During this past week I’ve noticed mornings are becoming chillier, the leaves are slowly beginning to turn, and as I write this, rain is steadily falling from a stone-gray morning sky. Fall is coming. This may bring a sigh of relief from lodging operators coming out of a crazy busy summer, but the end of the peak travel season is bittersweet; while fall offers a bit of a breather, it also spells a decline in occupancy. The upside is that quieter times present the opportunity to do those important things you didn’t get the chance to do over summer — to reflect on, assess and improve operations and revitalize your fall marketing campaigns to boost business during the shoulder season.
If your fall marketing is getting a little stale, now’s a good time to look for some inspiration. Start with thinking about who your guests are during the fall season. With kids back in school, are you seeing mostly baby boomers and young millennials? Business travelers? What about families traveling from nearby for weekend trips? Tailor your marketing efforts to your fall customers for maximum conversion. With that in mind, here are some ideas to work with…
>> Review Feedback
Read through all those reviews you amassed over summer to find out why guests chose your property, what they liked about it and what they didn’t. Analysing guest feedback is one of the best ways to identify areas for improvement in both operations and marketing.
Reviews can shine a light on gaps between guest expectation and experience and, therefore, areas in your marketing that may be misleading. Align your marketing more closely with the positive aspects of your guests’ actual experience and reap the rewards of more satisfied guests and positive reviews. Guest feedback can also reveal unique selling points that you have not considered before, offering you a fresh perspective to promote. For example, you might be focusing your marketing efforts on your trendy boutique décor while your customers are actually more appreciative of your historic location.
>> Highlight User-Generated Content (UGC)
Now with a little more time on your hands, search out guests’ positive tweets and photos about your property on social media that you may have missed over summer, and share them on your own social media pages. Add comments like, “What a great summer! Thanks for spending some time with us, [insert guest name here]! Hope to see you again next year!” Be sure to tag or credit the guest.
By building trust and providing prospective customers with social proof, positive UGC can be one of your most powerful marketing tools. For more tips on making the most of user-generated content our recent blog post on the subject might help.
>> Celebrate Fall Holidays
Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! There’s lots to celebrate in fall — Halloween, Thanksgiving and Oktoberfest are the big events. If you haven’t taken advantage of these holidays in your marketing efforts before, or you do the same thing year over year, it might be time to spice things up with a big celebration or something subtle yet novel.
Some ideas for on-property events include costume parties, cooking classes and wine tastings, or how about running a pumpkin carving workshop with an expert pumpkin carver? If you offer dining on site, consider creating a special menu to celebrate the holidays, or simply create a signature holiday cocktail.
If you google “unusual holidays” you’ll discover that September is Classical Music Month and Better Breakfast Month, and September 22nd is Elephant Appreciation Day. In October we have Seafood Month, National Golf Day (October 4th) and Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day (October 11th), and November brings National Sleep Comfort Month and Go for a Ride Day (November 22nd). There are literally hundreds of bizarre and wonderful little-known yet official holidays waiting to be celebrated. Can you feel those creative juices flowing in your mind already?
Whether a special dining package in celebration of Thanksgiving, or complimentary teddy bears for business guests to mark Take Your Teddy Bear To Work Day, market your holiday festivities on your website, on social media and in your newsletter. User-generated content will do the rest!
>> Promote Seasonal Activities & Local Events
From leaf peeping to winery or brewery tours, and Halloween festivals to football games, lodging operators can help drum up excitement about local activities and events to attract visitors to the area and, thereby, their property.
Consider developing relationships with tour operators and event organizers to offer guests packages that include activities or event tickets, or discounts. Seasonal events and activities can also inspire fun social media campaigns, for example, asking guests to share photos of their prettiest fall colours or scariest Halloween face. Or simply add value by providing your customers with helpful tips about seasonal things to do in your area across your digital channels — on your website, blog and social media.
>> Create a Local Fall Guide
Most hotels offer recommendations for local activities, attractions and restaurants year round via concierge services, their website and printed in-room guides. Why not create a special local fall guide highlighting suggestions especially for fall visitors? A fall guide could feature the best spots for viewing fall foliage, restaurants offering special fall menus, where to experience popular fall activities such as golf, wine tasting and hiking, and community events like Halloween festivals, corn mazes and pumpkin patches.
Add your fall guide to your website, concierge app, and provide printed copies in your lobby and guestrooms. Include the website link to your fall guide in reservation confirmation and pre-arrival emails for fall stays, and in related social media posts.
>> Rev Up Your Fall Social Media Campaigns
As mentioned above, fall fun provides plenty of inspiration for social media campaigns. In addition to sparking conversations about local events and activities, you can really get creative with your seasonal social media engagement efforts. Consider those unusual fall holidays we talked about above… Let’s take National Seafood Month in October as an example — if your property runs fishing charters, or a lot of your guests enjoy fishing while staying with you, ask them to share photos of their catch on Facebook or Twitter to win a prize. Or simply ask guests to tweet about their favourite fish dish on your menu to win a free meal.
We hope these ideas generate some inspiration for fresh fall marketing efforts that you and your guests can get excited about!