Hotel marketing is a complex, multifaceted discipline, and it’s easy to use up precious time and resources without producing substantial results.
To drive the best performance, hotels need to take a strategic approach, combining the fundamentals with creative new ways to attract today’s travelers.
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Whether you operate an independent hotel, inn, B&B, hostel, or vacation rental, these marketing strategies and ideas will help you achieve the primary objectives of hospitality marketing: building brand awareness and generating demand.
1. Create a marketing plan
As the saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish. An annual marketing plan is a crucial first step to ensuring your marketing activities are focused and results-oriented.
A marketing plan should contain the following components:
- Market overview and the latest hospitality trends
- Marketing goals, brand positioning, and competitive landscape
- Roles and responsibilities
- Target markets
- Objectives, strategies, and performance metrics by channel
- Packages and promotions
- Marketing budget and activity calendar
Marketing channels include the hotel website and SEO, paid media, third-party listings, social media, email marketing, guest loyalty, collateral, trade shows and events, partnerships, public relations, and online reputation management.
Yes, that is a lot! But you don’t have to do it all on your own. And bear in mind that a marketing plan should be a fluid document, with performance reported monthly and strategies adjusted as needed to optimize results. Be sure to keep informed on the latest marketing trends as well.
2. Identify your target markets
Rather than try to be all things to all people, it’s much more efficient to identify your target markets and focus your resources on attracting them.
To identify your target demographic, answer the following questions:
- Who are your ideal guests?
- What’s their purpose of travel?
- Where do they live?
- How do they find out about your property?
- Where do they book?
By grouping guests into market segments, you can tailor messaging to each group of your target audience and find other travelers who share similar characteristics.
3. Set a tone of voice and style for your brand
Another critical element of hotel marketing strategy is to have a clear, compelling description of your property’s brand, its positioning in the market, and what sets it apart from competitors. Are you a button-up boutique or a button-down B&B? Your brand should guide the tone of voice, style, and personality of all your marketing materials, from online marketing resources to print collateral and email marketing campaigns.
4. Build your hotel website
Unlike a static brochure, a website is a dynamic entity that should be updated regularly with fresh new content. This may include seasonal promotions, changes to Covid-19 policies, or information about upcoming events.
Today’s travelers expect hotel websites to be easy to navigate and formatted for any screen, with real-time rates and availability. If yours isn’t, it may be time to build a new website or add a commission-free booking engine. For inspiration, check out these stunning hotel website designs and templates.
5. Invest in professional photography
With today’s smartphone technology, virtually anyone can take impressive photos. That’s fine for social media, but for that crucial high-quality imagery that will make your property stand out as the best hotel choice, the images on your website, OTA listings, and collateral should be done by a professional photographer. Find candidates with lots of experience shooting hotel businesses, compare their portfolios, fees, and licensing terms, and commission a mix of lifestyle and architectural photos.
6. Drive website traffic with SEO
If you build it, will they come? Maybe some will, but to attract the high volume of visitors your website needs, you need to activate a variety of marketing channels. For organic (unpaid) traffic, a top priority is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO involves formatting website content with keywords, titles, descriptions, tags, and links to maximize visibility and rankings in search engines. SEO is best left for the pros, but if you want to try your own hand at it, this hotel SEO guide will get you started on the right track.
7. Leverage the power of content marketing
Another way to attract organic traffic is content marketing. For hoteliers, it can be as simple as posting information on your website or blog that helps travelers plan their trip and make the most of their in-destination experiences. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find popular topics and questions and phrases users are searching for related to your destination. Afterward, promote your content through social media and email marketing.
Here are a few ideas for content:
- The best attractions, activities, events, and restaurants in your area
- Behind-the-scenes stories and videos from your property
- Interesting travel industry content that could attract potential guests
- Social media contests and incentives such as inviting people to post and tag photos or videos for a chance to win a free stay
8. Claim your Google Business profile
In addition to hotel websites and OTAs, a lot of traffic on Google is directed to Google Business Profiles (previously called Google My Business). Information from these profiles is also displayed in Google Search results, Maps, and hotel listings. So it’s vital to claim your free profile, optimize it with high-quality photos and information about your location, services, and amenities, and manage your Google reviews. And don’t forget to activate your free booking links as a way to get more visibility and direct traffic on your website.
9. Invest in search engine marketing and metasearch
Another critical part of the hotel digital marketing mix is paid media. With a modest investment, you can compete with OTAs and big hotel brands to appear at the top of search results by bidding on highly targeted keywords via Google Ads or Google Hotel Ads. Metasearch platforms like Tripadvisor, Kayak, and Trivago can be especially effective at driving direct bookings. Learn more in this guide to Google Hotel Ads.
10. Leverage the power of social media marketing
Travelers love using social media to share trip experiences and discover new destinations. For hotel owners, Facebook and Instagram are low-cost channels for connecting with travelers and engaging guests with inspiring images, videos, reels, and stories. Create content that encourages sharing and use hashtags, contests, special offers, and paid ads to amplify your reach.