Internet Marketing Strategies for the Hospitality Industry
In the highly competitive field of hospitality (hotels, motels, restaurants, pubs and bars), it is imperative to have a strong internet presence. Creating an effective online marketing campaign isn’t always a simple task — especially for restaurant & hotel owners that are inundated with the tasks of running their business.
Considering the trends of how customers are using the internet to review, research and choose where to stay or eat, the internet (through company websites, social media and customer review service websites) cannot be ignored a key piece of your marketing plan.
Some statistics from 2012 about online booking:
- There are 148.3 million travel bookings made on the internet each year.
- 57% of all travel reservations are made on the internet
- 65% of same day hotel reservation made from a smartphone.
Some statistics about online review websites (like TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, Yelp, Google Places, etc).
- 53% of TripAdvisor users say they won’t book a hotel if it has zero reviews.
- More than one third of consumers will not book a hotel room without reading reviews first.
- 87% of TripAdvisor users feel more confident in their decision when they read the reviews and 98% say they find them “accurate of the actual experience.”
- Travelers spend an enormous amount of time researching hotels online. On average, hotel consumers made twelve visits to an Online Travel Agent’s website, requested 7.5 pages per visit, and spent almost five minutes on each page before booking.
- 92% of internet users read product reviews and 89% of people say that reviews influence their purchasing decision.
- A negative review or comment on social media or review websites can lose companies as many as 30 customers.
Some statistics about the social media impact:
- 81% of respondents said they’d received advice from friends and followers relating to a product purchase through a social site; 74% of those who received such advice found it to be influential in their decision.
- 64% said they use social media to make their travel plans and within the 25-34 year old participant group, the number is even higher; 76%look to popular social media sites to plan their next getaway.
- 85% of executives use social media during a purchase decision
- 55% of Facebook users use the site to get travel advice.
- 53% of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48% of them delivering on their intention to buy the product.
- For more statistics: http://www.reviewpro.com/reputation-research-statistics-2767
Based on the statistics above, its imperative to have each of the following:
- Website, first and foremost: A website that is professional looking, easy to navigate, and offers engaging, keyword-rich content will provide a successful first impression. The quality of your website’s design and well written, professional content will also reduce your website’s bounce rate. [For more info on Bounce Rate]
- Social Media: Make sure you and your staff have a well-definited social media marketing plan that expands and engages your target audience. Through images, videos, articles, contents, promotions and things to do in their local market, they can promote their business while engaging their audience without direct annoying sales pitches. [For more information on Social Media Marketing]
- Mobile Capability: A mobile optimized or mobile website is critical for hotels and restaurants. As of November 2012, there are 97.3 million mobile users per month with predictions that half of the US population will be using mobile internet by 2015.
- Local Optimization: Search results are increasingly becoming more localized and personalized. Things that impact placement in local search results include the hotel’s location relative to search term, optimization of local profiles, online reviews for the property, and consistency of name, address, phone number, and domain information. Its imperative for hotels and restaurants to have a process in place to verify their listings and reviews on all applicable channels.
- Encourage Reviews: Hotels should create a well-defined process for encouraging consumer reviews on TripAdvisor, Google+, Yelp, and even their own website depending on consumer preference for the channel. Management staff should keep regular and consistent tabs on their social media pages and reviews to enhance their business’ reputation and encourage more reviews. This goes for restaurants too; restaurant owners should solicit feedback about the food, the service and the cleanliness of your eatery. To encourage feedback, offer a promotion (10% of their next order, or free night’s stay for their participation in your survey).
- Email Marketing: It continues to be an effective tool for staying on the minds of your customers. Businesses benefit from email marketing because it is fast, direct, cost-effective, and builds loyalty.
- Call to Action: Turn your online visitors or fan into real customers by offering a call to action, such as a limited-time deal or discount (either posted on your website, your Facebook, Twitter page, or thru your email marketing).
- Give them a Sneak Peek: For hotels, offer numerous high-quality, zoom-able photos or a virtual tour that show your rooms, your lobby, and any amenities (pool, fitness center, restaurant). For restaurants, the number one thing that diners look for when they search for restaurant information online is a current menu. Post your menu on your website, Foursquare, YP.com, Urbanspoon, Yelp, Google+, Facebook, etc. to extend social outreach.
What to do with Bad Reviews
Negative reviews can leave you feeling frustrated, angered, and deflated. Your initial inclination might be to fire back a response that attacks your online reviewer. At this point it’s best to take a step back, and take a deep breath, as this will only serve to make the situation much, much worse. There are several methods to handle these review to minimize the damage depending on the situation.
What if the review was malicious or in error?
Some of the review sites will remove it if you submit a request, especially if it can be proved it was in error, dishonest or submitted by a competitor. For example, “Urbanspoon removes reviews that violate our standards and guidelines (such as those that contain profanity), but we do not remove reviews strictly for being negative or even rude. If you would like us to evaluate any reviews for violations, click the Feedback link on your listing to submit a request.”
If you have not already claimed your restaurant or hotel on these websites, you will need to so you can submit a response, manage reviews, and contact the website to remove erroneous reviews.*
What if the bad review was accurate?
Unfortunately, we can’t be perfect all the time and mistakes happen. So instead of wasting time fretting or being angry, take steps to do damage control.
- *Register your Business: The first thing that you need to do, other than staying calm, is to ensure that you’ve registered for a business account with Urbanspoon, Yelp, Google Places, TripAdvisor, etc. This is not just important so that you can manage reviews, but it’s also important because you can change information about your restaurant, such as hours, or the address at your convenience.
- Thank the reviewer. Show future readers you are respectful and care about your customers. Example: “Thank you for taking the time to review our business. We truly value our guests’ opinions and we apologize that we did not meet your expectations.”
- Respond directly to the compliant. Do your best to investigate if the source of the complaint was just a one-off, or if it is a pattern of behavior or larger issue that your business needs to address. Either way, its the best policy to respond so you can show the disgruntled customer, as well as the many who will read the review that you care about their opinion. Example: “Providing our guest with the best customer service and high quality meals (rooms, etc) is our mission. We have addressed the cleanliness issue, (or have spoken to the employee in question, etc.).”
- Offer compensation and invite them back. Here’s your chance to rectify the situation and give your company another chance to impress the customer. Example: “If you come back to our business, I would love to have the opportunity to speak to you directly. We would like to offer 10% off (a free meal, free drink, or some other amenity) if you return.” Show future readers you are respectful and care about your customers.