Marketing 101 for small inns and hotels
Marketing is never an easy undertaking, especially for small inns and hotels with limited time and budgets. While the following does not provide an exhaustive list of advice, options and how-tos, it does offer a checklist of various suggestions for improving visibility.
Turn an improvised strategy into an effective one
Starting with some general information (e.g. the typical guest at a small inn or hotel is a leisure tourist who has selected this type of lodging for its ambience and personalized service, and more often than not, these customers reserve by phone) and doing a little background work (defining the target audience, determine distinctive features, etc.), a business can begin the marketing process.
Although the internet is not currently the means by which most small inn and hotel guests make their reservations, it is still a primary source of information. More and more people are automatically turning to the Web when they need to find or recommend a place to stay.
While the internet offers a sea of opportunities, there is also the danger of drowning in it. For this reason it is not enough to have a Web presence; the site must also be searchable. However, understanding how search engines work is a complex task requiring time and expertise. At the same time, because these engines evolve and change along with the competition’s positioning, there must be a strategy for periodically reviewing the process.
Trying to compete with the major players on their own territory is a waste of time, so small inns and hotels are better off using other methods. Instead of associating the site with the most popular terms typed into search engines, focus on those used by the target audience. For example, many such people will refine a search by typing “Saguenay inn” rather than “Quebec hotel.” Another option is to sponsor a link on the search result page of a local festival.
Improve and assess the effectiveness of methods used
Once again, to make a product stand out from competing major hotel chains, one must innovate and adopt original presentation methods (visuals, ways of communicating, etc.).
- Clearly define the target audience so reach it effectively
- Develop a specific niche (such as family parties, company activities, honeymoons, special events, etc.)
- Establish partnerships with companies – even those outside the industry – to develop an unusual product or innovative marketing strategy
To measure the validity of promotional efforts and retain only the most effective measures, ask guests where they found about the establishment and how they made their reservation.
– Carroll, William J. et al. “A Comprehensive Guide to Merchandising Bed and Breakfast Inns,” Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research, CHR Tools, No. 8, August 2006.
– Hursh, Patricia. “Winning Big with a Small Search Marketing Budget,” [searchenginewatch.com], August 28, 2006.
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