Questions Any Agency Handling Your Hotel’s Digital Marketing Strategy Should Be Able to Answer
By Jessica Kaiser, Owner and CEO of Hawthorn Creative
The biggest challenge of digital hotel marketing is oversaturation. In an OTA, Airbnb, and HomeAway world there is stiff competition and direct bookings are becoming harder to come by. So, how do you stand out from the crowd online and convert? Well, first things first, to avoid disappearing into the white noise of the web, you have to partner with the right marketing agency. Here are some questions to ask potential agency partners to ensure that they have the right tools to help your hotel increase bookings through digital marketing strategies.
What factors do you focus on when developing a website?
The majority of travelers use Google and other search engines first and foremost to find and book destinations and hotels. And these days, most of those searches result in pages filled with ads. This means that any agency you consider working with not only needs to be masters at SEO (optimizing your website for organic search) but also SEM (advertising across the web through search and display networks, hotel ads, social advertising, remarketing, OTAs, etc.). Ask your agency what they do to assess and analyze your website and online presence and how they'll go about improving your rankings and conversions.
And don't forget to ask about web design. With about half of your website users accessing your site via cell phone or tablet, mobile is king and your agency should recognize that when developing your website. Your agency should prioritize building your site in a way that ensures content and images render just as well on small screens as they do on a desktop. Further, users must have quick and easy access to all of your website's information and functionality on their phones.
A good agency will also understand the importance of site speed to your website's success. Your website has only seconds to make an impression on visitors and anything greater than a two-second loading speed is just too slow and will significantly increase your bounce rate. Plus, site speed sits at the top of the list of factors affecting where you stand on Google's SERP, so it's critical that your agency understands the ins and outs of how to optimize your site speed for SEO.
Do you focus purely on acquisition? Or do you focus efforts on engagement and retention as well?
Customer acquisition is often the sole focus of a hotel's digital marketing strategy, usually due to a lack of time or expertise. But focusing only on acquisition (i.e., bookings) should not be a compromise you have to make if you are hiring an agency. Dedicating digital efforts to all three stages of the travel consumer journey - which includes engagement (the dreaming and planning stage) and retention (the experiencing and sharing stage) in addition to the booking stage - is a significant factor in making your hotel stand out in the web world. All three stages contribute heavily to increasing bookings in the long run. Here are some key strategies for engagement and retention you should be looking to see from your agency:
- Engagement: Your prospective agency should understand the importance of engaging with consumers early on - even before they have plans to take a trip. Some go-to strategies you should listen for are content marketing and social media. An agency should have a plan to create great content that paints a picture of why consumers should be dreaming about visiting your destination. Collaborating with influencers on social media and creating and regularly updating a blog are some great ways to get the hotel content marketing job done.
- Retention: Retention efforts actually begin before a guest has even stayed with you. As soon as someone has booked their stay, you want to ensure you are engaging with them. Email marketing is a great way to do this. A good hotel marketing agency will know to offer an e-newsletter sign-up at check out and build out pre-stay email campaigns so your guests can receive content about how to make the most of their stay at your hotel. The more your guests enjoy their stay, the higher the likelihood of a repeat booking. An agency should also understand other integral elements of retention, such as encouraging guests to post on social media and review their stay online posts - then monitoring and responding to guest posts and reviews with timely, custom replies.
Bottom line: Make sure your agency is playing the long game to help you create relationships well in advance with people planning future trips as well as fostering relationships with guests before and after their stay to promote repeat bookings.
What about videos? Can you help us create video content?
Video content is one of the digital marketing must-haves, so you should be asking about video before cementing a partnership with an agency. On average, travel consumers spend over two and a half times longer on web pages with video than those without videos or images. Even something as simple as a virtual tour of your property can give website visitors a better sense of your hotel and drive bookings. Your agency should be up to speed on how to create engaging video content for your website and adjunct social media accounts and have the ability to produce videos for your hotel.
How do you weave different elements of digital marketing together?
Ask your agency about the measures they take to ensure all the different digital marketing efforts work in tandem to create a completely immersive experience for people engaging with your digital content. Listen for mentions of pulling positive Yelp and Google reviews and a live Instagram feed to live permanently on your website. Or developing campaigns that span several channels such as display ads, email marketing, your blog, and website landing pages. Weaving things like this together often indicates a comprehensive vision for your digital marketing strategy.