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The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide for Hotels - Part I

The ultimate digital marketing guide for hotels is full of insight and strategies you easily can start implementing today. This guide covers a unique set of new processes for hotels to implement new innovative digital marketing strategies.

Hotel Digital Marketing
Hotel Digital Marketing

Due to COVID-19 hotels are now in a unique situation where they have to re-define their digital marketing strategy. Hotels have to focus on positioning themselves in any market by thinking more laterally and re- appraising how to differentiate the brand to open up and create new uncontested markets in uncertain times.

People are ready to travel again. Travel will return, though it will come in waves. And we will see different travel patterns from what we did see before COVID-19. Hotels need to be prepared and ready to create new experience offers that represent a new reality. I will in this article share with you all the building blocks of The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide for Hotels. This guide focus on these overall important themes:


  • Flexibility

  • Communication

  • Value Innovation

  • Growth Mindset

  • New employee cultures

  • Customer and employee community

  • Inclusive

  • Health and safety

  • Recovery

  • Privacy

  • Automation

  • Reputation Management

  • Earn more Direct BOOKINGS

  • Increased revenue and occupancy



Why Hotels need to create a new Digital Marketing funnel

A report from McKinsey & Company shows one trend from China that accelerated during COVID-19 is digitization. It has not only impacted business-to-consumer (B2C) applications and channels, but also the also less traditional digitized part of the economy, such as areas requiring physical contact, and business-to-business processes (B2B). And the first wave of travelers is younger people that are more accustomed to using digital channels during all touchpoints of their customer journey.


One extremely important point for hotels to understand with this trend is that the younger generation of travelers is looking for brands to lead the way and they want brands to create change with them, not just for them. Don’t invest in digitalization just because of the trends or for the sake of just doing it. The purpose of The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide for Hotels is to help you make the best decision in a relevant context.

New Important aspects of the Digital Marketing funnel

Traditionally we have brought in potential customers at the top of the funnel, nurtured them in the middle, and converted them to the bottom. COVID-19 has put many hotels in turmoil scrambling to find customers. The principles of the digital marketing funnel are still there, but we have to add in flexibility and communication when we now are going to attract customers to new innovative digital experience offers.


Developing a digital marketing strategy will help you identify what makes your hotel unique and how to communicate your message out to your audiences through a variety of digital channels.



What is a digital marketing strategy?

A digital marketing strategy describes a series of actions that use digital channels to achieve S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals.


Channels can include owned, paid, and earned media.

  • Owned media is a digital channel your hotel created and controls. This can be your hotel’s website.

  • Earned media is when guests, customers, clients, vendors, the press, and the public share your content and speak about your hotel via word of mouth.

  • Paid media is when your hotel pays to leverage third-party channels for sponsorship and advertisement.

Your digital strategy will define the “why”, “how”, and “what” you plan to do.

  • Why – represent a new innovative purpose

  • How – represents the new process you implement

  • What – represent the new results you achieve

This digital marketing strategy will take into account the available budget and resources and put forth new cost-effective solutions.

Setting your hotel’s new digital marketing goals

You have to start describing your hotel’s new experience offers from the customer’s perspective. Understand the customer states that impact their perceptions of how your hotel fits in their journey.


States

Cognitive: Perception, judgment, reasoning dictated by emotions – is linked to the highest possible quality of interaction with a service like a hotel website.

  • Affective: Influenced by emotions and rationale – can be a booking experience that is related to the effects of the perceived values of a related product and purchase intention.

  • Behavior: Action as a result of the customer’s rationale and a reflection of their intentions.




New Ideal Customers

First of all, you have to understand who your NEW ideal customer is and how they interact with your hotel brand. Due to COVID-19 travel patterns have totally changed. All hotels today are in a situation where they have to start identifying who their NEW ideal customers are.

The primary part of travel now consists of local and domestic travelers.


Persona

How do my hotel’s new customers look like?


Who are they? Individual travelers, first responders, over-the-road drivers, day room users, students, grocery workers, bloggers, podcasters, local influencers, digital nomads… etc.

Demographics – Ages, job titles, location, interest, social channels, digital devices they use, brands they buy now


Pain points – What are their pain points? Frustrations? Challenges? What keeps them awake at night now?

Experience Solution – How can your hotel’s experience offer to relieve their pain points? What would a great outcome look like for their pain points?


Value Innovation – What would the positive impact for them be with your hotel’s experience solution solving their pain points? Understand what it means for them when your hotel’s experience solution solves their problem.


Traditionally most hotels strive to retain and expand on their exciting customer base. This is why hotels today have to take an approach introducing blue ocean markets. Tapping into the universe on noncustomers and how to unlock them is what will bring a new bright future for your hotel.

Tapping into Noncustomers

If we take a look at the new playing field there is an abundance of opportunities just waiting for Hotels to share their story.


Soon-to-be customers are closest to your Hotels current market. They tend to jump offers out of necessity, but mentally they view themself as non-customers. If other alternatives open, they will jump ship without any hesitations. Usually, these customers are constantly looking for better alternatives.



Refusing customers that look into what your Hotel has to offer to meet their needs but consciously choose against your market offerings. Typically, this is related to a perception of what they can afford, and they find your hotel’s offerings unacceptable and beyond their means.


Unexplored customers are the farthest away from your Hotels current market. These customers have never thought of your Hotel’s offering as an option. Typically, they have never been considered as a potential market for your Hotel.


There are plenty of opportunities for Hotels to look outside their current market. The key is to look at key commonalities across these noncustomers and existing customers, so you better can understand how to pull them into your new experience offers.


To achieve this, you have to align customers and your hotel’s goals. Since a large part of the customer experience, today involves digital media we now work on S.MA.R.T.E.R. goals.



S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals

  • S – Specific – state in detail what needs to be achieved

  • M – Measurable – establish how progress and results will be measured

  • A – Attainable – set challenging goals, but achievable within budget and available resources.

  • R – Relevant – goals have to be aligned with the process and set in a relevant context

  • T – Time-bound – set a reasonable deadline to focus your attention and energy

  • E – Exciting – set goals that excite and inspires

  • R – Risky – today we have to focus on goals that focus on flexibility, value innovation, and growth mindset. This is about thinking outside the box for managing and solve challenges creatively. Take a new perceptive of your hotel’s day-to-day operations


Your hotel goals should be to create new unique customer lifetime value while decreasing acquisition costs. And to achieve this we use data we gathered from studying customer states in context with S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals to understand customer intent and influence important micro-moments of the new customer journey.

Why should customers choose your hotel? Ideally, hotels should have created experience offers that will make it easy to understand for the new high-value targeted travelers what they will receive with a direct booking. And you should clearly explain how staying at your hotel will solve their pain points and use digital channels to communicate how your team and amenities will make it happen.


To achieve this, we look at value innovation alignment

Value Innovation Alignment Represents the alignment of three propositions in pursuit of differentiation and low cost.

Value proposition The service travelers receive from your hotel’s experience offer minus the price they pay for it.

Profit proposition The revenue your hotel generates from an experience offer minus the cost to produce it and deliver it.

People proposition The positive motivations and incentives put in place for people needed to support and implementing the strategy.


Bringing Value Innovation to Life The idea behind Value Innovation Alignment is to identify new ways to bring the three propositions to life. Today hotels have access to new advanced technology and digital media channels to communicate their experience offers to travelers.


Hotels can use digital media channels like images, gifs, presentations, videos, live, webinars, chatbots, podcasts, email, voice, AI, VR, 360 presentations, and Infographics to communicate high-value relevant content. You want to create an experience that allows travelers to see themselves as special and unique while enjoying staying at your hotel. Hotels that achieve this task will be rewarded.


Visual presentations attract more visitors and are more likely to turn into a booking. Information shared through user-generated content is largely represented by visual content.


Digital Media Channels Where your hotel now reaches travelers will be an extension of the new experience offers you create. Due to COVID-19 Digital Media Channels have become the main source where travelers now seek inspiration and how they make their decisions.


Digital Media Channels are abundant today, which makes it easy to become overwhelmed. So, for our purpose we focus on Digital Media Channels that are:

  • Cost-effective

  • Essential

  • Catalysator

  • Amplifiers

The overall purpose is to use these Digital Media Channels in context with why travelers should choose your hotel.

Hotel website Your hotel website is where you present stories related to your experience offers. And the stories become more interesting and engaging with creative visual content. Today hotels need a dynamic and flexible hotel website by creating experience offers with travelers, not just for them. Your hotel website needs to become your hub of digital communication with travelers. Hotel Laundra Palace uses its website in context with social media and chatbots to create new experience offers. Social media and chatbots are cost-effective catalysts that will help your hotel boost performance. Today it is a must to have a mobile-friendly hotel website.


And make sure you invest in basic SEO. Here are some free tools I highly recommend:

  • Google Keyword Planner

  • Google Trends

  • Ubersuggest

  • Google built-in search suggestion

On the hotel’s website, you want to use high-quality images to communicate the story. Booking abandonment and customer acquisition costs are both major challenges today for the hotel industry.


The average hotel spends about $30 on capturing a lead and over $200 on customer acquisition.

  • 90% of hotel website visitors browse around and never take action

  • 82% of those that do take action ends up abandoning their booking

The numbers are just staggering. This is why we now recommend adding a dedicated hotel chatbot to your website. Your hotel has to adjust to new patterns and find new ways to communicate.



Social media channels Social media channels provide a great opportunity to connect, build relationships, and communicate in relevant communities. There is also an abundance of social media channels for your hotel to participate in. But don’t worry it is ok to start slow.


We will help your hotel pick the top two or three channels that reach your new ideal customers. The key with the social media channels you pick is to optimize them for your new ideal customers. And your hotel must engage on each of these channels. Once you stop communicate on your social channels the audience will lose attention.

At times it can feel like you are communicating in an empty room. Don’t let this fool you. And if customers share any form of social sentiment about your hotel always respond!


Digital service recovery Social media channels are not only a great way for hotels to build relationships with customers, but it works as an extended service channel.

Digital service recovery includes these elements: Apology – own the process, and be authentic speaking candid, and genuine Understand and Review – seek first to understand and listen with empathy. Diagnose the guest concern before prescribing a solution

Fix it – once the concern has been appropriately been understood and reviewed front-line performers should offer the most appealing solution. Follow up – follow up in context with the understanding and review you had with the guest Document – Use technology and digital tools to document the review and follow-ups. Learn how the digital recovery process impacts reviews and perceptions after the guest left the property Communicate – use digital tools to capture data from the customer journey and the digital recovery process. Communicate with your hotel team about the data Optimize – service mistakes happen at every hotel – it’s what your hotel does with it that will make a Difference – be flexible, transparent, and honest. Use your digital tools to learn what it takes to earn back your customers trust


Create a digital inclusive hotel experience

“Finding a hotel that can accommodate my Sensory Processing Discorded (SPD) child is like finding a unicorn.” -Kate Joyce

Digital compliance with American Disability Act – ADA is not very complex in itself. American Disabilities Act – ADA requires that people with disabilities must be able to access public buildings and use the same services as able-bodied people, so too should people with disabilities be able to access and navigate the Internet. It sounds simple enough, but every time I talk with someone that has to adjust their travel due to disability it is far more complicated.


Why is it so complicated to become more disabled-friendly and inclusive? People I talked with that are impacted by disability were told they were willing to pay more if the hotel just meets some of their basic needs. As hoteliers, we need to strive to do better to become more disabled-friendly, and inclusive. They should not have to pay more just to have their basic needs met. This should be part of any hotel’s service offers! A digital inclusive hotel benefits everyone and creates new market opportunities.


 


TO BE CONTINUED ......................

About Writer

I am Are Morch. Your Digital Marketing Coach and Customer Experience Expert specializes in creating effective digital customer experience offer for hotels while growing and scale customer acquisition and revenue.






 



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