Effective Hotel Marketing In Four Easy Steps
Marketing Strategies for Independent Hotels
In order to be successful, independent hotels must have a solid marketing strategy in place. Imagine a scenario where a person needs a hotel room and there are at least a dozen hotels in the general area where they could stay. The individual could pick one at random and hope for the best, or they could do a little research online and find a hotel that fits their budget, offers the amenities they want, and has supportive reviews. Ask yourself: does my independent hotel have an online presence?
If that potential paying customer did not make a reservation, but sees several hotels along main street, which hotel are they most likely to stop at first? Chances are they are going to stop at a familiar brand like a Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott or Best Western. Choosing an unfamiliar independent hotel would probably not be their first choice, unless there is a particularly original theme that sets it apart. For starters, a hotel owner or sales manager can ask, does my independent hotel have curb appeal?
Major hotel chains spend millions of dollars each year to market their hotels. Competition for the paying guest is fierce and it is crucial for a hotel to develop its own identity. As the owner of an independent hotel, you may not have the resources to spend what the competition spends, but you still need to mount a campaign that separates you from the competition.
How to Create a Marketing Plan That Can Help Your Hotel: Four Easy Steps
1. Build Awareness – You can tell the world, or at least plenty of people, that you exist. As an independent hotel, you do not have the same name recognition as the bigger hotel chains. You can build brand awareness in many ways.
• Invest in signage that displays your hotel’s name so it can easily be seen from the road. The signs should be on your property as well as on roads leading to your hotel.
• Participate in community events and causes.
• Within your budget, advertise in print, on TV, or on radio.
• Take advantage of the power of the Internet. Social media is the most inexpensive and often most effective way of getting your name known.
2. Create an Image – Image is important because it helps define your hotel to the public. No hotel can be all things to all people. There is a reason why hotel accommodations range in categories from budget to luxury. Do you want to cater to family travelers, business travelers, or millennials? You can choose to be the trendiest hotel in town, or the best-value hotel, the most eco-friendly hotel, or the hotel that has the best free breakfast.
3. Develop Your Customer Base – It is always good news when a guest checks in to your hotel, but even better news when they like it so much that they come back again and again. By always providing great service with a big smile, you can develop a loyal customer base. Develop your customer base by building a mailing list. Then, use that mailing list to send thank-you notes to the people who stayed at your hotel. In the thank-you message, direct them to your website and ask them if they would like to receive your hotel’s newsletter. Entice them by offering a special rate on their next visit.
4. Use Powerful Advertising Messages – All hotels are expected to have clean rooms, comfortable beds, and ice machines on every floor. You want to set your hotel apart from the competition. The best way to do that is to emphasize what you do better than anyone else. Do you have an indoor swimming pool? Does your hotel have direct access to the beach? Does your hotel use non-toxic soaps and practice a user-friendly recycling program? Point it out, use your assets to your advantage!
Implementing Your Hotel’s New Marketing Plan
It is one thing to recognize that you need to have a better marketing plan than the one you currently have, it is an entirely different thing to know how to implement a better and more effective plan. Consider these suggestions for implementing a new plan:
1. Your Marketing Budget – It would be nice to have unlimited funds to create an outstanding marketing plan, but that is not always the reality for most independent hotel owners. Responsibly determine how much you can spend each year, or each month, and then decide how to allocate those funds.
2. Identify Your Target Market – Do some research and try to determine the audience that you are trying to reach. A scattered and disorganized approach is usually more expensive and less effective than focusing in on a group that is most likely to become a customer.
3. Choosing a Marketing Mix – You have limited funds, so you want to spend those in the most cost-effective way. You have many choices including newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, flyers, and direct mail. While those traditional methods still have some value, you get the biggest bang for the buck by creating a marketing mix that includes social media, videos and mobile marketing. You can reach more people for less money on Facebook or Twitter than with a slick brochure or a magazine ad. Remember also that by advertising online, you are saving trees by not printing on paper – point this out in your professionally designed online ad!
4. Stay within your Marketing Budget – It may be tempting to borrow money from some other sector of your hotel’s operations budget, but try not to. Never neglect pressing needs. Try simply to spend the money you originally budgeted for marketing more wisely.
5. Professional Help – Marketing is what brings customers through your hotel’s front door. Guests do not just show up by accident. If you or your staff does not have the required marketing skills, you are probably better off using your marketing budget to hire a professional marketing team.
A Few More Practical Tips
• Research and study the latest trends in hotel marketing. You do not want to model your marketing campaign on programs that worked 20 years ago, but are no longer relevant today. Doing business with a smile, however, is a constant that never goes out of style.
• Hold meetings with your staff and encourage them to share thoughts they may have about new ways to market your hotel. Make sure that everyone understands their role in carrying out whatever marketing plan you decide to use, for example being active in positive constructive ways on social networks.
• Check-out the competition to see how they are marketing their brand.
Your new marketing plan may not produce noticeable improvements in revenues in the very first month or two that it is implemented. Be sure to record your monthly revenues when your new plan begins. Then, keep records and measure your occupancy and daily room rates each month. If the plan is good, you should see a marked improvement in your numbers.
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