Content marketing for hotels: How to get started telling your hotel’s story
Content marketing is more than a buzzword. It's an important part of your hotel's marketing strategy.
Simply put, it's the creation and distribution of valuable assets, such as videos, blog posts, and e-newsletters, as marketing tools to attract and retain customers.
For hotels and other accommodation providers, these assets showcase your property's unique story and brand.
How does content marketing work?
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI), based in the US, defines content marketing as "…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
How does it work in hospitality? By attracting your target guests, influencing them into booking a stay, and retaining them as repeat guests.
The key is to first provide useful content that informs and entertains. Secondly, it's important to deliver it consistently to establish credibility and foster engagement.
As part of your inbound digital marketing campaign, content also drives traffic to your website and social media channels. What content marketing isn't, is excessive promotional messaging.
Occasional outreach to publicise new packages or amenities is expected, but good content is light on the sales pitch.
Which hotels do a great content marketing job?
Looking at concrete examples of content marketing, Marriott is touted as gold standard.
Under the direction of David Beebe, VP of global creative and content marketing, several full-time staff at the Marriott Content Studio create content in the form of branded magazines, books, TV shows, webisodes, short films, and documentaries.
This is in addition to actively engaging on several social media channels around the clock.
One example is Marriott Traveler, a magazine with destination-based content that provides readers with information on what to do in several cities where Marriott properties are located.
The initial launch covered three cities, and within three months the magazine had driven bookings to 7,200 rooms.
The company also produced two short films, 'Two Bellmen' and 'French Kiss' that are shown on in-room television, the JW Marriott brand.com site, and on Marriott's YouTube channel.
'Two Bellmen', with its high-action plot involving a business traveller, was filmed at a JW Marriott property in Los Angeles. Watch it, and you'll realise that it also tells a story of superlative customer service.
It currently has more than five million views on YouTube.
The Marriott brand is always integrated into these print and digital assets, but it's secondary.
And as a result, the campaign has successfully impacted customer engagement and direct booking conversions.
So, what is considered best practice in hospitality content marketing?
Of course not all hotels have the luxury of Marriott-sized marketing resources.
Hoteliers new to content marketing should approach it by getting into the minds of their customers.
Ardath Albee, a B2B marketing strategist, CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc. and an instructor for CMI's Content Marketing University, says combining marketing objectives is a good place to start.
"The question a hotelier should be asking first is, what can I do to help a specific audience that will also tie into what I want to accomplish for my hotel? So, depending on the type of hotel, maybe it's helping potential and current guests find the best restaurants in the area, or understand what to do while they're in town," explains Albee.
"Or, if you are business hotel that hosts a lot of meetings, perhaps suggest best practices for successful meetings and conferences. If your hotel is also a resort or spa, maybe it's a blog about healthy living with topics specific to golfing, if you have a course, or sharing your chef's recipes if you have an attraction restaurant."
The next step is considering a content distribution strategy. There are different ways to deliver content – including social media, email, and on your website.
"You want to think about how to get the most bang for your buck with the content you develop," Albee adds. "So think about audience, purpose, and business goals, and then formats and channels."
A content marketing strategy is itself an involved topic. In a nutshell, it's a multi-layered plan that involves: content creation; deciding when, where and how to distribute content; and how to measure results.
Depending on the size of your hotel's marketing team, content marketing may be the role of one person or an entire staff. Outside marketing agencies can also help support and supplement your efforts.
For more information, these websites provide additional case studies, ideas and inspiration. You can also find contact information on marketing agencies that specialise in hospitality:
The Content Marketing Association (based in the U.K.)
Content Marketing Institute (based in the U.S.)
Asia Content Marketing Association
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