Effective Marketing Strategies for the Hospitality Industry
By Paul Bates, Head of Digital Marketing at Paper-Research
The hospitality industry is legendary for its low profit margins and high level of competition, and never was this so true as it is now. With so many small businesses going under in the first year, small businesses in the hospitality industry must look to differentiating themselves via marketing, and larger businesses, though they still have more wiggle room, must make every marketing dollar count.
Technology, Loyalty, Creativity
Much of the future of hospitality marketing lies in three major areas: technology, customer loyalty, creativity, and new concepts in the business model. Other aspects of traditional marketing such as flyering and television are still somewhat effective, but, as stated by Patricia Mitchell, Head of Marketing at SolidEssay, many businesses have found they are not as cost-effective as other sources of customer attention.
Creativity used to be thought of as not so much a marketing concept as fodder for marketing: the business stakeholders came up with new business ideas, and the marketing team based advertisements around them. Now, however, restaurants like Pret a Manger have made a mark in the market by combining advertising with the restaurant's concept itself. Pret is an advertising concept that is built into the restaurant design, using large outdoor display windows to highlight its unique concept of stocking sandwiches and entrees like a grocery store, but creating a restaurant experience for customers inside. The stores are placed in high-traffic urban areas, letting the location and design of the store itself advertise the clever concept to passers-by. Concepts that are creative enough to serve as marketing strategies themselves allow each aspect of the restaurant to multitask. A store design such as Pret's is one example; other strategies have included gimmicks that spread through word of mouth, such as Ed Debevic's rude waiters. Making the restaurant concept its own advertisement is not easy, but it is a very cost-effective marketing strategy.
Most hospitality professionals would rather do their core job than worry about the company website. Like it or not, however, most hospitality businesses need an online presence, a mobile presence, and a leadership that is in touch with how to make the most of viral technology that can spread the word about the establishment . According to Michael Wright, Content Marketing Director at ConfidentWriters, content is king on websites of all kinds, and this is also true for hospitality home sites. Having the marketing team focus on building a website is a better use of resources than traditional advertising in some markets.
Mobile is quickly becoming more important than desktop strategies, and—surprisingly to some in the industry—video has become a very effective way to spread publicity about a business. If the marketing team can attach a hotel or restaurant to a video that goes viral, they have scored a major coup for comparatively little money; a fun YouTube video is far less costly to produce than a television commercial and, if done well, can have far greater reach.
Some of the above technological techniques can help build that very old-fashioned staple of a successful business: customer loyalty. Yes, a repeat customer already knows the business exists. However, with so many businesses in the market and so much content on the web, part of marketing job is now connected to making sure that previous customers who have had good experiences are reminded of them. Therefore, technology must not just be used; it must be maximized through personalization. Allow customers to take surveys, and insert their names and favorite menu items they have ordered in a customized group email. Personalization of social media and email content experiences for customers are part of making customers remember the business—and more important, they should also feel remembered by the business.
Finally, nothing adds to loyalty, enhances creativity, and maximizes technology like a great customer experience. Your best marketing strategy, once initial customers have been attracted, is to ensure satisfaction in every element of service. Content may be king, but especially with yelpers lurking around every corner, word of mouth is still one of the best drivers of sustained business in the industry.
Paul Bates is Head of Digital Marketing Department at Paper-Research and is responsible for the company’s online marketing strategy.More from Paul Bates