6 Big Mistakes Made By Hotel Marketers

6 Big Mistakes Made By Hotel Marketers

Marketing in a slow economy for any product or service can be a challenge. Even more challenging is marketing a hotel, which is both a product and a service. Whether a hotel is part of a recognisable chain or one-of-a-kind boutique hotel, marketing is vitally important. Many hotel marketers may find themselves trapped in a marketing rut with few measurable results.

Below are 6 common marketing mistakes often found in the hotel industry.

1. Sole focus on the traditional

An `old school’ Mad Men type advertiser may cling to traditional marketing techniques and have a harder time embracing the new age of advertising. This isn’t to say traditional marketing isn’t necessary, of course. TV, radio and print ads are still relevant with many clients interested in booking hotel space. However, you’ll need to have a strong grasp on who your clientele are and where they are coming from. While people 65 and older tend to appreciate old-school ad campaigns, people not yet retired, will be open and available to the various types of internet as well as traditional marketing.

2. Little or no budget for online marketing

Most hotel marketers recognise the need for internet marketing but fail to include the cost in their budget. Good online marketing, like good TV, radio and print marketing, doesn’t come cheap. If it was simply a matter of creating a Facebook page and writing a status now and then, anyone could do it. But there is so much more to proper and strategic digital marketing. Proper online marketing requires constant attention to the many facets and tools that make up the world wide web. Your website is your brochure and, often, only chance at capturing potential guests. Not only do you need to budget for building the actual website, but also for the various ways you will need to advertise it; From generating visibility on the search engines, to participating in all the Social platforms that are available.

3. Misusing internet marketing

Recognising the need for and allocating budget for online marketing is fantastic but it still must be used correctly. `SEO’ (Search Engine Optimization) or, better understood as, online marketing is a necessary evil for increasing your site’s visibility but it must be done right and by a company familiar with the hospitality space. Beyond that, you will need to allocate a budget for Social platform advertising, Trip Advisor listings and many other PR tactics that pertain to digital marketing. Having a budget plan for each of these tactics will prove crucial to the success of your online presence.

4. Trendy fads – when to use and when to lose

The internet, like fashion, is subject to trendy fads, especially in social media. For instance, there are between 3 and 5 popular social media sites in heavy use at any given time. Remember MySpace? Of course you don’t remember MySpace. If you do, it’s most likely a vague memory of a social website that might as well have been used in another century rather than last decade. Your Digital Marketing company, if it’s a good one, will help a great deal with the process of choosing which social sites to have a presence on and which ones to drop or ignore. Right now, August 2013, Google+ is the single most powerful social network out there. Having an understanding and respect for the current trends or fads will make a big difference in your ROI at the end of the year.

5. Forgetting your brand

Many hoteliers, in an effort to reach the masses, forget the brand. For instance, a national or international hotel may look different in St. Petersburg, Florida as it does in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. While consideration for building style and decor should be given to surroundings and local flair, certain parts of branding must remain consistent. Names and signs should be consistent and recognisable regardless of city or country the hotel is in. Service should be consistent as well whether the hotel is in Miami, Florida or Waco, Texas. Consistent good service positively reinforces the brand.

6. Skipping guest interaction

Today’s traveling consumer, like much of your marketing, is online. Again, unless over the age of 65 and retired, you can count on your guests using the internet whether it’s Tweeting, posting vacation pictures on Instagram or updating location status on Facebook. This type of consumer enjoys electronic interaction and your hotel should be set up for engaging in that interaction. Whether it’s for booking purposes, leaving a review or looking for suggestions, your website should be easy to navigate and welcoming to this type of consumer. Email confirmations give the consumer a handy way to save documentation. Emailing a guest after a stay to say thank you opens a line of communication and keeps your brand in sight. There are so many ways to interact with your guests on top of the expected good service and friendly attitude that if used correctly can exponentially widen your brand’s circle of influence in the market.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to improving your online and offline marketing strategy, which means more guests booking with your hotel.

Marketing.com.au thanks Gina for this article which has some great food for thought for all marketers, not just those in the hospitality industry.



All In The Name: Jack Media Acquires Fashion.com.au And Cosmetics.com.au

All In The Name: Jack Media Acquires Fashion.com.au And Cosmetics.com.au

The Fashion and Beauty Industries are hot markets in the online space and this week, the heat was turned up even more with Jack Media acquiring two premium domain names and websites from OMG Fairfax Media: Fashion.com.au and Cosmetics.com.au.

We decided to get in touch with James Kitchener CEO and Co-Founder of Jack Media to find out more about this acquisition and discuss what their plans are for these valuable online properties, which are currently business directories.

Firstly thanks for taking the time out to have a quick chat to us about this acquisition. We’re sure our Marketing.com.au readers would like to know little more about how the acquisition of Fashion.com.au and Cosmetics.com.au came about?

Funnily enough we weren’t looking to purchase any premium domain names but simply couldn’t resist when the opportunity to acquire these domains was presented to us by Ned O’Meara of Domain Syndicates. Premium domain names like these do not readily come up for sale so just like any investment we needed to act fast. Ned did a great job in facilitating the sale for us.

Some of the most successful Australian online businesses are built on category killer domain names (such as RealEstate.com.au and CarSales.com.au etc.). Obviously execution is paramount, but what do you feel are the main benefits of acquiring such premium online real estate like Fashion.com.au and Cosmetics.com.au as a foundation?

I agree that execution is paramount however the main benefits are:

  • A premium domain name is an investment in your brand, website and company.
  • Businesses spend millions of dollars getting their names recognized so why build a brand when you can simply buy one.
  • A premium domain name gives you high visibility, reputation, trust and natural traffic.
  • All the premium domain names are already owned and since there is only a finite number of premium domains they will continue to grow in value just like any other rare commodity.
  • A domain name is 100% unique and once owned nobody else can use it

In a nutshell, if you wish to establish a strong business or presence on the web, it’s vital to select a domain name that is descriptive, short, memorable, and ultimately, brandable.

What future plans and marketing initiatives do you have for Fashion.com.au and Cosmetics.com.au?

We intend to turn Fashion.com.au into a premium Australian fashion destination. Whilst we haven’t started work on the re-development of the website, we have already received a spike in followers on our new fashion.com.au Facebook page in a week since the domain purchase. The quick growth of the social media following has validated our insights into the demand of the online fashion & beauty marketplace https://www.facebook.com/fashion.com.au

Thanks for your time James and we wish you every future success with these.

Jack Media are currently looking to hire an experienced, fashion-obsessed editor to join the team at the Byron Bay office as the Fashion Editor & Website Manager for Fashion.com.au. For more information click here http://www.jackmedia.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Fashion.com_.au-add2.pdf

To hear more from James Kitchener, make sure you check out the previous articles we shared on Marketing.com.au, The Secret To Affiliate Marketing For Marketers and Expand Online Performance Marketing.



Tips For Writing An Online Style Guide

One of the most popular articles we’ve written at Marketing.com.au is Top 5 Tips for Writing a Style Guide. In today’s digital age, it’s also important for marketers (especially online and digital specialists) to use an online style guide. Writing for the web and generating content can be quite daunting, so we thought we’d share some useful information on online style guides.

A style guide is a set of guidelines that is referenced when writing any communications. A style guide ensures any communications from a company are always consistent and professional, even with multiple authors. An online style guide on the other hand, whilst similar, is specifically tailored for writing and optimising content to be published on the web. It ensures all online communications reflect your overall brand. When preparing your own online style guide, be sure to use plenty of examples, images and sample code. We also like the idea of distributing a reference or cheat sheet which contains key elements that people can post around their workspace.

Here a couple of resources we came across that we highly recommend if you are working on creating your own online style guide.

Yahoo! Style Guide

We’re big fans of the Yahoo! Style Guide It’s one of those simple resources that’s really easy and straightforward to use. It was designed specifically with writing for the web in mind.

Some the key things we found really useful were:

  • Tips on writing for an online audience and making sure that you speak to your entire audience.
  • Understanding the importance of readability of your content and making sure it is ‘easy to scan’ by visitors.
  • Making sure you use neutral language, consistent terminology as well as short and clear sentences.
  • Ensuring that your content is error free (so you are not penalised by search engines). There is also a really handy list of words which is a useful reference.
  • It also helps you ensure your web pages are optimised for search engines, so you appear higher in search results.
  • The guide also has tips on improving your user interface (UI) to make sure visitors can easily navigate around your website.
  • It also addresses how to streamline content to make it email and mobile friendly.
  • You will also find some of the standard style guide references to grammer, punctuation etc.
  • The Yahoo! Style Guide also features some useful HTML code references. We’ve all seen pages that have random symbols that appear because text isn’t rendering correctly. It can be really confusing to read, particularly when the same content is shared across multiple channels.

We’ve also included a short video introduction for you below that we came across where Yahoo! Senior Editorial Director Chris Barr discusses the Yahoo! Style Guide.

Web Style Guide

In addition to the Yahoo! Style Guide, we also highly recommend checking out the Web Style Guide. This guide was written by Patrick J. Lynch who is the Director of Special Technology Projects from the well renowned Yale University’s Information Technology Services. The guide has some other handy tips for styling content specifically for the web. We also found the illustrations used to be particularly handy in demonstrating the principles.

Finally, it’s also an interesting exercise to see how other companies and brands structure their style guides. If you perform a search of “online style guide” there are many great examples from simple single page documents through to detailed guides.

If you’ve come across any other resources you would recommend for creating an online style guide, please share them with us below.

Using Social Media in the Marketing Mix

In 2011, 80% of businesses in America with over 100 employees will use social media marketing. Compared with two years ago, when only 42% of companies were using social media, this is an enormous change (source eMarketer). As more and more people adopt the use of social media in their daily lives, marketers are being forced to recognise the potential of this communication tool and integrate it into the marketing mix.

Social Media is one of those mysterious (and slightly scary) terms in the world of marketing. When Facebook exploded on the world stage, followed not long after by Twitter, all those ‘slow adopters’ buried their heads in the sand and hoped (or in some cases prayed) that it would quickly evaporate. Surely this was just another passing Gen-Y fad? No such luck.
Social media has changed the way advertising and marketing is rolled out: bombarding customers with endless two-for-the-price-of-one email deals creates short-term leads but does not ensure long-term success. Social media allows two-way communication with potential customers and can generate online conversations about your brand between customers. So how do you integrate social media into your marketing mix? Make social media part of everything you do; social media is more than just another marketing tool.

It would be really easy to just create a Facebook page, update it perhaps once a week (or every other week if I’m busy). That’s social media isn’t it? Not quite. Consumers do not participate in social media so that marketers have another vehicle to deliver their two-for-the-price-of-one spam. Consumers want to communicate with other people, connect with their friends, their family, and gain an insight into the people behind the brand that they know and love. Marketing through social media marketing should enable this connection. It should create an actual, real relationship (and conversation) between the brand and the customer.

We’ll let you in on the secret to social media: draft, discuss and then implement a social media strategy. It can be a component of a marketing strategy or a stand-alone strategy. It’s up to you. But just make sure that you have one.
Choose a couple of key social media vehicles (those most relevant to your customers or audience). There is no need to use every social media vehicle. Unless you have unlimited resources, you will end up spreading yourself thin and doing all social media badly instead of a couple extremely well. There’s no point in having a half-baked blog, Facebook page, Twitter account and RSS feed. You are better off just having a top notch Facebook and Twitter account. Choose carefully though. Ask yourself: Who is my ideal customer? How and what do I want to communicate with them? Which social media vehicle will be most effective to do so?

Before you update your status, upload that photo or decide to tweet, think about how that action will be improving your brand. Social media is like a giant, expensive, online advertising campaign. As soon as you publish something online, it is visible to the whole world. If you wouldn’t want it on a billboard in Times Square, then don’t post it online. Every social media action should build the strength and value of your brand. It should not just be another excuse for verbal diarrhoea. Even if you are the CEO of IBM, no one cares what you ate for breakfast. And remember, social media should always use your logo, company colours, relevant pictures and any other branding vehicles available, just as advertising would.

Social media does have its limitations though. If your company has no brand recognition to start with, social media won’t really help. You can utilise social media to increase brand recognition, but not to create it. A Facebook page won’t win over new customers.

You can use social media as a vehicle for communicating with customers (particularly younger, Gen Y customers) or for retaining existing happy customers. But if your customers aren’t happy with your product, daily Facebook status updates will probably upset, rather than impress them. If your brand, product or customer service isn’t 100%, it’s probably better to work on business operations and improvements before venturing into the world of social media.

As with any marketing activity, you need to be able to determine how effective social media as well as calculate its Return on Investment. To fully understand the effectiveness of your social media marketing campaign, it is best to use both internal and external systems of measurement.

Internal measurement is much easier to gauge. It includes how many Twitter followers you have, how many friends on Facebook or how many people ‘liked’ your last status update. While all these elements will give you solid, quantitative evidence (your accountant or CFO will like these), they won’t tell you whether a social media campaign is actually working, or whether your key messages are being heard (and understood or acted upon) by your audience.

Don’t get discouraged though, this is the same of an above-the-line advertising campaign. You can run all the television advertisements you like (with information from the TV networks on viewer ratings and audience breakdown) but, how do you know that your target audience isn’t in the kitchen making a cup of tea during the ad break?

As such, you need to couple internal measurement with external measurement tools. External measurement is a bit trickier to gauge. It includes website traffic and customer enquiries. You know when companies ask how you heard about them? Well, this is why. They are trying to get an understanding of which marketing methods work best for their brand. If sales haven’t increased, then whether you have two or two million Facebook fans is irrelevant.

Marketing.com.au would like to thank Sally for her time and for sharing this great article with us.



Really Simple RSS

RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ (or Rich Site Summary) and is a relatively easy and free way to communicate updates to your (or your client’s) website. Users can subscribe free to one or more ‘feeds’ which send a headline and a short summary of articles that have been recently added or updated on any given website.

RSS is not a widely used (or known) term just yet, but techno savvy web developers and consumers are using RSS more and more. RSS is probably the most reliable (and quickest) online method by which to deliver content. It can improve search engine rankings, reach new audiences through syndication, is an easier and less expensive communication tool than email, enhance email marketing campaigns, generate media coverage and develop online conversations. If you are considering jumping on the RSS bandwagon, you should consider the following tips to ensure that your feed stands out from the crowd.

Any marketing activity should begin with research; gaining a thorough understanding of how the chosen marketing medium works is essential. It is extremely difficult to fully understand how something works (particularly when it comes to constantly changing technology) without having actually used it. So, first of all, pick an RSS aggregator (the most popular are My Yahoo!, Bloglines and Firefox and) and subscribe to some RSS feeds. You will very quickly pick up which feeds work and why, and similarly, what should be avoided.

You should always include specific key words in your RSS feed’s channel title and description. As with any website search, users generally search for RSS feeds using key words or phrases. If you have specific, descriptive key words in your RSS feed, it will be more easily found and you will end up with a much better (and extensive) subscriber list.
Always include the date a feed item was published, even if the content is not date specific. This will help your subscribers to determine when the content was published – there is nothing worse than reading an RSS feed that you think is up-to-date, only to find it was created months (or even years) ago.

Don’t create splogs. Splogs or ‘spam blogs’ are generally characterised as a blog that is generated by a machine (rather than a human being). They increase visibility (through a higher search engine ranking) of another website that the splogger is trying to promote. Splogs jam search engines, making it difficult to find RSS feeds with real, specific content. Make sure you write and post the content for your RSS feed, don’t set up an automated system. It won’t help build trust in your brand.

Don’t violate copyright by republishing the content of another company’s RSS feed without permission. If you quote another RSS feed, always reference the original source and provide a link to the article. If you are approached by another company that wants to republish your RSS, then say yes (and say it loud and clear!). Allowing third parties to use your RSS feed and broadcast your news on their homepage will work to your advantage. Your news will reach a new, broader market this way. A bigger market means more potential customers and better return on investment.

Don’t provide multiple feed formats with the exact same content. As far as the subscriber (or potential customer) is concerned, the type of RSS used by any brand, website or company is irrelevant. Multiple versions of the same feed cause confusion and annoy users with their repetition. Choose one version, provide a single feed and stick with it.

Promote your RSS feed. You can do this quite easily yourself. The best way is through an RSS presentation page. An RSS presentation page should explain what RSS is as well as its benefits, recommend a free RSS aggregator, explain the benefits of your RSS feed to users (or potential customers) and include an online form for users to complete to subscribe to your RSS feed.

You should also promote your feeds through any and all available external channels. Submit your feeds to search engines, ping RSS aggregator sites every time content is updated online content and give permission to users and other websites to syndicate your feed on other websites.

RSS is a one-stop-shop for consumption of online content. It does away with the need to visit several websites each day just to check what might have been updated. Breaking news is received as it becomes available. It gives users complete control over content consumption; they can unsubscribe at any time. RSS makes sure that users receive the content and updates they want, minus all the spam. Like any other communication tool, with some planning and careful integration into your existing marketing program, RSS can generate real brand boosting benefits.

Marketing.com.au would like to thank Sally for sharing this great article with our readers.



How to Get the Best Results from Your PR Agency

So, you’ve decided that your brand needs a helping hand to get cut-through in today’s cut-throat consumer driven market. You’re set with the advertising campaign but a bit unsure on what PR even is, let alone what its benefits are. Isn’t it all just spin? Don’t today’s marketing savvy consumers see through PR fluff these days?

This is exactly the attitude that a switched on PR agency will dispel immediately. Good PR can boost your sales, increase your own profile (or that of your company’s) within the industry and enhance consumer brand awareness. If you approach PR with the right attitude (and know a little about it), it will become an essential element of your brand’s marketing mix.

When it comes to PR, and getting the most out of those monthly retainer fees, the most important thing to remember is: stories do not write themselves. Your PR agency should be able to come up with a few story angles and even organise a few promo events to generate coverage in the social pages. But, if you have nothing interesting to say about your brand, then what do you expect journalists to pen stories about? Unfortunately, PR agencies cannot manufacture stories from thin air. Newspaper column inches are highly sort after (and highly expensive if you are paying for them in advertising dollars); journalists will not give them away for fluff.

The key is to brief your PR agency thoroughly. Make sure they know what’s going on in your business. Make sure they understand your products. Make sure they know who your target audience is. Make sure they meet all your key staff. And, most importantly, make sure they know what is on the horizon for your business. Believe it or not, magazines often work up to three months in advance. So, if you want coverage in Cosmo for that new line of lipstick you are releasing in November, you had better have your PR agency hounding the journos in August.

If you are the face of the business, get media trained. There is nothing more frustrating for a journalist than going to the trouble of setting up an interview, doing background research and organising a photographer only to find that the subject is a dud. A dud doesn’t know what their key messages are, what they are trying to sell or what attitude they want to get across. If this is the case, chances are your interview will be boring (and go unpublished) or, even worse, you will do more harm than good to your brand.

Make sure you help give your PR agency the tools they need to do a good job. One of the most important tools for a PR agency is high resolution, print ready images. If a journalist is interested in running a story (based on one of your PR agency’s media releases), one of the first requests will be for an image to accompany it. So, if your PR agency wants to set up a product photo shoot or even a photo shoot to get some headshots of your key employees, this is not to create extra work for you. This is to ensure bigger, better exposure for your brand.

Be prepared to invest some of your time in the PR exercise. While your PR agency will be able to work autonomously for the majority of time, they will need your input. They will need approvals on media releases. They might need you to give an interview to a journalist. They might even need you to attend a photo shoot. Most of all, they will want to meet face-to-face on a regular basis; it’s the easiest way to find out what’s happening in your business.

Make sure you don’t set unreasonable (or simply unattainable) goals for your PR agency. PR is a long-term investment. It won’t happen overnight. You won’t be on television tomorrow. Journalists received hundreds of media releases every day. It will take time for them to get to yours. But a good PR agency will make sure that they do get to yours. If PR is used as a long-term marketing tool, journalists will inevitably start to approach you for stories and information. You might become their preferred industry expert to quote in stories. They might start asking you for product information (rather than receiving it unsolicited from your PR agency).

Employing a PR agency to raise the profile your brand should be one of the most beneficial marketing strategies you employee. If you follow the tips above, your relationship with your PR agency should flourish, alongside consumer awareness of your brand.

Marketing.com.au would like to thank Sally for taking the time to share this great advice.