Marketing 101: A Guide for Independent Hoteliers

There are a lot of moving parts to juggle when running a hotel. From property maintenance to managing staff to ensuring guest satisfaction, it’s easy to spend all your time attending to on-site matters. While it’s obviously critical to ensure a quality experience at your hotel, you won’t have any guests to impress if you’re ignoring your marketing duties. We recognize that marketing can seem overwhelming and unwieldy (chain hotels employ entire departments for the task after all), so we’ve created an outline summarizing the platforms you need to prioritize. Welcome to our crash course in marketing for independent hoteliers!

Website

Creating and maintaining a website is the most important thing you can do to market your property. This is the first place a potential guest will go to find out more about, and judge the legitimacy of, your hotel. When attending to your property’s webpage you should consider:

Design >> Considering your website will likely be the first point of contact, make sure it looks professional. People expect sites to be visually-pleasing, intuitive to navigate and mobile-friendly. If they don’t like your page, they’ll navigate away without a second thought. First impressions matter!

Content >> As an independent hotel your strength is your individuality. Use your website to highlight your property’s unique charm with professionally shot images and personalized copy.

Functionality >> Getting a browser’s attention with your website is the hard part, so don’t miss the opportunity to turn it into a sale. Incorporate a booking engine directly into your web page to maximize conversion rates and score direct bookings.

SEO >> Now that you’ve expended so much time and effort on your website, you need to make sure people can find it! Optimize your placement in search engine results by (authentically) incorporating keywords throughout your website copy and in your meta-description.

The previous tips are essential for an effective site, but like anything in life, there is always room for improvement. If you’ve tackled the primary aspects of your website and want to take it even further, think about upping the ante with these advanced options:

Blog >> An excellent way to get traffic on your site, and inch your way up search engine pages, is to add and update content continually. Blogging can be a powerful way to keep your site dynamic and showcase your hotel’s unique personality. Bear in mind, a blog can be a big commitment and will only be effective if you give it the TLC it requires.

Landing Pages >> Using landing pages can have a huge effect on your conversion rates. Start by creating a ‘Book Now’ landing page and work up to creating pages for special packages, upselling, and targeted campaigns. You can never have too many landing pages!

If you need help designing (or revamping) your website, feel free to contact our design team today.

Social Media

Effective marketing is all about reaching potential guests. You need to bring your brand to the people, and the people are on social media. When constructing your social media presence, start with Facebook (which has over two billion monthly active users!) and then consider incorporating other popular sites as you see fit. Regardless of the social site in question, make sure you:

Understand the platform >> Each social media platform is different and should be utilized in a different way. Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Snapchat, not every vehicle is going to be suited to your marketing needs. Understand the value of each platform, choose the ones that compliment your business, and then use them appropriately.

Don’t seem corporate >> Social media is by nature very personal. People are using it to express themselves and engage with one another, so your business’s activity should reflect that authenticity. Posts can be funny, sincere or even silly, but overt advertisements will not be effective on these sites.

Engage >> Don’t think of your profiles as a one-sided conversation. Social sites are dynamic communities. Actively engage with your guests by replying to comments, liking their posts and sharing content you think they’ll like (not just specifically about your property). You may even want to consider holding social media competitions which will have users interacting with your brand (and expanding your marketing reach).

Online Travel Agencies

Whatever your opinion of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), they are an integral part of marketing for all hotels (independent and otherwise). While you should be doing what you can to maximize direct bookings, it’s a good idea to make the most out of your OTA presence. Take some time to:

Manage your profile >> There is a lot of competition on OTAs. Stand out by completing all the fields on your profile, curating a collection of professionally shot images, highlighting special promotions and keeping all information and inventory up-to-date.

Optimize your placement >> Each OTA has a unique search algorithm and will typically offer suggestions for optimizing your placement on their site. Do what you can to capitalize on this advice.

Review Sites

The internet is littered with websites dedicated to reviewing products, services, and businesses. This matters because 92% of shoppers read online reviews. While you can’t control what people post about you online, that doesn’t mean you should ignore these sites. On the contrary, there is a lot you can do to manage your reputation on these platforms. There is no way you can address every review site online, so pick the major players (like Trip Advisor) and be sure to:

Claim your profile >> The first step to making review sites work for you is to claim your profile. This will allow you to keep the information on your profile accurate and up-to-date, and add a link to your online booking engine (yay for direct bookings!). These sites also typically include analytics that you can use for your own marketing analysis.

Respond to reviews >> Claiming your profile will allow you to take one of the most important steps in managing your online reputation: responding to reviews. Every property will experience negative reviews; that just comes with the territory. But the fallout associated with a negative review can vary dramatically depending on how you deal with it. People want to feel heard, so responding (as long as you are polite) will go a long way in rebuilding burnt bridges. Offer your apologies and contact information for further concerns and communication. Remember: your responses are public and will affect the way your property is viewed by general browsers as much as the individual reviewer.

Marketing can be scary—we get that. Take it one step at a time and try not to be overwhelmed. You’ve got this!

A Busy Hotelier’s Guide to Maintaining Online Reputation

In our digital world, online reputation has never been more critical to a hotel’s success. Online reviews and ratings give consumers more confidence in their booking decisions than ever before; in fact, BrightLocal’s latest Local Consumer Review Survey found that 74 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more.

Nurturing a positive online reputation is one of the most powerful marketing strategies any business can employ and most hotel operators consider online reviews important to the success of their business. During the peak season rush, however, it can be easy to lose focus on managing online reputation amid increased urgent demands brought on by high occupancy. But it’s during busy times — when service is prone to slip a little — that it is especially important to maintain a grip on what customers are saying about your property online.

For busy hoteliers, here’s our guide to maintaining online reputation at any time of the year.

Manage Guest Expectations

Avoid negative reviews (and time-consuming and potentially costly reputation repair efforts) by managing guest expectations from the outset. Property descriptions and images on your website, OTA listings, Google My Business listing and tourism association listings, etc. should paint an accurate picture of the stay experience you offer; overpromising only leads to disappointed guests and bad reviews.

Assess your property’s existing reviews and guest feedback to identify what guests love about your hotel and what disappoints them — and, if necessary, adjust your narrative accordingly. For example, if guests consistently complain about the size of your guestrooms, ensure that descriptions clearly state that your rooms are small (but cozy!). When your guests know what to expect they are much less likely to be disappointed.

Automate Monitoring

Keeping track of what people are saying about your property in such a boundless space as the Internet can be a time-consuming and inefficient task. Manually checking various review sites, OTA sites and social networking sites on a regular (ideally daily) basis is difficult to fit into a busy hotelier’s hectic schedule.

But this critically important task can be made quick and easy by setting up automated monitoring and reputation management tools to track all mentions of your property across the Internet. Google Alerts (a free service) allows you to set up an alert for any search term (for example, your property’s name), and then informs you whenever new content featuring the search term is published on a webpage. Social media management tools such as Hootsuite (free and paid versions) provide a single platform from which to monitor numerous social media channels for messages and mentions, as well as schedule posts, engage with followers and access analytics. Then there are powerful reputation management solutions like Revinate, which captures and brings together all your online reviews and social media mentions, and provides a single platform from which to manage your social media accounts, as well as access sentiment analytics.

Simple Surprises Delight

With the push toward personalized service across all hotel segments (not just luxury) to keep up with rising guest expectations, properties are striving to surprise and delight guests to increase customer loyalty and generate positive guest feedback on social media and review sites.

Personalizing the guest experience might seem like a complicated undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Modern hotel technology, including property management systems (PMS), customer relationship management (CRM) software and guest engagement solutions, makes it easy to track and use guest data to identify high-value guests and to personalize every guest’s stay with automated tools, from reservation pop-up notes to automated communications and request tracking.

Surprising and delighting guests doesn’t have to be expensive either. Think of simple gestures your property can implement to make guests feel valued. From handwritten welcome notes or welcome cookies placed in guestrooms, to free room upgrades or late check-out when possible, giving guests a little extra can go a long way with earning their loyalty and advocacy.

Automate Requests for Feedback

Every guest should be given the opportunity to provide feedback about their experience during and after their stay. Even negative comments are valuable to any property when they are warranted and highlight areas that can be improved.

While it’s important to check on guest satisfaction personally during a guest’s stay, the opportunity might not always present itself, for example, if a guest is away from the property for much of the time. Consider in-room tent cards encouraging the guest to let you know if anything can be done to improve their stay. Automated guest engagement solutions can help staff check in with in-house guests via messaging, and track and manage requests and complaints.

According to BrightLocal research, 50 percent of consumers will leave an online review if asked. A couple of days after a guest checks out they should be sent a post-stay email thanking them for staying and inviting them to leave a review online if they enjoyed their stay (providing a direct link from the email helps). Property management systems like WebRezPro allow you to set up automated customized emails or integrate with CRM solutions to streamline guest communications. PMS integrations with online reputation management systems automate the process of emailing guests post-stay surveys that can be published directly to TripAdvisor and Google at the property’s discretion.

Respond to Feedback

Apparently 87 percent of TripAdvisor users say that an appropriate management response to a negative review improves their impression of a property. Done right, management responses have the power to recover disappointed guests and your property’s reputation.

Genuine responses to reviews do take time (canned responses should be avoided) but it’s a critical part of online reputation management. Developing set guidelines on how to handle negative reviews — like Revinate’s Positive “Sandwich” Formula — can help focus and streamline this process.

While your property should aim to respond to all negative reviews (and in a timely manner), it’s not necessary to respond to all positive reviews. In fact, recent research from Cornell University implies that responding to more than 40 percent of reviews (repeating simple thank yous for positive reviews) has a detrimental effect — likely annoying review readers by distracting from the reviews themselves.

Analyze and Act on Feedback

Analyzing reviews and complaints for actionable opportunities for improvement — and implementing those improvements — are also time-consuming but necessary steps in reputation management. Online reputation management solutions like Revinate, however, can make this process much more efficient through sentiment analysis tools that analyze reviews and social media mentions to uncover specific areas of operation that need attention.

Actions speak louder than words. Nothing shows customers that you are listening to them and that you care about their experience more than acting on feedback by making operational improvements where warranted.

 

Maintaining a positive online reputation is key to a property’s success in our digital age. It’s so important not to drop the ball, especially during busy times. Managing guest expectations from the outset, implementing procedures for dealing with complaints and negative reviews, and utilizing modern software to automate processes — such as monitoring online mentions, service personalization, post-stay surveys and analytics — all helps to streamline this critical task on a daily basis, continuously strengthening your online reputation and bringing in more bookings.