Your Hotel Marketing Plan: 3 Tips for Social Media Content Sharing

When it comes to the social media arm of your hotel marketing plan, it’s clear the best type of content is the type that gets shared, over and over again. The million-dollar question then is what is “good” content? And how do you achieve the Holy Grail of social media—going viral?

 

Tip #1: Offer Solutions

Ask your front desk staff what travel-related problems most customers complain about. They don’t always involve specific problems with the hotel itself, but the misadventures the customer relates about getting to and from the destination.

 

Travel how-tos are among the most shared type of content on the web. A few sample topics you can customize for your hotel or its location include:

  • How to make the most effective use of suitcase space.
  • How to stay organized during a business trip.
  • How to easily and cheaply get around your area during a very busy time, like high tourist season or during a special event.
  • How to handle encounters with the local wildlife (animal and human).
  • Simple “hacks” that make traveling with kids easier.

 

Tip #2: Bite Into the Bulleted List

In general, web pages filled with reams of “grey”—long blocks of unbroken text—are at best skimmed, at worst skipped altogether. While online, readers’ eyes are drawn to short, punchy, bulleted lists. For example, you could develop the following ideas into bulleted content:

  • Top five things to see and do in your area.
  • Items travelers should and shouldn’t leave behind when traveling to your region.
  • Ways to blend in like a local.

 

Tip #3: Make it Visual

Including an eye-catching graphic or photo that captures the topic and tone of your content makes it easy for readers to share on social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest. Superimposing the title, such as “Five Travel Hacks You Can’t Live Without” or “(Location name)’s Best Beaches” on the picture means readers don’t have to take their eyes off it to comprehend the message.

 

How-to or list videos, while more labor intensive and expensive to produce, can sometimes be the most effective way to communicate your content. For example, what do you think will better show off your hotel’s amenities? A static picture, or a video panning across the pool area while palm trees wave and kids splash in the sun? Which might gain more business: a photo of an empty ballroom, or a clip of a business meeting or event in progress?

 

By knowing who your customers are, how far ahead they book, and why they come to your hotel, it’s more likely your hotel marketing plan content will go viral.

 

Smart eHotels™ can help make your hotel marketing plan content the talk of the Internet. Contact us today!

4 Tips for Developing an Effective Hotel Marketing Plan Strategy

When is the best time to develop your hotel marketing plan? Ideally, before you throw open the doors for the first time. You want to ensure every customer who comes through those doors is your target customer.

Developing a hotel marketing plan is critical to success, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect. By recognizing that each hotel is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all hotel marketing plan, you’ll be able to create the best plan for your hotel—and easily adjust it as needed. Let’s start from the beginning.

Tip #1: Establish Your Goals

First, look at the reasons your hotel might pop up on a traveler’s radar. Your hotel may be in:

  • A city that’s home to several corporate headquarters.
  • A winter ski resort area.
  • A summer beach mecca.

Customers who travel to these locations typically have expectations about what kind of experience they’ll have at the hotels. Your goal is at least to meet those expectations, and ideally, to exceed them.

Another goal should include hiring great staff for your hotel. Every staff member your customer encounters has the ability to make or break the best of marketing plans.

In addition, it seems obvious, but if staying in business means you need to maintain, say, 90 percent occupancy rate during peak season and 70 percent in the off-season, write this down as part of the plan. If your goal is to become the top-rated facility of its kind in the area, write that down.

Tip #2: List Your Assets

What about your facility will draw target customers through your doors? At the top of every hotel marketing plan’s asset list is “location,” followed by amenities such as free WiFi, fitness equipment, food availability, and shuttle service.

Obviously, a vacationer headed for the beach isn’t going to book at a ski resort. But business meeting planners? The reasons they’re looking at facilities in a certain location are more subtle. For every meeting planner looking for a central, easy-to-access hotel, there’s another one looking for an out-of-the-way hotel free from urban or peak-season distractions.

Also consider what your hotel has—or could have—that could be a booking booster for off-peak times. The addition of a few conference-friendly amenities could more than pay for themselves in an increase in business conference bookings.

Tip #3: Ponder Possible Allies

With a little creativity, you can partner with other seemingly non-related businesses and organizations in the area to amp up your hotel marketing efforts. Offer to host a local chamber of commerce or travel and tourism board meeting. Brainstorm with area arts foundations or sports teams to combine advertising campaigns. Look ahead at what annual festivals are coming up and become a sponsor. When a traveling professional show comes to town, host an opening-night event and barter performer rooming for advertising space in the printed program.

Tip #4: Utilize Your Staff’s Knowledge

Remember that your staff members have lives outside the hotel. A great way to personalize your hotel’s social media marketing efforts is to encourage employees to write blog posts about hobbies that could attract like-minded enthusiasts to your hotel’s web site.

For example, a staff member who rides a motorcycle could blog about great roads to ride in the area. Another employee with kids could write about kid-friendly destinations and events nearby. A history buff could talk about the best places in the region to hunt for antiques. Have a foodie on board? Have her write about the area’s hidden culinary treasures.

With an eye open to the possibilities right in your hotel’s backyard, the options for creating a custom hotel marketing plan are endless.

For Further Ideas

Let SmarteHotels.com be your hotel marketing plan partner. Contact us today!

Hotel Marketing: 5 Time-Saving Software Packages

Website, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Yelp, TripAdvisor—the array of online hotel marketing venues to choose from are dizzying. Fortunately there are a number of project management software choices that can help you keep all your Internet balls in the air.

Buuteeq

The advantage of using Buuteeq is that it has been specifically designed for the hotel industry, so there’s less hassle in terms of customizing a generic software package to suit your needs. It allows you to create a high-performance website and reservations capability that can be used across several platforms – computers, smartphones, and tablets – and integrate with online social networking sites, specifically Facebook. Even better, Buuteeq lets you get acquainted with the software with a free trial version.

Producteev

This software may not have all the bells and whistles of some of the fancier project management packages, but what it lacks in toys it makes up for with flawless execution. It targets four specific platforms – iPhone, Android, OS X, and Windows – and its emphasis is simplicity and ease of use. Its non-intimidating user interface makes it perfect for a busy manager of a smaller hotel operation who appreciates efficiency and doesn’t have time for a long learning curve. It can also be integrated into a team environment. Best of all, it’s free.

Mavenlink

This is another project management/integration software package designed for web-based collaboration. If you’re lucky enough to have a multi-member marketing team, this can keep you all on the same page while on the go. For a one-person hotel online marketing operation, it may have more features than you need, but its freeware and subscription versions are reasonably priced.

Intuit QuickBase

QuickBase is designed to be easily customizable and accessible on the web, making it perfect for teams of any size to access tools and information anytime, anywhere. It’s web-based, so whatever device you’re using to access the web should work. It’s one of the pricier options, but depending on your needs, it could more than pay for itself in increased productivity. There’s a free trial version to help you figure out if it’s right for you.

Microsoft Project

This is the granddaddy of project management software, but it’s been around a long time for a reason: it’s a solid, functional workhorse that looks comfortably familiar to anyone who’s ever used a Microsoft product. The downside is that it’s PC-based – no online platform that you can use from anywhere, on any device. However, projects can be shared via a server that can potentially be accessed from somewhere other than the office, so it’s not completely immobile.

These are only a few of literally hundreds of project management options that can help you keep your hotel marketing efforts on track. One of them is sure to fit your needs – and your budget.

SmarteHotels.com has the tools to make your mark on the web. Contact us today!

Your Hotel Marketing Plan: Negative Reviews and Netiquette – Part 2

You know what they say about lemons, right? Add water, stir in sugar to sweeten it up, and you have a recipe to turn a scowl into an smile. The same philosophy can be applied when your sweet hotel marketing plan runs afoul of sour-grapes reviews.

As we talked about in Part 1 of this series, the worst thing you can do is ignore a customer review, or worse, argue with the customer about it. Here’s a list of tips to minimize a bad review’s impact.

  • Show You Care. Don’t let negative comments just stand on their own. Someone from management should respond in a well-thought-out, polite manner. You want everyone who runs across the interaction to get the impression you are a professional who takes customer service seriously.

Conversely, you should also try to respond to positive reviews, as well, even with a simple thank you. It shows potential customers you’re listening to your customers.

  • Don’t Be Anonymous. When you write a response – even to an anonymous reviewer – stand by your words by including your name, title, and business contact information. Your company logo is important, but don’t hide behind it.
  • Spell Check Matters. Writers are generally their own worst editors. Have a second set of eyes proof-read your response for a positive, conversational tone, accuracy, grammar, and spelling before you hit “send”.
  •  Never Escalate. If you suspect that a bad review is untruthful, never simply call the reviewer a liar. Read the review site’s policies on how to deal with malicious content and go through proper channels. If there’s even a shred of truth in the review, though, you must be absolutely truthful in your response as to the steps you are taking to address the problem.
  • Don’t Copy and Paste. When responding to numerous reviews, it’s tempting to use a canned response. Don’t do it. Try hard to give every comment your individual attention.
  • Encourage Customers to Review. The more reviews potential customers can find on the web, the better. The fresher the content, the better, because it’s hard to judge the current condition of a hotel by only a few, years-old reviews.
  • Expand Your Presence. Tripadvisor isn’t the only travel review site out there. Poke around Yelp, Google Places, and the top travel magazines’ online forums. Have a smart phone? Use it to “ask Siri” general questions about where to stay in your area, or specific questions about your hotel. Use the responses you get to fine-tune your hotel marketing plan.

Caveat: Yelp looks askance at a sudden flood of new users posting stellar reviews about one hotel, so make sure those you ask to review are experienced, long-term users.

  • Don’t Be Greedy. Asking a customer to talk up your hotel on Facebook, Yelp, and Tripadvisor is probably asking too much, and risks repetitive content that could get Google search results punted off page one. Ask customers which site they’re most familiar with, and request a “like” or review on that site only.
  • Don’t Be A Ghost. Tempting as it might be to plant some positive marketing copy under an assumed name, don’t do it. Asking (or even bribing) close friends and family to talk up your brand-new hotel on the web isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Creating pretend reviews under a false pseudonym is a big, big no-no. At best, it will be discovered and your hotel marketing plan could suffer an insurmountable blow. At worst, it could land you in court.

Need help with a hotel marketing plan? Let Smart eHotels be your guide! Contact us today.

Your Hotel Marketing Plan: Negative Reviews and Netiquette – Part 1

So, you’ve got an online hotel marketing plan up and running for your business. Congratulations! Now all you have to do is sit back and welcome all those new and returning customers, right? Wrong. You aren’t the only one hitting the world wide web. Your customers are, too, and they’re talking to each other. About the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Travel review sites are among the fastest growing social media sites on the internet. Chances are, someone who stayed at your hotel has written a review or clicked a star rating. It’s a good idea to not only monitor and interact with customers on the social media pages you’ve established, but also to do a periodic search of the popular travel sites to see what your customers are thinking about their last stay at your facility.

Inevitably, you’re going to run across a scathing review or three. When you do, how do you respond? Well, here are two of the worst things you can do:

  • Argue. Remember that old adage, “the customer is always right”? This phrase should be engraved into your hotel marketing plan, as well.

All over the web, there are examples of business owners who forget that they should treat a web-based customer interaction exactly the same as a face-to-face interaction. Somehow, common courtesy flies out the window. Follow their example, soon you’ll be attracting attention to your hotel, all right – the wrong kind. The kind that gets copied, pasted, and ridiculed around the world in minutes, if not seconds.

It’s best to pretend every online customer contact is taking place in public, because in reality, it is. Be polite, stick to your policies, but when you can, make it right. Anything else risks making the bad impression that will send potential customers away before they’ve even darkened your lobby door.

  • Ignore. At least as bad as negative customer interaction is no interaction at all. Allowing a bad review to stand without a response makes it look like you don’t care what customers think of your hotel.

Next time: More tips on how to turn a negative customer review into a positive for your hotel marketing plan.

Hotel Marketing Plan: Keep Your Hotel From Becoming A Wedding Disaster Tale

When a prospective bride and groom fill out your online hotel request for proposal to decide if your hotel is right for their wedding, they have a vision of the perfect day – not the myriad things that could go wrong.

Even the best hotels can’t be completely prepared for every possible mishap, misstep, or miscommunication, but here are a few common problems for which you can have a back-up plan in place.

  • On-Site Maintenance and Renovation

Regularly scheduled maintenance that affects any visible part of the hotel or the grounds should be scheduled around a wedding event, or simply do not book a wedding or event on those dates. Even if renovation does not impact guest areas directly, be aware that dust and paint fumes travel, and some guests may be sensitive enough that they require relocation.

For unplanned, emergency construction, such as after a flood or storm, it’s a good idea to develop a partnership with other local hotels. An agreement to transfer guests for unexpected disasters could save the couple’s day, and earn your hotel points for customer service.

Make sure all elevators, sprinkler systems, and other safety features are inspected and functioning properly.

  • Nearby Construction

Dust, noise, and unsightly road or building construction nearby can disrupt a wedding event, even if it doesn’t directly involve your hotel. Pay attention to city, county, and state construction plans so you can offer guests alternate routes, or alternate dates, if necessary.

  • Local Events That Draw Crowds

Be aware of local events that could impact a wedding. Location near a major convention center, NASCAR track, or venue for an annual event that draws large crowds could impact a couple’s plans for an intimate destination wedding. Make sure you inform the couple, especially if they’re not from the area, of popular local events that could affect availability of rooms, car rentals, restaurant table availability, and even traffic on the streets and at local tourist attractions.

  • Personnel changes

Your hotel wedding and event coordinator should have a back-up plan in place and a fully informed back-up person on standby if he or she must leave the site for any reason. Few things stress a bride out more than having to deal with a new and possibly uninformed event contact when she arrives at your hotel for her big day.

  • Not Enough Hands on Deck

Make sure you have enough staff scheduled to help wedding guests and vendors with extra luggage, equipment, and decorations. If you have a security guard, consider scheduling an extra one to keep an eye on all the additional guests and vendors on site.

  • Heath Emergencies

A hotel wedding party is bound to include a number of out-of-town guests who don’t know the local lay of the land. In addition to informing guests of the nearest medical facilities, someone on your staff should be trained in CPR and first aid. It’s also not a bad idea to keep an AED device on the premises, and train your staff how to use it.

  • Accidental Overbooking

Even with modern technology, unintentional overbooking will probably happen at some point. Work with your partner hotels in the area to handle the overflow – and try not to let the wedding party be the ones to relocate. Business and just-passing-through travelers will be less picky about relocating to another hotel, particularly if you offer them a restaurant voucher or a free night at another time.

  • Power Outages

Few things will panic a bride more than a power outage in the middle of her blow-dry. A back-up generator could save the day – and perhaps a kitchen full of reception food!

  • Weather Emergencies

Always have a guest evacuation plan, and have periodic practice runs. For the minor rain shower that could potentially ruin a bride’s dress, simply keep a supply of large golf umbrellas stashed in a closet. Brides will be “singing in the rain”, and singing your praises to other potential customers.

Even the greatest hotel marketing plan might not help you avoid a wedding disaster, but we can! Contact Smart eHotels today.