Brand marketing: how to make your individual hotel stand out
Many owners think, “The brand does that for me” when speaking about digital marketing. You know the brand delivers value via its brand website. But, when you drill down deep, there is more you can be doing to make your hotel stand out. It is not uncommon to have 3 Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express in a similar market.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
Does my General Manager or Sales team have the knowledge to define a digital strategy?
What exactly does the brand do for my individual location?
How do I steal online market share against similar brands in my market?
The brands tend to focus on themselves: promoting the brand. Their enterprise team is making money for owners holistically. Read on to understand what individual hotels should be doing as it relates to marketing versus brand-level marketing.
Website Design / Layout
What the Brand Handles: The brands each have their own Content Management System and framework with which to load content. They handle all the interlinking, sort order, and page layout. Brands also are in charge of technical improvements, like making your site secure with HTTPS, increasing site speed and mobile enhancements.
What the Hotel Should Do: Learn the brand systems and your limitations. If they allow buttons highlighting packages, then do it. Other ideas to take advantage of – page level messaging, tracking links for paid campaigns, announcements/alerts, etc. Complete every content section that can be completed to showcase your unique selling proposition.
What the Brand Handles: Most brands offer very little. As mentioned in the website section above, they offer the shell.
What the Hotel Should Do: Go into the brand’s content management system and fill out every category that you can. Read your website content, often. Understand what makes your hotel and location unique against the competition and sprinkle it throughout your site. Highlight brand standards like unique food and beverage offerings, pet-friendly rules and in-room amenities. Don’t wait until you have a guest complaint about a misstated amenity.
Search Engine Optimization
What the Brand Handles: First and foremost, large brands have domain authority on their side. Marriott.com is at 93, Hilton.com is at 90 and IHG.com is at 85. Just having a website on one of these domains is helpful. Also, each does some form of on-site search engine optimization, but it is generally done to focus on the brand enterprise. Each brand is slowly progressing towards schema usage, which is great.
What the Hotel Should Do: For on-site optimization, you need to find keywords that are specific to your hotel and market. Look for keywords like “hotels near XXX” demand generator or university, pet-friendly terms, etc. Re-write your meta description to include proximity to demand generators and unique amenities for your hotel. For Hilton and Marriott, you can revise both your title tag and meta description for your hotel. If applicable, drop keywords in your header tags. For off-site optimization, linking is all you.
Hotel Paid Marketing
What the Brand Handles: The brands have large marketing buckets that aren’t generally transparent. At some level, they are buying keywords on Google Adwords and running social media campaigns. They buy a TripAdvisor Business Listing on the hotel’s behalf. And, of course, they do enterprise level marketing for each respective brand.
What the Hotel Should Do: Find ways to get heads in beds for your hotel. This can differ per property, anything from Expedia Travel Ads, MetaSearch, Facebook, Google Adwords (but don’t buy branded terms!), and local advertising. Local advertising can be with your CVB, University or another local demand generator.
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
What the Brand Handles: Ensure direct connectivity and 2-way interface with hotel system and the respective OTA. They negotiate the terms (hard!) to try to get the lowest commission rates.
What the Hotel Should Do: Focus on driving as much business as you can through direct sales and your website so you don’t have to rely on this channel. Audit the content and try to get your content score up to 100% within the main OTA portals, primarily Expedia and Booking.com. On the images, look at the images associated with each room type that feed on the brand for accuracy. Relabel and categorize as needed.
Hotel Social Media (Facebook)
What the Brand Handles: The brands have a main Facebook page for each respective sub-brand (ie Hampton, Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield all have their own brand pages) and is capable of setting up a parent/child relationship with an individual hotel. If you aren’t posting at the hotel level, posts from the parent page will feed to your individual page. So, expect posts about other locations on your page.
What the Hotel Should Do: Get access to your hotel’s Facebook page. Do a search for your hotel’s address to look for rogue listings. Under Settings > Page Info, fill in all the categories you can. Then post and respond to reviews! Each brand has a social media playbook with guidelines.
What the Brand Handles: Most brands are now using Yext to manage most of your local listings. Yext, a distribution service, distributes (some) content and images to platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Apple, Bing, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Yellow Pages, and Yelp. For the most part, Yext handles duplicate suppression which is helpful especially when you have a flag change.
What the Hotel Should Do: Yext only communicates certain pieces of information but definitely still get access and audit Yext. Consider manually claiming and auditing Google My Business, Yelp, Apple and Bing.
What the Brand Handles: Collect copious amounts of ‘big data’ about your hotel and guests. They use this for personalization, increasing their loyal followers and brand promotions.
What the Hotel Should Do: Alas, all this data is not shared. Hold onto what few reports they give you and keep in mind the top hotel digital marketing KPIs. Strive for a healthy channel mix and increased year over year traffic and revenue to brand.com.
It takes a balanced approach from both the brand and the hotel together to holistically market a hotel. Some of these tasks under “what the hotel should do” can be quite laborious, so don’t try to knock it out in a day (or month). Guests allow small things to help them decide on a hotel, so ensure you have the best story in terms of content and images across all channels.