The travel industry has perhaps the greatest potential to grow and market online. Sadly, most hotels and resorts treat online marketing very much like they do traditional marketing – they setup a brochure website, and then forget about it. To truly engage an audience and sell more rooms, you need to look at web marketing as a living, breathing, entity. These online marketing tips don’t apply to local motels which would be best served by billboards and local marketing. Instead, I want to focus on true vacation destination hotels and resorts. Places people research and book in advance.
Get the Basics Right – I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. No amount of marketing will make up for a poor product or service. If the rooms are dirty or checking in is a hassle, don’t expect marketing to make up for it. Of all the things people talk about online, hotels top the list. Do yourself a favor, take a percentage of your marketing every month, and use it to better the customer experience.
Provide Tongue Candy – No, not mints at the front desk. But, stories that people will repeat when they go back home. I call irresistible word of mouth tongue candy. Stories that people can’t help but share with others. For example, I almost always stay at one particular hotel when I travel to New York. Along with a wonderful pillow menu, they also have a squeaky dog toy for sale. For busy travelers, a little gift for a pet at home is a great idea – and makes for a good story.
Start with a Website – Your website matters! Beware of a generic website. If you truly want to stand out from the crowd, make sure your website tells your story. What’s the history of the property? What do people absolutely love about staying there? Are the banana pancakes the best this side of the Mississippi? Tell the story, and engage the imagination of future visitors. Just make sure the real thing backs it up.
Be Findable – Let’s say you have a fabulous resort in Miami. If I search for Miami getaways – does your resort come up? The EASIEST sale you can make is when someone is already looking for you. Search engine optimization is your best bet for driving qualified traffic to your website…and customers through the door.
Encourage Reviews – Reviews can truly make or break a hotel. How often do you check expedia or trip advisor first before making a booking? Reviews can drastically change the traffic of your business, so be sure not to ignore this. If you have a disappointed customer you need to go ABOVE and BEYOND to make sure they are satisfied EVEN if this means taking a loss on them. Make sure you encourage the positive ones, and deal with the negative ones in a professional and timely manner. The best way to encourage positive review is to get them before a guest leaves the premises. For example, you can setup computers in the lobby, and ask guests to sign your Facebook fan page guest book. A little note on the side can say – “Enjoyed your stay? Please take a moment to share your thoughts online. Did we do something to disappoint? Please contact our manager at xyz so we may rectify this immediately.” This way you encourage positive reviews, and limit negative ones.
Social Media Marketing – This is what everyone wants to jump right into! Once you have the above in place, setup a Facebook fan page. Encourage guests to leave comments and share their pictures. Use Twitter to find future guests, and provide customer service. Use online videos to showcase the resort, and to tape true testimonials from willing guests. It all adds up!