Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 164 – The Hunter Hotelier: Finding New Guests In Difficult Markets

by Stuart Butler

Hotels can no longer rely on an organic demand to put heads in beds. As an industry, we need to switch our mindset from that of a gatherer to that of a hunter. In this episode, we discuss strategies and tactics that can help you and your property survive and thrive during the downturn.

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SHOW NOTES:

Here’s the original blog:

https://www.admin.travelboommarketing.com/blog/the-hunter-hotelier-driving-their-own-demand-succeeding-in-todays-market/
For several years, basically since 2008, the travel market has seen incredible growth and hoteliers have become very accustomed to simply being there when a customer is ready to book.  In fact, if you came into the industry within the past decade you have only seen what a booming industry looks like.
COVID, and a potential recession, is pointing to a fundamental change that is going to require the travel industry to adapt.  In order to adapt we are all going to have to move away from being a gatherer, or simply “harvesting intent.” We are going to need to transition to a hunter hotelier where we proactively cultivate new guests and drive them through our conversion funnels.
Whoever makes this transition the quickest and best will find new customers and very likely grow in the coming years.  Those who do not turn into hunters… well they will not find that success.
Before You Hunt, You Must Create The Environment.
Anyone who has ever done any hunting, particularly those who constantly harvest game, will tell you the most important part is creating an environment your prey will want to visit.  For a hunter this means putting out food, eliminating natural predators, providing safe places for your prey to live, and creating clear hunting paths (aka: conversion funnels).
So, before you start your hunt, answer these questions:

  1. Is your website an amazing, mobile-first, experience that will give your guests the information they need to overcome any objection?
  2. Is your conversion funnel and booking engine as efficient as possible?
  3. Have you created great content that your guests can enjoy after you’ve brought them in to the site?
  4. Is your hotel’s search engine campaign running well and driving people to your site?
  5. Are your local listings designed to engage your guests?
  6. Are you running effective paid search campaigns on your brand?
  7. Do you have your analytics systems in place to help you understand where you should be hunting and how you can improve your strategies?

Now That You Are Set For success, Let’s Go Hunting For Guests
Proactively driving guests can be more expensive, because you are both creating the demand and fulfilling the demand. This means you will want to ensure your analytics systems are working well, you are tracking, and most importantly… testing.  All five of these strategies can work in tandem to help you multiply your success.
 
Hunting Strategy #1: Work Your Owned Assets
Working your existing, owned assets, is the most effective way to hunt for new guests.  You have already invested countless dollars in developing your marketing databases and these customers have already shown some interest (either now or in the past), failing to make full and exhaustive use of your owned assets is a huge mistake you can ill-afford to make.

  • Emails
  • Direct Mail
  • Phone Lists
  • Creating the Content to Overcome Objections

 
Hunting Strategy #2: Proactive Social Campaigns
You’re already engaging guests on social platforms and are also most likely running a few paid campaigns.  When you make the decision to become a hunter hotelier you are going to want to take your social marketing to the next, proactive, level.
The most effective hunter strategy is going to be through the use of lookalike audiences.  Facebook’s lookalike audiences allow you to upload your guest history list, with as little as 100 users, and the algorithm will then find people who most closely match your ideal guest.  Once the list is created you can use it with any of Facebook’s marketing and advertising methods.  You are already targeting your existing guests, this will allow you to target an entirely new segment that looks just like your ideal customer.
 
Hunting Strategy #3: Expanded PPC Campaigns
Your hotel’s PPC campaign is more effective the further down a customer is in the conversion funnel. Your hotel’s brand name is going to have a phenomenal conversion rate (harvesting specific intent).  Your amenities campaign, such as “hotels with an indoor waterpark,” also likely perform very well (harvesting specific intent).  However your broader campaigns typically will have a lower ROAS.
 
This is where PPC begins to become a hunter strategy, but can still retain a positive return.  There are four primary tactics we recommend to turn a portion of your PPC budget into something that can drive intent:

  • Top of Funnel Campaigns
  • Getaway & Staycation Campaigns
  • Refining Your Overall Targeting
  • Competitor Campaigns

 
Hunting Strategy #4: Creating Partnerships
Animals don’t hunt alone, and neither should you.  Building strong partnerships can go a long way in helping drive business as well as improve the overall community.  Obviously you should have a great partnership with your local chamber of commerce and destination marketing sites, but you also want to expand your partnership reach beyond just the obvious.  These are just four ideas:

  • Venue Partnerships
  • Business Partnerships
  • Competitor Partnerships
  • Out of Market Partnerships

 
Hunting Strategy #5: Finding New Opportunities
There’s a word we use around the Fuel office to describe our fellow Fueligans, “scrappy.”  Whether in the office or out on the hunt, being able to adapt to changing opportunities can mean a world of difference in being successful.  The best part about finding a new opportunity is your competitors are not there yet.  This means you enjoy a first mover advantage and the revenue that goes along with it.

 
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In The Newsaroos:     

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