Many hoteliers wonder “how do I promote my hotel” but very few ask “how do I get my guests to promote my hotel”. We all know that positive word of mouth is the best kind of marketing that you could hope for, and getting guests to become promoters of your hotel should be a primary objective in your marketing strategy.
With the proliferation of online review sites and online travel agents, impressed guests not only have the ability to tell their friends and family about their experiences at your hotel in person, but they can also give you positive exposure on online reviews (which travellers trust almost as much as in-person recommendations) and social media, which is one of the top sources of travel inspiration.
So, what can you do to ensure that the guests you delight are indeed sharing their experiences with others, and how can you make sure that they are shared as widely as possible?
User generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is a bit of a buzzword in the online marketing arena, and with good reason. User generated content is perceived as extremely trustworthy (much more trustworthy than any marketing material you produce as a brand) and among the millennial age group (people born between ’77 and ’94-ish), about 51% of people said that they are actually influenced more by UGC than by the opinions of their real-life friends and family.
Encourage guests to post user-generated content online on their social media accounts and as reviews on online review sites, and share this UGC as much as possible. Share good TripAdvisor reviews on your social media accounts and on your website, and share positive feedback about your establishment and your area on one social media platform across all your different social media platforms.
User generated content also needn’t always be electronic. If a happy guest leaves a nice comment in your guestbook, take a photo and share it on your Facebook and Twitter accounts as well. If you can find that person’s own social media accounts and @ mention them when you share their content you will not only make them feel like you really value their feedback, but you will also increase the chances of them sharing your post (which is actually their comment) with their own social media circles.
One great way to promote UCG is to create a “friends of your hotel” group on Facebook, and invite people to join it in your post-stay emails and whenever you spot someone talking about your hotel online. Offer members of the group special deals (this needn’t be anything expensive, just a free drink in your lounge or a room upgrade when there is one available) when they provide the group with images or other content that you can share, or when they share your content.
Go after repeat guests
If you have repeat guests, you already have evangelists for your hotel. They liked you enough that they came back to your hotel rather than trying something new. Repeat guests are considered “fully engaged” customers, and one study by Gallup suggests that fully engaged customers in the hospitality sector spend around 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests spend.
When you do get repeat guests, remind them that they are extremely valuable to you, and offer them special perks. Repeat guests are also more likely to be responsive if you ask them to promote your hotel online. Make it easy for them though, offer to take photos of them so that they can share them on Facebook, and keep reminding them in your post-stay emails of your social media handles and OTA listing URLs.
The right software can make targeting repeat guests easier by highlighting them in an electronic system.
Don’t sell, inspire
Usually people travel for an experience – they visit places not hotels. Aim to inspire your guests, past present and future and help them to experience the feelings of wonder and enjoyment that travel provides.
A great way to do this is by blogging. Write blogs that add value to people’s lives and their travels – such as the best time for people to visit your area and why, or top tips for packing light. If you create great content, there is a good chance that fans of your hotel will share it with their own social circles, and help to gain all-important organic reach for your hotel online.
Engage with your guests (past, present and prospective)
Your helpful and hospitable attitude shouldn’t just begin when a guest arrives at your hotel and end when she leaves. Engaging with past, present and future guests is key to ensuring that they regard you highly, and that they talk about you with their friends and family and online.
Research has shown that one of our most primary needs as human beings is to feel valued, and engaging with your guests online is a good way to make sure that they feel valued even when they aren’t physically with you. Monitor social media for any mentions of your hotel, and any mentions of your area, and take part in these conversations.
Provide help where you can that goes beyond just being a salesman for your hotel, if someone posts a photo of their wonderful experience visiting the castle in Llansteffan, for example, why not suggest that they also take a look at the poet Dylan Thomas’s old beach house. If someone has praised the beauty of your town on social media, share their post, even if they didn’t mention your hotel specifically. Remember, people that are promoting your area are also indirectly promoting your hotel.
Ask for reviews
If you want reviews, you have nothing to lose by asking for them. Try sending your guests a thank-you mail after they have stayed with you and ask them to write a review. Include links straight to your TripAdvisor page and your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking profiles and online travel agent listings to make it easier for them.
The easier you make it for your guests to write a review, the more likely they will take time out of their days to do so. You can even use guest feedback technology that integrates with TripAdvisor and bypasses the whole signing-up process to make it even easier for your guests to leave a review.
Although you can, and absolutely should, ask for reviews, bear in mind that offering incentives in return for good reviews is against the policy of TripAdvisor and many other sites (and it’s a tad immoral).
Your correspondence with past guests should also go beyond just trying to sell them on becoming repeat visitors or leaving you a review. For example, your post-stay email shouldn’t just include a link to your TripAdvisor page, other OTA listings and social media accounts.
Instead of focussing solely on how you can benefit from your post-stay email, you should also consider how you can make this mail beneficial for your guest by including a calendar of future events in your area, for example, or offers for special deals if they book a return visit.
Don’t settle for satisfaction, aim for delight
The best way to go about turning guests into promoters is to ensure that you don’t just meet their expectations, but you exceed them.
You want to delight your guests to the point that they feel compelled to share their positive experience with others. Aiming for guest satisfaction will prevent bad reviews, but aiming to delight guests will result in positive reviews.
Surprise guests with little added touches, (especially if they book direct) and ensure that they feel personally cared for, not like they are just the anonymous guest in room 3.