If there is one thing hoteliers can't forget to budget for in 2014, it is digital marketing. Keeping website and mobile web content fresh, scrutinizing the property's reputation via the web and social media channels, plus responding to guest reviews is critical for operational success and true customer-relationship management. The good news is that hoteliers can count on the fully managed digital marketing programs and expertise offered by Lodging Interactive and it’s social media marketing agency, CoMMingle.
"'It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.' Hoteliers need to heed this advise [offered by one of the world's most savvy and successful businessmen, Warren Buffett], especially in today's digital marketing age," said DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive, an award winning full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. "Many hoteliers are already finding it hard to keep up with managing content on Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube. Throw in rapidly growing channels Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and others, and marketers are realizing they’re going to need help in order to be effective. The same is true for responding to online guest reviews and managing a hotel’s online reputation. If any of these digital marketing touch points are not being properly orchestrated, the hotel's reputation and revenues will be negatively effected.
"The most cost-effective and productive way to manage and maintain a robust digital marketing program is to work in partnership with an experienced digital marketing agency, and one that is exclusively serving the hospitality industry," Vallauri said. "Budgeting for digital marketing today — including inflation for pay-per-click programs costs — will ensure success in 2014 and beyond."
Lodging Interactive has identified six must-haves that hoteliers need to build into their budgets for 2014 for an effective digital marketing campaign:
1. Staffing to set-up and maintain a Google+ page. Not only do marketers need staff to support a G+ page, but they need to budget sufficient time for staff to engage with the hotel's target audience and support ongoing conversations. Today, two-way communication via Facebook and Twitter pages is not enough. The name of the game in 2014 is aggressive participation on Google’s social network, Google+.
2. Staffing resources to reply to all guest reviews on top travel review sites and social networks. Whether a review is positive or negative, it requires a response. For many properties this can be a full time job. Think of the service as a way to reach the next potential guest who is reading your reply.
3. Guest Review Widget deployment on the hotel’s website, or vanity website if the hotel is branded. Marketers need to provide guests with a place to leave reviews on their hotel's website, and not online travel agent (OTA’s) sites. By implementing such a tool, hotels are removing OTA's from the equation and taking ownership of the guest-communication process and reducing their contribution of lower rated net rate business.
4. Streamlined mobile website exclusive for smartphone users. Forget about a 75-page responsive design . . . placing too much content on a mobile website can be more of a traveler deterrent rather than an incentive to book or buy. Hotels must have a dedicated mobile website that delivers a dynamic and streamlined user experience regardless of mobile device. Remember, mobile is about speed and efficiency.
5. Website redesign. Last year's website is obsolete. Ensure your website has been re-designed to leverage large photography – consumers have larger PC screens than ever and expect to see stunning visuals on your website. Every hotelier should budget for new photography and re-designing of their existing website.
6. Inflated Pay-per-click Advertising. If your hotel has not increased its pay-per-click advertising budget in the last year of so, you had better do so for 2014. Year over year, travel related PPC costs have increased and there is now more competition than there used to be. The end result, the cost per clicks are increasing and hoteliers need to keep up.
"Hotel owners and marketers must consider adding each of these six line items to their 2014 budgets in order to be competitive, Vallauri said. “Lodging Interactive can provide hoteliers with guidance and support in all the areas mentioned and ensure properties remain competitive and maximize their online revenues in 2014.”
Fully Managed Social Media Marketing
Like Lodging Interactive, CoMMingle can also provide services above and beyond what hotels can provide themselves, especially in the area of social media monitoring and reputation management.
"Hoteliers typically can't afford to have internal, full-time social media watch dogs on staff, so CoMMingle will provide due diligence on their behalf," said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. "CoMMingle will cost-effectively monitor conversations and post replies on the hotel's behalf. In addition, we can set up a Google+ page if needed and maintain weekly postings on the page; create a Pinterest hotel account, relevant pin boards, and then pin images weekly to the boards; establish and manage a customized blog focused on promoting local demand drivers and, create additional apps for the property — above and beyond what is presently being managed by the hotel. CoMMingle will even go a step further and assist hotels that don't have the time to post content consistently to Facebook and Twitter by posting content weekly on the hotel’s behalf. "
As hotels of all sizes begin the arduous 2014 budgeting process, it's imperative that digital marketing and its many nuances don't get overlooked. If they do, the hotel's or brand's online reputation can suffer. Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle have the human resources and expertise on hand to cost-effectively maximize exposure and credibility to both loyal and prospective customers.