Unique hotels require unique marketing
Even first-rate hotels will find their bookings suffer without tactical marketing. Your hotel may have exceptional service, wonderful food and a stunning location. These matter very little if your potential guests are unaware it exists.
If you have a vision for your hotel but don’t know how to do it justice in your marketing, you’re in the right place. This is our specialism. We have years of experience in creating stand-out digital marketing campaigns for independent and boutique hotels.
Independent hotels are one of a kind. Your small-scale, unique hotel has its own story and character which we take time to understand. We then follow a tried and tested methodology to get great results, with a few secret weapons thrown in.
The funnel is a well know marketing principle that orders a customer’s booking journey into distinct stages. These are awareness, interest, desire and – only then – action.
This funnel works well for independent and boutique hotels, and can be matched to specific tactical marketing activity. To get your customers around the Monopoly board to ‘go’, you simply lead them through these steps.
Firstly, build general brand awareness. Once you are recognisable, you can more effectively pique their interest in your property. Then general interest needs to develop into specific desires. Having browsed your rooms, menus and gallery, they want to relax on the balcony or sit by the fire, perhaps while sipping on the cocktail from your latest Instagram post. At this point they know your hotel’s name, they know its unique selling points, and they want to experience them — they’re ready to take action.
Raising brand awareness
No matter how big or small your business is, most people don’t know you exist (yet). You need to raise awareness of your hotel brand with your potential guests.
They won’t know to search for your brand name, but thousands of people will be searching Google and OTAs for the “Best hotel in the Lake District”.
Google or Booking.com are the first places most will find you. To climb through the ranks of a Google search (and Google Hotels) you need a healthy website that is a strong base for excellent SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
If you don’t want to wait for SEO to take effect you can use non-branded Google Ads. In this instance, you would bid on terms like “Best hotel in the Lake District”. You won’t be alone in bidding on popular terms and – unlike with organic search (SEO) – you’ll pay every time someone clicks on your site. It’s effective but expensive, so best used as a short-term fix.
Social media works across the whole funnel. It builds your brand’s profile and identity, engages with prospective and return customers and, when well-managed, creates a strong, responsive community that generates testimonials and user-generated content. Read our blog to learn more about why having a strong, active presence on Facebook and Instagram is important.
But that’s not all. Your SEO, Google Ads and social posts all need to link to inspiring landing pages (not your homepage). A great landing page communicates your brand, showcases your unique selling points, and encourage users to take an action, such as downloading a menu or signing up to an email newsletter.
Once people have “found” you, you need to vie for their attention. People are exposed to thousands of brands every day, so you need to stand out as something distinct and different. Luckily, you’re an independent hotel— you actually are distinct and different.
So talk to them. Write great blogs about your unique property and the local area. People looking for an experience will love to hear about the local cheese festival, where they can try goat yoga or secret places to go forest bathing.
Another way to generate interest is to run strong special offers. There is nothing special about a midweek break that is available all the time. Promote short-term seasonal offers, particularly in the shoulder months either side of the summer. Spring breaks, gourmet experiences and special interest breaks all work well.
Secret weapon #1
When people come to your website you also unlock your 1st secret weapon: re-marketing. Re-marketing is the process of identifying people who have visited your website and then showing them a visual ad on other websites or social media. These ads are much cheaper than Google Ads and keep your brand front-of-mind. This is especially potent for hotels. Holidays have a longer booking journey than most purchases as people often visit hotel websites weeks prior to finalising details like the dates for their stay. When they are ready to book, make sure they haven’t forgotten you.
So, people have found you and some are interested. It’s time to hook them in.
Here you can use branded Google Ads and social ads displaying your offers and benefits— because they already know you and you don’t want them to book on an OTA.
Testimonials and user-generated social content are great ways to verify your reputation. Share these on your website and social channels to show that the experiences you offer really are as good as you say they are.
Secret weapon #2
You can also unlock the 2nd special weapon: email marketing.
Building a strong email list is a fundamental pillar of hotel marketing. Whenever people visit your website or social channel, encourage them to give you their email data. Email allows you to engage with guests on their phones, in their personal time, with interesting messages and tempting offers.
Action – get them to do the thing you want them to do
The final step is to get people to do something on your website. This could be to watch a video, download a menu or sign up to your newsletter. But ultimately you want them to book.
Make sure you have great reasons to book on your website rather than with an OTA. You’re at an advantage here: booking.com can’t mix them up a welcome drink when they arrive, or serve a complimentary cream tea. The little details are your domain.
Yay – bookings boosted
By following this process, you should be seeing bookings rolling in. But a room booking is not the end of the sales process.
In the weeks before their arrival, capitalise on the excitement most people feel when looking forward to a break. This is the time to upsell add-ons — not during the room booking process when additional steps and costs may put them off.
As consumers we have a short term memory. For many people, once they have paid for their booking, that money is gone and largely forgotten. Instead, they want to make the most of their trip and have the best experience they can. 15% of customers are happy to spend more between booking and visiting you, so give them the chance. The same person who would baulk at adding £20 onto their 3 night booking may do it without question two weeks later, for a bottle of wine or a bouquet in their room. Now is also a great time to promote room upgrades and show them that shot of the sea view or copper bathtub in a superior room.
As the date of their stay nears people often consider the activities they will enjoy, and book spa treatments and table reservations.
During their stay be sure to promote gift vouchers at reception, on your menus and in the rooms. Gift vouchers shops are cheap and quick to set-up and are great way to boost revenue.
Guests may treat themselves in the future or give them as gifts, which is a great source of revenue year round. Not to mention that almost a third of vouchers are never redeemed.
Ensure you have your guest’s email address when they check out, so you can add them to your email list and send further emails to promote future offers. There’s no need to raise awareness now – they’re sat comfortably at the midpoint of the funnel.
Don’t shy away from asking for reviews and responding to them. Reviews will have been part of their booking experience so keep filling that pot. It does not matter if they feedback on Google, booking.com, Facebook or Tripadvisor...you need content on all these channels.
Planning and measurement
If this all sounds like a lot of work to coordinate, it is. You need to create an annual plan to ensure you are hitting all the steps in the funnel with creative marketing and not missing anything out.
And how do you know if it’s working? Google Analytics keeps it all on track. Measure everything against your objectives: emails, social, SEO, Google Ads, and website traffic. Make sure you have set this up correctly as soon as possible.
So, that’s best practice independent hotel marketing. Follow the strategy above to ensure your boutique hotel is making the most of the digital market, and boost your bookings.