Up to 90% of hotel guests will never return, so why would you bother marketing to them?
Generally speaking, hotel guests are there for the location and not your hotel or B&B. So you could argue that statistic makes sense.
You may have heard Online Travel Agents say it’s worth paying them 15–20% to acquire a new customer, then they claim it’s your job to make them return. They justify their enormous commissions with this statement, but encouraging repeat visits is one of the hardest things to do!
And the old saying goes — it’s 8 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than resell to a current one. This derives from retail and restaurant data, but is completely unusable for hotels.
The point is, hotels run on new guests more than repeat guests.
Your customers are not local — Unlike a restaurant or any other local business, typically your customers do not live locally. There are exceptions of course where they might stay with you because of a late night. However, they are not your best customers.
So how do you encourage people living further afield to come back and stay at your property?
Well don’t expect miracles, but you can increase your repeat visitors by stimulating their original reasons for staying.
Here are a few smart ideas…
They’ve already stayed with you and had a good experience, so to market your property again exclusively is inefficient. Instead, find out why they visited you in the first place and trigger that feeling or need again.
This does require research and clever thinking, but there’s only so many reasons guests go to a certain location.
Email Marketing. This is the most popular, cost effective and least obtrusive of your options. You will need a mix of long-term campaigns and specific triggered emails.
Here’s a list of options:
Other Marketing Methods
Direct Mail — It’s often misunderstood as expensive or old-fashioned, but direct mail (to the right people) can reap some great rewards. Vouchers and exclusive offers work best here at key times of the year. If they can’t make it sometimes a friend or relative will!
SMS — Be careful not to text people a year after they’ve stayed with you. You should use SMS marketing soon after checkout when it’s fresh in your guest’s mind. This works better for getting a review of your property.
PPC Advertising — Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing means targeting specific keywords used by your customers looking for hotels in your area.
Every time someone clicks on your advert from the search engine, you pay a small fee. This is how Online Travel Agents have grown so big and fast over the last 15 years. Unfortunately, the OTAs absolutely dominate this area and you will find the cost per click to be rather extreme.
Sometimes customers will use Google to search for your hotel name rather than, for example, ‘hotels in London’. Often times Google will show ads from the Online Travel Agents at the top, which may mean you lose traffic directly to your site.
In this case, it’s worth bidding on your own brand name as it doesn’t cost the earth and will stop the OTAs from getting in there first.
PPC Advertising — Social Media Marketing
Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) on social media is tough and not always the best approach for hotels — but there are exceptions.
Remember, people generally visit places and not hotels.
However, don’t waste your budget trying to promote your small town or city. This is the tourist association’s job. You can use social media marketing more effectively when people come for the hotel rather than the destination. This works well if you run a country house, spa, resort, family holiday park etc.
Meta Search Marketing
This is a relatively new and exciting place to be for independent hotels. Traditionally, the OTAs would fight each other for clicks on the meta search sites, but recently the platforms have opened up for hotels to offer their own direct inventory.
Now any independent hotel can add their real-time availability and pricing to make it easier for customers to research, find you and book their stay.
Popular Meta-Channels include: Tripadvisor, Trivago, Google Hotel Finder, Kayak and Skyscanner.
If your software provider connects to meta-channels, try to offer a better rate to increase conversions and lower your costs per booking.
If you cannot connect to meta-channels with your pms or channel manager, then you may need to make the switch!
It’s certainly hard going to get even a fraction of your customers to return. But if you use these tips and start thinking about who your customers truly are, you can have an extremely attractive and profitable business, and fill a percentage of occupancy with repeat guests that don’t shop around.
There are systems and software available to help you automate and manage your admin and marketing tasks, helping you fill those rooms and achieve your goals. If you’re stuck in a hole, why not explore your options…