For our latest blog post in this hotel sales series, we interviewed Marius Zachariasen, Vice President Marketing at First Hotels. He has a proven history of producing results through innovation, technology, and communication.
Marius specializes in digital marketing and online advertising through which he leads his team at First Hotels to successfully navigate recent hospitality trends.
In this post are mentioned all the points by Mr. Zachariasen made about the importance of digital marketing to drive direct sales for your hotel.
Generate Direct Bookings
For hotels that use OTAs (Online Travel Agency) for their sales, the fundamental goal here is to be less reliant on the online travel agencies and start to generate direct bookings through the hotel website.
Although it’s pretty easy to get sales through OTAs as you don’t need to put in many efforts, you also have to offer them a commission in exchange for selling your inventory.
It is essential it produce these sales internally, and to do that hotels must have an internal marketing department. There are two ways that they can go about:
- Hire the entire workforce for the department or;
- Hire a few people and get the rest of the sales from OTAs.
In the second option, businesses mainly want to see whether they can generate revenue and if yes, then what kind of income. In case this results in a good number of sales, further people can be hired for the department, which will help to get off OTAs completely.
Digital Marketing Tactics
Marius explained that the digital approach could take two routes – one for brand search and the other for organic search.
For brand search, e.g., someone searches for ‘First Hotel in SoCal,’ it’s quite a specific phrase. Any hotel that owns that keyword and shows up high in the search results will bring the searcher directly to their website instead of leading to an OTA.
But since OTAs are dominant in the hospitality industry, the competition for such keywords is fierce as they might already use it.
However, for organic searches like “Hotels in Stockholm,” the user is not sure of which hotel to choose for their stay. For this purpose, businesses need to ensure that they have enough keywords to play for them so that the search results rank their website higher than the OTAs.
In short, a hotel should be visible online in both branded and non-branded searches.
It is also essential to prepare your website for supplemental searches. For example, if someone searches for a yoga retreat, the search engine should be able to connect the user to a yoga package at your hotel – for which you need to buy the yoga-specific search terms.
What Should Hotels Do Next?
It takes a good three to four months to get a hotel’s digital marketing strategies up and running smoothly. Up till this point, there will be a lot of failed experiments as well.
Businesses should expand the cookie pool, which also helps remarket their ads to targeted audiences. They should include more social media platforms to their marketing efforts, which can be done by posting an organic spread of content across various platforms.
Different Tech Tools To Use
Various platforms like AdRoll and Word Stream can help with digital marketing – their settings and tools can enhance the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts. But according to Mr. Zachariasen, it’s a good idea to start with Google and Facebook Ads as these offer a more risk-free investment.
He further stressed the importance of using the range of Google’s marketing products for better results.
Moreover, some providers can add a tool onto your website not to remarket, but to extract information related to your visitors and try to find how they landed on your site.
It makes an automated list of what kind of companies visit your website. Hotels can then use these lists to get in touch with these prospects and offer them enticing packages and deals – for individuals and groups both.
Publish More Videos
Businesses that publish videos see a higher engagement rate as compared to pictures or text-based posts.
So marketers should be encouraged to make short presentations of their hotels in a video format to be posted on various online platforms.
Initially, when you open a new hotel, in our experience, you are very reliant on OTAs because you need to be – you don’t have any corporate contracts yet, nor do you have many people that have stayed at your hotel who can market for you.
Therefore, when you start with a new hotel, OTAs are a vital component of your business, and you can see some high OTA numbers in the market.
But when you have built your audience, and have more direct businesses to cater to, you’ll use OTAs less and less and start to focus more on your digital marketing efforts. It will bring in more direct leads and help your business grow faster.