We have entered a new year of awesome possibilities. The hospitality and lodging business is poised for more disruption, innovation and growth.
I would love to see my readers address and implement a very simple list of hotel marketing strategies this year. Doing so will help boost your online revenue and make your marketing more meaningful and self-reliant.
1. Own Your Best Revenue Channel: Your Website
This is an excellent year to take ownership of your most important digital asset. Amazingly, the majority of hotels, B&B’s, and vacation rentals today are still “renting” their websites. You simply cannot be doing this in 2014. Repeat after me: “My website is my single most profitable channel of revenue, and I must own it.” Don’t leave your online presence in the clutches of an agency. The value of the direct revenue from your website is too important.
This is why it’s also time to embrace open source publishing. WordPress is an excellent option on which to build your digital empire. Oh, and before anyone freaks out about “security,” please read this article and be bold. You simply cannot be hands-off with your single biggest online asset. 2014 looks like a great year to be an owner!
Agency-powered, proprietary content management systems need to be dropped like a bad habit. If there is only one thing you implement this year from my list, please let it be this one. Fortune favors the brave, and those who take ownership of their digital life.
2. Do a Meta Search Advertising Reality Check
I am sure you have heard bigwigs say how big “Meta Search” is going to be. Some are even convinced that “Meta Search Is the Future.” Actually, there is a good chance that you or someone you know first heard this hyperbole from either:
1. A hotel marketing agency selling meta search ads/banners.
2. The meta search providers themselves, trying to sell advertising to you.
3. Folks trying hard to sound profoundly in tune with the world of online marketing for hotels.
I have had a front row seat to the Meta Search Show and have witnessed hundreds of thousands of marketing dollars spent. These investments were made by hotels in major metropolitan locations globally, on products from TripAdvisor to Google Hotel Finder. The results have not been spectacular.
Did all the meta campaigns fail? No: they managed to get a few clicks and few dollars in revenue. Was it worth it? Not really. Meta search is not building your brand or selling your value. It’s all about price. Price-focused shoppers will continue to browse hundreds of sites, as they are now wired to do it. They don’t care about your hotel or its brand. For long-term revenue growth, you will have to focus less on the deal-seeking crowd and more on people who are staying with you for your value and location. If they can meta search, they can definitely use Google to find you directly and book on your website. Save your money, and use it to solidify your most profitable channel, aka your website.
*Prophecy: Agencies will continue to advertise 45:1 ROI on everything Meta Search for the next few years.
3. Chill Out on SEO
Pandas, penguins and hummingbirds need to be in the wild and not on the list of top things to talk about this year. Losing your marbles about rankings every time Google makes an algorithm change is a humongous waste of time. Please do not waste time on things you cannot control. One of my predictions for 2014 is that a lot of hospitality and travel websites will continue to witness a decline in organic traffic from Google. So…let it go. Shift your online marketing efforts away from entirely focusing on search engine keywords. The time, money and effort you’ve been putting into chasing rankings are better spent on your lodging business. Innovate. Give more value to your customers. Streamline your operations.
Make 2014 the year of creating great content and maintaining site health. Focus on what you can control, and let your competitors chase the rankings.
4. Look Beyond Vendor Magic
Hiring an online marketing agency cannot be the only step in your ecommerce strategy. You have to decide what you want your online marketing and revenue to look like in the future. That means someone at the property or ownership level is going to have to get his/her hands dirty with digital marketing. Move away from hiring vendors, crossing items off a checklist, throwing cash at a search engine (meta or otherwise), signing up for every social media platform out there… and then tuning out. If you are only going to pop in to review monthly reports, there are some hard times ahead. The fact is that a lot of hotel marketing/ecommerce department employees are spending 90% of their time on vendor management. If you are one: This has got to stop. Instead, in 2014 your goal should be to bring at least a few of your online marketing activities in-house. This, of course, highly depends on the caliber of the people you hire. Hire well, and then let those people do the real work; you will not regret it. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes makes you hands-off.
Let me share a little secret: Everyone messes up in ecommerce; it’s not a perfect science. The only way to learn is to dive in and make some mistakes. Try-Observe-Modify-Repeat.
5. Say No to FOMO
Fear of missing out (FOMO) syndrome is making it hard for you to focus on revenue. Social media is one of the biggest distractions in the industry right now. You feel like you have to stay tuned into news feeds or social networks, or else you will miss something in the ocean of updates and conversations. You feel “social media jealousy pangs” when you see your competition doing cool things on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
The cure is simple:
1. Accept that you are not going to be shining on every single outlet. You will not get a positive review on everything you post.
2. Limit the distractions. Pick one or two channels where you can consistently post your side of the story and build your community.
If you can live in the present rather than somewhere else all the time, you will see an increase in your productivity and revenue.
2014 is going to be a banner year for those of you who are taking ownership of your digital lives. Innovation in 2014 will come from the property level, and not from a sales/account manager at a hotel marketing agency with 100’s of clients. Connecting with guests is always better than connecting with algorithms and AI robots (unless the AI robot is Scarlett Johansson). Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) dilute your marketing. You can’t do it all, but you can do a few important things very well. Focus and win.