You’re a hotel owner, the general manager of a hotel, the marketing manager of a hotel or just a very enthusiastic hotel employee. You’re racking your brain on how to increase your direct bookings and don’t know where to start. We’ve got you covered. In this blog, we’ll outline marketing strategies that you can use to increase your direct bookings.
Almost everything you do from a marketing point of view could have an impact on your direct bookings. Whilst some may say that it is important to not leave any stone unturned, it’s best to take the time to understand the channels at your disposal. Put a well-informed foot forward, understand your options and then attack those.
It goes: Inform, Understand, Attack. Got it? Great, let’s get into it!
1. Metasearch engines
Nowadays, direct bookings, or just bookings in general, will come through Metasearch. The most common Metasearch engines include Google Hotel Ads, Trivago, Tripadvisor, Kayak, Hotelscombined and many more. When using Metasearch in your marketing strategy, it’s important to understand how to set up a strong foundation. Doing this will allow you to make the most of the market available to you. We would advise working on increasing your Conversion Rate (CVR) on your booking engine. It doesn’t help to get customers to click through from a Metasearch engine if they leave without booking. This will only result in frustration on your end and a very low Metasearch ROI.
Here are some quick tips for setting up your Metasearch campaigns:
- Use images and videos to boost your hotel's profile. Many platforms now support posting a 360° view. You could use this to show off your rooms, lobby and restaurant to give potential guests a real insight into your hotel. This gains trust and allows you to show off your facilities.
- List a detailed description beside each room available. Carefully outline your offering and let your hotel shine. Use words that are uniquely ‘your hotel’. Create a buzz and some emotion about what guests can look forward to when staying with you.
- Understand your target keywords. Taking the time to choose specific keywords will also help your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) presence. Using the right keywords in your listings will increase your ranking in relevant searches—resulting in more traffic to your site.
2. Your hotel’s website
In today’s digital age, online visitors are your bread and butter. You want to make sure that anyone who clicks onto your website, stays and then books through your site. This means that you need to have a user-friendly site that is enjoyable, informative and fast to load.
A welcoming home page gives visitors the first glimpse of all your hotel has to offer. Using curated images and videos can highlight everything that your hotel has in store for future guests. Including descriptions with these images, help visitors get a feel a sense of ‘Wow I need to book here now’. Ensure that your images are in the correct format and not too big. Images that are too large can slow down the speed of your website.
For online visitors, there is nothing more frustrating than a page that is slow to load. It sounds harsh but with the world going digital, the online needs of users have become so high that they want everything now, not in 3 seconds. You can achieve this by checking your load time with Google PageSpeed Insights and using the results of the test to make recommended adjustments to help with faster loading times.
3. Email marketing and newsletters
Get in touch with your subscribers!
Create a marketing strategy that is directly targeted at an audience that you know wants to hear from you—your subscribers. You can get email subscribers by encouraging people to opt-in for news and updates with an email capture message. This is a very useful pool to delve into, as these are potential guests who have either booked or are close to booking with you. You can use your emails to remind them of your presence and your offering.
Email marketing is a phenomenal tool in a hotel marketing strategy, as it is so versatile:
- Emails can be pre-prepared and sent out in whichever intervals you like.
- Weekly discounts or special offers, such as weekend getaway ideas or once-off discount codes can be included in these emails.
- Setting up as daily, weekly, monthly send-outs (whichever time frame you prefer) gives you flexibility. You can ensure that your subscribers are receiving something useful from you on a regular basis.
- Get creative and build these in a way that every time your name pops up in their inbox, your subscribers can’t wait to open their email!
Depending on the email marketing software you use, you will be able to see who has viewed the email, who has clicked through on the link in the email, and then, for example, send a second email about the same topic sent to only those who clicked on the link from the first email. It takes a bit of data analysis but is absolutely worth the time. With every email sent, your target pool is getting more and more defined. A defined target audience will give you a better chance at increasing those direct bookings.
4. Social media channels
We live in a very socially digital world. Things have never been as online as they are now—ever. It’s important to understand the power that comes with having a social media presence but also the responsibility. In regard to social media marketing, you have a few channels at your disposal:
This is a great platform if your hotel has a lot of aesthetically pleasing imagery. The ability to showcase your hotel with a few images on your grid will allow potential guests to get a quick snapshot of your hotel. It’s also a great place to interact with and share user-generated content—photos that guests have posted of their stay with you. People trust Instagram as a benchmark for what is on offer. It’s a social media platform that is in almost everyone’s pocket on a 24/7 basis and that they’re on multiple times a day. You can also link your hotel website address in your bio, allowing visitors to easily access your hotel website at the touch of a button.
A great platform to market and advertise your hotel on. You can create a unique hotel page, including images and videos, your hotel website address. You can post descriptions and keep your visitors up to date with the latest going-ons at your hotel. People can also contact you directly through Facebook Messenger too. Being easily accessible is vital but remember to keep your eye on your Facebook inbox then!
If your hotel is creating blogs and guides on your website, Pinterest is a great channel to add to your marketing strategy. Many travellers now turn to Pinterest to help them get inspiration and plan their trips. In 2020, Pinterest had more monthly active users than Twitter and Snapchat combined. Pinterest also has the highest conversion rate compared to other social media channels—users are 3x more likely to click through to the brand website.
LinkedIn is used as a ‘business networking’ channel. It allows you to connect with like-minded business owners, managers etc. who you can build a professional relationship with. The number of people you can reach who can bring business in is endless. Whether it’s business travellers or tour companies looking for recurring occupancy at your hotel, the possibilities of bookings are endless.
We would recommend looking into these social channels to see if your target guests are active on these. Once you know where your target audience is, aim to start with one or two of these channels and then work towards having all of them linked on your hotel’s website. There are other channels you can explore including YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok etc.
Regardless of the channel you go for, ensure that you do the following:
- Use hashtags. Research the ones that are aligned with your brand and most relevant to your posts.
- Be active. Engage with other posts, especially in groups and make sure to reply to comments on your posts.
- Follow other pages. Look for brands or people that make sense for your brand to be following. This could be partner brands, influencers or celebrities.
- Invest in high-quality imagery. An image is worth a thousand words and you need to post scroll-stopping content.
- Curate your content. Make sure it’s streamlined and consistently matches your brand tone of voice.
5. Word of mouth
A marketing strategy as old as time. This isn’t a strictly digital marketing strategy but it is vital, nonetheless. Guest relationships are crucial. An easy way to broaden your reach to a larger market and increase your chances of direct bookings is by word of mouth. What people hear through the grapevine does affect the impression they have of a hotel’s reputation.
Offering impeccable service, luxurious stays and exemplary customer relations are sure to get you into the good books of your guests. Great service travels! We all know that whilst guests may peruse a website to find a hotel, they more than likely will also ask a friend ‘Where did you stay the last time you were in Spain?’. You want to be sure that your name comes up first when the question is asked, so it is very important to maintain a close and honest relationship with your guests.
Stay informed and implement a strategy that suits your hotel
At the end of the day, implement the hotel marketing strategies that represent your hotel and that your team can execute. Choose ones that you can incorporate on a daily basis, that have a strong ROI and that suit your guests' needs. Be patient during the implementation process, it will take some time to find the correct strategy for you. Be ready to tweak the day-to-day running of these strategies and be flexible enough to pivot when the time calls for it.