Ben Walker of Arise explains the benefits of an all-round digital marketing offer for hoteliers.
Not so long ago, it used to be the case that a good website was not just the crux of any marketing plan, but the only platform available to exist online. Since those early days the web has grown exponentially, but it seems that many organisations still need to catch up and capitalise on this growth.
Following the birth of those first solitary websites, search engines, directories and listing sites soon sprung up to help people find specific sites, and quickly became part of the marketing repertoire, with many developing tricks to gain higher rankings, and directory sites catching on quickly and offering promoted listings at a cost.
Then the web became social, the dawn of “Web 2.0” as it was then dubbed. Alongside the development of websites to include blogs, viable email marketing solutions and other interactive features joined the mix, which critically saw the birth of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Soon brands cottoned on to the opportunities these platforms offered to connect their business with individuals, opening up a two-way public conversation. In response the social platforms brought business-specific features into play with powerful targeted advertising tools becoming available to marketers.
Where we are now
It’s been a crazy ride from the birth of the web through to today’s age where social media provides immense power. Although websites are still massively important, they’re now just one powerful tool in the digital toolkit.
Take time to stop and take a look at your broader digital strategy and harness the full power that your website, social media and other digital platforms have to offer when they work together. Are we firing on all cylinders, or are we still stuck in Web 1.0, using only a fraction of the tools available to us?
A word on social media
You only need to look at the headlines these days to see the power social media can have. With great power comes great responsibility.
Despite this power we still misunderstand and undervalue the impact social media can have. We often seen the entire responsibility laid on the shoulders of accountants, secretaries, general managers and receptionists who rarely have the knowhow or time to develop it to a satisfactory level.
Some fear the negative impact social media could have on their brand, and so fail to act. Instead of missing out on the opportunity, it’s important that we treat social presence with care and harness its power for the right reasons, understanding the place it should take in a marketing strategy.
As the web has matured, web professionals have specialised. Where there were once all-powerful webmasters, we now have everything from front or backend experts through to UX and Conversion Rate Optimisation specialists. In this social age it’s time for social media management to become a recognised specialism too, rather than an area we misunderstand and undervalue.
All the digital tools at your marketing disposal:
We all understand the importance of a website. It serves to represent your brand, greet interested visitors and answer their questions and concerns, sealing the deal.
Social media presence
Social media represents your brand to the world and opens up a dialogue with your audience. It enables you to not only promote your offering, but build relationships, develop brand identity and communicate character in a continuous and direct way that a website alone can’t match.
Search engine presence
Either organic or paid, the aim is to increase the visibility of your site above competitors in search engine rankings. The ultimate aim being to get searchers to choose and visit your website, where you’ll be able to seal the deal.
Like social media, email marketing offers an ongoing channel that can be used to build relationships and character, but unlike social it tends to be a one-way conversation. Email marketing is a particularly useful touchpoint for developing repeat business and reminding customers that you’re there.
Other online opportunities
The aforementioned platforms aren’t the only places your brand will be seen online. It’s important to consider listings and review sites too, particularly those that are industry-specific, such as Tripadvisor for hotels. The maintenance of important listings sites is often overlooked, but is often a key part of your customers’ buying process.
When used together, each tool in your digital marketing toolkit can magnify one another. For example, promoting website offers through Facebook harnesses the power of your offer landing page, giving it an audience, and provides relevant content for your feed.
Working your digital marketing channels together provides multiple touchpoints between you and your audience, and in this way amplifies your return on investment. It follows that the more your target customers hear about you, in different ways through different channels, the more likelier they are to buy or book.
Econsultancy reported findings that demonstrated that “European companies with more digital capabilities across channels are able to convert sales at a rate 2.5 times greater than those with fewer touchpoints”. Put plainly the more contact customers had online, the more they bought.
To really harness this potential it’s critical that all your digital channels are consistent in their aims, tone of voice, and how they communicate and fit with your brand values. While it’s true that each digital platform will have a slightly different audience – Facebook may be best for personal interactions whereas you may use LinkedIn to reach a corporate audience – each channel, though tailored, should still stay true to your brand consistency. If your website’s saying high-end luxury, but your hotel is posting unoriginal content along with trashy hashtags on Facebook, you need to act fast to avoid damaging your brand and wasting your marketing budget any further.
Go back to your strategy and make sure that all who take a role in delivering their part of the strategy, whether it’s you, your staff, or agency you outsource to, has a full understanding of your establishment’s brand identity. You all must pull together with the same aims in mind, and remember that consistency is key.
The end result
Digital marketing is powerful. Developing your digital presence and combining your channels into a single digital marketing strategy maximises the power and return these channels offer.
Ben Walker is founder of Arise, digital specialists in social media and web design for the hospitality and tourism sectors.