Hotel marketing is an incredibly complex web of tools, programs, sites, and third-party systems. In order for your marketing to work at its potential all systems must be functioning, and when you built them… they were. Unfortunately, over time things break, stop working, change or are simply just forgotten. One of the oft-forgotten aspects of a great hotel marketing effort is going back and checking what you “think” is working great. When you do this, you’ll more than likely find that what you thought was a fine-tuned marketing machine is in dire need of some maintenance.
In Fuel Travel’s history we have built and optimized hundreds of sites, booking systems, and marketing programs. We have also found (sometimes the hard way) several things that seem to just break on their own. These 10 things are what we have found need to be checked, and checked often, to ensure your marketing efforts are as effective as possible. We recommend you test all your systems at least quarterly and this checklist of hotel marketing fails will give you a great start of where to look.
Hotel Marketing Miss #1: Email Collection Systems
The prospect funnel at any hotel is based on a well fed email database. Unfortunately many times your funnel is broken and you don’t even know it. One of the most common issues we find when evaluating new client sites is one or more of their email collection tools simply do not work. This may be caused by a field that no longer exists, a database location that has changed, or the system that sends emails from your website to your email distribution system has old credentials.
Solution: Test Your Forms
You don’t know which form is broken if you don’t test. This means going through every form on your site at a minimum of every quarter and filling it out. Then making sure that the submission you just created appears where it should, be it your CRM system, email system, site database, or an email recipient.
Hotel Marketing Miss #2: Your Mobile Site Is No Longer Mobile Friendly
Any good hotel marketer is constantly adding new content to a site; new articles, photo galleries, planning tools, and more. However, sometimes these great new hotel marketing tricks end up tricking us by not working so great on the myriad of phones, tablets, and screens we would expect. We have found this is a very common issue with the most common issues being:
- Pop ups appearing on mobile devices.
- Buttons and text overlapping
- New systems requiring a side to side scroll. For some reason weather systems are notorious for this issue.
- Video systems not working
The Solution: Pick Up Your Phone And Test
This comes at no surprise, but you should be browsing your hotel’s website at least once a month (honestly daily is not too much) and making sure that everything is working and rendering as you would expect.
Hotel Marketing Miss #3: Outdated Confirmation Pages
Outdated confirmation pages is a classic problem plaguing almost every hotel and resort out there. Why? Because most hoteliers are not checking the 1st hotel marketing miss above. This results in confirmation pages with dated content, old pictures, and promotions that may no longer exist. Most hotels will catch outdated content on the various email signups, contests, and other forms on their site. However the booking engine confirmation page often gets overlooked because it will require a credit card and a cancelled reservation to test test properly.
The Solution: Audit Your Hotel’s Confirmation Pages
Break out the credit card, make an actual reservation, and carefully audit the process. Does your confirmation page not only convey the correct information, but also inspire additional purchases and conversions? There’s only one way to find out. Make sure you’re doing this at least once a month.
Hotel Marketing Miss #4: Old Photos Still Around
Old and outdated photos are a frustrating fact of life and marketing. However, if you have recently completed a photo shoot of your property, it is very important to update your shots online… everywhere. Typically we see hotels have the correct photos on their main site, accommodations pages, and booking engines. Though oftentimes 3rd party business listings such as Google, Bing, Trip Advisor, and the OTAs are forgotten.
The Solution: Perform A Photo Audit
Start by checking your site and then the most used 3rd party listings that exist and make sure everyone is using your latest and greatest shots. Also, keep in mind it is not enough to add your new photos, you also need to ensure all your old shots are removed as well. This doesn’t need to be done frequently, once a year is enough as well as any time you update your photo library. You can also ask your SEO team for assistance in your photo audit since several of the tools that allow you to manage your NAP (Name, Address, Place) online can give you tips on where to look for old photos.
Hotel Marketing Miss #5: You Can’t Manage Your Domain
Do you know how it feels when you realize your domain has just expired and you have no idea how to login to your domain account? It’s not pretty, and that’s why we recommend you login to your GoDaddy or other domain manager at least once a year to check on your expiration dates, payment methods, and other settings. It may be surprising, but we have found that accessing the domain can be one of the most time consuming steps when helping a new client launch a site. Why? Because domains are held under very tight security and if you don’t know how to login to your account (or even where your domain is held) it can take a week or more to get access.
The Solution: Login To Your Domain Account
The solution here is simple, login to your domain manager and make sure your settings are correct. While you are in there check the following:
- All domains are set to auto renew
- You have a current payment method on file
- Your contact information (and secondary contact information) is correct
- Make sure your login information is known to someone else at your property (in case you’re hit by a proverbial bus)
If you don’t know where your domain is managed, start by going to who.godaddy.com and type in your domain. Once you let GoDaddy know you are not a robot, you will find where your domain is managed in the Registrar URL area.
Tip: Learn how to convert OTA guests into direct bookers with our free guide!
Hotel Marketing Miss #6: Broken Tracking
Any marketer that’s on their game will know how their marketing efforts are performing. However, even the best of us find tracking problems from time to time. These issues can be caused by a given marketing channel simply not having the proper tracking setup to more complex cross-domain tracking and attribution issues within your booking engine. One thing we have found, with literally every client, is that tracking and attribution issues happen. It’s how quickly you catch them and fix them that matter.
The Solution: Check Your Analytics And Look For The Flatlines
Odds are you have some form of tracking issue, you just have to find it. Start by looking at all your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and make sure they are recording in your analytics system. If possible, compare multiple tracking tools such as Conversions in AdWords to Conversions in Google Analytics for your PPC campaign or your Trip Advisor stats compared to your own stats. The two numbers will rarely (read this as almost never) match up 100% but they should be close. If not, time to dig deeper. You can also browse your data and look for the flatlines. If your analytics show you have not had a single conversion event for an email signup in a month… you’ve got a problem, either with email collection, tracking, attribution, or all of the above.
Setting up and maintaining great data can take time, for more information check out episode 67 of the Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: 6 Common Analytics Mistakes You May Be Making.
Hotel Marketing Miss #7: A Sad 404 Page
We like to think of 404 pages as a chance to make the customer glad they found a page that doesn’t exist. Inevitably you’ve got a few pages that no longer exist on your hotel’s site or times when people type in a link wrong. When this happens, make sure you’re being as helpful as possible to your guest. You can be guaranteed they don’t want to just see a blank page with an error.
The Solution: Have Fun With Your Error Pages
Using the 404 page on MyrtleBeachGolf.com as an example, if you come across a page that doesn’t exist you get a corny golf joke, link to more jokes and a full site directory. Your hotel site should incorporate your personality and property style to give the guest the tools to get to the information they need, even if they failed to get there the 1st time.
For one of the best 404 pages ever, check out https://visitsteve.com/asdfasd.
Hotel Marketing Miss #8: Broken And Outdated Guest Emails
Your guest emails are the single most effective way to drive incremental revenue from upcoming guests as well as incentive return stays from departing guests. That is, if they are working properly, and too often we find that client emails are either outdated or not being sent at all. Typically, we find one or more of the issues below with almost every client we help:
- Incorrect sending rules or errors that prevent a message from going at all
- Incorrect messaging or creative that needs to be updated
- A general lack of triggered emails or emails that miss opportunities to grow a guest’s business
The Solution: Look at guest emails on an individual basis
Each guest email, be it the confirmation, modification, cancellation, room upgrade, pre-arrival, or post stay should be thoughtfully considered for what will be the most helpful for a guest and result in the best conversion rate. For each email, consider the stage of the stay cycle your guest is in and what will be most effective. This is not the time for a cookie-cutter approach, focus and optimize each email a guest is set to receive.
If you don’t even know what guest and automated emails you should be triggering, we’ve got you covered. Check out out article on the Automated Emails Your Hotel Should Be Sending.
Hotel Marketing Miss #9: Taking a Set It & Forget It Approach to CPC Campaigns
Set it and forget it may work for Ron Popeil, but it doesn’t work anywhere in hotel marketing. This is definitely the case with CPC campaigns such as AdWords, Bing Ads, Trip Advisor, Google GHA, and so on. An incredibly common mistake we see across all hotels, from small bed & breakfasts to large resorts, is a lack of proper management of their paid campaigns. What makes this marketing mistake so serious is that it has a way of sucking up your entire marketing budget that could be used to drive more guest nights. For every extra dollar you are spending on a mis-managed PPC campaign, it’s one less that dollar that you could be directing toward an effective campaign.
The Solution: Optimize your campaigns or hire someone who can.
The solution to a mismanaged, set it and forget it, paid per click campaign is simple and for most hoteliers involves hiring an agency who knows the market and can ensure every dollar spent generates several more dollars in return. This is not to say that you should offload the responsibility completely. Your job is to understand the various CPC platforms to a level that will allow you to monitor the campaigns from a high level and to ensure your agency is doing the best job possible. Do this and this common mistake can become your marketing’s #1 performer.
Hotel Marketing Miss #10: Site Slowdown
Site performance is a key factor in your online revenue. Search engines include your site speed in rankings and guest conversion depends on a fast site. Unfortunately, it is not enough to look a your site speed when you launch your new site; you also have to monitor it on an ongoing basis. We have found that even the best performing sites have a habit of slowly degrading in performance over time. Things like staff adding large images, 3rd party systems, and server issues can all lead to a once fast site running slowly.
The Solution: Setup ongoing performance monitoring systems
Monitoring site performance is typically the job of your site host or web team, however it would benefit you to keep an eye on this critical component of your marketing. Systems like Pingdom have free solutions at tools.pingdom.com that allow you to check on your site’s performance at any given time as well as great paid solutions for 24/7 monitoring and notifications. At Fuel, we rely on several paid solutions to monitor and alert us when sites are having issues. At the end of the day all sites will have slowdowns from time to time, your job is to identify and fix these as soon as possible.
Hotel Marketing Miss BONUS: You Forgot To Do Something New
A good marketer knows that the work is never done and you better keep moving if you hope to stay ahead. One miss that we see happen from time to time is hoteliers getting complacent and not innovating. Typically, we see this from market leaders who have one of the top properties in the area and rely too much on being the latest and greatest that they forget to proactively market. Regardless of if you’re one of the top properties or clawing your way up from the bottom, the solution to beating the competition is first making sure you’re not making the mistakes above and then always trying something new.
The Solution: Allocate a portion of your marketing budget to new ideas and testing
If you listen to the Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast, you’ll know we here at Fuel are big fans of setting aside a portion of your budget to explore and test new initiatives. Some of these, like Google Hotel Ads, can end up becoming excellent returns on investment and keep you in front of your competitors. And while not every new opportunity you test will work you will find amazing diamonds in the rough and make great strides in owning the market.