Attracting new customers in the hospitality industry can be difficult, especially for smaller businesses. Word of mouth goes a long way within the hospitality industry; and it can be hard to overcome the trusted brand perception and name recognition of national chains.
Online marketing has become the new frontier where every person and business has a voice and may use it to their advantage. This year, you can start adopting some of the most accessible online hospitality marketing trends to increase your brand recognition, trustworthiness, and buzz for your business.
Interested in learning more? Read:
- ‘Independent Restaurants: How to Stand Out’
- ‘Liquor Liability Laws: Do I Need Liquor Liability Insurance?’
- ‘4 Helpful Tips for Small Business Owners.’
- 2020 Restaurant Technology Trends You Should Know About
3 Easy Tactics for Hospitality Marketing
1. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads
Pay-per-click ads are a great way to gain short-term conversions. You see PPC ads every single day and may not even realize it. When you conduct a search on Google, the first few listings on search engine results pages (SERPs) are PPC ads, indicated by the small “ad” icon above the link (highlighted in the image below).
PPC strategy can get pretty complex, so it’s recommended you consult with a marketing firm for advanced tactics, but the basics shouldn’t be too hard to implement with a little extra research on your end. Basically, the way it works is you pay for your ads to appear within Google for certain search terms, aka keywords. So, when somebody searches that phrase on Google, your ad shows up, but keep in mind you only pay once individuals actually click on your ad. Prices per click and per keyword fluctuate depending on the keyword’s search popularity.
Admittedly, the larger your budget, the more success you’ll see when it comes to PPC. But once you start seeing some serious ROI, you can start implementing advanced strategies. For example, many companies bid on their competitors’ brand name keywords. This tends to be a more costly tactic up front, but it gives you the advantage of getting your brand name in front of potential customers when they search for your competitor’s brand name. All in all, PPC is great for short-term investments for short-term gains, making it especially ideal for seasonal specials, sales, and other promotions.
2. Organic SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
For those businesses that can’t or won’t make financial investments in their online marketing, there are other free, long-term strategies to employ, such as search engine optimization. SEO strategies make your website rank higher within search engines. So, for example, if you run a local hotel and somebody searches “hotels near me”, you want your website to show up first in SERPs, right? Well, that’s the goal of SEO.
The most well-optimized websites invest time in creating content about their industry and how their business offers something unique within it. They also have technically sound websites (keyword-targeted content, title tags, and meta descriptions) with consistent branding, useful information, appealing aesthetics, clear calls to action, and user-friendly navigation. Search engines have come a long way. Stuffing keywords into your web pages will get you nowhere (in fact, it will get you penalized!). Search algorithms today are extremely sophisticated and can recognize context and semantic meaning, granting higher value to web pages that most closely match a searcher’s intent. So, if a user searches the phrase, “how to change a tire”, they are clearly looking for a how-to guide or video, not a local car dealership; and Google will rank those results accordingly.
Here are some of the best ways you can increase your online visibility within search engines (for free):
- Create a Google My Business profile and ensure it has accurate, up-to-date information
- Start a blog. Blogging is free, but make sure you host it on your website. Write about topics within your industry and be sure to highlight characteristics about your business if applicable. Be thoughtful, in-depth and bring a unique voice to the table. The more valuable, interesting content you have, the more likely you are to be found in search engines.
- If you have multiple locations, create dedicated web pages to each location and customize the content accordingly
- Ensure you have keyword-optimized technical elements on each web page
- Solicit positive online reviews from satisfied customers
3. Sponsor Local Events & New Partnerships
The hospitality industry is somewhat unique because the core of the business relies on foot traffic. This means that you should focus on advertising locally and cast a smaller net — this includes becoming a known and valuable community member. Having a reduced target market is beneficial for multiple reasons:
- Become well-known in the community
- Increase brand recognition
- Local word of mouth
- People searching for hospitality services normally use a location qualifier
This last point is especially important. For instance, if I’m in Chicago and looking for a hotel in Denver, I’m probably going to search Google for something along the lines of “best hotels in Denver.” It’s much, much easier to rank well locally than it is nationally, so if you’re tailoring your online presence to try and capture national traffic, you’re wasting time and effort — especially since hospitality search terms usually have city/location qualifiers.
Sponsoring local events, sports teams and fostering other community partnerships will go a long way in improving your overall reputation, improving brand recognition, and will create positive buzz through word of mouth.
All in all, trustworthiness and customer experience is the name of the game when it comes to the hospitality industry. For better or worse, customer reviews really can make or break your business. After all, 84% of customers trust online reviews as much or more than recommendations from personal friends or family. However, utilizing these tactics is a great way to get your foot in the door to boost name recognition and improve local trustworthiness.