Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 21 – What Every Hotel Needs to Know About Digital Marketing in 2016 (Courtesy of HSMAI)
The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is one of the industry’s leading advocates for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth. The association provides hotel professionals & their partners with tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue. One of their recent articles, entitled 8 Essentials Every GM Needs to Know About Digital Marketing Today, caught our eye and that is the subject of episode 21 of the Fuel Hotel Marketing podcast.
Here’s the original article from HSMAI: 8 Essentials Every GM Needs to Know About Digital Marketing Today
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HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Council, which consists of a wide range of hotel marketing experts, recently discussed the question of, “What are the digital developments that every GM needs to have at least a basic understanding of?” From the very basic to the more advanced, here are their top 8 recommendations:
- First and foremost, understand your own hotel’s digital landscape. Through which channels (brand.com, OTAs, meta, etc.) does what percentage of your business come? For those largest pieces of the pie, focus your attention on understanding what is driving them, and the digital trends and developments happening there.Fuel’s Comments: Far too many hoteliers don’t have a firm grasp on where their revenue is coming from. This often results in the lazy practice of relying too heavily on high-cost channels such as OTAs and Groupon. Because a hotelier can get a ‘quick fix’ and bump occupancy through these channels, they don’t stop to consider the long-term damage they are doing to their guest history and their profitability. By carefully monitoring and managing each channel, a savvy hotelier can use these third-party channels to drive new business and simultaneously create a marketing strategy that encourages repeat business and loyalty.
Related: Travel Trends For 2016: Disruption In The OTA Space
- Understand the digital marketing funnel, and the difference in ROI between efforts directed at filling the top of that funnel and pulling business though the bottom of it.
Fuel’s Comments: The easy way to look at your data is through ‘last click analytics’ – meaning that you give 100% attribution of your sales to the last channel from which the consumer arrived at your hotel website. The danger here is that it creates a heavy bias towards channels that are lower down the funnel (Review sites, brand searches, etc.) and devalues the contribution made by channels that are higher in the funnel (CVB/Portal sites, broad keywords within adWords, etc.). This approach also ignores the indirect impact that may have been gained from non-direct exposure (social media, display advertising, etc.). Hotels should understand their multi-touchpoint data and should develop an attribution model that is fair and allows them to compare apples-to-apples.Related: Deconstructing the Hotel Conversion Funnel
- Pay attention to the impact of the guest experience, reputation management, and social media on your hotel’s digital outreach and pricing power.
Fuel’s Comments: This one should be a no-brainer. Over 35% of travellers surveyed by Fuel in our 2016 Leisure Travel Study indicated that they looked at a property’s Facebook page prior to making a booking. Over 85% said that they would not make a reservation without first reading reviews on the property. Online reputation is directly related to you ability to drive new guests and the experience itself is the #1 driver for repeat business.Related: 2016 Travel Insights: What Smart Hotels Need To Know
- Especially if you are part of a brand and/or management company, be very clear on the company’s overall strategy when it comes to natural search, websites, and more. Understand the tools and resources already available to your property from the brand and the management company. And for goodness sake, don’t sign up for extra products, services, or channels without understanding what the umbrella company is doing.
Fuel’s Comments: Alignment of strategy throughout the entire organization is critical to success. Tapping into the knowledge and the tools that others have already developed or purchased makes your life easier and your marketing more efficient. There’s no use reinventing the wheel if you don’t have to. The best marketers are those who understand that marketing is not performed on an island. Collaborating and sharing knowledge often births new ideas and new opportunities.
- Realize how ads work on Google (and other places). When you’re online, don’t click the ad result for your property because you’re burning up your own marketing budget!
Fuel’s Comments: Paid advertising can be one of the largest marketing expenses for any hotel. The old adage that 50% of your advertising works, you just don’t know which 50% is no longer acceptable. Whether you use Google Analytics, or a premium tool such as Adobe Analytics, you should be tracking and measuring every single penny you spend on advertising and comparing the ROI from every channel. One of the biggest and most costly mistakes is to continue remarking to a guest AFTER they have booked. This can be significantly reduced by adding a success event to your booking engine’s confirmation page.Related: Fast & Easy Mobile PPC Tips For Hotels
- Know what is happening in the world of search (including what Meta is, and its real value in the scheme of things). This is one of the biggest areas you’re likely spending on, so make sure you have a sense of what is happening here, and what your investments in this area do for you.
Fuel’s Comments: This is very similar to #5. It all comes down to tracking and paying attention to the data. You want your property’s website to have as much exposure as possible but only if it’s profitable. In many cases on META searches and search engines, you are not competing against other hotels, you are competing against your other distribution channels (Expedia, Booking.com, etc). They key to success in META search is rate parity. Make sure that your direct booking rates are ALWAYS equal to or lower than they are on third-party channels. Also, make sure that your website does a good job of educating visitors on the value and importance of booking direct.Related: The Definitive Hotel On-Page SEO Cheat Sheet
- Recognize the importance of imagery. This is another sizeable investment, so understand what the impact of it is. Think about how you shop. Would you ever buy anything from Amazon that doesn’t have a picture? How do online photos influence your own shopping behavior (when it comes to travel products and more)?
Fuel’s Comments: In a recent Fuel survey, to be published next month, 90% of consumers indicated that quality photography was an important factor in their decision making process when booking a hotel room. That’s a higher percentage than said that reviews were important in our previous study! It’s quite simple, you hotel website is only as good as your photography. Invest in great photography and continue to do so every year.Related: Hotel Photography: The Asset You Aren’t Assessing
- For budgeting, look at the big picture and set larger goals for digital’s overall impact (occupancy, ADR, business mix, etc.) instead of trying to nit pick and measure ROI on every little thing that you do in the digital space. It’s just too complex. For example, social media really does not have a good direct ROI, but it is an absolutely essential part of a property’s overall marketing and operations strategy.
Fuel’s Comments: When working on your budget, it’s always important to let the data make your decisions for you. Look at what’s working and what’s not working. Look at trends YoY and try to see patterns in terms of what tactics continue to improve over time vs. those that aren’t as profitable as they once were and shift your budget accordingly. Also, don’t budget in a vacuum. There’s a whole world out there of other properties who are trying to do the same thing you are and have already learned things that can benefit you. Find an agency that can help you or engage with other properties on social media and exchange information.
If you’re a digital marketer at a brand or management company, or on property, there are two simple things you can do to help your GMs stay up to date. Check them out in the original article: http://www.hsmai.org/knowledge/article.cfm?ItemNumber=27890&RDtoken=17453&userID=4854
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