Publisher of Humanities, Social Science & STEM Books

Driving Customers Down the Funnel: Hotel Sales and Marketing Rules for 2019

Posted on: July 24, 2019

Rule #1: Know your data, know your customer

To create a marketing strategy that will land with your target audience you need to know who your customers are. Your own data offers an abundance of knowledge:

  • Where do your customers come from? Local / from home country / international?
  • Are they families with children / couples / solo travellers?
  • Into which age brackets do they fall?
  • Are they traveling for business or pleasure?
  • How long is the average stay per customer type?
  • Do they eat in or out?
  • Do they use any hotel facilities? If so, when?

There are many ways you can gain a more qualitative insight into your audiences:

  • Online questionnaires
  • Satisfaction surveys
  • Online reviews
  • Exit interviews
  • Feedback forms

Being able to answer these questions about your customers will not only help you to improve the customer experience but also target your marketing activities at the right people.

 

Rule #2: Address every stage of the customer lifecycle

In order for you marketing activity to be effective in the long-term you must address the entire customer life cycle. In the hospitality industry this translates to:

  1. Need: anticipate customer needs, what are the pain points for your customers when planning their
    travel and lodging? How can you help them?
  2. Research: discoverability is key – read more on this topic under rule #3
  3. Select: Why should customers pick you over the others? What can you do better than your
    competition? There are many ways you can differentiate your property, have you thought about
    sustainability?
  4. Purchase: the simplicity of your booking process may be the deciding factor in customer choice
    (Rule #4 Customer experience is king).
  5. Receive: centre your reception area and check-in process around customer needs: A Hotel
    Manager’s Handbook offers many hands-on tips on improving the check-in experience.
  6. Use: In one of our titles Howard Feiertag advises that in order to really understand your product you
    should experience it. To ensure the customer experience is delivered, test it out yourself - why not
    spend a night in your own hotel in the role of a traveller?
  7. Maintain: retaining existing customers is generally much cheaper than acquiring new ones. Loyalty
    and membership programs are a successful tool for nurturing customer relationships, as long as they
    bring tangible value to the participants.
  8. Recommend: The overall customer experience will impact the feedback you receive and determine
    whether or not the customer returns. Online reviews are a hugely important factor in customer choice,
    continually monitor them to leverage the best ones and resolve any complaints in a speedy manner.

Rule #3: If they cannot find you, they won’t come

The selection stage can determine success or failure. This largely depends on online discoverability, and in the hospitality industry you should consider discoverability on two levels:

  • Search engine discoverability of your website (SEO, SEM)
  • Discoverability on travel metasearch engines (Trivago, Kayak, Bookings, Expedia, Hotels,
    TripAdvisor, etc.)

Search engine discoverability is dependent on a range of factors – technical set up, content and keywords, internal and external link strategy, mobile optimisation, and more. HubSpot provides comprehensive help and support in their Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2019.

It is not enough to make your own website stand out. Maximising top of the funnel conversions requires an optimised presence on travel metasearch engines. PACE Dimensions estimates that metasearch sites account for 45% of global unique visitors in travel, with Bookings and Expedia being the leaders. Take advantage of the analytics you can gain from these sites to improve your ranking. In many countries Google Hotel Ads are becoming a leading source of direct bookings. Any hotel should keep this in its marketing mix.

 

Rule #4: Customer experience is king

Customer experience begins way before a traveller walks into the lobby of your hotel. It starts with your website or travel engine entry. Your website analytics will give you an idea what your customers search for and what needs to be immediately accessible.

The next step in the customer experience is the reservation process. Here again you should try out the usability of your system yourself. There are numerous questions you should ask yourself here. How simple is it to make a booking? Are there any ambiguous steps? What if you have special requests? How easily can you amend your reservation? What about the confirmation email – is there value you can add at this point?

The stay itself is your main product. Any company is only as good as its product. For practical tips on delivering a flawless service, make sure to have  A Hotel Manager’s Handbook on your desk.

Rule #5: Social is not just for outbound marketing

Your social media strategy should address the following questions:

  • What is the main purpose? Is the objective meant for awareness, loyalty, or sales?
  • What kind of relationship should be established with your customers?
  • Is your audience on social media – if so, which platforms do they use?
  • What do your customers use social media for? Are they seeking information, reviewing
    products and services, or airing complaints?
  • What are the best metrics for measuring brand loyalty and ROI?

Customers will use social media in different ways depending on the stage they are in the customer lifecycle – research, purchase, use, recommend. Many customers expect to be able to reach brands with their inquiries via direct messaging on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Traditional marketing has become less effective and consumers prefer information on a product from a non-biased source, so they can arrive at a decision on a company’s products or services. According to Hospitalitynet, 98% of consumers read other travellers’ online reviews, and 78% consider these an important factor in their decision-making process. Recommendations from friends play a big role in customer choice and should not be overlooked by marketers. Social media is also a great source of user-generated content, especially when it comes to holidays, as people love to share their experiences with followers. Encourage your customers to tag your property in their posts and take advantage of the most powerful ones.