When reduced to its simplest form, most hoteliers want their digital marketing efforts to achieve one primary goal for their property: increase profitable direct bookings.
NB: This is an article from Blue Magnet
To achieve this goal, hoteliers need not only boost their brand’s visibility online (awareness) but they also need to then convert those visitors into customers (conversion).
Digital marketing offers a vast array of levers to pull and dials to turn in order to increase profitable direct bookings; however, in order to actually do this it is imperative that hoteliers apply two important and complementary digital marketing strategies to their efforts: a foundational strategy and a targeted strategy.
The foundational strategy is a long-term, consistent strategy that employs best practices across each important marketing initiative (website, SEO, PPC, social media, etc).
The targeted strategy is often a shorter-term strategy that builds upon that foundation by allowing the hotel to quickly expand reach, improve conversions, promote need dates, push a hotel special offer, target specific demographics, and generally boost overall performance.
What do I need to know?
Focusing on one strategy without considering the other can potentially lead to ineffective and costly marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, these two distinct strategies are often conflated. Understanding why each strategy is important and how it fits into your hotel’s digital marketing efforts is essential to reaching your revenue goals and making the most of your marketing budget.
The purpose of foundational strategy versus targeted strategy
A foundational strategy is one that creates, maintains, and provides consistent ongoing support for your online presence, across all relevant channels. It employs best practices across each marketing tool or channel to ensure a foundational level of visibility on those platforms, throughout the booking funnel. It promotes the hotel as a whole, rather than pushing specific need dates or targeting a specific type of traveler. A strong foundational strategy ensures proper stewardship of your brand’s online identity, preventing your site and brand from losing relevancy and visibility to competitors.
Keeping Your Digital Marketing Machine Well Oiled
If your digital marketing was a car, the foundational strategy would be the regular care and maintenance of your vehicle: oil changes, tire rotations, battery replacement, brake replacement, wheel alignment, car washes, refueling, and replacing broken parts as necessary. Changing the oil and rotating the tires will not necessarily make your car go much faster or noticeably boost its performance, but it will ensure your car is fully operational and can still get its passengers from point A to B.
Likewise, a foundational strategy for your hotel’s online presence will not generate a booking windfall, but it will ensure that your website and all the channels that drive traffic to it remain active, functional, and up-to-date.
Dad: “There you have it, son. Always be sure to keep your site updated and follow SEO best practices if you want your website to keep humming like a well-oiled machine.
Son: “Uh, dad, what does this have to do with changing the oil in our car?”
Examples of Foundational Strategy
In the end, a foundational strategy is necessary for any hotel that wishes to experience consistent growth in traffic and bookings. Here are a few examples across various digital marketing disciplines that employ a more perennial strategy:
- Installing CMS and plugin security patches
- Keeping on-page content up-to-date
- Keeping photos current and up-to-date
- Optimizing site titles, descriptions, alt, and description tags
- Fixing crawl errors and other issues identified by Google Search Console
- Implementing proper schema markup
- Running a PPC campaign that targets Brand keywords (eg, “Hilton Chicago” or “Marriott Austin”)
- Running ongoing metasearch campaigns on Google, TripAdvisor, Kayak, and Trivago
- Loading images and brand assets into social profiles
- Fostering community and connecting with related businesses
- Regularly posting relevant content on each channel
- Sending regular monthly email “newsletters”
A targeted strategy, on the other hand, uses the same digital marketing tools to achieve a much more specific or timely goal, such as:
- filling need dates
- promoting a local event
- highlighting recent renovations
- offering special packages, or
- improving conversion rates on your website
A targeted strategy, as the name suggests, is designed to target a specific time period, promotion, special, offer, or event. It can even include things like content generation, website personalization, or A/B testing&emdash; marketing tools designed to boost reach (targeting new, niche keywords) or improve conversion rates (targeting usability). Generally speaking, it tends to be a more active and concentrated effort to drive business for a niche objective.
Adding Nitrous Oxide To Supercharge Your Digital Marketing Engine
Whereas the foundational strategy keeps your car operational and efficient, the targeted strategy adds a more powerful engine to your car, upgrades the tires, injects nitrous oxide into the engine, and enhances the exhaust system. These items are designed to enhance performance, making the vehicle faster or more fuel-efficient.
Of course, such performance upgrades are a waste of money if the car is not properly maintained in the first place (your fancy new engine will not last long if you fail to change the oil regularly). Similarly, when it comes to hotel digital marketing, investing in a targeted strategy without first implementing the foundational strategy can be an inefficient and ineffective use of the hotel’s marketing budget.
Might be time to think about adding a little targeted strategy.
Examples of Foundational Strategy
Targeted strategies might take the form of a Google Ads campaign that promotes a special offer during a winter need period, social media posts (organic or paid) designed to drive wedding business in July, or creating a landing page to target a popular summer event near the hotel. Here are a few examples across various digital marketing disciplines that employ a more focused strategy:
- Equipping the website with content personalization capabilities to send targeted messages to specific demographics of site visitors
- Conducting A/B testing on various site elements to improve conversion rate
- Installing live chat or robo-chat software to improve the conversion rate
- Creating new blog content to target local events or newsworthy happenings associated with the hotel
- Designing and developing new landing pages to rank for relevant niche topics
- Influencer marketing and link building
- Running a Google or Bing Ads campaign targeting specific need dates, local events, seasonal promotions, or other niche targets within a fixed window of time
- Running Expedia TravelAds to promote distressed inventory
- Running additional social media ads to fill need dates, promote local events, or advertise seasonal promotions
- Running additional social media ads to drive clicks to website
- Using LiveTweet or Facebook LiveStream to promote a special event
- Sending occasional emails with the purpose of targeting need dates, seasonal events, or special offers
Understand the roles that each strategy plays in your overall digital marketing plan
Both strategies serve a different purpose, execute across different timelines, and require different levels of collaboration between a hotel and its digital marketing agency. The categories below highlight some of these key differences in their execution:
- Foundational: Great at maintaining visibility online and sustaining long-term growth, but usually not effective at quick, dramatic boosts in revenue
- Targeted: Greater performance boost (visibility and revenue) realized more quickly when coupled with foundational strategy.
Foundational: Management, maintenance, and stewardship of website and other digital marketing channels; Application of best practices for marketing on digital channels
Targeted: Used to promote events, specials, and need dates; creation of fresh, new website content; improving conversion rates through conversion optimization
- Foundational: A single, broad, ongoing campaign with fairly consistent messaging from month-to-month
- Targeted: A series of targeted micro-campaigns or goals, each with a different focus or timeline
Organic VS Paid
- Foundational: Tends to be more organic in nature
- Targeted: Often relies heavily on advertising
- Foundational: Monthly digital marketing retainers are fairly consistent from month to month.
- Targeted: Budgets (and more specifically, ad spend) can fluctuate depending on the goals of the campaign
- Foundational: Requires much less collaboration between the hotel and digital agency
- Targeted: Requires significant collaboration between the hotel and digital agency
- Foundational: Long-term goal; ongoing
- Targeted: Short-term goals; limited campaign timeline
- Foundational: Sustainable, compounding gains; but more difficult to show direct ROI, since the goal is long term
- Targeted: Fleeting gains; easier to establish a clear ROI for most campaigns
- Foundational: Reporting may show account growth, but the long-term nature of this strategy means that reports are typically best evaluated across quarters or even years, not months
- Targeted: Reporting can easily show campaign performance and is typically evaluated per campaign or by month
Always ensure that your current digital marketing efforts comprise both a foundational and targeted strategy. Many do not. If your hotel has a small budget, choosing one of the two strategies is certainly better than doing nothing; however, if that is the case, focus on the long-term sustainability of your online presence and invest in your foundational strategy first. Targeted strategies are powerful but ephemeral, whereas foundational strategies tend to create a more solid, lasting platform for your brand online. Just remember that you will see the best results when you combine the two strategies, strengthening your core marketing presence while using targeted campaigns to amplify your message when needed.