Must-Have Hotel Marketing Channels
By Lindley Cotton
Last week, in “Hotel Marketing in a Down Economy,” GCommerce’s Founder, Scott van Hartesvelt, shared some important hotel booking pattern signals, what history has taught us about navigating a challenging economy, and how properties can come out stronger on the other side. This week, let’s dig into the specific marketing channels every hotel should leverage in an economic downturn.
But first, a really important reminder. Do not lose sight of what makes your hotel special!
In challenging times, it’s natural to want to promote special offers to your hotel’s audience. There certainly is a time and a place for that, but the audience your hotel has been nurturing for years (oftentimes decades) isn’t following you for discounts. There is something about your hotel’s brand, your identity, that resonates with them. Make sure your digital messaging stays true to your brand platform.
Must-Have Hotel Marketing Channels in an Economic Downturn:
Metasearch (Google Hotel Ads, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Trivago, etc.)
We continue to see metasearch adoption growing amongst hotels and resorts. Online Travel Agent sites (OTAs) compete heavily on these channels to steal market share. With the current economic climate, we have seen significant increases in the average cost-per-click (CPC) on hotel metasearch channels. In January 2023, the average CPC for hotel metasearch campaigns increased 12% versus January 2022. While we are seeing decreases in CPCs on other channels (more on that later), metasearch is holding strong for a couple of key reasons:
1. The demand for this type of media has not decreased. In fact, the competition has only grown. Google, specifically, launched their Free Booking Links back in 2021 to get more properties to participate and ultimately get them to spend on media.
2. OTAs are pushing hard to regain their footing. In 2020 and 2021, most properties were able to surpass OTA bookings with direct bookings. In these uncertain economic times, OTAs are going to be fiercely seeking ways to make up for their losses.
“But if the cost of media is going up, why would I put my money here?”
This is a fantastic question! The answer is not about “why” but about “how”. There are ways to lower your financial risk while participating on hotel metasearch channels. Look for a partner who offers a pay-on-performance or pay-per-stay model, so you only pay for bookings that actualize. This type of model covers the up-front media required to run campaigns and you pay a commission net revenue (after cancellations).
For the last 2 decades, paid search has been the leading digital marketing channel for hotels and resorts and over that time Cost-Per-Clicks (CPCs) have had peaks and valleys. Right now, we are in a valley with CPCs at a 22.5% decrease YoY. That decrease is not reflective of the impact this channel can have on overall hotel revenue production. In fact, paid search remains an essential and profitable element to a successful digital footprint. As some hotels pull back their budgets on paid search, there is a real opportunity to win market share. Work with your internal team or digital marketing agency to refine your target markets, keywords, and messaging to get the biggest bang for your buck.
In 2020, GCommerce worked with a southern California property to keep their paid search campaigns running while most of the world shut down their digital marketing and the results were staggering. The property achieved a 180X ROAS during one of the most challenging times in the history of travel.
Social Media Advertising
If you’re thinking that if paid search media costs are going down then Facebook/Instagram media costs should also be going down, you are right!
In January 2023, we saw CPCs on these sites decrease by a whopping 65% YoY. If there was ever a time to double down your efforts on social media advertising, the time is now. Your dollar is going to take you 65% farther than last year.
If you’re looking to do more with your hotel’s social media ads, take a look at our recent A/B test on using Collection ads versus static ads here.
Also, on the group side of the hotel business, don’t overlook the power of Facebook lead gen ads and LinkedIn lead gen campaigns. Group business is forecasted to grow in 2023 so put your digital marketing channels to good use in generating qualified leads. If you want more information on how to generate group business leads, see here.
Your Hotel’s Website
Your hotel’s website, which is the most important vehicle to generate direct bookings, needs to be nimble, fast (both in load time as well as ability to make content changes), and really show off what makes your brand special. It’s the epicenter of your digital storytelling, and the best channel to remind your loyal guests about their memories at the property.
One of the fastest, easiest ways in improving your hotel website conversion rate is partnering with The Hotels Network and leveraging all of their optimization and personalization tools. You can personalize the user experience, tailoring messages and offers to each individual to boost conversion rates.
And in the era of collecting as much 1st party data as possible, personalized messaging is critical. Recently I was introduced to the hashtag #smykm on LinkedIn. The hashtag stands for “Show Me You Know Me”. It means don’t immediately reach out to your prospect (in our case guests) completely cold and without any shared context. (Side note: Anyone looking for B2B sales advice, definitely give Samantha McKenna a follow.)
The “Show Me You Know Me” methodology is so incredibly pertinent to the hospitality space. As hoteliers, it’s our job to know as much as possible about our guests and deliver an experience that will be remembered forever. Your website is the platform in which you can deliver on that when they are not on property. Don’t wait for your guests to be at your property to show them how well you know them.
You’ve already spent valuable marketing dollars on converting your (past) guests. Make sure to continue nurturing that relationship beyond the point of conversion. Every hotel should be prioritizing their past guests and learning as much about them as possible to find new ways to enhance your communication and deliver on that unforgettable experience.
Email Marketing and CRM
Last but not least, your most personalized communication to your loyal guests is delivered through email marketing and eCRM communications. Once you’ve gathered information about your guests (which should be stored in a CRM, like Revinate), you can activate that data in more ways than one:
• Maintain and nurture brand loyalty through personalized email communications to past guests. Remember, #SMYKM. Example: If you know you have a segment of guests interested in events happening on property and around the area, keep them informed with frequent updates. You get extra bonus points if you drill down to specific types of events and happenings, i.e. music concerts, foodie events, etc.
• Curate special experiences for segments of your guests. Example: You are seeing more and more bleisure business at your property. Put together specific amenities and packages that support this segment, like a length of stay offer with WiFi (wait, WiFI isn’t free?).
• Maximize on-property spend with pre-arrival messaging. We talked about showing off what makes you special – now is the time to drive home those points. Guests are generally the MOST excited about their trip after the point of booking and before they arrive. Take advantage of this and suggest personalized experiences and generate even more revenue.
Whether you have automated communications in place or are sending ad hoc emails, always begin by understanding your audience and what matters to them.