As most travel came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels around the world have struggled. This means, as the world begins to open back up, you’ll want to put your best foot forward with your future marketing efforts.
It’s worth keeping in mind that customers’ priorities might have shifted over the last year, so you’ll want to devise your new strategies with this in mind. In this article, we’ll outline some tips to help you adjust your marketing strategy in a post-pandemic world.
Start your preparations early
You don’t have to wait until the world opens up again to start marketing your services. Take this quieter period to get ready and attract people’s attention!
Let’s break down a few ways hotels can do this.
Start by spending time on your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. There are a lot of ways you can do this! To begin with, make sure that your website is easy to navigate on all types of devices. As of March 2021, Google has been implementing their Mobile-First Index, which means that, if your website only displays properly on a desktop browser, you’ll struggle to rank on the Google search engine results pages (SERPs). So, make sure that your mobile website is just as clean and easy to use as your desktop site!
You can also improve your SEO by creating content based on keyword research. Start by brainstorming a list of topics relevant to your business. Then, plug them in to a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner. This will provide you with a list of relevant keywords that people are typing into search engines, as well as how competitive they are and the average number of monthly searches they get. Use these keywords to choose topics for new content, or to inform your web copy (titles, headers, and the like). Using the right keywords will tell Google that your website has content people are searching for, making it more visible to your ideal audience.
While you have more downtime, it’s also worth investing in some new tech that will help you out when things get busier again. This will allow you and your staff to get to grips with it while things are still quiet. If you’re not sure where to start, Manhattan Tech Support has a great guide to boosting your tech infrastructure, which will help you to identify areas where you need to make updates. They talk about cloud migration, automation services, and more.
Make sure that your social media accounts are still active, too. Posting, commenting, and interacting with customers and followers on social media can help you stay at the top of their minds, even when they aren’t making plans to travel yet. Don’t forget to check your direct messages and mentions, too. If you get any shout-outs, be sure to leave a comment thanking the people who are talking about you.
Lastly, now is a great time to start training your marketing staff to prepare them for the new world they’re about to encounter. IDeaS has a great guide to improving yourself and your staff during these difficult times, which is well worth reading if you need some assistance in this area.
Focus on highlighting your coronavirus safety measures
Keep in mind that a lot of travelers might feel nervous as they begin to stay in hotels again. What was once a normal practice now has a lot of people questioning the cleanliness of their chosen establishments. Highlighting the COVID safety measures that you have put in place can help put their minds at ease.
There are a lot of ways you can do this. Posting frequently on social media offering updates on state-, city-, and county-wide restrictions is a good place to start. Be sure to mention safety measures on all relevant pages on your website, too (for instance, add any important dining rules to any pages that mention your restaurant or bar), and create a COVID-19 FAQs page where people can find all of the answers to relevant queries they might have.
Hotel Milo, a popular hotel in Santa Barbara, has several pages across their website that outline their COVID-19 safety measures. They have an FAQ page that outlines what amenities are open, their mask policy, how to handle cancelations, and more. Additionally, they have a banner that runs across each of their web pages that leads viewers to their cleanliness program, appropriately titled Rest Assured. By making it clear and obvious what safety measures they are taking, Hotel Milo helps reassure their guests and is sure to secure more sales. It’s important that you focus on doing the same.
Upgrade your refund policies and shout about them
Depending on where you are located, a lot of people might be hesitant to book hotels at the moment; as cases rise, restrictions increase and could force cancellations. If you want to continue getting bookings, put your customers’ minds at ease and set out a clear refund policy. Then, shout about it in all of your marketing!
When creating an effective coronavirus refund policy, be as flexible as possible. You don’t want to have to give refunds and lose money, but you don’t want angry customers, either. Be sure to offer a full refund for COVID-related cancellations, like if someone in your guest’s party contracts the virus, or if restrictions have forced you to close, for instance. If you’re concerned about losing money, you could offer an incentive to your customers if they choose to accept a voucher to book at a later date as opposed to a cash refund.
Let’s look at a few examples of hotels doing this well.
The Marriott, a worldwide hotel chain, has implemented a flexible cancellation policy for all of their locations. Generally speaking, they are allowing guests who made reservations before May 31, 2021, to change or cancel their bookings free of charge, as long as they give at least 24 hours’ notice.
As the United States and other nations begin to open up, they note that, after June 1, individual hotel policies will apply. This policy gives customers peace of mind that, even if something comes up, they will not lose money.
The Four Seasons, a luxury hotel chain, has implemented a similar policy. They currently allow full changes and cancelations up to 24 hours prior to arrival. Some exclusions apply for peak demand periods like holidays, but it’s still a very flexible policy. When outlining your own COVID cancelation policy on your website, consider how you can make your policies as clear, easy-to-find, and flexible as possible.
You can also consider using new tools and technology to make your flexible policies easier to implement. Consider whether your customers would enjoy being able to cancel or change reservations for their stay, a spa treatment, or a restaurant reservation through an app or online service.
Be realistic with your promotions
With hotels around the world desperately competing for customers’ attention, you might be tempted to offer deals that aren’t necessarily practical to fulfill from a business standpoint. Yes, you want to get as many customers as possible, but it’s important that, after the hard time many businesses have had over the last year, you balance your promotions in a way that attracts customers while still protecting your margins.
Hotel revenue management software can help you price rooms and offer promotions in a way that provides great value for money, but still allows you to make a healthy profit. Work with your finance team to see how you can keep your promotions realistic. Budgets, intelligent pricing based on demand, and demand forecasting can help you attract customers while still making money.
Reconsider who your ideal customers are
A lot will have changed in a post-pandemic world, so you should avoid going back to the same plans and strategies that you made before the coronavirus pandemic. Take things from the top and reconsider who your ideal customers are.
More than likely, one of the biggest effects of the pandemic is that people won’t want to travel as far from home. So, consider how you can market your venue to more local people, for instance. Consider getting involved in local festivals and activities and offer local deals and discounts to help draw these people in.
You might be marketing to younger demographics, as well. Older people are likely to be wary of traveling for longer because they tend to be at a higher risk of COVID complications. This means you should think about how you can use social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter to draw in a younger audience to your hotel.
If you’re not sure what the demographics of your audience are, social media analytics tools can help you work this out. SocialPilot has a round-up that breaks down the pros, cons, features, and prices of many different social media analytics tools; it’s a good resource if you’re not sure where to start.
Focus more on personalized marketing
Because so many people are going to be nervous about travelling in a post-pandemic world, you need to do everything you can to make them feel safe and supported. Personalized marketing techniques can help show your customers that you really care about them!
Email marketing is one of the best channels to use if you would like to incorporate more personalization into your marketing. Just remember that your customers might not have heard from you for a while, so you’ll have to put plenty of effort into grabbing their attention and ensuring they’re engaged. Bookyourdata has a great guide to cold emailing that can help you to get this right.
You can use your customers’ names or demographic information to show you know them well. Or, if you have information about their previous stays with you, consider incorporating some mentions of these details into your emails. For instance, some customers might have a favourite on-site restaurant, they might enjoy visiting your spa, or there might be a specific room they always book.
Implement a post-pandemic SEO strategy
People’s lives changed in 2020 — more than likely, their traveling priorities and Google searches will have, too. This means that you won’t be able to rely on your pre-pandemic SEO strategy; you’ll need to devise a new one with coronavirus in mind — especially if you want to get direct bookings and maximize your profits.
Let’s break down a few things you need to consider when implementing a COVID-friendly SEO strategy.
To start, check out which keywords you need to be targeting. Do some keyword research in order to find out what COVID-related topics your ideal customers are researching. Do people visiting your area want to know about nearby COVID-safe restaurants or attractions, for example? These are things you could talk about in your website content.
Additionally, you should make sure your Google My Business listing is up-to-date and optimized using their COVID-19-specific features. You can keep your customers updated about your adjusted hours of operation, new offerings like takeout and delivery, and more.
If you want to attract more local clients, you should also consider building links on local websites. Link building is the process of getting hyperlinks from other relevant, authoritative websites that lead back to your own. When this happens, Google takes it as a vote of confidence in your work and will give you a boost in the search rankings as a result. See which businesses in your town or city you can work with to build links — are there businesses that accept guest posts, for example? Or could you get in touch with a local newspaper to cover the reopening of your hotel?
In 2020, the world changed, and your hotel’s marketing strategy should, too. We covered a lot in this article, from new technologies, to new forms of marketing, SEO strategies, and more. It’s a lot but, if you can implement these tips, your customers (and your bottom line) will thank you.
Author bio & headshot:
Aaron Haynes is the CEO of Loganix, an SEO fulfillment partner that supports marketing agencies and professionals. The company specializes in helping businesses to improve their online visibility and ultimately make more sales. The Loganix blog has a lot more information and advice, so make sure you check it out if you found this article helpful.