If you operate a boutique hotel, you probably recognize the need for marketing. And if you have any inclination towards marketing whatsoever, you know that you can’t do ‘good marketing’ without a plan.
But why is a carefully crafted boutique hotel marketing plan essential for success? And what exactly should that plan include?
If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll remember I made the clear distinction between a boutique hotel marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Your strategy uncovers the critical ground work, then lays the foundation for a solid and successful boutique hotel marketing plan.
In this post you’ll discover:
- The benefits of a boutique hotel marketing plan, and
- The 5 steps to develop it; select, budget, schedule, measure, review.
The Benefits of a Boutique Hotel Marketing Plan
Businesses that plan are proven to be more successful, and planning for marketing success is no different.
While your boutique hotel marketing plan may outline ways to strengthen brand identity and create strategic marketing alliances, its real value lies in the direction it provides through specific actions to help achieve your goals. Your marketing plan is your strategy in action, so it takes all that was discovered when writing your boutique hotel marketing strategy and applies it to a documented schedule of actual tactics to use when marketing your hotel.
A shareable, work-in-progress, your documented boutique hotel marketing plan will help you:
- Formalize ideas into actions. By deciding which opportunities identified in your marketing strategy will be pursued, you can formulate a plan based on specific tactics and list the necessary marketing tools.
- Evaluate the funds needed, or able to be spent. By finding out what your hotel can spend on marketing, you can explore affordable options, budget within your means and note future spend goals.
- Focus your attention and efforts. By devising a well-scheduled, easy-to-follow plan that includes purposefully chosen tactics, you can eliminate guess work and random activities that sabotage your marketing success.
- Achieve business goals. By choosing tactics that will meet the marketing goals identified in your strategy, which are aligned with greater business outcomes, you can monitor metrics to ensure targets are being reached.
Step 1. Select
Your marketing strategy is the critical precursor to step one of your boutique hotel marketing plan. Included in the many elements of that strategy, you will have evaluated where your greatest marketing opportunities exist. Now it is time to refine those opportunities. Select specific tactics within each of your targeted marketing channels, such as creating blog posts as part of content marketing, coordinating with influencers on Instagram for social media, advertising in travel magazines as part of a print media campaign, or planning a Google Adwords strategy for PPC. Whichever marketing tactics you choose, remember to consider the following:
- Which are the right marketing tactics for your target audience?
- Are you marketing to prospective guests at all steps in the marketing funnel?
Choose the Right Marketing Tactics
While there’s a seemingly endless number of marketing tactics, you want to focus on a specific few that are right for your brand, your team, and your audience.
As was reinforced during Boutique Hotel Summit, hoteliers recognize the need for quality content marketing and a strong social media presence. And while the numbers support the success of both content marketing and social media channels, it is critical to choose marketing tactics that will get you in front of your ideal guests.
Engage With All of Your Audience
In addition to evaluating which types of marketing are right for your hotel and your prospective guests, be sure to select marketing mediums that engage with your audience, no matter where they are in ‘the funnel’. Consider these two frameworks for understanding and meeting the needs of future and current guests with regards to marketing.
The buyer’s journey is the process typically followed by consumers in the lead up to purchasing. By directing marketing efforts towards each step in the journey, you can nurture buyers through the funnel and, ideally, help them come to your business as their final decision. The three stages of the buyer’s journey, in terms of hotel marketing, look as follows:
- Awareness: A potential guest identifies a need (“I have an upcoming conference interstate”), a challenge (“I’m exhausted and want to escape work for a week”), or an opportunity (“I would love to explore Barcelona next vacation”). A personalized email, showcasing upcoming events in the area, can be useful to put your location front and center in a guest’s mind and remind them of the fun to be had while travelling.
- Consideration: The guest commits to addressing the need, challenge or opportunity and explores various solutions, considering all the different types of accommodation, locations, travel goals, personal budget, and so on. At this step, a targeted Facebook ad that links to a post on your hotel blog will capture the attention of those in the market and provide them with valuable content.
- Decision: The guest compares specific accommodation lodgings and evaluates which will best meet their needs. Here, your website or listing on an OTA provides consumers with the details they need to make an informed decision, while customer testimonials and reviews featured on those same sites offer social proof to help convince the guest to book at your hotel.
The See-Think-Do-Care framework states, “there are four different audience intent clusters,” and aims to engage with customers in each cluster through information, entertainment and value. Each point in the framework considers the audience and their intent – based on behavior as opposed to demographics. For example, an environmentally-conscious boutique hotel, remotely positioned among a coastal rain forest, may define each audience cluster as follows:
- See: Nature and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy travel and sustainable luxury (The largest, addressable, qualified audience)
- Think: Nature and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy travel and sustainable luxury and want to spend time in a new location (Those thinking about accommodation)
- Do: Nature and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy travel and sustainable luxury, want to spend time in a new location, and have decided on staying in the area (Those looking to book)
- Care: Guests who have stayed at the hotel multiple times (Loyal guests)
By defining potential guests using the framework above, you can assess which marketing tactics to employ to ensure full coverage for all stages of intent. Social media channels, blog posts and newsletter subscriptions, promotional offers, book now buttons, and loyalty programs all play a role in meeting the different needs of consumers.
Read more on the See-Think-Do-Care framework in our post Data-Driven Personalization for Boutique Hotels.
Ultimately, in step one, your goal is to identify and decide on the marketing mix and specific tactics you’ll employ to reach cold prospects, warm leads, and current customers in an effort to reach guests, build brand awareness and develop lasting relationships.
Step 2. Budget
Budgeting is a critical step in your boutique hotel marketing plan; it is futile to devise campaigns filled with extravagant marketing tactics if you don’t have the funds to support them. Find the balance between spending enough to generate results, while not overspending in a way that financially disadvantages your hotel. The actual dollar amount is dependent on your hotel but, a 2014 study found on average, boutique hotels spend $7,564 on marketing per available room each year.
To find your marketing budget balance:
- Research and price the tactics you identified in step 1. If some of your inclusions are too costly, revise your plan. You can always employ more costly tactics as you generate more revenue, or may discover that the new solutions you’ve chosen are extremely successful, in addition to being cost-effective.
- Avoid inefficient spending or overspending by choosing proven tactics with measurable results (more on that in step four) and grounding your marketing with thoroughly researched decisions (which you’ll have made and documented in your strategy).
As a boutique hotel owner, you may feel disadvantaged when marketing against bigger, branded establishments, yet your agility and flexibility to adapt can be used to your advantage. And the money you can save from not paying franchise fees can be put towards your marketing budget.
Step 3. Schedule
A solid boutique hotel marketing plan provides direction to your team, empowering them to make informed decisions, while capitalizing on marketing opportunities that may otherwise be missed, and mitigating the risks of potentially business-damaging marketing mistakes.
But to implement a truly effective marketing plan, you need to create a calendar or schedule of marketing activities. Your schedule should outline:
- Actual dates, or ongoing occurrences, of when you’ll implement specific marketing tactics
- Review dates to measure performance and ensure you’re trending to success
- Goal completion dates, when you aim to have reached your desired benchmarks
Step 4. Measure
Just as you wouldn’t start offering something physically within your hotel unless you could see the additional revenue it generated, you shouldn’t invest in marketing without being able to measure its effectiveness. However, in today’s data-driven world, there are so many figures out there – how do you know which to measure?
Return on investment is the obvious place to begin. You want to see that your marketing efforts generate revenue, increased bookings, and are worth the spend. Businesses will measure marketing ROI differently, factoring gross profit into the equation or simply comparing revenue against marketing costs. However, it is important to combine ROI with other marketing metrics for a more holistic view of marketing success. As Susan Gunelius explains;
“The new ROI of marketing goes even further than investments and impressions. It also encompasses return on engagement, objectives and opportunity…Traditional ROI analysis is just the tip of the iceberg. The really interesting part of the story is what happens beneath the surface of the water. The hard metrics related to return on investment barely touch the surface.”
The metrics you measure and the tools you use to gather and analyze your data will depend on the marketing tactics you employ.
While going into the different types of metrics and methods of measurement is a blog post within itself, know that both online marketing campaigns and offline efforts can be measured effectively when set up correctly. Importantly, choose metrics that allow you to measure your success against your marketing and greater business goals.
Step 5. Review
The review process is the final, but certainly no less important, step in your boutique hotel marketing plan. Your plan, just like your strategy, needs to be a working document that is reviewed and revised regularly. Effective marketing is not a set-and-forget, one time activity.
As once cutting-edge tactics and tools become outdated, new approaches evolve, gain momentum and take their place. Therefore, after you’ve implemented your marketing plan and measured its performance, it’s critical to evaluate which tactics are worth continuing, and which could be replaced.
While regularly reviewing your plan keeps it front-of-mind, helping you to stay focused on decided tactics, it also puts marketing in general in your thoughts.
Current affairs and trending topics may present exciting marketing opportunities, if you’re looking at them with an open mind. Remember, one of your advantages as a boutique or independent hotel is your agility.
Agile marketing can leverage a topic that is creating hype and turn it into a marketing opportunity to drive bookings. When using agile marketing, it is critical to make sure you stay on brand – the theme of your message should align with your hotel’s overall style.
Limited Resources to Create or Implement a Boutique Hotel Marketing Plan?
Critical to the success of your marketing, a well-devised and clearly scheduled boutique hotel marketing plan thoroughly outlines specific marketing tactics, those responsible, and the key metrics against which to measure your efforts.
An ongoing process, your planning is not meant to be onerous, yet should be reviewed regularly to ensure you are reaching potential and existing guests, meeting your marketing and business goals, and efficiently spending your marketing dollars.
If you’re pressed for time or lacking the resources to complete the five steps of our boutique hotel marketing plan, or have digital marketing goals that you’re not sure how to implement, it might be worthwhile hiring a consultant.
Don’t hesitate to contact us today!