How to Navigate Content Marketing – Put Your Hotel Where Your Customers Are.

Ok, we all know now that content marketing is the way to convince customers to spend with you and even better to stay loyal to your brand.  Hotels that are not yet considering their online customer communications are missing out on direct sales to those that are doing it better.  Content marketing seems like a huge challenge.   Most hotel marketing plans have only dipped their toes in the ocean of possibilities.  Indeed, managers feel like they might drown in them!  Yes, there are lots of places to have a conversation with potential customers Yes, there is lots of advice about how to do it.  But you do not need to be everywhere, just where it matters.

I hope with this blog article to distill these options for you, continuing the ocean analogy, we will help you steer your hotel marketing ship through the ocean and ensure you weigh a hefty anchor exactly where you should be to communicate with your guests!

We at Hotel Link Solutions Philippines conducted a survey of travelers who had visited the Philippines in the last 6 months.  We found out exactly where your customers are and what persuades them to make their choice.  Couple this information with our years of strategic hotel marketing experience and we have a content marketing framework tailored not only for hotels but for hotels in the Philippines.  SO stop drowning in the flood and let’s get strategic!

Hotel customer Behavior Survey.

We surveyed a group of travelers from all over the world who had been to the Philippines.  Over 250 people responded to the full survey.  The results are both expected and startling!

Smartphone usage:

First we asked people if they had a smart phone and 92.4% of respondents said they did.  We then asked them what they used the phone for most and we got the following results:

What is of most interest here is that overwhelmingly the top activities are researching information at 84.8% and social media at 78%.  What are the implications of that?  Hotel’s must have a mobile friendly website and a mobile friendly experience and be present in social media.  If we don’t then we risk missing the touch-points to engaging with potential customers completely.

Social Media Accounts:

We then asked our survey respondents which social media accounts they used and which they spent most time on.  We got the following clear answers.

The clear front-runners are Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor, Google+ and Twitter.  We also find an overwhelmingly consistent response for Facebook as the social media tool used most often.

Buying Channels:

Looking at where consumers made their final purchases and discovered that Agoda was the most popular booking channel with 58.2% of respondents using their service.  This was followed by the hotel’s direct website with 48.9%  Third came Booking.com with 45.6%.  Fourth was TripAdvisor with a respectable 31.9%.

This set of results must encourage us as hoteliers to increase direct bookings.  We need to ensure we can compete with the OTA’s on ease of booking and payment on our websites.  A booking engine is then essential and must work as well as those on the OTA sites, if not better.  The booking engine provided by Hotel Link Solutions for example is designed using the best features of the OTA process but also adding some things unique to the hotel.  For example, being able to offer add-ons and up-sells like transfers, tours, special dinners or anything else a property wants to offer at the time of booking.

But it also reveals how important it is for a hotel to be listed on all the OTA channels and on TripAdvisor to capture sales that are abundant from those sources. But we must not stop at just being listed we must optimize our OTA listings and make sure that we appear as attractive as possible in those sales channels to beat the competition.

When we asked our hotel marketing survey group where they did their research to buy, the results were practically the same.

So why is this important?  Well it shows us that buyer behavior values a hotel’s direct website and the information on there.  At some point in the buying funnel you will, via your hotel website, get an opportunity to close the sale, directly.  So it is absolutely crucial that hotel marketing plans consider their website critically, that we hold our websites up to the pages the OTA’s have on our properties and ask the question….why would I buy from this website?  Hotel’s must make their own website the preferred choice by ensuring the process is easy and that some benefit is gained by booking direct with the hotel.

Trust and Influence in Content Marketing

We then asked about levels of trust and discovered that a Hotel’s own website and other online media have a high trust rating among consumers.  This is great news!  Our customers are generally predisposed to trust us and so we need only communicate as effectively as possible with them to close that direct sale.

The survey revealed another interesting point.  It corroborated the long held belief that word of mouth from family and friends was the most influential and trustworthy source of information.  However the results also clearly demonstrate that word of mouth from online peer reviews was now just as influential.  This is quite a revolutionary turn if you think about it.  As consumers we now trust our online family just as much as our real and present one.  Proof that if you want to sell online you have to ensure your online reputation is managed and that you are engaging with your potential customer.

Booking Process

We also asked about the process or steps people followed when planning a hotel booking and found that usually consumers did a general search first using google or other search engine.  This is then usually followed by looking at hotels in an OTA site.  Next comes looking at specific hotel’s websites.  Then TripAdvisor reviews and finally visiting hotel’s social media.

Clearly we have then distinct opportunities to capture our customer in that journey.  We can ensure that our online media collateral, website, social media and blogs etc are optimized for search and ease of use and booking.  We need to make sure our hotel OTA pages are optimized and contain accurate information and good images.  We need to be responsive in TripAdvisor and motivate our guests to leave feedback to enhance our listing.

Survey Summary

Our survey then proved a number of things.  Firstly that Social Media matters.  It not only influences buyer decisions but also plays a part in the buying process.  It is interesting that of our respondents almost 17% of bookings were actually made on social media sites.  Consumers then are not only using them to get information but also to actually make a booking.  Respondents are also consciously seeking the information they want and acknowledge the influence this information has.  They also demonstrate that traditional media holds considerably less trust and influence than online media.

Consumers follow a detailed process when buying, using all the channels available to find out about their choices and make a decision.  Consequently hotel marketing plans must place the hotel in all areas to ensure they speak to the customer on every step of the buying process.

Finally a whopping 92.4% said they used a smartphone at some stage in the booking process.  Optimization for mobile and a mobile friendly experience are therefore essential.

The Content plan

So the million dollar question!  What do you need to do to make sure you are selling your hotel optimally in all these areas?  How do you communicate with your potential customers and provide the information they need to persuade them to book with you?

So let’s break it down.  To successfully market a hotel online you need:

  • A well designed and optimized website for an easy customer journey.
  • A website that is responsive so it is friendly for mobile users.
  • Extra page content that will be of interest to your guests – perhaps local information, things to do for example.
  • Social media presence and relevance in Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor, Google+ and Twitter
  • Optimized pages on all the OTA partner sites
  • Well managed online reputation

We produced a checklist for you to follow which will cover all the above areas.  To get this checklist please click the link below.

Good luck with your content marketing program and please contact us if you need any assistance with your digital marketing strategy.

Please complete the following for access to the free download