Kristi White was joined by special guest Stephanie Smith, Founder and Digital Matriarch of Cogwheel Marketing, for a spirited discussion challenging the proposition to “cut digital marketing spend” in the era of COVID.
In this episode, Kristi and Stephanie discussed their take on recovery topics from digital best practices and the role of OTAs, to where to spend your limited budget when tasked with growing revenue in a period of disruption.
Key takeaways for digital marketing in these new times:
- Secret sauce for hotel digital media mix in recovery – It is important to be as strategic as possible to align your digital strategy and your reduced budget with your market activity. Paying attention to who is travelling and understanding your drive market are essential. For example, the right combination of OTA ads, social media ads and email marketing can optimize engagement with your property.
Leverage lower cost strategies such as social and email marketing first, and then put what digital budget you have left to getting your hotel top of mind with consumers on shopping sites. Remember to align these efforts with the data insights and analytics you have available on personas and demographics.
- Communicate with your guests – Communicate expectations to your guests prior to arrival. Inform them ahead of arrival and set expectations at the time of booking. This will ensure that all guests are aware that things will not be the same as they have been in the past, however quality of service will not be compromised. Make up for your lack of amenities by focusing on the staff service levels and delivering a top-notch service experience
- Keep your online presence updated – If you are a full-service hotel, but everything is closed within your property, such as your restaurant, bar or gym, it is important to redefine your attributes and share those online. Pictures of a busy bar or a pool that may be currently closed can be misleading. Ensure you have communicated to incoming guests that some amenities may not be available while highlighting those things that you have done to ensure guest and employee safety.
- Invest in OTA placement – While direct bookings are always preferred, it is still important to make sure your property placement is ranked high on OTA search pages, otherwise, you don’t even exist to online shoppers. And always make sure you respond to your reviews. Be where the shoppers are. Given lower demand and shorter booking windows, shoppers turn to shoppers quickly. Since consumers shop the OTAs first, it may be better to spend on OTA ads over traditional search and PPC. So embrace the OTAs, and while direct bookings are still important, get business where you can.
Overall, the experts agree that telling a consistent story is be the best strategy across all channels.
To position well for 2021, hoteliers need to put your best foot forward and be transparent and comforting in your communications.
Make it easy for guests and planners
- Update information and images of your hotel on OTA sites as well as your website. Show all the best parts of your property on your home page – not just the exterior of the building. Make sure photos reflect the current gathering protocols so a photo of socially distanced guests at a fire pit is a better choice than one of a shoulder to shoulder pool party.
- Aggregate all COVID communications in one place on your site and update the content regularly. Make sure guests and planners know your cleaning protocols and the latest status of local guidelines from mask protocols to gathering limitations.
- Convey how you are accommodating meetings including any changes to banquet services, meeting space configurations and new spacing layouts, A/V services, etc.
- Create a community bond with feel-good stories from your employees and tell stories that make your hotel feel like home and share them on social media. Potential guests like to get the feel of your property and want to picture themselves there.
To listen to the entire interview, click here. Join us for our next Bring It On episode featuring special guest Jason Freed, founder and editor of Hotel Recovery 2020, on December 3 at 1:00 pm ET for a talk on how hospitality is voraciously consuming data and industry analytics in hopes of mitigating the damage of COVID-19 and getting back on the road to recovery.