Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 58 – How to Market Your Hotel on a Shoestring Budget

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Marketing your hotel can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be. In this episode we discuss some free or nearly free methods and marketing tactics that any hotel can employ to drive more awareness and more bookings to their property.


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Show Notes:

This episode was inspired by the following question:

Hi guys,

I absolutely love your podcast and listen to it religiously.  I recently bought a small 7 room boutique hotel. Currently 60% of my bookings are direct and our average occupancy is roughly 75-80%.

I would love to be able to get my direct bookings up to 70% and occupancy to 85% within the next 12 months. However, being a small hotel, my marketing budget is fairly limited.  If I were to spend $150 per month, how would you suggest I spend it?


Chris Schlamp

Here you go. Chris. If you even do half of this, you’ll be well on your way to improved occupancy.

You should invest as much time and money as you possibly can, given your specific situation.

  1. Educate yourself on simple marketing by:
    • Using online education sites such as Linda.com or skillshare.com
    • Finding sites that give you a solid foundational understanding of specific marketing skills. A great place to learn about SEO is the Beginner’s Guide to SEO on Moz.com.
    • There’s also a magical site on the Internet that can answer any question and teach you any skill. It’s called ‘Google.com’.
    • Listening to the Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast
  2. Get an intern from local college to handle blogging, event coverage and social media. This can often be free if the work applies to course credit. Even if you have to pay them, it’s can be less than $10/hr.
  3. Ask a current staff member who has an interest to post on social media or write blogs.
  4. Consider reinvesting a portion of the savings from OTA commissions back into incentives for direct bookers or a loyalty program.

Build your owned assets.

  1. Build a low cost website (weebly.com, wix.com, squarespace.com, wordpress.com), but make sure that it has a kick-ass booking engine and the ability to publish blogs on a frequent basis.
  2. Claim and optimize your local listings on Google and all other major directories.
  3. Build a quality email database and send emails using MailChimp – email marketing is still the most effective channel for hotels and there’s no better platform out there for small properties than MailChimp. If you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers and send fewer than 12,000 total emails per month, it’s absolutely free.
  4. Build your content. Write down a list of every question you have ever been asked about your property or your area. No question is too small or too insignificant. Once you’ve compile the list, start writing well thought out and useful responses to each question and publish them on your site. Keep adding to the list as new question come up.
  5. Hold a photo Contest for local photographers to generate high quality and diverse photography. The rules should state that you own the unlimited usage rights to all submissions. Offer a free stay to the winner as an incentive.
  6. Build a list of local and regional media outlets and send them press releases on a regular basis.

Engage with the local community

  1. Feature and sell local art throughout your property.
  2. Engage with local groups/clubs and let them meet at your property for free. For example, a local running club or a yoga class.
  3. Host contests between local restaurants at your property.
  4. Create an ‘Insider’s guide’ to your area and give it to every guest. Also give copies to all of the area bars and restaurants who your feature and let them give it to their patrons.
  5. Collect donations for local charities. Toys for tots, food banks, etc.
  6. Join with local businesses to create a magical Christmas stay for a need family each year.

Differentiate yourself

  1. Create a themed room and tie it into a charity
  2. Offer unique experiences such as stories by the campfire, a whacky museum related to the local area, or perhaps,  dress up like Elvis every Wednesday and belt out your best rendition of Blue Suede Shoes by your pool.
  3. Utilize unique spaces within your property. If you have a lawn area or a rooftop terrace, or simply a small breakfast area, think about how you utilize the space for maximum impact. For example, your rooftop terrace could be a breakfast area in the morning, but a hip night time spot for cocktails.
  4. Turn your lobby into a gathering space
  5. Offer Starbucks coffee
  6. Make your eateries all organic and source the food locally
  7. Create a unique selfie-spot
  8. Set up a live webcam and take a shot at specific times during the day and post them on your website
  9. Create a photo scavenger hunt on instagram
  10. Put an amazon echo in every room
  11. Add multi-language support to your website using Google Translate

Focus on the guest experience (this is the best form of marketing)

  1. Ensure that every guest receives a warm and friendly welcome
  2. Speak with your guest at every opportunity and find out the following:
    • Who they are
    • Where they’re from
    • What they like
    • Why they came to the area
    • Why the chose you
  3. Address your guests by name and always smile when you see them (and insist that your staff do the same)
  4. If you’re a family friendly property have your staff carry stickers and temporary tattoos to give out to the kiddos
  5. Surprise and delight them during the stay
  6. Don’t forget to personally thank your guests when they are leaving and ask them to leave a review

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