How much revenue does your hotel drive through social media? If the answer is very little, your strategy is falling behind the times and you could be letting your competitors get the edge over your property.
But Voyage Travel Marketing owner, Jessica McDonald, says UK hotels have so much more opportunity to drive marketing results—not just through social media. Having worked on both sides of the pond, she says adopting more of an American marketing mindset can help UK hotels go a long way. We asked her for inside tips on what drives real revenue for her hotels.
How does an American marketing mindset help UK hotels?
Having worked with numerous American and British hotels, the main difference we generally see in our hotel consulting and marketing work is the budgets. UK hotels typically have much smaller budgets and the Americans tend to test the waters more when it comes to marketing, in search of stronger profit margins. But UK hotels can still use the same principles to drive revenue if you have a smaller budget; it’s just important to focus on the highly targeted ‘big wins’.
How much should my hotel(s) spend on marketing?
The general industry figure for hotel marketing spend is approximately 3-8% of your rooms revenue (on direct marketing spend), but this will vary greatly depending on the hotel and your market. Agencies will always have varying views on this topic but our take is to spend on the lower side to start and then grow your budget once you see proven results.
Where should UK hotels start in testing new initiatives?
Digital marketing is the most cost-effective way to reach your best customers, and a high performing quick win is social media advertising. Simply boosting a post isn’t enough; Facebook and Instagram have extensive targeting capabilities that allow you to reach your desired audience. Test this by creating a customised ad in Facebook Ads Manager that includes a special hotel promotion and carefully target your audience. Once you see results you can create a more expansive ad strategy.
Social ads can be used to launch flash sales, promote your hotel outlets to locals, target past guests by uploading email lists, and so much more. Research shows that organic social reach is in decline, which means if you aren’t supporting your posts with ad funds, they simply aren’t being seen.
It’s also important to have a great social content strategy and respond to your customers seven days per week through community management.
How do you track revenue from social media?
It’s easier than you think; you can track revenue and a wealth of analytics from both Facebook and Instagram by installing a free Facebook tracking pixel on your website and booking engine. This not only measures cross-device conversions but also optimises ad delivery to people who are most likely to take action, creates custom audiences from website visitors, and generates rich insights about how people use your website.
What other advertising placements work well for hotels?
Digital marketing is so highly targeted that we frequently see the best results outside of social media from digital ad buys. Google Display Network retargeting (GDN) works well to target customers who have previously visited your hotel website with ads while they browse other websites. For hotels with larger budgets, consider Trip Advisor Display Ads and Sponsored Placements.
Other placements that perform well are Sojern Dynamic Rate marketing, meta search and Google SEM. And while we always recommend driving traffic to your brand website to generate direct revenue, Expedia Travel Ads are a useful tool to help promote last-minute needs.
Any other third-party website marketing recommendations?
At a very basic level, we recommend that hotels at least purchase a TripAdvisor Business Listing and advertise on their regional tourism board website. These are great ways to reach customers early on in their travel planning cycle.
Is email marketing dead for hotels?
Email is still an excellent way to stay in touch with past guests. Make sure to segment your email list so you can send targeted communications based on interests and location. Don’t forget to utilise transactional emails to upsell arriving guests with a pre-stay and post-stay email highlighting offers.
What about public relations and influencers?
A little PR can go a long way for hotels. Again, we recommend focusing on the big wins, so don’t be afraid to offer a media rate for small-scale press visits and save the complimentary stays for major media outlets. For influencers, clearly outline what you expect to get out of the visit. If you would like rights to use the influencer’s photos in your marketing, this needs to be discussed upfront.
Is branding necessary?
The short answer is yes, but we appreciate that many hotels don’t have budgets for a full brand development project. Start with a ‘brand refresh’ that is more of a mini brand session to develop important marketing templates, approved copy phrases, and marketing designs. Be sure to outline your brand objectives to ensure consistency across marketing channels.
Once your brand refresh plan is in place and you have determined your goals and key objectives, ensure that your website, imagery, email marketing templates and social media pages are updated to align with this brand direction. But we cannot stress enough how important it is to have great imagery before embarking on your marketing endeavours.
Is it best to work with an agency or facilitate marketing in-house?
Working with an agency gives you a wider wealth of knowledge and skills to draw from, as you are often collaborating with a full team rather than one or two people. Unlike many other agencies, we do not charge customers a percentage of their ad spend, so if you choose to partner with an agency consider a similar model to ensure the agency isn’t rewarded simply by how much you spend.
There are also plenty of tools out there to teach yourself. Subscribe to blogs from digital marketing partners and sign up to Facebook’s Blueprint advertising training and certification. We share lots of industry updates and tips on our Facebook page too.
Do you have advice for hoteliers looking to grow their marketing knowledge?
On Thursday 22nd August 2019, we will host a free educational webinar about hotel marketing. Our webinar will also highlight hotel marketing tactics to plan both long term and short. Visit voyagetravelmarketing.com/webinar to sign up.
Jessica McDonald is managing director and owner of Voyage Travel Marketing, a marketing agency with experience working with multi-billion-dollar hotel investment firms, independent family-run resorts, and everything in-between. Visit voyagetravelmarketing.com for a free consultation.