How Hotel Marketing Channels Can Help You Win Online Direct Bookings

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Aug 17, 2021 | Hotel Marketing | Reading Time: 13 minutes

Hotel marketing channels help you reach a wider audience and attract potential guests. These channels can be online or offline.

This text will focus on online marketing channels: websites, social media, ads, emails, and conversational marketing. After all, digital marketing is a key strategy in any business since most of the buying decisions are made in the virtual environment.

To understand the importance of the virtual environment for the hotel industry, take a look at these impressive numbers:

Online hotel bookings are estimated to exceed $174 million across the globe in 2022;

 75% of leisure travelers and 65% of business travelers use digital resources when planning their trips. (Source: Google)

700 million people will make a hotel room booking online by 2023, making online hotel bookings 57% of all bookings.

So, yes, digital marketing channels for hotels matter!

Even though online marketing is not exactly a new strategy, the best channels and practices are constantly evolving. What was good yesterday might not work today, and the rules of the game keep changing.

There are several ways to promote your hotel, different strategies, and platforms to convert more online bookings. And that is great since travelers are spread across different channels.

To help you navigate through hotel marketing channels, we will explain:

  1. 1. What digital marketing in the hospitality industry is
  2. 2. Online hotel marketing channel strategies
  3. 3. Conversational Marketing: the new trend you must know about

1. What digital marketing in the hospitality industry is

You might have a gorgeous hotel and an amazing hotel staff, but if no one knows that you exist, what’s the point? Yes, word-of-mouth marketing is still very effective and might be one of the most trustworthy marketing strategies out there.

However, your ability to reach a bigger market is limited if you don’t have another strategy in place. Especially now, when choosing a hotel is so easy to do, right?

Not to mention the power of online reviews. Sometimes, they are more impactful than what your friend or relative is saying!


👉 In this episode of Hotel Cast, we chat with Sarah Came, GuestRevu’s Marketing Manager, about how to get the best of your hotel’s online reputation. Listen here:


Here is where digital marketing comes in. Digital marketing is a set of all techniques and tricks that can be done to attract people to learn more about your hotel, so you reach a wider audience and increase brand awareness.

Since your visibility will improve, chances are you’ll be able to get more bookings and boost your revenue. Using digital marketing influences your audience to prefer your hotel over your competitors while reaching out to new potential customers.

Currently, people use digital channels more than traditional channels to research their traveling destinations and book a hotel. Therefore, it’s important to have a consistent, active, and impactful image in the digital world. You have to showcase the best of your hotel everywhere possible.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that hotel marketing is only about attracting guests. It’s also about retention, creating strong relationships, and loyalty. You should strive to keep in touch with the existing guests, interacting with them on social media or by email.

Now that you understand the importance of digital hotel marketing, let’s take a look at the main online marketing channels for hotels.

2. Online hotel marketing channel strategies

As we mentioned before, the modern traveler likes to find their next travel destination by searching online. From social media to Google search, everything plays an important role in shaping their decision.

But before you decide to invest in any online channel, there are some fundamentals that you should keep in mind:

a) Know Your Audience: Match your hotel with the traveler as well as their channel of choice. Marketing is all about connection and you can’t connect if you don’t know who you are talking to. Since the pandemic started, your target audience might have changed. Analyze your current requests: what type of guest is looking for you, where they come from, and why they are contacting you. All this information will help you make a connection with your audience.

b) People like convenience: Tell your audience what all luxury elements your hotel has to offer, including facilities and amenities. Make sure they understand the value of staying at your hotel, not only the price. Keep in mind that when we say “convenience”, we are also referring to “online convenience”. Booking a room should be easy and hassle-free. Don’t give your potential guest an excuse to not book with you.


👉 A popular marketing strategy is storytelling. By telling a story, the possibility of a connection with your audience increases significantly. In this free workshop, Copywriting Expert Juliana Hahn and I explain the basics of this successful strategy:


2.1. Hotel Website

Your hotel website must be your best “salesperson”. It must highlight your best features and be easy to navigate, especially when it comes to the booking process.

Your hotel needs to have a mobile-first website and mobile-friendly interfaces. Many travelers access hotel websites from their mobile devices. So you need to be sure that your website provides an excellent experience regardless of which device travelers are using.

On top of that, Google has announced its mobile-first indexation. It means that Google will be removing all websites that don’t have a mobile-friendly option from their database. So if you don’t have this covered yet, your website won’t appear on Google’s search results, and that is a big problem!

Often, your website is the first impression you leave on your potential guests. And you can only make a good first impression and connect with your target audience if you know who they are. Your images, pictures, videos, and every other piece of content have to be aligned to culminate in a fantastic user experience.

👉 We’ve organized an e-book with hotel website best practices to turn your website into a booking machine. This ebook is based on a previous webinar episode we recorded together with Umi Digital, TravelBoom, and Journey Hospitality. Download it for free here and learn hands-on tips you can apply now: [Hotel Website]

2.2 Organic Traffic

Consumer use of metasearch channels, which primarily route bookings to OTA sites in addition to facilitating property-direct bookings, has also been growing since 2017. (Phocuswire)

Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to off-page search engine optimization and local SEO. Hotels need to effectively use local SEO so that potential guests can quickly find them on online maps or by location.

In fact, if you don’t use off-page and local SEO, you can lose up to 30% of potential visitors.

If you want to attract those travelers to your hotel, you should start improving the visibility of your business on these search engines.

Google My Business is one of the main tools for local promotion and hotel search engine marketing overall. By using this tool, you can get targeted traffic to your site for free and strengthen trust in the brand through the publication of news and feedback from customers, among other benefits.

In this post, Guide To Local and Off-Page SEO For Your Hotel Website, we explain how SEO for hotels works and a step-by-step strategy of what you need to do to get more organic traffic and bookings.

One thing that you need to remember is that from your blog posts to your website pages, everything should create a perfectly seamless experience for your targeted audience. This means that the content should be written in a way that clarifies their understanding and helps them in making quicker decisions.


👉 Copywriting is key to providing a positive user experience. If you want to improve your copywriting skills, here is a simple guide to quick improvements : [Download here]


2.3. Social Media

Social Media can be your hotel’s best ally – or worst enemy! It depends on how you use it. A lot of travelers use social media as the main platform to check out hotels when they travel to a specific country or city.

That means that people don’t start their booking process by going straight to a hotel website. They start by exploring their destination and learning more about the hotel they are considering on social media platforms.

Besides being a channel to attract visitors, social media has become one of the main channels for customer service.

According to a survey 54% of customers prefer customer service via social media and SMS.

However, most hotels fail to provide customer service on social media, causing great frustration on travelers and missing important revenue opportunities. The multichannel aspect of customer service can be a big challenge, especially to hotels with small size teams.

Two of the main media used by travelers and hotels are Facebook and Instagram. Let’s take a closer look at each and how they can help your hotel business.

Instagram

Why should your hotel be on Instagram?

  • One billion monthly active users
  • 83% of Instagram users discover new products and services on the platform (Facebook Business)
  • 80% of Instagram users say that the app helps them make buying decisions (Facebook Business)

In case you haven’t noticed, Instagram has changed. Once a simple photo-sharing app, it is now a key business platform full of new features such as Instagram Guides, IGTV advertising, Stories, and many other new features.

With so many tools, you can be very creative to attract your audience. The important is that your content is genuine, and that reflects your brand.  Being authentic also means having authentic followers so you can build a strong customer base.

In other words, there is no point in buying followers!

You can also attract your target audience organically or through Ads. Later on in the text, inside of the section Ads, we will explain how advertisement on Instagram works. For now, let’s focus on organic posts.

A strategy that many hotels are using is Influencer Marketing. This strategy can be very successful if you choose a proper Influencer to work with – meaning someone that influences travelers you want to attract. It’s not about the numbers; it’s about the quality.

As you can see, Instagram is a great channel to explore and helps you put your brand on the radar and the minds of potential customers. The hotel industry is very visual, so this platform is perfect to showcase your hotel, interact and tell stories that appeal to your audience.

The use of hashtags can also bring visitors to your profile. Want to learn the best tips on how to use Instagram to promote your hotel? Watch this webinar with Global Experts Calvin Tilokee, Regitse Rosenvinge-Thürmer, and Paula Carreirão:

Plus, 40% of people under 30 prioritize the ‘Instagrammable’ potential when choosing their destinations. Be sure to highlight these spots in your posts.

Always remember: It’s a social media platform, which implies interactions between company and customer. Asksuite can help you here since we are officially integrated with Instagram.

With the Asksuite solution, your hotel will be able to provide quick responses to potential guests utilizing Instagram Messaging that includes automated quotes with our AI and booking engine integration, as well as obtaining leads from Instagram Messaging Ads.

Facebook

Facebook has over 1.8 billion daily active users, making it one of the most used social networks globally. I guess this pretty much explains the importance of using this platform as an online marketing channel.

Facebook is an online channel with many benefits. For instance, it provides more opportunities to express your brand’s message and allows you to give a personalized experience that is valuable to hospitality online marketing. So make sure you post quality content consistently.

If you have a Facebook profile, don’t forget to mention it on your website and emails.

2.4. Email Marketing

Even with so many different communication channels, email still is the major channel for hotels and should be included in your marketing strategy to attract guests. Through email, you can promote offers to a selected audience, and strengthen your relationship with frequent guests.

Another advantage of including emails in your strategy is that you can access a lot of important data of your potential guests. And this data is what can help you to strategize your entire business.

Dealing with your inbox might be a challenge though. In the hotel world, a new email pops up every second: a request about some forgotten item, quotations questions, and even complaints. Everything goes through the email.

However, answering emails take time and productivity of the staff and impacts significantly the guest experience. Time response is key for guest satisfaction and to stand out in the market.

How long is too long? Well, that depends, but even if the email is not instantaneously messaging by definition, clients still expect a quick answer.

A survey by ALICE in 2016 states that hotel clients would have the right to complain if the hotel takes more than 26 minutes to answer an email.  Note that this was before messaging has become popular and we got used to instant replies.

Answering your emails well and fast may give you a competitive advantage when travelers are deciding where to stay.

To help you in this mission, you can easily create templates that you can use to answer the most common questions and requests by email. Here in this post, we share some tips to increase your productivity: [How Can You Turn an Endless Email Demand into Guest Satisfaction?].

guest-satisfaction-in-email

You can also rely on tools to help you with your emails. For instance, Asksuite developed a “Smart Email” functionality that helps you answer emails in a matter of seconds! Or you can work with hotel tech companies like Revinate Hotel CRM, which is integrated with Asksuite. Revinate can provide personalized and automated email communication for those who are not ready to book directly in the chat. [Read more about this integration here] 

Last but not least, don’t spam. Provide relevant emails at relevant time periods and don’t overdo it by spamming. Otherwise, your email strategy will backfire on you.

2.5. Ads

Working with Ads might seem very difficult for non-marketers. Or even a waste of money, when not done correctly. But the truth is that Ads can help you achieve amazing results.

Using a well-crafted and carefully targeted ad campaign in your marketing strategy means that you can:

  • Get more online visitors
  • Increase direct traffic
  • Get highly qualified leads to your site
  • Increase revenue

The 3 most common platforms hoteliers use to advertise are Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Instagram Ads. One thing you should have in mind is that Facebook and Instagram are now jointly owned.  In other words: the ads that run on Facebook will also run on Instagram providing you a double advantage for single spend.

2.5.1. Facebook and Instagram Ads

As we mentioned before, your hotel can also take advantage of  Facebook and Instagram Ads.

The good thing about it is that on these platforms, users won’t get ads on their faces – something that most of us hate, right? Instead, they take more of a native advertising approach. The ads will appear just like posts but with a small sponsored tag.

These Social Media Ads can be an amazing tool to attract visitors. You can select a specific target audience, which increases significantly the conversion rate. You invest in the right direction and do not waste money.


If you want to learn how to use Facebook Ads for hotels, check out our post: “Writing Converting Facebook Ad Campaigns For Hotels”. There you will find step-by-step and valuable tips to turn visitors into bookings.


Nevertheless, running a campaign on Facebook Ads or Instagram Ads won’t give you the same result. Every audience is different and ultimately your results are going to be different.

You always should consider your target audience, where they are, what kind of content they prefer to consume when deciding where to advertise.

The Facebook Ads Manager is where both Instagram and Facebook Ads are managed. There you can choose which social media you want to run your ad. Again, when choosing one, think about which type of audience you are trying to reach. Maybe you need to use both media.

Facebook’s Ads management system for businesses is pretty simple. This is what you need to do:

      • Create an account – Facebook Page
      • Click on the ‘Create Ad’ button
      • Define your business’s objectives
      • Select a target audience
      • Choose the ad budget and duration
      • Use ad reports to monitor the progress

How is the consumer experience?

Your targeted customer will be scrolling down through their feed and will happen to see your hotel ads on their timeline.
Hotel owners can configure their ad content to encourage further conversation.


In this Instagram Masterclass together with Umi Digital, one of London’s leading digital marketing agencies, we explain in detail how to set up your Instagram Ads and the organic and paid strategies:


2.5.2. Google Hotel Ads

Google Ads is an opportunity to target guests at the end of the decision-making process to convert them to guests. Search engine advertising makes sure that people searching for a hotel see your website straight away.

How does it work?

  • Create a Google Ads account based on your Google Business Account
  • Integrate your hotel system with Google: You Need to provide live availability and prices. For that, you need to work with a tech partner (Channel Manager, booking engine, or PMS), that is connected to Google Hotel Center
  • Create your campaign
  • Manage your bids

Experts recommend that you pay only when travelers select your room rate. You can set a risk-free commission rate or manage rates, room types, and availability you would like to share on Google.

Recently, Google announced that free booking links in Google Hotel Ads. Now, a hotel’s homepage will appear in the Hotel Ads results, even if they are not bidding. These free booking links show up just below the paid ads.

So even if your hotel is not investing in Google Hotel Ads yet, you can take advantage of it!

3. Conversational Marketing: the new trend you must know

conversational booking for hotels

Conversational marketing isn’t new.  At least not its underlying idea. After all, people have been having conversations since we learned how to talk.

The new aspect of this type of approach is that it introduces new technologies to have these conversations across multiple channels. By using targeted messaging and intelligent chatbots to engage with leads in real-time (while they’re on your website), you can convert leads faster.

Conversational Marketing is effective because it builds relationships with customers through the experience of a conversation, instead of asking people to go through lead capture forms and wait for a response. It is a customer-centric and dialogue-driven approach to marketing.

One important factor in the success of conversational marketing is assessing and understanding what your customers’ preferred channels are and adjusting your tone of voice accordingly – dialogue with chatbots and live chat is usually quite informal and mimics a casual conversation.

At Asksuite we believe that conversational marketing is the future of customer experience and that it is the best way to engage with your prospective/current guests and convert more direct bookings through our chatbot on Facebook, Instagram, website and WhatsApp.

It allows your messaging channels to work for you and do more than just sell your brand. You can directly connect with each customer and in some cases even make a sale by providing personalized information and guiding them around your site.


👉Did you know that Asksuite won the Hotel TechAwards for the second time in a row as Best Website LiveChat and Chatbot? Learn more: [Best Hotel Chabot 2021]


Digital Marketing for hotels

Online marketing channels for hotels are very important to any hotel business’s success. Therefore, they should be studied and taken as an important part of your strategy. There are many channels to explore and several ways to attract and engage your target audience, bringing more revenue to your hotel.

It all comes down to good planning, which, unfortunately, is a stage much underestimated by hoteliers, especially the ones without a marketing background. Knowing who you want to target and their preferences seem obvious, yet frequently is forgotten when creating marketing material.

Once you have these two factors figured out, you can create effective posts and campaigns, that will connect with your audience and push them to click on the “book now” button.

Without a good strategy, your marketing efforts will fall flat.

Finally, have you thought about what will happen if your marketing strategies work? If you successfully attract all those online visitors to your website or social media, get their attention, and tease them to learn more about your hotel, are you prepared to assist them? Answer their questions before actually booking with you?

Keep in mind that if they are not assisted properly, your strategy can backfire. They will get a terrible first impression, and that is exactly what we didn’t want. Your customer service must be prepared for your marketing success. But that I can explain in another post!

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