Hotel marketing in the post Covid world can be challenging in peculiar ways, considering the world has never been in a situation similar to the current one and it is changing almost every day. Caution and restraint, led by thoughtfulness towards fellow beings, instead of salesy marketing is the standard one must set for communication with one’s target audience. But only careful observation can reveal what one’s customers want, need, and expect and how their purchasing decisions would evolve. Marketers should therefore be prepared to tweak their marketing efforts based on the progression of scenarios and the related customer behavior. Let us understand how to map these and learn about those key marketing tactics to employ in the post Covid world.
To develop a scenario-based marketing plan, hoteliers can follow a 4-pronged strategy, as stated below:-
- Course of events planning
- Monitor and measure market sentiment
- Expect the likelihood of operational impacts
- Tailor the marketing plan
Course of events planning:
Preparing for any situation, requires its adequate understanding and its impact on key stakeholders. Therefore, one must start with charting the outline of events based on the degree of crisis and juxtapose that with the ramifications they could have on their business, their customers, and other partners. Once that is done, it is easier to develop an action plan to suit a need and if required, come up with alternatives.
Monitor and measure market sentiment
The dire situations people have been in, have made them incline for support towards their family and friends and eaten up any trust they had on the government/policy makers or even big brands. However, brands can still reinstate the lost trust by taking actions for customer benefit.
- Listen closely to what your customers have to say – Covid, health concerns etc. Monitor your mediums of communications such as service chats, emails etc., for any sentiment change amongst the audience.
- Be available for your customers and nurture your relationship with them with honesty and transparency.
Expect the likelihood of operational impacts
Supply chains have been disrupted due to Covid, while service demand remains constant with the rising questions from customers. It may be difficult to be direct about the realities, but hoteliers/marketers must always be truthful, while staying aligned to a brand’s values.
- Do not make promises of service that you might find difficult to keep. Make room for changes, based on the demand of the situation at hand. For example, allow cancellation of reservations and incorporate easy refund policies.
- While most people struggle to find a firm ground, it would be reflective of good customer service, if support is extended without being asked for. As a part of nurturing customer relationships, make it a point to stay in touch with your audience through phone calls, emails, newsletters etc. Also train your sales development representatives on how to address customer concerns with sensitivity. A business that tries to empathize with its audience, is eventually rewarded with loyalty.
- Digitize your hotel/brand’s services and offerings. For example, get on-board with a Property Management System that allows touchless check-ins/outs into your hotel, saving time, bringing ease and efficiency, and more importantly ensuring safety of your customers, by not needing them to queue up at the front-desk. A PMS system like Hotelogix is also available in a mobile version, which helps hoteliers manage operations remotely and even train their staff on the system, so that issues like lockdowns, travel restrictions don’t get in the way of work.
- Assess your marketing activities to decide on what stays intact as a part of the plan and what must be done away with and then optimize the areas that have borne results for you. While it may be necessary to cut down on the expenses across the board, resist the urge to do the same with marketing, as it is the front and center of your presence in the market. For example, Reputation Management is an important aspect of digital marketing, which can be managed by hoteliers with the help of hotel management systems which come with such integrations that allow the management of reviews on platforms such as Tripadvisor, which makes them a good investment.
Tailor the marketing plan
The future is unpredictable, but some Covid induced changes might be here to stay. For example, large scale events, with huge numbers of people attending might be a rarity in the coming future and may take a while before they come back in full force, though now people seek more societal interactions. However, till the arrival of that time, marketers/hoteliers would have to look for alternative methods of gaining revenue and may also have to make amends to their present ways of functioning. For example, applying social distancing norms and taking other precautions for events, allowing only small-scale events to be conducted etc.
Let us now look at more hotel marketing strategies suited for the post Covid world.
- Hotel revenues have taken a dip as a result of Covid and therefore as a part of your hotel’s recovery plan, you must try to align your revenue and marketing strategies. Property Management Systems like Hotelogix can help in keeping a track of your hotel’s performance and suggest ways to increase revenue and Channel Manager software can help in maintaining rate parity across online travel agent sites or other reservation channels, as well as bring more profitability through direct bookings on web booking engines, where you would also have the flexibility of establishing cancellation policies that work for your business. A fluid cancellation policy is essential in arousing confidence and brand loyalty.
The most reliable medium for hoteliers to show the many facets of their property and to get bookings, is the hotel’s website. It’s therefore crucial to amp up your hotel’s website. Customers would naturally turn to your hotel’s website for not just making reservations, but also to get more information, especially about the precautionary measures your hotel has in place for the safety and security of their guests. Remember to also provide enough information about the sight-seeing options available around your hotel. In case your hotel is running any special promotions or offering discounted packages, the same must also be made known to the customers through your website.
While making all this information available to customers, also consider personalizing it, based on the segment they belong to, whether local or international in origin etc.
- Saving up on expenses is another way of amplifying one’s revenue. Therefore, it is beneficial for hotels to avoid expenditure on commissions paid to OTAs, GDSs and other such channels; and laying stress on direct bookings, in other words bookings received through web booking engines integrated to one’s hotel website. While doing so, there are a few factors to keep in mind:
- Inform your customer about the incentives of direct bookings.
- Establish a mechanism to sift out leads which were abandoned and reach out to them again.
- Employ retargeting methods to capture leads which searched for availability but did not complete the booking process.
- Promotions and promo codes aside, reward visitors in other special ways, personalizing it along the way, depending on the possibilities available to your hotel.
- Create a stock of photos and videos while you can and use them later for marketing activities.
- Do not hesitate to reach out to your employees and customers for videos full of insights.
- Create a ‘Google-My-Business’ account for your hotel and update it regularly.
- Renew tie-ups with OTAs and meta-search engines and inform the public that your hotel is open for bookings.
- Prepare a marketing plan based on the expected progression in demand. This will allow your hotel business to slowly build up revenue, by consistently feeding it with potent leads.
Timely preparation for anticipated events helps achieve business success. By studying things in their current context, and applying relevant marketing tactics, marketers can dodge the revenue downturn brought in by Covid-19. Marketers must be ready with their hotel marketing strategies for the post Covid world as demand increases.