area. Visitors value that and will come back to your site. Make it easy to find information and share as much of it as you can.
If some of those attractions are schools, universities, community colleges and institutes – then we’re in business. Even local education and training centers work wonders. Getting links from .edu domains is great, but these are also some real hubs for local activities, scholarship, research, etc etc. You already know this. Be smart. Treat your guests smart, and like we say all the time, teaching through your marketing is even better than marketing. If you get credit when every guest learns something, then you will never lack for business.
#8) Social Media is Marketing
Lots of business people claim to be really lost at Social Media, but it’s the marketing they are really lost it. If you can’t be social, then your attempts at marketing are going to smack of desperation, over-selling and annoying advertising placed in the wrong places. Don’t do it. Your hotel is better off just sharing the stuff of others, whether you think it is beautiful or funny or interesting. But if you’ve got specials – or anything with a price – it’s best to just leave that out of your social media. Be friendly. Be interesting. But don’t let your brand be pushing anything – except free and interesting.
One last thing: HUMOR. There isn’t a single guest to B & B Ranch who doesn’t get the irony of the “worst possible street name for a hotel.” Grin and bear it. Don’t take make your brand into Leona Helmsly unless you’re really going for the private helicopter set. If that’s the case, good luck to you. For everyone, an honest smile and a sense of humor will work wonders.