Marketing in the hospitality sector plays a key role in building the brand, attracting new customers and maintaining loyalty with existing customers. The UK is slowly starting to open up again and a plan is in place for when and how the hospitality industry will open and operate. Many hospitality businesses will be wondering how they can bounce back and make up for lost time.
A number of big brands in the hospitality sector have closed their doors for good due to the Covid-19 pandemic and almost every smaller brand has been affected, often severely. However, the pandemic has created opportunities for these smaller brands to stand out from the crowd and build lasting relationships with their audience by keeping their brand alive on digital channels. We’ve all seen this through restaurants hosting virtual events like cocktail making and wine tastings. For many in the hospitality sector, you will be thinking about how to bounce back and drive profits as soon as it’s possible to re-open, we have outlined within this blog strategies hospitality businesses should take to revive in 2021.
A Bounce Back Hospitality Marketing Plan
Investing in the right tools and channels is critical for success for any business however it is exceptionally important for hospitality businesses just now. Before you start to create a plan you should do an audit and evaluate past performance and determine what marketing strategies were most effective and what initiatives fell short of your KPIs. You should also discuss with internal stakeholders their goals for this year as this will help uncover critical areas where you may need to invest.
When writing your hospitality marketing plan keep the complications of Covid-19 top of mind as travellers and guests will want to feel safe and secure when visiting your restaurant or hotel – so keeping all messaging relevant but through a Covid-19 lens. With this, you might need to update and refresh your creative assets on all digital channels including websites, keeping your marketing messages and the brand story current and compelling at every touchpoint. When determining your marketing budget for 2021 this will be difficult for probably all hospitality businesses. In order to remain competitive and be in front of your target audience at the right time, we would suggest scaling your budget according to the dip and rise in travel demand. When things start to open in the summer it will be essential to initially target people within Britain (Staycationers) but as things improve you can then begin re-targeting European countries who may be looking to get a short break in the UK later this year. If your marketing budget is limited, focus your time and money on the highest performing marketing channels that will achieve your KPIs, whether that be social media or pay-per-click ads.
Staying connected is now more important than ever creating a loyalty programme with exclusive offers and perks can build a strong relationship with all customers, old and new. Building this loyalty strategy into your hospitality marketing plan is crucial as these are the guests you want to be targeting with automated personalised campaigns for their birthdays, anniversaries etc. It is also important to have content that everyone relates to as travelling around the country or overseas is restricted, you must find creative ways to keep interacting with your existing customers. This could be spa tips at home or sharing some of your chef’s favourite recipes.
Staying Ahead Of Industry And Market Trends
Hospitality marketers have changed their marketing strategies over and over again due to Covid-19 and recurring lockdowns. But now there is light at the end of the tunnel you need to level up your strategy for 2021 and prepare for reopening in the new normal. One way to ensure a successful marketing strategy is to stay ahead of marketing and travel industry trends.
One of the biggest trends for travel is the rise in local travel, we can see this continuing right through to 2022. Research shows that 39% of people are planning to take more staycations even when the pandemic is over. This shows that hospitality businesses should be looking to market themselves more locally and target a UK audience. Through different types of digital marketing campaigns, you can narrow down your targeting by people who are interested in staycations, local trips, holidays in the UK etc. With this approach, incentives could be offered including dinner, bed and breakfast packages.
Another trend that has been seen globally, is that people would prefer contactless touchpoints as cleanliness is at the front of everyone’s mind. Hospitality businesses should provide guests with their safety protocols not just when they arrive but have them clear on your website and social media channels. This will demonstrate to potential guests how much you care about these safety measures. As people’s perceptions have changed, marketing trends show there is a change in customer personas and in the travel industry this can be seen as luxury consumers are becoming more discerning when making travel decisions and middle-class consumers have become value-conscious. Hospitality businesses should audit their target personas and adjust their marketing strategies accordingly.
We have outlined a few trends above but these evolve rapidly, and it’s crucial that you keep up to speed with the ever-changing market place. Not all trends will directly affect your business but it is good practice to research and keep informed so you stay ahead of your competitors when it comes to implementing these trends within your business.
Using The Right Digital Channels
To keep your hospitality business competitive and increase profits in 2021, you should explore the digital channels you’ve failed to use before.
There are so many online marketing channels you can use and implement, it’s about finding the right combination that works for your business. One of the important channels that all hospitality businesses should prioritise is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), as this plays a critical role in driving bookings. Research shows that 40% of hospitality revenue is from organic search. It’s crucial therefore for businesses in this sector to include it in their marketing strategy. Ensuring that your website is appropriately optimised can be a critical factor with regards to the number of site visits you receive. Regardless of how professional or modern your website appears, without sufficient optimisation, it can be worthless. Read our recent blog on how effective website architecture will enhance your SEO. Also, it is crucial for hospitality businesses to have local listings set up (for example Google Maps, Bing Places) as this can increase your property’s visibility when consumers are searching for food or accommodation.
Social media for hospitality brands is an extremely important tool to position your brand and generate traffic to your site. In 2021 your social media strategy needs to be relevant and thoughtful. Also over the past year, social media channels have added new features that you can leverage for example Instagram Reels – this can be used to show the different types of rooms available in your hotel or food on offer in a fun visual way which will create better engagement with your audience. Influencer marketing is on the rise again on all social media channels, this creates user-generated content and gives users a view of the restaurant, cafe or hotel from a first-person perspective and not to mention that influencers usually have a large following meaning you can tap into a new audience. There is also the other side of social media, where you can utilise paid ads.
With paid social media ads you can significantly increase engagement and traffic to your website and target unique users on social platforms, narrowing the audience down such as by location, interests and behavioural attributes. Each paid ad can serve a different purpose for example you can run a lead generation ad to drive leads for meeting space or weddings.
Another key digital channel hospitality business should use is email marketing. Within the hospitality industry, the main thing is to increase the number of bookings and build that loyalty with guests so they come back time and time again. Email marketing can help you do this and it’s easy to automate and cost-effective. A good tactic for hotels and restaurants opening up from the pandemic would be to use intent triggered marketing for their emails. This includes launching scheduled or automated email campaigns to your guests but utilising a combination of historical data and real-time interest and intent to encourage them to make a booking.
Measuring the Correct KPIs for Success
When changing up your marketing mix and choosing new digital channels be sure to set the right KPIs to measure the success of your campaigns. Most hoteliers will measure the success of their weeks/months by their revenue per available room (RevPar). This number can fluctuate depending on economic climate and seasonality, however, it is important to track this as it is crucial to understanding success and useful for planning and preparing for busy and quiet times. As restrictions ease hospitality businesses should plan for a steady increase in RevPar over the summer months as people are looking for staycations with their families. For these summer months, you can track and allocate marketing spend against RevPar and can determine which investments worked and what didn’t.
For hospitality businesses to monitor their success another KPI to track is the occupancy rate, which is the number of occupied rooms by total rooms available. Your occupancy rate is dependent on the number of bookings you get. Therefore if you are trying to increase bookings for September weekend and put out a marketing campaign through email or social media be sure to use a personalised URL for this campaign. By using a personalised URL that directs traffic to book on September weekend for example “SeptWK2021campaign” gives you the opportunity to track and monitor how many guests booked through seeing your campaign and how much ROI you are getting back from the campaign.
Hospitality businesses have been hit extremely hard by the pandemic, being unable to trade properly. Therefore it is essential to create a bounce back marketing plan to allow you to navigate through the Covid-19 environment and help achieve success for your business in 2021. Following this plan you will be able to stay ahead of your competition, stay up to date with marketing trends, leverage the right digital channels for you and allocate your budget accordingly and in the right areas where you will see results. As the year goes on, keep assessing the situation and adjust the plan accordingly.
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