Hotel Marketing: When to Consider Hiring a Consultant

You’ve tried every hotel marketing tool you can think of to target a specific set of customers, and the results are still falling short of your goals. What now?

Maybe you’ve got all the right pieces—the staff, the online presence, the connections to online travel agents (OTAs), even a software package touted to “do it all”—but they’re not fitting together like they should.

There’s such a thing as being too close to a situation or problem to see clear solutions. A consultant has the experience and objectivity to help your hotel marketing program get back on track.

FAQs

“What can a consultant do for me?”

  • Consultants can help you develop an overall marketing plan or share expertise in one or two specific areas, such as social media, email marketing, or budgeting.
  • A consultant can be an extra set of hands to get an important marketing campaign developed and implemented on time. Even temporarily, the fresh perspective a consultant provides can rejuvenate the entire sales and marketing team.
  • A well-trained, experienced consultant can give you the professional, polished edge your hotel marketing campaign has been lacking. Not, perhaps, because you lack ideas or enthusiasm; you may simply lack the resources to make the campaign resemble in real life how you picture it in your head.
  • Whereas you are juggling several roles and responsibilities at once, a consultant can focus on one or a few important projects. While this may sound like an unnecessary indulgence, a well-executed marketing campaign can lift up every other aspect of hotel operations.
  • A consultant can enhance efficiency by upgrading employee training, making sure you’re using software packages to their fullest potential, and even improving how your marketing and sales team works together.

“How do I pick a good consultant?”

When was the last time you had a really great conversation? A good conversationalist doesn’t do most of the talking—he or she gets you to talk. Interviewing a consultant should feel a lot like that. He or she will want to know what your needs are, how your team generally works together, and information about past marketing campaigns and how you think they succeeded or failed.

He or she will offer examples of successes with other clients (while honoring confidentiality agreements), show you testimonials, outline his or her experience and training, and define what can be brought to your specific marketing table.

Most importantly, be wary of a consultant who seems to want to fit your marketing strategy into a “pre-loaded” program rather than customizing solutions to fit your hotel’s specific needs.

Need advice? We’ve got the experts to launch your online hotel marketing campaign into the success zone. Contact us today!

Hotel Marketing: Build an Audience With Guest Blogging (Part 2)

Last time, we talked about how to choose the right hotel marketing blog for a guest appearance. Now let’s look at how to be the kind of guest who will get invited back.

 

  • Subject Matter Matters

Don’t just write a blog that’s a glorified ad for your hotel. Tell the audience something they don’t know. Solve a problem many of them encounter when traveling in general, or to your region in particular. Need ideas? Check the blog’s most popular posts and look for an information gap you can fill.

  • Be a Good Guest

Words are fluid. Submit your blog post well ahead of deadline, and be willing to work with the blog owner to shape the content to better suit the blog’s audience. No content is so perfect that it can’t be improved. Also, make sure your content and images are properly vetted. The last thing you want is to get yourself and your host into copyright infringement.

  • Be Accessible

Remember, you’re not dealing with industry insiders. Stuffing your blog post with industry jargon and “Huh?”-inducing, alphabet-soup acronyms isn’t going to endear you to your audience. Write as if you’re talking face-to-face with someone who’s a blank slate. That doesn’t mean talking down to your audience; it means putting yourself in their traveling shoes.

  • Easy on the Hard Sell

Chances are you won’t be allowed to include a direct link to any discounts or offers tied in with your guest blog post. For example, you most likely can’t end the post with a blatant call to action, like “Click here, mention this post, and get a 20% discount.” This is skating too close to ad copy. A more subtle way to handle it is to invite readers to sign up for your email list, and offer something as a reward once they do—a stay discount, a free service, or a room upgrade.

  • Prepare for Visitors

Your blog post is going to hopefully generate interest in your hotel, so make sure every site the reader lands on, from web site to social media pages, is polished and functioning properly.

  • Reciprocate!

After you’ve posted your guest blog and engaged with those who comment on it, don’t forget to invite your host to post content on your hotel’s blog. The resulting exchange could build a long-term relationship that’s mutually beneficial to both sites’ audiences.

 

Smart eHotels™ can take your hotel marketing campaign to the next level. Contact us today!

Hotel Marketing: Build an Audience With Guest Blogging (Part 1)

There’s a lot more to hotel marketing than buying ad space and hoping your target customer will see it. Successful campaigns have one thing in common—interaction. Guest blogging is one great way to interact with your target customers, first by giving them useful information, and then by engaging in constructive follow-up discussions.

 

Enter the Blogosphere

One perfect venue for engaging customers is the blogosphere, and one of the easiest ways to get the word out about your own hotel’s online presence is to post as a guest on other travel-related blogs.

 

The following are a few tips to make the most of your guest blogging efforts:

  • Pick the right site. Bigger isn’t always better. On a large, popular travel site that attracts all kinds of customers, how likely is your message to reach that small slice of target audience? You’re better off choosing a smaller blog that already has a larger percentage of readers whose demographics match up with your criteria for potential customers.
  • Read lots of blogs. Simply knowing a certain blog is popular isn’t enough. Take the time to read through a number of entries to decide if this blog is a good fit for your style, tone, and goals. Is there something valuable you can add to the blog? If reading the blog generates a number of exciting topic ideas, the answer is probably yes.
  • Share information. Just offering to exchange guest blogs won’t necessarily result in an open-armed welcome. Be prepared to show why it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Provide your professional background to show you’re the best person to share information on a specific topic. Provide statistics from your own blog to assure the other blogger you have something to bring to the table—a pool of new visitors who may become subscribers.

 

Next time: In part two, learn the finer points of guest blogging etiquette.

 

Smart eHotels can take your hotel marketing campaign to the next level. 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!

Hotel SEO: Is It Possible to Over-Optimize Your Website?

In the dawning of the age of SEO, website developers quickly learned the formula for making sure their sites popped to the top of Google web search results: Figure out the most popular search phrases, and pack web pages full of them. The more, the better—right?

Not anymore.

 

Go Easy On The Keywords

Google has caught on to the keyword-packing game, and rightly so. Now it’s not enough for a hotel website to simply contain those popular search phrases, otherwise known as “search engine spam.” To be ranked, the web page’s content has to contain useful information, not just catch words.

That means keywords can’t just be dropped randomly into the middle of a sentence. Not only is this annoying to readers, but Google’s algorithms have gotten smarter at spotting blatant key-word stuffing. Keywords must now be worked naturally into the web page content in a way that makes sense.

 

Some Keywords Don’t Work

In the “old days,” all a web designer needed to know about hotel SEO was how to type meta keyword tags into a pop-up box in their chosen website design software, then save and publish. It’s not that simple anymore.

Google pretty much ignores meta keyword tags – unless, again, you’ve used too many. Cram the meta tags with a hundred possible keywords, and Google may banish your hotel website to search engine results no-man’s land.

 

Back-Links Can Backfire

Put simply, back-linking is the art of sprinkling links to your hotel’s website all across the web. The idea is to plant links on other web pages, blogs, or social media sites, where interested parties are likely to see them.

Once again, back-linking isn’t as simple as it used to be, when web developers simply paid someone to load up a back-link paint nozzle, as it were, and start spraying. Google figured this trick out pretty quickly, and now penalizes your hotel’s website accordingly if it notices hundreds of identical back-links appearing all at once, all over the web.

Treat a back-link like you would a business card; hand them out one at a time, and let website connections build slowly and naturally. Agree to trade links with another site relevant to your industry. Post useful content on travel websites and blogs, and include that back-link as a logical part of the article.

 

Other Common Hotel SEO Mistakes

One biggie is using SEO to draw users to your hotel website without taking into consideration why they’re there. Okay, so you’ve figured out that users are Googling “Disney World hotel packages.” Seems like a no-brainer, but you’d darn well better make sure that once a user lands on that web page, what they’re looking for is front and center, and presented in a way that’s logical and easy to use. In other words, don’t make them work to get to the information they need, or they’ll move on—and Google will notice and bump your hotel website down to search result page one-thousand-and-nowhere.

Giving the Google searcher exactly what they’re looking for is one thing, but giving them something extra, something unexpected but appreciated, is even better. Examples:

  • Advice about what to pack and what to leave at home
  • Where to eat on a budget, where to dine on a splurge
  • Great local attractions they may not have heard of
  • Work with local businesses to offer coupons with a stay that includes lower-demand midweek nights
  • Include stories about positive things your hotel is doing to improve the local community

Another common problem is a slow turnaround time between discovering ways to improve the website, and actual testing and implementation of those changes. The web moves fast; a nimble web development process is rewarded with new and returning visitors.

Google will notice – in a good way.

Slow and steady wins the hotel SEO race! Let SmarteHotels.com help you develop an effective strategy. Contact us today!