Hotel Online Marketing Plan: How to Maximize Pinterest

Pinterest, the wildly popular online bulletin board, is a brainstormer’s paradise. Who hasn’t cut a picture from a magazine, clipped a recipe, bookmarked a web site, or tacked a list to the fridge to reference later? Trust social media users to take a simple concept and find a million and one ways to use it—such as including it in a hotel online marketing plan.

 

In the past couple years, the number of Pinterest users connecting to all kinds of business web sites has outpaced all other social media outlets, including Facebook. It’s a powerhouse that can’t be ignored.

 

In fact, hotels can now take advantage of Pinterest’s business accounts. If you’ve already set up a regular account for your hotel and aren’t sure how to use it, you can easily convert to a business account and explore tools that let you integrate Pinterest with your web site.

 

Button It Up

Next, after you’ve created an account, use a simple code to add a Pinterest button to the page template of your web site. It’s pretty easy if you know even basic web site coding; even easier to turn over to your web designer. A button makes it simple for customers to find and follow your boards, similarly to how they “follow” your Facebook page.

 

Even better, you can have a small “Pin It” button pop up whenever a visitor rolls a mouse pointer over a picture. This is an easy way to make that connection that could later lead to a booking.

 

Weave Your Web

Like many other social media sites, you can link your hotel’s Pinterest account to your Facebook page and Twitter feed. Anytime you post something new to a board, a notice will then post to your other social media feeds.

 

Your First Boards

You’ll quickly learn that it’s easy to get caught up in exploring the labyrinth of Pinterest topics. Start simple with boards that focus on your hotel’s rooms and its amenities like restaurants, bars, pools, workout facilities, public areas, and more. The idea is to pin high-quality photos from your web site. Then when a picture catches a potential customer’s eye, a click on that picture will take him or her directly to your web site.

 

More Pinboard Ideas

Once you get the hang of creating boards and pinning, widen your horizons a little. Create a shared board that lets customers pin their photos of a recent visit. Add another board that highlights special promotional rates. And perhaps start a new board of the bartender’s latest cocktail creation or the restaurant’s current special dish. Make boards with connections to local attractions, popular travel writers, and more . . . the possibilities for getting your hotel’s name out there are endless.

 

In fact, it’s easy to get a little too scattered. Just make sure every pin serves a specific purpose that links back to fulfilling your hotel online marketing plan and, ultimately, your business goals.

 

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Let us show you how well social media can work for your hotel. Contact us today!

Getting a Visual on Your Hotel Online Marketing Plan

The Internet is very much a visual medium. A picture is worth, literally, a thousand words—if not more. However, as any seasoned web marketer can tell you, web site hits, Facebook likes, and Twitter followers don’t necessarily translate into sold hotel rooms. If your web site is getting a lot of visitors but you aren’t seeing an uptick in bookings, take a look at these tried-and-true web marketing tips to strengthen your hotel online marketing plan.

The Human Element

As you know, including high-quality photographs of each room category, the grounds, amenities, on-site restaurants, etc. is essential. However, did you realize that including a person in at least some of those photos can help sell your hotel to potential customers? This helps customers picture themselves relaxing in that room, lounging by the pool, or enjoying the restaurant or workout facility.

Also, take a look at your hotel’s “About Us” page. Including a picture of the facility owner or manager with a personal welcome message can help potential customers feel like they’re not dealing with a stranger. A group picture of the staff can help too.

‘Moving’ Pictures

Including a video tour can make customers feel like they’ve already visited your hotel, but a “moving” picture that tells a story can “move” customers to book a stay rather than moving on to the next site.

For example, show a picture of:

  • a business meeting taking place in your facility meeting rooms, equipped with technological amenities.
  • a conference where a business person and a supply vendor are shaking hands on a deal.
  • a wedding reception in joyous progress in one of your ballrooms.
  • a grandmother reuniting with her grandchildren at a picnic by the pool.

Fan Pictures

Encourage guests who’ve enjoyed their stay to send photos taken at your hotel along with their testimonials. Including these on your web site, Facebook page, or Twitter feed can tip the scales for a potential customer considering a booking.

If you’re ready to snag potential customers’ attention with your hotel online marketing plan, then we can help. Contact us today.

Hotel Global Distribution Strategies: Maximizing Your Online Footprint, Part 1

Getting your hotel visible in the fast-moving world of the Internet is what a global distribution strategy is all about. It’s increasingly the best way to get your hotel rooms in front of the right customer, at the right time, for the right price.

While there are a number of advantages of weaving your hotel into the worldwide web (easy transaction processing with instant confirmation, customer information capture, and demand management), all this new technology may come with a few unexpected drawbacks, particularly if you rely too much on one online reservations channel.

 

Commissions and Transaction Fees Eat Profit Margins
Putting all your marketing eggs in one distribution channel basket may fill more rooms, but at what cost? Sites like priceline.com and booking.com use one criterion to lure customers: rock-bottom prices. But is the lowest price always the right price? Not for your target customers—the ones who would have been willing to pay more for the right mix of service, value, location, and amenities.

Worse, offering the lowest price doesn’t always get your hotel front and center on a potential customer’s search results. That’s right—these sites want hotels to pay a premium commission rate for that privilege.

Giving Up Control Over Customer Relationships
In addition, they may withhold vital customer data that prevents you from establishing the bread and butter of hotel management – personal contact.

GDS Ease of Use
When considering making a hotel global distribution system a part of your strategy, don’t forget to examine how easy it is to use. If your target customer is an older, retired, leisure traveler who isn’t as likely to be tech savvy, is it worth it to pay a steep commission for customers who aren’t there?

The solution? Balance. In Part 2 of this two-part article we’ll take a look at how to spread your hotel global distribution efforts in an effective pattern.

Step up your hotel global distribution strategy and get noticed. Contact us today!

Hotel Internet Marketing: Going Mobile, Part 1

These days it almost seems there are two separate Internets – one for desktop and laptop computers, and one for the on-the-go devices that seem to be in everyone’s hands, messenger bags, and back pockets. How can you target both in your hotel internet marketing plan?

Screen clarity in these smart phones and media devices (tablets, e-readers, and phone-sized media players) is improving all the time. But have you ever tried to access a desktop-friendly hotel website on a mobile device? You could get a migraine attempting to read the miniscule font, and good luck trying to click (tap) a web link, much less make a reservation.

Sure, customers can do the double-tap thing to enlarge, and scroll around with a fingertip to view content, but study after study has shown that it only takes a few minutes, maybe even a few seconds, for the frustration factor to kick in. The result? Users abandon the quest—and no, they usually don’t decide to dial your 800 number. The number of users making online-only reservations rises exponentially every year while the phone-in segment shrinks. By the time your hotel website has tripped a customer’s frustration fuse, they’ve decided to look elsewhere.

On the other end of the spectrum are the businesses that have responded by creating stripped-down versions of their main sites for mobile users. However, these side-by-side sites have tended to be anything but equal. Users complain that desired features on the “regular” site don’t make it to the mobile screen. Result: Users feel they’re missing out on useful links, deals – even ads – that desktop users enjoy.

What’s the answer? There are a couple possibilities, and both have pros and cons.

  • Integration: Websites can be as smart as the smartphones that access them, which means when a device accesses your hotel web site, it detects what kind of device it is, and automatically adjust the display (otherwise known as the user interface, or UI) accordingly. This is known as responsive web design.
  • User Choice: When the user lands on your home page, users get a choice of what view they prefer, desktop or mobile.

Next time we’ll continue the topic of mobile hotel Internet marketing with a look at exactly what customers want out of their mobile experience.

Get smart with mobile hotel Internet marketing! Contact SmarteHotels.com to get started.

Developing Your Hotel Internet Marketing Plan, Part 2: Pick Your Channels

Welcome back to our series on developing your hotel Internet marketing plan! Last time we identified your ideal customer. Now let’s figure out where on the Internet you’re most likely to catch their attention.

Web Site

With so many web hosting services and design options, there’s a combination out there sure to fit your skill level and budget. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to handle the legwork, here are basic steps to get your hotel’s web site up and running.

  1. Buy your hotel’s domain name.
    Decide what your hotel’s URL, or domain name, will be (www.HOTELNAMEHERE.com, for example), and then purchase it from a domain name service. Don’t be afraid to shop around to get the best deal. The basic cost to reserve your URL won’t vary much from site to site, but the price of multi-year renewal deals and add-on packages definitely will.
    Package deals typically include multiple email boxes, extra storage, security and privacy options, shopping carts, email newsletter list set-up and maintenance, and perhaps a discount if you choose to host your site through the same provider from which you purchased your URL.
    TIP: Once you settle on a URL and go to a domain name service to reserve it, buy it immediately. Remember that everything you do on the web leaves an electronic trail and rest assured, someone is watching. If you get distracted or get cold feet and decide to come back later, you may discover the domain name you want has been snapped up by someone else who’ll “generously” offer to sell it to you—for an inflated price.
  2. Pick a service to host your site.
    It’s probably simplest, especially if you’re doing it yourself for the first time, to choose a domain name service that will also host your site as part of the package. You can choose a separate site, but it’ll add a few more hoops to jump through.
  3. Design your site.
    Many hosting services provide templates that walk you through the process of creating a basic web site. This can be useful to get your hotel’s basic information in front of web-surfing customers until you can get a snazzier site developed.
    If you have some skills and are really adventurous, there are a variety of software packages available – some for free – that offer a user-friendly way to do it yourself.
    Search the web and you’ll find a plethora of web site designers eager for your business. Again, shop around and peruse each designer’s portfolio before settling on one to suit your needs and budget. Your target Internet audience will probably want to be able to read about your hotel’s amenities and book a room in as few clicks as possible; a web designer familiar with the hotel industry and online reservation systems like SABRE will probably be a good choice, particularly if you have zero web design skills.
  4. Pay attention to stats.
    Install a statistics monitor on your site, and you’ll have detailed information at your fingertips, like where your site visitors are located, what site they came in, where they go when they leave your site, whether they come back, and more. Information like this is highly valuable to tweak your overall online hotel marketing strategy.

Social Media

“Social media” instantly brings to mind three words for most anyone who has spent any amount of time on the web: Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Fortunately, all three can be integrated with your web site, and once you get your feet wet, you can venture out to explore the possibilities with other up-and-coming outlets like Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

  • Facebook
    Love it or hate it, Facebook is the go-to site to start your social media adventure. Since the interface frequently changes, there’s no point in trying to explain it here. However, it’s important that once you register with a profile, that you create a separate page for your hotel. The reason is simple: profiles are limited to a certain number of friends, but pages can have an unlimited number of fans.
    A Facebook page is a wonderful way to interact with past and future customers. Guests are often eager to post comments and photos of their stay, and you have an instant audience for newsletters, photos, videos, announcements, and special deals or packages.
  • Twitter
    Twitter is, in essence, micro-blogging in 140 characters or less. Browse the site for an astounding education on how to use it for marketing purposes. Best of all, it can be set up so all your “tweets” will automatically post to your hotel’s Facebook page.
  • Blog
    A free blogging service like Blogger or LiveJournal is one choice, but there’s a downside—taking readers away from your main web site. These days, a blog can be integrated into your main site, keeping your potential guest engaged in your territory. The key is to keep posting fresh content so visitors will come back often to see what’s new.

Paid Advertising

Let’s say you want to advertise your small or independent hotel in on a print travel magazine’s web site or on a travel review site. Go to the web site and look on the home page for a link to “advertise” or “advertise with us.” Click that link, and look for a few vital pieces of information:

  • The magazine’s audience profile and site statistics such as the number of page views per month
  • A “rate card,” which is simply a list of advertising rates and packages
  • Ad specifications or guidelines for creating the ad (size, resolution, content, etc.)
  • Contact information for a representative who can guide you through the process

If you have any basic graphics skills at all, you could create and submit the ad yourself; otherwise, the magazine’s staff will be happy to help.

Coming up: Part 3, “Define Your Message.”

Ready to get started? Contact us today!

Developing Your Hotel Internet Marketing Plan, Part 1: Who’s Your Customer?

Every small and independent hotel manager has a vision. Usually it involves a steady stream of customers wheeling their suitcases through the door, reservations pouring in via phone and the web, and a full facility every night.  The question is, do you have a hotel Internet marketing plan?

If your current marketing plan isn’t generating your idea of hotel heaven, it’s time to learn how developing an online presence can boost the number of new and returning faces to your facility. This series, “Developing Your Hotel Internet Marketing Plan,” will help you spread the electronic word to as many Internet-savvy (and not so savvy) customers as possible.

1. Identify Your Current Customer

This part should be easy, especially if you already have a solid business plan in place and your hotel’s doors have been open for a while. You’ve probably noted that many of your guests have some things in common; so let’s do a little profiling to get your thoughts organized.

  • Customer age range and gender – Does your facility tend to attract young professionals?  Retired couples? Families with children?
  • Education level – Do your guests tend to have at least one college degree?
  • Occupation – Blue collar? White collar?
  • Level of disposable income – This can (but doesn’t always) tie into both occupation and age range.
  • Average stay – “Just passing through” for one or two nights, or lingering for up to a week?
  • Internet literacy – Do your customers make most of their travel plans online? Hang out on social media sites, posting comments and travel photos? Actively participate in online travel forums? Scour blogs and trip review sites for recommendations?

Need hard numbers? Have an analytics program installed on your web site, and pay attention to the stats pertaining to your Facebook page.  These are going to be important to your hotel Internet marketing plan.

2. Identify Your Ideal Customer

Now that you’ve identified your current customer, ask yourself if this is your ideal customer. If so, great! If not, decide how you want that profile to change or expand. For example: more business-oriented guests; fewer college students and more professionals; more “lingerers” and fewer “here-and-gones.” You might even consider asking current guests to fill out a short survey – how they found you, where they get the majority of their travel information, which travel-oriented web sites they like best, etc.

Use this as a road map to determine where to spend your online time and money.

Coming up: Part 2 in this series, “Pick Your Channels.”

Ready to get started? Contact us today!