If you’re reading this, you may be planning a January sale and thinking, “How will this help me?” Well, today you’ll learn how to plan, launch and track a marketing campaign for your hotel.
Why run a marketing campaign? A few of the most common reasons are to fill an off peak season, reward loyal customers, or build brand awareness – or sometimes all three! Here are the steps to help you plan, launch and track that campaign:
The 10 point checklist
1. Set your goals. What do you want to achieve? Make sure they are SMART
2. Decide on a campaign concept
3. Define your target audience
4. Choose your timing
5. Decide on your message
6. Determine your budget
7. Agree on the marketing platforms you will use
8. Get creative with design
9. Launch your campaign & test it
10. Report & Measure your success
1. Set your campaign goals
Before you do anything else, you must identify your goals. Ask yourself, “What is my motivation for this marketing campaign?” For example, you might want to fill 200 rooms for quarter one, or you may want to sell €20,000 worth of gift vouchers in the next ‘x’ number of months.
Setting out knowing what you want to achieve will put you on the path to success.
To make sure you’ve got all your bases covered, make sure your goals are SMART: SMART is an acronym which is essential when setting any campaign objectives:
- Specific – Your goals should be clearly defined
- Measurable – your goals should be measurable so you know when you’ve reached them. And you should define the metrics you will use to measure them
- Achievable – you should be able to actually achieve your goals, don’t set unattainable hopes
- Relevant – your marketing goals should be relevant to your overall business goals and to your hotels sales and marketing plan
- Time-sensitive – your goals should be able to be achieved within a reasonable time period
2. Decide on a marketing campaign concept.
Once realistic goals have been set, deciding on and refining themarketing campaign concept becomes much easier.
This step requires you to decide on a number of key factors which will make up your campaign: for example, what offer and price point you are going to promote?
When offering discounts, try offering an add-on instead of a percentage discount. Research shows that people prefer getting something extra to getting something cheaper. Even though “Buy one get one free” or “50% off a bundle of items?” seem like the same thing to you, to most people, former is a better option. (Source)
Here’s a sample of a voucher that offers a bonus instead of a discount – try and be more creative than this, though!
Make sure you do some research and see what your competitors are doing. Make sure your offer is unique, but also priced competitively.
3. Define your target audience.
This step should be relatively easy if steps 1 and 2 have gone according to plan.
Data like that found within the ‘user demographics’ segment in your Google Analytics account can help define the demographics of customers who already engage with your website. You can also look to your booking engine data and, if you have them, your guest personas. How old are they? Where do they come from? Why are they staying with you?
Here’s a sample guest persona to show you the kind of detail you can strive for
However, you may want to reach a new audience with this offer, so do some research online to see how you can engage with your target audience – ask similar questions to the ones above to help get started.
Try and narrow your targeting as much as possible. This will make your message more focused and will result in a better performing digital marketing campaign. You’re not trying to talk to everyone– you’re trying to talk to the right people.
If you find you have more than 1 target audience, that’s okay. However, it’s more than likely that you’ll need to tailor your message differently for each audience.
We’ll go further into this later, in point number 5.
4. Choose your Timing
Depending on your offer and your target audience, the timing of your campaigns can make all the difference.
For example, if you have a very price conscious demographic, you may want to wait until the end/ start of the calendar month to coincide with people being paid.
Also, you need to make sure your campaign time frame is realistic. If you launch a last-minute campaign for dates in the very near future, this is less likely to scale volume as your audience has less notice and it will appeal to a much smaller audience. Do some research into the average lead time for the demographic you are targeting.
If your campaign is very time sensitive and is only available for 48 hours, for example, it’s always a great idea to send teaser messages out on your platforms so your users know something is coming. (See step 7)
There is no universal rule book to the best time and day of the week to launch a campaign. However, a lot of research shows that Mondays are the best day of the week to launch a campaign on. (Reference Mailing Manager)
5. Decide on your message
So you know what you want to sell, who you want to sell to and when you want to sell it. Next you need to decide on how you are going to sell it.
Your Unique Selling Proposition: The start of a marketing campaign revolves around defining what sets your Hotel or offer apart. Your offer needs to communicate this point immediately and clearly.
The USP of your offer is what grabs the attention of a potential guest, and you have approximately 5 seconds to convince them.
Your headline and value proposition must grab the user’s attention in less than 5 seconds – your benefits are what will make them decide to engage further. This is why it is essential that this information is bullet-pointed or numbered, as any paragraphs on your landing page will reduce focus and push up your bounce rate.
6. Determine your budget
Agreeing on your marketing budget is a fundamental aspect of your campaign set up. Once your budget has been confirmed, you can identity the potential platforms where this budget can be spent, as well as determining the scale of the campaign.
If you have set yourself a target to sell €20,000 worth of vouchers, you need to be willing to invest to get this level of business. A general rule of thumb is to invest between 5%-10% of potential revenue, but there are a lot of factors that can influence this.
You also need to think of your contingency plan. If the campaign performs over and above your goals, do you have surplus money to invest to keep the momentum going?
Working directly with independent hotels at Net Affinity, we always aim to drive revenue at a lower cost per acquisition than other channels, such as the OTA’s. This, therefore, becomes one of our key metrics when optimising and analysing campaign performance.
In an ideal world, hotels would work towards achieving a CPA% lower than their other channels. Your marketing budget should have no limits, as long as CPA% is being met. Essentially, if your campaign is successful, you’re making more profit that you would be elsewhere – why turn off the tap if the money’s flowing?
7. Marketing Platforms
This is where the campaign starts to get exciting and creativity can set in.
Using your allocated budget and keeping in mind both your target audience and offer, you need to decide which platforms you are going to use to promote your offer/campaign.
Digital Platforms that can be used:
Paid Social Media
- Facebook – Facebook has proven to be one of the most successful e-commerce platforms when it comes to promoting a campaign or offer to a specific audience. Highly relevant and targeted audiences allow campaigns to be tailored to a specific audience set.
Some features we would recommend using within the Facebook Advertising platform include Facebook remarketing and Custom Audiences. Read our 13 Tips to Upgrade your Hotels Facebook Presence to find out more.
- Instagram– since Instagram launched its advertising Platform in September 2015, we have seen and heard nothing but great things. Luckily, you can control your Instagram campaigns via your Facebook Advertising account. Remember Instagram is a visual platform so your campaign will need to be promoted visually. (check out how to ‘Dazzle your Guests with Instagram’ here)
- Twitter- Advertising on the Twitter platform allows hotels to increase brand awareness. We don’t usually see a significant revenue stream through Twitter. However, if your campaign is unique and there is something really special to shout about, then twitter is your platform for growing your reach and awareness.
Paid search & Display: Google
- Google AdWords – For most independent hoteliers, Google ad campaigns are already being used to drive both brand and generic traffic to your site.
When you are running a specific promotion, you should utilise your existing search and Display presence on Google to draw attention to your campaign.
Some AdWords features you can use to help promote your campaign:
- Highlight your promotion within your google search network adverts
- Use advert sitelinks to deep link searches directly into the your offer page
- Use Google Remarketing on the Display network to promote your offer. Image adverts work best for this, so like Instagram, your offer needs to be presented using strong imagery. We will address this in the next step. ( What is Google Remarketing?)
- If your budget will stretch, display marketing can scale your reach to a much larger audience and can help to drive awareness of your promotion to a new audience. Your research in step 3 is very relevant here.
- A new feature called ‘Customer match’ can also work well in this instance. Customer match allows you to upload email addresses and target these users via the search network, You Tube and within users Gmail accounts.
- Email Marketing should be considered an integral part of any digital campaign, as it allows you to engage directly with your email database. Depending on the quality of your database, this channel can drive considerable revenue. Here’s our ultimate guide to email marketing for more tips on this topic.
Simplicity is key when it comes to the design and your message of your e-zine communication.
When you’re running a promotion or campaign, we would recommend communicating with your audience before and during your campaign.
Here’s two ideas to get you started:
- ‘Teaser’ campaigns can work really well at getting your email audience engaged and alerted. Send an e-zine 48 hours before your campaign starts to let them know that something special is on its way to their inboxes
- Offer exclusive access to the campaign before general release.
Your website is the most important channel of all. After all, your marketing campaigns across your digital platforms direct traffic into your website.
Some things to consider:
Your Home Page
If a user lands in on your home page, how do they know that you are running a promotion? Using features on your website such as floating banners can help to highlight your promotion to all your websites visitors.
Some more creative methods include using a countdown clock as an overlay on your website, alerting your users to the time left to purchase your offer.
Marketing Landing Pages
When you drive traffic to your site from targeted campaigns, you should be landing them on a page specific to your promotion.
The best solution for this is to use a marketing landing page, where all the content, images and offers on that page are directly relevant to your campaign.
Landing pages are a hugely effective tool to truly get the most out of your campaign. Landing pages are created with a single objective— to increase conversions by engaging with the user once they land on your site. (Read: Landing Page optimisation)
Message match is also important here. The message across all your platforms must match the message on the landing page you are directing the traffic into.
People who land on your landing page look for a continuous message from the original touch point, i.e. the link in the Facebook advert or email they followed. Are you using the same image in both? Make sure your titles, wording and images all match up. If they don’t, you could confuse potential customers and lose their interest.
8. Get creative with Design
By this stage, you have decided on all the important elements of your campaign. To get the best results from your designs, you should never start designing your creatives until all tasks from 1-7 have been agreed.
Make a note of all the platforms you need design work for and ensure your message will work on each platform. You will need to customise your message per platform based on image dimensions and text limitations. However, it’s important that your key message and your ‘hero shot’ remain the same across all platforms to keep consistency and message match.
Imagery is the most important factor here. Having a strong image which clearly represents your offering. At the same time, it needs to gain interest and encourage users to click.
Make sure all your design work is tested on mobile. Best practice is to design for mobile and then work up to tablet and desktop.
With some hotels reaching close to 60% mobile traffic, it’s important that this audience isn’t ignored. Some paid social platforms are predominantly mobile, such as Facebook – they get 98% of their revenue through mobile devices.
Some tips when choosing images for your design:
- Never compromise on the quality of the image you are using – after all, this image is representing your brand. If you are purchasing stock imagery, it’s a valuable investment, and whatever you do, don’t use unlicensed images.
- Your image should be powerful enough to express the message of your advert and should lend well to your campaign USP. Don’t use an image just for the sake of it. Your image should always have a purpose.
- People connect well to adverts that evoke emotion, so play to its truth.
9. Launch your Campaign – and TEST, TEST, TEST
Before you launch your campaign, I can’t stress the importance of testing enough.
Proofread everything. Test everything!
Take a step back and make sure that everything looks and works how it should. If it’s an offer set up in your booking engine, do a test booking and ask yourself, ‘does all this make sense?’ Even better, get someone unfamiliar with your booking engine to do a test booking.
Also, you need to make sure that all relevant tracking has been set up. From the day you launch a campaign, you can tweak and optimise adverts until you get them right. For platforms like Facebook, we always recommend setting up multiple advert variations and after the first few hours or days, optimise the account by pausing the worst performing adverts.
If your website is set up with Google Tracking, then your Google analytics will do the work for you. However, here are some tools we recommend using to give you that extra bit of juicy data:
- bit.ly – This is a great tool to use when posting links to social media platforms and provides you with extra data regarding click and engagement activity. It also shortens your link so it looks cleaner and takes up less character spaces. Particularly useful for Twitter.##
- Google URL Builder – this tool allows you to customise your URLs so you can clearly see your campaign performance data within your google analytics account.
Timing is important when launching your marketing campaign. Make sure you’re pushing messages out to your audience at a time that is right for them, as we went over a few steps ago.
10. Report & Measure your success
While your marketing campaign’s running, it’s important that you check the daily performance and keep a note of what’s working for you.
The benefit of digital marketing is that it can be monitored and changed in real time. If you make a change on a platform like Facebook or Google, your changes can be live within minutes.
Keeping track of your key KPI’s and the goals you set yourself in Step 1 are important whilst the campaign is running, but remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. It often takes hours, if not days, for a campaign to start gaining traction. Don’t be too hasty in changing or pausing something because you don’t see immediate results.
Once your marketing campaign has ended, make sure you prepare a report on how each platform performed. Include all engagement and ecommerce metrics, such as your ROI & CPA. It’s not the most exciting job, but it will help you immensely in the future.
The lessons you learn from each campaign will give you key information for your next campaign.
It’s important also to note that, while your initial goal was to drive awareness and bookings for this specific offer, there is an added benefit. Check out your assisted conversions in your Google Analytics. This will show you how the traffic from this campaign has resulted in revenue via other rateplans, and conversions of other goal completions on your website.
While every hotel is unique, the fundamentals of running a promotional campaign remain the same.
Starting with SMART objectives will put you on the right path for your campaign. You’ll end up with a carefully constructed campaign, where every avenue has been thought of and planned for.
The best advice is to always have a holistic approach to your digital marketing campaigns. That way, you can be sure you have an integrated marketing presence every important marketing channel.
The basic idea behind holistic marketing is to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. By doing this, you gain a better understanding of how to formulate the most effective campaign strategy for your hotel.
All good marketing campaigns should revolve around one compelling story. This story is the message that engages and motivates your audience to book.