March 12, 2019 · Stuart Butler

Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 106 – Top 10 Ways To Reach New Hotel Guests

Assuming that you’ve been implementing all of the tips we’ve provided on the Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast thus far, your property is immaculate and your staff are super-friendly. That means that you don’t have a problem retaining guests. Your repeat visitor numbers are through the roof. However, you still have some soft spots throughout the year that you need to fill up, so you’re going to have to go find new people to stay in those rooms. In this episode, we look at some of the ways that you can spread the word about your property and earn the opportunity to win some new business.
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SHOW NOTES

1. OTAs

OTAs get a bad rap in the hospitality industry. At best, they are “frenemies”, at worst they are “evil blood-sucking vampires who are destroying the industry”. The truth is, that if used properly, OTAs can be a useful source of new business for your hotel.. Their massive advertising campaigns encourage consumers to travel and there’s a large cross-section of the population who will start their vacation planning journey on an OTA site. If you don’t have a presence on these sites, then you run the risk of not being a part if the consideration set for the consumer. Put simply, you have no chance of winning this business unless yo
If you are lucky enough to be discovered on the OTA, there’s a good chance that the consumer will visit your website at least once prior to making a final decision. Your job is to make sure that you do everything you can to persuade that guest that 1. Your property is the right choice, and 2. That they should book direct vs. booking with a third-party. Remember that if you succeed with number 1 but fail with number 2, you still win the business and you’ll have a good shot at getting them to book next time if you follow these simple tips: Convert OTA Guests to In-House Bookings: 5 Ways to Succeed
 
 

2. Influencer Marketing

The value in influencer marketing comes from the fact that the influencer has access to an audience that you don’t have access to. Not only that, but the followers of the influencer typically pay attention to what they have to say. One might say that the influencer has influence over their audience. Weird, huh? The best way to take advantage of this channel is to find influencers that align well with your business. Don’t go wasting money on big celebrity endorsements, rather find smaller communities of people who share interests with your current customer or your target customer. Examples would be to work with mom-bloggers if you’re targeting family travellers, or yoga instructors if you’re focused on health and wellness, or if your property is particularly eco-friendly, find communities of eco-minded people and reach out to content creators such as bloggers and youtubers. If you’d like to learn more about Influencer marketing, check out this recent podcast episode: Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 96 – What Is Influencer Marketing And Is It Right For My Hotel?
 
 

3. Advocacy Marketing

This could be viewed as a subset of influencer marketing. In many ways it is the same, but the approach to maximizing its impact is very different. Think of advocacy marketing as the new-aged version of word-of-mouth. The concept is to turn your existing guests into advocates who go out into the world and become your property’s evangelists.
The reason that this is so effective is because a guest’s circle of influence often consists of  friends, family, and coworkers. These people are often very similar to your existing guest. You’ll be able to reach people of similar age, similar income brackets, similar interests, similar geographic location, etc. There’s not a more well-qualified target audience out there,
If you’re looking to take advantage of  this highly effective approach and you want to unlock this untapped audience, then look no further than our friends at Flip.to. Regardless of your property size, their turn-key advocacy platform automates the process and drives tremendous ROI. Learn more at https://www.flip.to/
 
 

4. Local Relationships

Regardless of your industry, partnering with other businesses and clubs in your area is a great idea. Reaching new guests is all about expanding your network. By being friendly and working collaboratively with your neighbors, you open up the potential for their employees, their customers, and their employees families to all become future guests. Perhaps you could offer a special discount to them, similar to Marriott’s “friends and family” rates? Perhaps you could offer them free meeting space, or allow them to host events within your property. These things build goodwill and provide your community with the opportunity to get to know your property. That way, the next time they have out of town guests coming to visit the area, they will more likely recommend you vs. your competition.
A good way to get started is by getting involved in your local Chamber of Commerce and by joining local social clubs such as Rotary.
 
 

5. Local Directories

An increasing number of consumers are making last-minute travel decisions. Many of them wait until they are on-route to a destination before looking for accommodations. Similar to the situation with OTAs, you want to be a part of the guest’s decision set when this is the case. Seeing as the majority of these requests will be made via a mobile phone, and seeing as the results for both typed and voice queries are being overwhelmingly dominated by local directory or map results, it’s imperative that you put your best foot forward on these channels. Be sure to optimize your local listings in all of the major directories by updating your photos and by providing useful property information such as check-in time and descriptions of your amenities. Also, be sure to manage your reviews and any questions that may have been submitted through the directory as well,
If you want tips on how to optimize your Google My Business listing, check out this recent podcast episode: Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 91 – 8 Ways Hotels Can Optimize Google My Business
 
 

6. Non-Brand PPC

While it’s a good idea to run Google Ads on your own brand keywords, the reality is that this is considered more of a defensive play against the OTAs who are trying to capture folks who are already aware of your property. While this isn’t always the case, it is true that bookings coming from brand keywords tend to have a higher probability of being a past guest. The real opportunity for gaining new guests is in non-brand PPC and there are many ways you can go about this.

  1. Geographic targeting – this is only effective when you have a highly desirable property  that stands out in the destination. Either you are brand new, you have outstanding amenities, premium location, or the customer has limited options. Otherwise, the ROI for these campaigns may not be high enough to make it worth your while.
  2. Amenity Targeting – if you offer something unique and highly sought after such as a waterpark, a bowling alley, or in-room hot tubs, and there are only a handful of properties that offer something similar, then bidding on amenity-related keywords can place your property in front of a captive audience.
  3. Event Targeting – from sporting events to music concerts, when people are coming in to town for a specific purpose, you have an opportunity to target them with custom messaging. By promoting your vicinity to the venue, by bundling tickets, or by offering special discounts, you can stand out from the crowd by getting in front of the consumer before they actually start shopping for their accommodations. Be warned though, you can’t target these keywords with generic ad copy and the same old landing page. You have to take a super-custom approach to each event.

For more tips on running effective PPC campaigns, check out this article: Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 86 – 10 Things You Need For A Successful Hotel PPC Strategy
 
 

7. Social Advertising

There are so many options when it comes to social advertising. Looking at Facebook and Instagram as your primary channels, you can target by choosing people’s interests, location, age, gender, used devices, income level, etc. This means that you can get super granular with your advertising and craft campaigns to small groups of individuals with messaging that will resonate with them. The key is to really understand what motivates your existing guests and then applying that knowledge to crafting unique and remarkable social campaigns that will stand out from the crowd and really inspire people to travel to your property for the first time.
One method that can be effective is to promote niche events that will appeal to small audiences. You could bring in a top-notch chef and host cooking classes, or find a relatively famous yoga instructor or nutritionist and target local foodies or fitness enthusiasts. May you could host a craft brewing contest, or hold a family fun day. The options are limitless. The key is that you have to stand out within the noise of someone’s social feed. You’re competing with the chatter from their friends and families, so you really have to make sure that you targeting and your messaging are in perfect alignment.
NOTE: Though it’s less of a social media channel and more of a plain old media channel, we’re going to bundle YouTube advertising in this section. It’s relevant and effective for all of the same reasons that we mentioned above.
Here’s a good article to get you started running Facebook ads: https://adespresso.com/guides/facebook-ads-beginner/demographic-targeting/
 
 

8. Website Content

At the end of the day, for any of your marketing to be effective, you need great content. This is especially the case when you’re trying to attract new customers. Nowhere is this more important than on your own website. There are many purposes for your website content, including:

  1. Allowing your site to be found via search engines
  2. Inspiring the guest to travel
  3. Educating the guest on your value proposition
  4. Anticipating and addressing any questions the guest may have
  5. Eliminating any doubts or fears that may be preventing a booking
  6. Persuading the guest to take action
  7. Convincing the guest that you are the right fit for them

Obviously, there are other purposes too, but the above list illustrates that it’s not black and white when it comes to content. Different pieces of content may fulfil different purposes. For this article, let’s focus on content that can help your find new guests. One of the best ways to do that is to build out content that is head and shoulders above the competition in terms of usefulness for the guest. You can start by creating area information guides that offer your own unique perspective on local restaurants and attractions or you can create tools to help people find the best deals on show and amusement tickets. The key is to be helpful and to be the authority on the subject. If you do that, you can start to show up for keywords that don’t necessarily pertain directly to your property. Once you have gained the visibility, you then need to make sure that your newly found traffic isn’t going to waste. Entice the audience to learn more about the property. Don’t necessarily go straight for the booking. Wine and dine them a little first. Maybe get them to sign up for your newsletter or follow your social channel. Just try not to let them leave before you’ve had a chance to get to know each other a little better.
Here are some handy articles that will help you get started with developing your content strategy:

 
 

9. Third-Party Partnerships

Similarly to influencer marketing, you could partner with other businesses or brands to promote each other. This could be as simple as cross-promoting each other on social media, or you could take it up a notch by running combined contests. Say you’re in a beach destination, you could partner with a beach clothing brand and offer a all-inclusive vacation that includes a new wardrobe. Just be sure that the partners you pick make sense for your brand and your audience. Keep in mind that this approach is not only gaining you access to another company’s audience, but it’s also giving them access to yours. Pick a partner that makes sense and that provides value to your guests. If you’re a family-friendly property, it wouldn’t make sense to partner with an adult-oriented brand, or if you have an emphasis on health and wellness, partnering with a burger chain probably won’t win you any fans.
Once you’ve identified your partner or partners, be creative. Just be sure to focus on the value you’re providing and remember that the partnership could also go beyond cross promotion and could include actually cross-selling. You could partner with art galleries and sell their painting, or a mattress firm and sell their mattresses in exchange for a commission.
Finally, if the partnership is especially innovative or newsworthy, you can also benefit from a PR bump. The partnership could be so novel that your local press, or the media in the hospitality industry finds it interesting enough to write articles about it, thus exposing you to en entirely new audience. Here’s an example where an independent hotel in Myrtle Beach partnered with a breast cancer awareness charity and turned itself pink. Not only did this raise money for a great cause, but the stunt was also picked up by several media outlets.
 
 

10. Travel Agents

The Internet all but eliminated the need for travel agents. However, there appears to be a resurgence in the field being cause by an increase in demand for unique travel experiences. With that in mind, if you’re property offers something special, this could be a great way to attract new visitors. The key is to offer the right incentives, to make it easy for the travel agents by providing useful information and making it easy for them to book and get paid, and by building strong relationships with the agent as well. In most cases, agents will ask for a 10% commission. Most properties would gladly pay that because it’s significantly lower than the OTAs. You may also want to sweeten the incentive by offering additional bonuses if the agent hits certain goals, or you could even offer them a free trip so that they can get even more familiar with your property. They key is to remember that this is not a set-it-and-forget-it channel. You need to invest time on an ongoing basis so that you remain top-of mind with the agent. You also need to ensure that the guests that they send are treated extra special, because their impression of the stay will be a reflection on the agent. If a guest is unhappy, the agent’s reputation will be harmed and they will be less likely to recommend your property to their next client. If you make the agent look good, they will continue to send you new business.
 
If you still have more budget to spend, here are some other honorable mentions:

  • Magazine Ads
  • TV/Radio commercials
  • Third-party email lists
  • Native advertising
  • Programmatic display advertising
  • In-App advertising

Hopefully there are some ideas in this episode that help you drive more new business to your property. Most importantly, always remember that it’s much easier to keep an existing guest than it is to find a new one, so ensure that each and every guests feels welcome and comfortable while staying with you. Never defer that much needed maintenance just to save a few pennies, never cut corners when it negatively impacts the guest, and never compromise when it comes to being the best inn keeper that you and your staff can be.
 
Listener Feedback:
Hi Fuel Team
Greetings from Singapore
I’ve been listening to your podcast for a few months now and wanted to say thanks for all the info you’re sharing
I currently work in a senior Commercial role for a global travel wholesaler, and also own a small 9 rooms cottage business in Margaret River Australia. It’s interesting hearing both be topical of late…
Anyway, I’ll keep listening and may come with some questions and ideas soon!
Andrew H
 
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