The travel industry has been hit particularly hard over the past few years. With less discretionary income, families are traveling less or simply staying local. Businesses are starting to use tools like Skype, for video chats, instead of flying to clients for in-person meetings. These two factors have forced hotels to evolve or die. Many forward-thinking hotels are looking to the Internet as a way to better market their their offerings to customers and prospects. Inbound Marketing, a new-age marketing activity that allows customers to find you online, can be hugely beneficial for hotels.
In this post, we will explore 5 separate Inbound Marketing ideas for Hotels. Each idea revolves around the use of a specific online tool, such as YouTube, Twitter, foursquare, etc. With that said, many of the ideas below can be implemented using numerous tools. I simply chose the tools that I thought made the most sense for each idea. Before implementing any of these ideas, it’s best to create a Strategic Marketing Plan that lists your goals, strategies, and tactics. This way you’ll have a guide for implementing these ideas, and you’ll also have something to look back at in 3, 6, 9 months to see how you’re tracking against your goals. Without a plan, it’s easy to get lost in all of these Inbound Marketing tactics, and it’s hard to determine your level of success (or failure) if you don’t have a plan, with goals and performance measures, to look back at.
YouTube Customer Testimonial Series
Customer testimonials are one of the biggest drivers of trust between prospective customer and a business. Video is the most powerful medium for communicating with customers and prospects besides face-to-face meetings. By combining customer testimonials with video, you can create a powerful YouTube Video Series full of great customer testimonials.
Hotels have the ability to produce high quality customer testimonial videos. Upon check-in let each customer know that if they are willing to take 10 minutes, at some point during their stay, to answer a few questions about their stay, you will provide them with some sort of incentive (free drink at the bar, free breakfast, 5% off of room service, etc). Hotels have ample space to record customer testimonial videos. Ask customers to schedule their interview and then take 30 minutes prior to shoot time to setup an empty hotel room or banquet room with your video equipment. Then have your hotel guest come in and talk about his or her stay so far at your hotel. Take that video, edit it, and publish it to your YouTube Channel. Hotels have so many guests on any given day that you should be able to produce a few quality videos each month.
These videos have the potential to entice a prospective customer to stay at your hotel, instead of the hotel down the street that he was considering. The reason, he now has another person’s perspective on the accommodations at your hotel. Reading a print ad or watching a TV commercial gives the customer an idea that you’re out there, but it doesn’t give him an unbiased opinion of the accommodations. These videos do that. Be sure to capture the opinions of different guest types (ie. family travelers, echo boomers who are traveling with friends, business travelers, etc). This will allow each prospective guest-type to see videos from individuals who they can relate with.
Foursquare Swarm Badge Party
A few weeks ago, we wrote about running a foursquare Swarm Badge Promotion for businesses. The Swarm Badge is unlocked when 50 or more people check-in at the same location, all within a short time of one another. Hotels can absolutely take advantage of this foursquare badge. Hotels can throw a foursquare Swarm Badge party at their bar. You can invite people from the local area AND guests. This promotion doesn’t just have to be geared towards guests, which is one of the biggest reasons why you should run it at your hotel. Hotel managers usually only think about their guests when it comes to revenue sources, but the local community can also be a revenue source when it comes to coming in to have dinner or drinks at your hotel.
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Host an event, whereby you invite anyone who wants to come, to have a free drink at your bar. Explain that you’re hoping to unlock the foursquare Swarm Badge for all participants. Let participants know that in order to get their free drink, they must check-in at your hotel or hotel bar on foursquare. Once 50 people check-in, the foursquare Swarm Badge is released to all participants. Participants then get a free drink and the highly coveted Swarm Badge. Hotels running this promotion build awareness for your hotel and hotel bar and you will generate revenue from participants (people are going to have more than one drink and some will buy food). You may be thinking that foursquare isn’t all that big yet, but they already have over 1 million users and they are growing at a fast rate. By the time you plan out this event, those numbers might be very different. Foursquare is here to stay, so it’s time to start incorporating it as a go-to platform in your hotel marketing activities.
Free Food for Facebook Fans
Hotels can reward Facebook fans with free food or drinks at their hotel restaurants and bars. This promotion is geared towards enticing guests to be active Facebook fans. Upon check-in, ask guests if they “Like” the Hotel Facebook fan page. If they say they do, ask them to pull up their Facebook account, show the front desk staff that they ‘Like’ the hotel’s fan page, and finally show that they’ve recently engaged in some fan page activity (ie. wrote a wall post, posted a comment, posted an image, participated in a discussion, etc).
In exchange for being an active Facebook fan, hotel management can provide guests with a free appetizer from the bar or room service. The offer could be a discount on your entire meal or even a free drink. There are many ways that hotel management can offer value here, it simply comes down to putting the right offer in front of the right people. Nobody should know your customers better than you, so I’m sure there are a few offers popping into your head now that might make sense for your clientele. Whatever offer you decide to go with, be sure to establish your goals for this program before you go live, and then start promoting it through your social tools (not just Facebook) and inside your hotel. This way, customers know about the program and how they can participate.
Start a Travel Group on LinkedIn
Start a LinkedIn Group around your geo-location and the hotel industry. You can connect with business travelers and engage them in conversations around travel and staying in hotels. You can learn a TON about common interests, needs, and desires, straight from your target audience. You can also use your LinkedIn Group to start discussions around your blog articles or promote new specials. When it comes to using LinkedIn, it’s best to be a lot more educational than promotional. People don’t want to read discussions solely about your promotions. Figure out an educational tie-in and lead with that. Somewhere, where it makes sense, fit in your promotional copy and a link to wherever you’re looking to drive traffic (your blog, your YouTube Channel, etc). In an earlier post on the Catalyst Marketers Blog, we wrote about how LinkedIn Discussions Can Generate Sales for Your Small Business – check it out if you’re unfamiliar with LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Discussions.
Blog, Blog, Blog
Blog about all of it. Use your blog as your main content platform. New blog posts can be written about all of the marketing ideas above. Blog posts can be written to generate buzz for upcoming programs, but posts can also be written at the conclusion of programs. For example, you can create blog posts leading up to your Foursquare Swarm Badge party, which should help drive traffic to your hotel on the night of the event. You can then write a blog post, and even create a Flickr Slide Show (which should then be linked to the blog post), post-event. This blog article will share information about how the event went down, how fun it was, include any sound bites from participants, etc. Sometimes Management wonders what they will write about on their blog, but once they create one, they realize that there’s never a shortage of content. There are a ton of relevant content stories just knocking up against the walls of your hotel, it’s just a matter of creating a plan for how you will share those stories with the world. A hotel blog can do that for you.
We hope these 5 Inbound Marketing ideas help you market your hotel accommodations to both customers and prospects. Be on the lookout for a future post with a few more Inbound Marketing ideas for hotels. Feel free to subscribe to the Catalyst Marketers Blog if you want to receive an email each time we publish a new article.