I state nothing new when I say that our beloved hospitality industry was one of the worst sectors hit when (C who shall not be named) hit us back in 2019. Almost two years later, there is little point in dredging over what we all know in terms of the impact on our businesses, our people and the longer-term financial legacy. Now is the time to talk about reinventing the marketing strategy.
Having watched the early trends of 2022 with a slightly obsessive eye, we can start to see the positive signs of healthy spring and summer bookings in the leisure sector. For the sake of this blog, this is the sector I will be focusing on. We definitely had a shaky start with lots of hotels having to fully or partially close in January, but increasingly the conversations I am having with hoteliers are now turning to positive planning to recoup some of the lost revenues.
Expand your marketing mind
In order to market your venue with impact this year, it’s time to reimagine the marketing strategy and what levers you will pull this year to attract your target audience. Preferences and the way guests want to receive information and take action has changed at an exponential rate.
This is not a to-do list for you to take immediate action, but some broader thoughts to help you have the right conversations with your commercial teams when planning the marketing budget.
1. Build your tribe and alienate the rest
This is the year to review who your audience is and stop trying to throw a capture all net at your marketing efforts. It won’t work, it’s exhausting and you will continually be left wondering why it’s almost impossible to measure what’s working.
The most effective way to build your tribe and one that will leave your comp set baffled at your high engagement rates is to talk directly to them and only them. Whisper sweet nothings in the ear of those that want to hear it, but be aware it could leave others striking you off the list. As soon as you learn this tactic and be bold with it, the sooner you will see much better use of your marketing budget and your engagement rates improve.
2. Think digital and building your digital brand
Review the customer experience across every step of the digital journey and get your agency or digital team to make this their number one priority. This isn’t limited to but would include your website, mobile experience, social media, booking engine experience, in house upselling and digital ordering, automated email marketing, reviews, conversion chatbots and more. It may seem an overwhelming task but start by reviewing the 360-degree journey and creating a checklist of every part of the user experience.
3. Invest in video
Increasingly, video content is becoming the non-negotiable item that should be on every marketing budget. As well as standout brand/product video, I’m talking Instagram reels and TikTok. Having booked my own honeymoon only a few months ago, I was staggered at the lack of short, engaging videos on the Maldives destinations we were looking for. Shorter videos that are no longer than 30-45 seconds deliver the most impact, and are great for Instagram reels, YouTube and TikTok.
It’s a commitment and needs its own strategy (and budget!) but is one of the big changes in the way our audience want to receive information.
4. Create partnerships that mirror your brand values
Carefully selecting a small number of partnerships can prove a really effective way to support the positioning of your own brand, grow your audience and improve engagement rates. It’s a great, low-cost way of reaching a new but brand-aligned audience that could otherwise cost a lot of time and money. Keep the number small so you can both work the activity hard and prove it’s a successful partnership for both sides. It takes honest conversation and being open to sharing information.
5. User generated content
We’ve always trusted reviews and worked tirelessly to climb the Tripadvisor ranking ladder, so think of user-generated content as the more modern approach to reviews. If one of your guests thinks you are worthy of tagging in their experience, then not using this content yourself is pure waste.
There are two approaches here, both to be built into the plan: influencer planned activity and resharing of organic user content. It’s authentic, free and you can sit back in awe at the reach of your content from this change to your strategy.