I’m going to walk you through the step by process of building a hotel marketing plan, and I’ve created a free template for you to use, which you can download from the link in the description below. Whether you’re getting ready to open a new hotel or kick off your annual business planning, your marketing plan is a key document that you’re going to come back to all year long. As we all know from the last year, plans do change, but you do need a plan to start with.
If you’re new here, my name’s Jenn, and on this channel I talk about all things hotel marketing, so if that’s something you’re interested in, please hit the subscribe button below. So how do you create a marketing plan for a hotel? The hotel planning process?. Typically, your GM and different department heads will gather every summer to plan for the next year.
This is when you’ll decide what your big picture objective is – before individual teams break off and brainstorm and start putting together their different budgets. During this time, marketing should be communicating with everyone: sales, events, and revenue, &"verage, even recruiting and HR, so that we all understand what different areas of the business hope to achieve and how marketing can support.
If this is your first time working on a hotel marketing plan or you’re just looking for a bit of a refresher? Keep watching. First thing you need for your hotel marketing plan (Step 1), which will help you through the whole process stepby step. So if you want topause the video here and grab that now so you can follow along, go ahead and do so.
We’re jumping right in with the first part of building your hotel marketing plan. This should be a broad overview of everything you’re about to present in your plan. It really sets the tone and introduces that “big idea” or “big-picture objective” that you're working towards in the next year. This is also where you’ll want to mention any important context that’s driving your plan, like a major renovation or starting a new product or business segment. Although this is the very first thing in your hotel marketing plan – most of the time it’ll be the last thing you write.
How to Write a Hotel Marketing Plan
So if you’re following along using the template, just hold off on this part for now and write your Executive Summary at the end of this process, getting clear on who you are and what you do (Step 2). The next part of your hotel marketing plan are your Vision and Mission Statements, while an executive summary probably changes year-to-year. Your hotel’s vision and mission should stay pretty consistent.
If you’re part of a larger chain or brand, this has probably been done for you already by the head office. Otherwise writing your own is a great way to get your entire team involved and invested in your vision and mission. A clear vision statement is your guide, your direction for where you’re going in the future. Vision statements are objective, like Hyatt’s Vision, to create “a world of understanding and care.”. On the other hand, a mission statement gives your hotel a sense of purpose for the present. It’s about who you are and what you do right now.
What’s your immediate objective? For example, Hyatt’s mission is “To deliver distinctive experiences for our guests”. The third step of creating your hotel marketing plan is to do a Market Analysis, Analyzing your market and competition (Steps 3-5).
Breaking Down the Major Variables Affecting Your Hotel Business
This is all about breaking down the major variables affecting your business and guiding your decision-making. So one way to think about this is to use what’s called the 5’ C’s. That’s your company, Compettors, Customers, Collaborators, and Climate. Start with your own company. Think about what’s happening at your hotel that could impact your business. This could be a renovation or a rebrand, or even starting a new revenue stream.
Next, think about your competitors. Whatever’s going on with your comp set can help you spot future challenges -- and opportunities. This includes things like new openings, adding more suites to their inventory, or even a change in their pricing strategy. The third “C” is your customers. Listen to what your current customers are telling you. Are you seeing any changes in their behavior? This will help you start building a target guest profile later on?
You should also be thinking about your main collaborators. These are external partners that help you generate more business and bookings. This could include your local Convention & Visitors Bureau, your public relations firm, a top-producing travel agent, or other service providers. Finally, the last piece of this is the current climate. And unless you’re in a seasonal destination, I don’t necessarily mean the weather. Are there new laws and regulations impacting the hotel business in your market? Is there political turmoil? How’s the economy doing?
People tend to travel less during a downturn... And as we’ve seen with Covid-19, many companies are cutting back on business travel and many couples are choosing to elope or have much smaller wedding events?. All of this is due to changes that are beyond your control, but it’s still important to think about as you start shaping your strategy for the next year. These 5 elements combined will help you understand what is going to be realistic to achieve.
How to Create a Hotel Marketing Plan
The next step of creating your hotel marketing plan is to look at your pricing strategy. Now. Here’s where things can get a little confusing. If you’re maybe newer to marketing inside a hotel, so you’ll want to make sure you’re talking to your property’s revenue manager orwhoever is responsible for setting your rates. The really short, sweet version of this is four basic pricing strategies: Economy, penetration, skimming and premium pricing. Here’s kind of a visual way to look at it. Economy pricing is about filling as many rooms as possible.
That means selling rooms at the lowest rates with the least amount of promotion necessary. Generally, this isn’t something we see often with luxury or upper-upscale hotels, because they don’t want customers to think they’re lower quality... But sometimes, like if you don’t have any budget for promotion or advertising... heavy discounting might be the best way for you to fill rooms. Penetration pricing means selling your rooms or services at prices lower than your competitors’. This is a strategy many newer or preopening hotels will consider, because -- if you’re pretty similar to your direct competitors -- pricing yourself just under them can help you gain a bigger share of the market.
Skimming pricing is basically the opposite of penetration. Instead of undercutting, this would be when hotels set their rates just above their competitors or even higher. Usually hotels will do this to signal exclusiveness or quality to customers, because we often assume that higher prices equal higher quality. Finally, a premium pricing strategy for a hotel means charging high prices for a product that’s already perceived as high value or excellent quality.
One example of this would be a Four Seasons hotel. They’ve built up their brand in such a way that they can charge premium pricing for “abstract” benefits, like the sense of status and prestige that you get from staying there. So, when you’re working on the marketing plan for your hotel, you want to think about where you’re positioned pricewise in comparison to your competitors.
And if you’re using the template I’ve linked for you below, you can do this by moving around these markers and getting a sense of how you compare. Step 5 of creating a hotel marketing plan is to do what’s called a SWOT analysis.
You’re probably already familiar with this term, but quick refresher. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. When you’re thinking about strengths, think about your unique selling points. Strengths can be anything from a great location and strong brand recognition... to your wonderful employees and highly-rated service. Maybe your location isn’t so great.
Be honest about the weaknesses that could be holding your business back. This could be negative online reviews, a lack of dining outlets or good gym facilities. Maybe you know that your hotel website is long-waited for an update.
Weaknesses and Opportunities
Weaknesses are internal things you might not be able to address due to budget or just things that are beyond your control. Things you potentially can address are opportunities.
Two places to look for these are Market Trends and your guest feedback. Do a little research to find new audiences to engage or maybe a new revenue stream to launch. Finally, the external factors that could negatively impact your hotel are threats. This could mean changes to your OTA agreement or a sudden increase in Airbnb listings nearby. Some other potential threats would be new hotel openings, maybe even a recruitment or staff shortage.
Anticipating threats early gives you more time to take action and come up with solutions. Every hotel is different, whether you’re a boutique hotel in the middle of a big city or a laidback resort in the middle of nowhere. doing a SWOT analysis helps you figure your competitive advantage, areas of improvement, and importantly, where you have room to grow. Looking back to look ahead (Step 6), Step 6 of your hotel marketing plan will be going back and pulling some historical data.
It’s important to know where you’re starting from — not only to track changes, but to make projections and set goals for the next year. The data I suggest, including, would be the number of rooms available versus sold, your market share, your average rate, your revenue per available room (or revar)) and your occupancy rate. Ideally, your hotel is tracking these things every day, and hopefully you have a few normal precovid years’ worth of data to give you a nice simple snapshot or graph that you can just pop into your marketing plan.
Now, obviously, if you’re a brand new opening, you’re not going to have any of this information yet. You probably did your research during the development phase, so try and pull whatever metrics you can from the competitors in your market, your hotel customers, and how they book (Steps 7-8). Step 7 is to create your target guest profile, or in some cases you might want to create more than one. Knowing who your customers are is a major part of building a hotel marketing plan. All of your strategies and tactics have to be built with this profile in mind.
Use any data sources you have available and start pulling insights. Your booking engine, Google Analytics, and even Facebook can tell you a lot about your current audience, including their approximate age, their location, their reason for traveling, and whether they’ve stayed with you before. You should also survey other departments to gather more anecdotal information. This will help you come in on your guests’ interests, their pains, and other relevant behaviors. When you know what really motivates people to choose your hotel, you can speak to them directly through your marketing. Step 8 is to look at your hotel’s market segmentation.
How to Segment Bookings in Hotels
In hotels, we typically segment bookings into different categories that basically tell us where that booking came from and what specific rate they booked. Some of these categories include your public or best available rate, which means the best rate offered on your website, over the phone or email, or another commissionable public rate, like on an ota. There’s also discounts or promotions, which includes opaque or hidden discount programs, promotional rates and packages.
Negotiated rates are typically discountsnegotiated for corporate businesses, governments, or airline crews. We also have wholesale rates, like for tour operators or Fit - Free Independent Travelers. Then there’s your Groups. These are rates for businesses, leisure conferences and meetings, weddings, and social events and incentive trips. Generally, smaller properties might not have such a varied mix of segments, but it’s still important to understand where your bookings are coming from, so you can allocate your budget and your effort wherever you’ll have the most impact. OK, at this point we’ve laid a ton of ground work.
Hotel Marketing Strategies and Tactics
So with all of that mind, the next hotel marketing strategies and tactics and goals (Steps 9-12) step is to determine your overall marketing objectives. Think back to the “big picture” hotel-wide objective from the beginning. What specifically can marketing achieve to help get you there? Let’s say your “big picture” objective this year is to grow occupancy.
You could do that in some ways. You can focus on brand awareness or reaching more people. You can focus on groups and try to book more weddings or social events. You can focus on retention by pushing your loyalty program and getting more guests to book repeat stays.
Hotel Marketing Strategies - Which Marketing Channels to Focus on
When you have a sense of your wider objectives, it becomes easier to pinpoint which hotel marketing strategies you need to prioritize your marketing channels. I’m focusing on direct bookings, but know that you can always adapt your message specifically to travel agents, consortia and even OTAs. If that’s where you’ve decided, you need to focus. There are all kinds of different marketing channels you can use to promote your hotel. Some of the big ones include Content Marketing, or Search Engine Optimization.
There’s Social Media... PayPerClick Advertising... Email Marketing. Now I want to be clear that you don’t need to do all the things to have a successful hotel marketing strategy. Many of these channels actually overlap and feed into another. For example, content marketing is valuable for SEO and gives you something to share on social media and in emails. For lots of specific hotel marketing ideas, check out some of the blog posts I’m linking to in the description below. Now that you know what’s happening in your market, you’ve got clear on your audience and you know what channels to focus on... You need to figure out how you'll measure it.
Setting Smart Goals
That means setting smart goals: Goals that are specific, measurable, and achievable, and time-pound. If getting more direct bookings at your hotel is a top priority, website traffic and conversion rate will be important metrics to look at.
So you’ll want to set some specific but realistic goals against each. To measure something like brand awareness, you could look at metrics like mentions in the press or follower growth across your social media accounts. Just make sure you’re also setting a timebound deadline for your goals. For example, you want to "increase follower growth by 15% in one year". Once you know what you want to achieve, you can go deeper into how, creating specific marketing tactics for each channel.
Top of Funnel Marketing Strategies for Hotels
Personally, I like to start thinking about this using a basic booking funnel. There are so many touch points along the way, from awareness down to booking and retention, so it’s a good idea to think about how and where you need to show up along the way.
Some top of Funnel Marketing Strategies for hotels could mean growing brand awareness through your social media and press coverage. Around the Middle of the Funnel, you have your interest and consideration stages, and this is where SEO and content marketing can help get you found by potential guests who are researching a trip.
Then, at the bottom of the funnel, you have the actual conversion or booking. Your paid advertising channels and email marketing are usually very effective at moving someone from consideration to purchase. Finally, the experience or the actual stay itself. If you deliver a positive experience or exceed expectations, chances are good that your guests will return — and tell other people to book too.
Free Hotel Marketing Plan Template
If you’re using the free hotel marketing plan template, you’ll also find slides included for each of those main marketing channels we talked about earlier. Start filling this in with some specific tactics and ideas, so you have some clear steps in mind for each of your important channels, resources you need to achieve your business goals (Step 13).
Finally, the very last step of creating your hotel marketing plan is to propose a budget. What do you need, budget wise, to realistically achieve the marketing objectives you’ve laid out? Budget is often a pain point, especially right now, as of summer (2021). But marketing doesn’t just happen. It requires resources, equipment, and software, a budget for advertising campaigns or hiring agencies, even for extra training or team development. If you’re feeling stuck on what you need or restricted by a tight budget, check out my recommendations for free or budget friendly marketing tools and software — that’s also linked for you in the description below.
Business Planning Season
At this stage of planning, you’ve done the work and you know what your objectives are. Now you need to show your GM and other stakeholders that you have a plan of action to get there. Business planning season is often a negotiation, so don’t be afraid to ask for more budget at first, understanding that you may end up getting a bit less to work with. At the end of the day, you’re the marketing expert and you know what you need to drive the business forward.
Don’t forget there’s a free hotel marketing plan presentation, free resource to plan your hotel marketing strategies linked for you in the description below. That free template is there for you to fully customize, however you want to fit your brand and business. This was a long one, so thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you enjoyed this deep dive into hotel planning. Thanks so much for watching and if you liked this video, feel free to hit that like button or leave a comment below -- and subscribe for more hotel marketing tips from me every week.
Jenn is a hotel marketing expert and author of Hotel Marketing for a Living. She shares her tips on how to write a hotel plan for the coming year. She also shares her top tips on creating a marketing plan for a new hotel. She says the plan is a key document that you'll come back to all year long. She offers a free template for you to help you with your own hotel marketing plan. The video is available in English and Spanish. Click the link below to download the template.