November 7, 2023 · Pete DiMaio
How To Create the Perfect Hotel Marketing Budget
As we enter the fourth quarter of the year, hotel marketers should outline their goals for 2024. Hoteliers understand the importance of budget season, but often dread dealing with the details. Some may not even know where to begin. Fear not – TravelBoom is here to help. We’ve assembled a complete checklist of everything you need to create your 2024 hotel marketing budget.
Marketing Budget Breakdown
- Research & Analysis
- Fixed Marketing Expenses
- Third Party Media Spends
- Capital Investments
- Traditional Media
- Contingency Funds
Free Digital Marketing Budget Template
Start your budget by downloading a free template on Google Sheets. Simply click the link and save a copy to your drive.
Research & Analysis
Understanding where you exist within the market is the first step to creating an effective digital marketing budget for your hotel. This step is crucial in determining where your opportunities exist, as well as where you may need to reallocate funds to address weaknesses.
Evaluate Past Data
The past can help guide the future – Evaluating historical data will provide meaningful insights to aid in determining future allocations. This should include a thorough review of digital traffic, paid media campaigns, organic search efforts, traditional print, and more. This checklist may help:
- Website Traffic: Review your traffic to uncover potential opportunities that might lead to targeting, partnerships and more.
- Conversion Metrics: Is your website driving bookings, leads, quotes, and/or other success events? You should be doing this on at least a monthly basis, and your annual review should be an even deeper dive into how users are engaging with your website.
- Paid Search: Are you achieving your ROAS goals for PPC, metasearch, local listings, etc.? Are you capitalizing on existing demand, or do you need to allocate additional funds to generate demand?
- Organic Search: Is your website consistently increasing in rankings for targeted keywords? More importantly, is this traffic qualified and/or converting? This data will help dictate whether you need to invest more money in content creation, site optimization, or potentially an entirely new website.
- Social Media: Try to avoid focusing on vanity metrics such as likes or follows. Rather, you need to ensure your efforts here are driving meaningful engagement, traffic, (and revenue).
- OTAs: At TravelBoom we like to think of the OTAs as a new business tool, not a set-and-forget way to fill empty rooms. Are you successfully converting your OTA bookings to direct guests? Is your percentage of OTA bookings in line with your goals? Reducing OTA commissions can be critical to success.
- Email Marketing: While email is certainly not new, it is still one of the most effective marketing tactics. Does your CRM employ feature AI, retargeting, and personalization strategies to improve performance?
- Other: What other campaigns are you running that you can measure, and ultimately improve by increasing or decreasing budget in 2024?
SWOT Analysis for Hotels
Do you have a hotel SWOT analysis? If not, now’s the time to create one. This will offer you a chance to look at your property objectively and identify areas to focus your budget (and overall marketing efforts).
What makes your property stand out physically, digitally, and/or operationally?
- Repeat guests
- Exceptional customer service
- Ideal location
- Renovated or new property
- Optimized website
- Frictionless software
Where is your property falling short physically, digitally, and/or operationally?
- Lack of amenities
- Poor or remote location
- Lousy customer service
- Lack of staff
- Outdated property or decor
- Older website
- Software that isn’t user-friendly
- Parity issue
- Lack of data or customer information
What opportunities does your property have physically, digitally, and/or operationally?
- Few competitors in the area
- Inexpensive drive or fly market
- Press coverage
- Loyalty program creation
- Local partnerships
- Area events
What threats exist that might compromise your bottom line?
- Emerging competitors
- OTA and brand loyalty programs
- Poor culture
- Economic downturn
- Negative reviews
- Press coverage
Creating a hotel SWOT analysis will provide valuable insights into your brand’s competitive position. Don’t skip this step! Further, be sure to include a broad range of departments. From marketing to operations to revenue management, your SWOT analysis should evaluate all aspects of your hotel.
Both first and third party data should be examined prior to developing your hotel’s digital marketing budget. Third party research such as the 2023 Leisure Travel Trends Study, your market’s STR report, chamber of commerce data, and more will reveal where the overall market is heading. Alternatively, first party data, such as guest surveys, reviews, and site user testing, can highlight opportunities that might otherwise be missed.
Fixed Marketing Expenses
A good portion of your digital marketing budget is going to be in fixed expenses (or investments as some say). These are the efforts and systems you have in place and in use every day.
- Website Hosting: This is a necessary hard cost of hosting a website on the internet. However, all hosting is not equal! Review your hosting structure to confirm it meets your needs.
- ADA Audits: An ADA audit can help identify issues around accessibility. Learn more about the importance of ongoing ADA audits in episode 228 of the Hotel Marketing Podcast.
- Search Optimization: Organic search optimization is always evolving and a proactive campaign is necessary for continued visibility.
- Data: Mismanaged or overlooked data can lead to missed opportunities, incorrect reporting, and potential overspending. For this reason, we strongly recommend a monthly analytics partner.
- Organic Social Media: Whether you use an agency or an in-house employee, make sure to account for time spent, materials needed and so forth.
- Content Development: The only thing on the internet is, well, content. So, whether you’re creating media or copy, budgeting for compelling content creation is a no-brainer.
- Software & Subscriptions: Software and subscription costs are often forgotten in a marketing budget. Items like a stock photography, marketing organizations, and more should be considered
- Platforms & Partners: Platforms such as your CRM, or partners like OccasionGenius and Flip.to are excellent tools to help amplify your marketing efforts. Unfortunately, most of them are not free.
Determining a Paid Search Budget
Ad spend might be one of the largest line items in your hotel’s annual marketing budget. However, this spend will result in the highest (tangible) return in the form of traffic and conversions.
Note: Prior to implementing paid campaigns, ensure your analytics are set up correctly and all success metrics tracking properly for performance visibility.
PPC for Hotels
Traditional pay per click may be the bread and butter of a hotel’s digital marketing plan and is typically broken down into multiple campaign types. Maximize your spend within brand campaigns to reduce OTA commissions, first. Then, remaining budgets can be dedicated to non-brand exploratory campaigns.
Metasearch for Hotels
With metasearch taking over nearly half the SERP for branded, and even some non-branded searches, factoring this into your budget is imperative. Learn how you can drive direct bookings with metasearch.
In addition, if you’ve got a rate available, Google will display your property at the bottom of their metasearch pricing tables. However, for most other platforms, your property may benefit from a paid listing (think TripAdvisor’s Business Advantage listing, sponsored positions, and more).
Local DMO Participation
One of the best ways to drive occupancy from visitors already interested in your destination is through your local DMO and/or Chamber of Commerce. Factor this partnership into your budget, but make sure you have analytics tracking in place so you’re able to evaluate success.
Paid Social for Hotels
Paid social campaigns can be valuable in generating awareness, leads and website traffic. Budget for specific campaigns that will help you meet your goals, and track your efforts closely.
Display Ads for Hotels
If you’re lucky enough to have a larger marketing budget, consider broader-reach campaigns such as OTT, programmatic, traditional display, and more.
Capital investments are usually evaluated separately from media spend and ongoing marketing efforts. They don’t necessarily take place every year and don’t always have a direct ROI. Typically, you might see capital investments as part of your property improvement plan (PIP), which isn’t part of a marketing budget. However, digital capital investments should also be accounted for.
- Website Development: An optimized, user-friendly website is essential for digital success. As technology advances, requirements increase and demands change, new websites are necessary more often than in the past. Recently, headless architecture has revolutionized hotel websites and made a hotel website redesign something most should consider.
- App Development: Mobile apps are proving to be a fantastic means for guest satisfaction and revenue generation. Features like remote check-in and keyless entry improve the guest experience and reduce both friction and reliance on staff. Other tools such as push messaging and food and beverage integration give properties the power to significantly increase their ancillary revenue.
- Loyalty programs: The 2023 Leisure Travel Study shows that guests want loyalty programs, even for independent properties where they only expect to stay one time. Properties should consider budgeting for this in 2024 as a capital investment.
- Photography: All photos age and hotels should plan on improving photography annually. Consider rotating through each section of the property over the course of two to three years. Regardless of how you plan your photo shoots, make sure you’re budgeting accordingly.
- Videography: Just like aforementioned photography suggestions, capturing video content is becoming more important than ever. New video orientations and formats for social media will direct different camera angles and styles year after year. Add video to your capital investment marketing budget.
We could make the case that your contingency fund is one of the most important parts of your budget. Not only does it provide you the opportunity to take advantage of last-minute (or new) opportunities that may arise, but also allows you to allocate funds to existing channels when a great return is found.
- Local Opportunities & Partnerships: Event sponsorships, last-minute DMO campaigns, and other opportunities appear all the time and if you have the budget for it you can realize some high returns.
- Paid Search Beta Programs: Google, Microsoft, TripAdvisor and more are continuing to introduce new platforms that can deliver high returns and an early adopter advantage if you have the funds.
- ROAS Opportunities: If the demand exists, dedicating additional funds to an existing campaign can help maximize your revenue.
- The Next Big Thing: We’ll never know what the next big thing will be, only that it’s approaching. Retaining the funds to take advantage of it can set you apart from the competition and increase your bottom line.
Traditional media and direct mail still play an important role in the marketing mix. While we focus mostly on digital side of a hotel marketing budget, you’ll want to factor these tactics into your overall marketing strategy (and budget).
- Public relations
- Print media
- Direct mail
- Local Listings or Partnerships
Marketing Campaign Cost Breakdown
The development of your hotel’s marketing budget should be the highlight of your year. It allows you to look back on successes, as well as failures, and create better strategies moving forward. Review budgets on a monthly basis and adjust to ensure you’re on track to meet the goals you’ve set for the year.