NB: This is an article from NetAffinity
A limited marketing budget is sometimes a given when you work for a small independent hotel. Low costs that yield high returns are the goal of every business person, and in that respect, hotels are no different. When it comes to those of us working with a limited budget, this means controlling your marketing costs while increasing bookings and boosting profits.
That’s easy to say, but all of your experience will tell you that stretching your marketing budget to yield those high returns isn’t easy.
However, with the amount of control and data that digital marketing brings to the playing board, hotel marketers have new opportunities to squeeze more out of their budgets. According to research by HSMAI, 70% of hoteliers feel that online investments are providing the biggest returns.
For the newcomer, investing online can be daunting. There are hundreds of online marketing tactics, channels, and strategies available, and while all of them can work well when executed properly, not all of them will be right for your hotel.
Here’s the question at the heart of it all: what are the best ways to market your hotel on a limited budget?
1. Creating a Compelling Website Experience
A compelling website is one pillar of a strong marketing strategy. When you focus on user experience and follow conversion-centered design, you have a strong platform to drive potential guests to and a great tool for generating bookings. A great website means that, when your marketing budget is spent on campaigns to drive people to your site, the effort isn’t wasted with an outdated or uninformative website.
Potential guests landing on your site want instant gratification, and the human brain process visual information 60,000x faster than text. That creates a challenge: before clicking a link or scrolling down your homepage, your visitor will have subconsciously formed judgments about your brand. Pay attention to the colors you use, the images you choose and the overall styling of the page.
A solid first impression is your best shot at acquiring direct bookings, and your website is the key to doing that.
Now, creating a web experience that encourages guests to book isn’t about flashing neon signs and cool widgets (although a price check widget on your booking engine wouldn’t go amiss). In fact, current trends in web design and a great deal of research on conversion optimisation says that simpler is better.
Good web design is about making things easier, simpler, and streamlined. You can do this by investing in:
- Better navigation. Is your site’s navigation intuitive, or too complicated or obscure? Poor navigation can be costly.
- Faster loading speed. Research shows that up to 75% of people will leave for a competitor’s site to avoid dealing with delays. It’s a proven fact: the faster your site loads, the better your conversions.
- Images that sell. Beautiful images on your hotel website might look nice, but if your images fail to sell your hotel, you’re leaving money on the table.
2. Recovering Reservations from Guests Who Abandon
The average online cart abandonment rate is 68.6%. Nearly 3 out of every 4 customers will fail to complete a purchase. In the fiercely competitive hospitality industry, where customers tend to do a lot of research and have dozens of easy-access channels to book on, reservation abandonment rates are likely even higher.
OTAs are both a blessing and a curse for independent hotels – while they increase exposure, they also generally take large commissions that cut into your hotel’s profits. That’s why it’s so key to ensure every booking possible goes directly through your website.
By not following up with your potential guests, you’re letting a vital source of revenue slip through your fingers. In a case study by MarketingSherpa, tackling cart abandonment with triggered emails recaptured 29% of abandoned carts. That’s 29% more business from some well-timed emails. Now that’s what we call return on investment!
To get the maximum ROI from your email marketing budget:
- Do your best to capture email addresses at the earliest opportunity in the booking process. Also, be sure to include newsletter opt-ins during the booking process.
- Send your first email immediately. Research shows the quicker you send your first email, the better – it gets them familiar with what emails from you will look like while your hotel is still fresh in their mind.
- Give a slight discount in the second email.
- Offer a slightly bigger discount on your third email.
Reservation recovery procedures are essential to getting more bookings for less money. Why? Instead of trying to convert “cold” traffic, they target highly qualified leads that are likely to buy.
3. Measuring Email Marketing Campaigns
How effective, exactly, are your email campaigns?
If you’re unable to answer that question, you should definitely consider investing in tracking your email campaigns. With an average ROI of over 2500%, email marketing is where the money is at – regardless of what industry you’re in.
When monitoring your email campaigns, here are some KPIs to keep an eye on:
- Conversion rates
- Clickthrough rates
- Bounce rates
- Subscribe and unsubscribe rates
4. Pay Per Click Advertising
PPC advertising plays an essential role in most online marketing campaigns. Research shows that:
- Pay-per-click advertising has been proven to have a positive impact on organic click-through rates.
- “For every $1 a business spends on AdWords, they receive $8 in profit through Google Search and AdWords”(Google report)
- In 2014, 72% of AdWords marketers planned to spend more on PPC advertising
- For hotels in particular, branded PPC is highly recommended – a recent Bing study shows that clicks improve by 27% on average when branded.
To be successful, your PPC ads need to be targeted towards the right audience, designed effectively, and communicate the right message at the right time.
To avoid losing money with PPC ads, have a solid understanding of how PPC advertising works before starting. Invest in training to get you up to speed. Once you know how to get most out of your ads, you’ll find that PPC can be quite profitable.
Alternatively, you can hire a PPC agency to do the heavy lifting for you. Either way, PPC ads give you a sophisticated way to control who you target – and how you target them – making them ideal for limited marketing budgets.
5. Conversion Rate Optimization and Testing
Doing all the marketing activities above to boost bookings will help. However, every hotel is unique, which means implementing any strategy or tactic without testing the best approach is a waste of money.
To be successful, you need a documented strategy and a testing plan to improve your campaigns.
Test, track, and tweak constantly. To get you started, here’s a downloadable version of our digital marketing campaign strategy checklist.
It’s tempting to try each new tactic that comes your way, but resist that urge. You’ll end up wasting your marketing budget with untested methods: you just won’t have the opportunity to optimize them all. Instead, to get the best ROI from your independent hotel’s marketing budget, pick 1-3 primary strategies and stick with them. Then, focus on testing and tweaking.