Independents: Focus on Marketing to Thrive

A hyper-focus on four key areas of service could turn your marketing strategy into the secret weapon you need.
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Independent and boutique hotels compete in an industry dominated by chain-affiliated brands and massive marketing budgets. As a small business owner in hospitality, you’re bound to battle over market share with hotel brands that are larger than life and have the staffing power to match.

Whether you own a mom-and-pop bed and breakfast or an independent hotel, you likely juggle daily operating responsibilities in addition to making the big picture strategy decisions. In an hour, you may go from appeasing an unhappy guest to cleaning rooms, fulfilling guest service requests, or reviewing a new hire’s resume. On top of these responsibilities, you need to make decisions on a marketing strategy that’s going to drive revenue.

A hyper-focus on four key areas of service could turn your marketing strategy into the secret weapon you need to not only survive but thrive in the competitive hospitality industry.

Customer Communications

Effective, regular communications with guests helps small business owners build relationships, repeat business, and generate consistent traffic and leads. As the travel industry experiences a post-pandemic resurgence, taking advantage of email and text message marketing to stay connected is more important than ever.

Deploying email and text/SMS campaigns is a quick and easy tactic to contact potential guests and share information about upcoming promotions, and events. The campaigns also help your hotel stay top-of-mind and encourage guest loyalty while driving new traffic to your website.

Now more than ever before, consumers want to feel connected to the brands they support. Remember that a phone call or quick text to update a guest on the status of their reservation or an amenity makes a difference. It is what will help set your independent or boutique hotel apart from the competition – and what will keep guests coming back.

Online Reviews
Another key component of any digital marketing plan focuses on online reviews. Traveler reviews guide decisions, with 72% of consumers always or frequently reading reviews before deciding where to stay and eat or what activities to do. This stat alone shows the importance of brand reputation and online presence through guest ratings and reviews.

Generating, tracking, and promoting positive reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor, Google Ratings, and Yelp are proven tactics and essential components in digital marketing. Responding to reviews is as important as securing them – especially negative reviews – because it shows you care about guest service and the quality of someone’s stay. You should aim to have between 5-10 reviews with an average score of 4.5 or higher from guests.

Online reviews help establish trust with guests and those considering booking a room for the first time without them needing to set foot in the lobby. Consistent online reviews will also help your independent or boutique hotel appear higher in search engine rankings. Many owners have trouble finding the time for online reviews, but this is one area where making the time pays off and puts you ahead of the competition, no matter its size.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
As an independent or boutique hotel owner, your website is your digital lobby. It is the space that entices guests in and invites them to stay. Web design and user functionality are both important to securing bookings, but it is essential to have your small business lit up with all the proverbial bells and whistles that get guests through your digital front doors.

Leveraging SEO to appear in Google search rankings when consumers are searching for places to stay is essential. Ensuring your small business is “Google optimized” is one of the biggest ways to get found, particularly when you consider over 70% of U.S. travelers are “always” on their smartphones when traveling, searching for directions, booking experiences, and more.

As the hospitality industry experiences a digital transformation, it is critical your small business appears at the top of local Google searches. Doing so improves search engine rankings and allows your hotel to rise above the local and/or closest competition. Ensuring that your website is leveraging key words, phrases, backlinks, and citations increases website authority and boosts search engine rankings.

Social Media Management

Having a robust, localized social media strategy is key to increasing brand awareness, engaging guests, and boosting online visibility. Independent and boutique hotels that are not leveraging social media in some capacity are essentially handing business over to the competition.

Social media is a catalog of guests’ adventures, experiences, and wishes. A well-managed social media strategy encourages guests to engage with your brand and dream of a stay at your hotel. Most posts should be aimed at informing, educating, and entertaining potential guests in an eye-catching, creative way while a fraction of the posts should promote the hotel and its amenities. You should plan to post twice a week to your platforms of choice and can save time throughout the week by scheduling your posts in advance. Leading social platforms like Facebook also offer reasonably priced campaigns that “boost” a social post and help you directly target potential guests in specific areas.

Leverage these four areas of service when crafting your winning marketing strategy, and you’ll set your independent or boutique hotel apart from the big brands.



About the Author

Steven Clayton worked in the Information Systems field for 19 years, holding many roles including: CIO for a public company and ended his corporate career as a Vice President for a Fortune 500 company. Since then, he has started and/or co-founded six different startups, four of which are in business today, and running profitably — including NetBlaze, a digital marketing agency helping today’s small businesses thrive.