|Hotel Internet Marketing Tactics From Outside the Box.|
By Neil Salerno – Hotel Marketing Coach
Friday, 18th September 2009
There have been a torrent of articles and webinars extolling the virtues of social media for hotels; Social media is certainly applicable for hotel franchise brand-building, but this writer is still unconvinced about the marketing value of social media for individual hotels.
Social media has been a boon for retail product sales because items can be of interest to people at any time, but the same principle is not true for hotels.
Interest is the key. Few people have any interest in a particular hotel unless it happens to be where they are traveling or planning an event. The exception is travel-oriented social media, like TripAdvisor, which is a viable tool to promote individual hotels because consumers can search comments about the specific hotel in which they have an interest at the time.
Third-party endorsement of products and services has always been a powerful sales tool. There was a time when most hotels sought the coveted stars and diamonds of AAA and Mobil to demonstrate their value to travelers.
Today, travel-oriented social media has intensified hotel endorsement by providing traveler user-generated comments to guide the hotel selection process. This is powerful marketing.
Take Advantage of This Powerful Sales Tool
Until now, guest comments were primarily used to measure the effectiveness of a hotel's operation and as a guide for evaluating hotel management. The public forum provided by travel social media gives hotels an opportunity to use guest-experience comments for marketing purposes as well.
One of the very best tactics is to place the TripAdvisor Widget directly on your website. Oh, I know what you're thinking "some of those comments are negative". Even negative comments can benefit your hotel if they are addressed and answered properly when they are published to TripAdvisor. If you have no time for anything new in your busy hotel life, monitoring TripAdvisor for newly posted comments is an absolute must.
According to all the experts, most travelers using the Internet, will check TripAdvisor, or similar sites, before or after making a reservation. Wouldn't you prefer to have them view the TripAdvisor widget on your site versus leaving your site to check it? In addition, you can also post comments from your guest comment cards.
Packages and Promotions Promote Search & Sales
For individual hotels, Internet search is still the most effective tool to drive travelers to your website to drive reservations, yet there are still so many hotel websites which are not being utilized to maximize search results or promote new sales. Simply presenting your hotel's facilities and services is not nearly enough. Every page on your website should be a possible landing page.
Many hotel sites are not taking advantage of even the most basic of tactics to improve search results and sell more rooms. Packages and promotions can serve both masters. If packages are based upon local attractions and events, they invite the use of additional search keywords to expose your hotel. Remember search results are based upon the content of your website.
In addition, this economy has amplified traveler appetites for real travel deals; those like a well developed package or promotion. People want a deal and buy value, not rates. Packages are a means to mask rates so as to maintain your hotel's rate integrity. They are also an instrument to connect your hotel with the attractions and unique destination attributes in your marketplace.
Create an Extranet For Your Best Clients
Keeping good clients isn't always a matter of reducing rates or adding expensive amenities; sometimes, adding a service convenience can be a strong tool. One of these services is to offer an exclusive page, accessed only from your site, which is totally devoted to the client. You can provide your client with a password-accessed page(s) to display negotiated rates, special amenities, area or client-oriented information, etc.
Along with this client-devoted page, you can provide them with a direct link to their own page on your website in the form of an computer icon which leads to your website. This can be a powerful "partnership" tool.
Thinking outside the box can also apply to the most powerful sales tool in your possession, your website. These tactics are not new, not exclusive, and not unique, but they can make a significant impact to your website booking results.
Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach