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The Complete Guide to Promoting & Marketing your Hotel, B&B, Guesthouse or Cottage

the-complete-guide-to-promoting-and-marketing-your-hotel

Owning a hotel, bed and breakfast, holiday cottage or guesthouse is a dream for many people up and down the UK. Welcoming new guests, designing and furnishing the rooms and preparing a rousing full English breakfast are all lovely parts of the job. Being a small hotel owner can be a wonderfully fulfilling and enjoyable career – but what about the harder, less glamorous parts of owning accommodation such as hotel marketing?

Attracting new guests, promoting your business and keeping occupancy at profitable levels – all vital parts of the job but all can be really hard work. If you’re a hotel owner and don’t know where to start with this side of the business – or maybe you’ve been grafting at this and just need some new ideas – let us help with our guide to UK hotel, B&B, holiday cottage and guesthouse promotion and marketing.

We’ve given each of the 10 elements in the post two ratings. Firstly showing how ‘difficult’ the element is to complete (i.e. how much effort, cost and time) and secondly showing how beneficial this element can be if executed correctly.

Scroll down through the post or click a link below to jump to that section:

  1. Hotel Accreditation & Rating Schemes
  2. Local Destination Promotion
  3. Hotel Rating Websites
  4. Hotel Booking, Search Engine & Comparison Websites
  5. Small Hotel, Guesthouse and B&B listing websites
  6. Getting a website
  7. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  8. Additional Online Marketing
  9. Awards and Competitions
  10. Shows, events and exhibitions

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Hotel Accreditation & Rating Schemes

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One of the most recognisable and popular ways to promote your hotel is to have an inspector visit from the AA or Visit Britain with the aim of receiving a star rating. Both the AA and Visit Britain provide a sign for you to display on the outside of your establishment showing your star rating. These signs are extremely well recognised by travellers – an almost universal sign that you’ll be able to expect a certain level of service.

You should feature your star rating in any brochures or other promotional materials you produce – such as a website. These rating schemes are outlined in more detail at the links below. The best first step is to call either/both organisation and explain your circumstances to them, it might be that you’ve never been rated or maybe you’re looking to go for a higher rating. They’ll be able to point you in the right direction and onto the first or next rung inof the accreditation ladder.

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The AA has been working in the hospitality industry for over 100 years – they’re a highly recognised and trusted brand. An official rating from The AA is a hotel industry staple, not to mention a large number of associated benefits that come with being AA rated.

http://www.theaa.com/hotel/hotel-services-accommodation-schemes.html

visit-britain-accom-scheme-info

The Visit Britain Quality Assessment Scheme has stringent criteria to ensure the accommodation they recommend is of the highest quality. They use a similar 1 to 5-star rating to The AA (both organisations have collaborated on the rating system). Above the star rating they also offer special awards; in England they offer a Gold and Silver award, in Scotland and Wales only a Gold award is available.

Each country has it’s own ‘Visit Britain’ website:

Note: Discover Northern Ireland is not strictly within the VisitBritain organisation, but it’s the equivalent body in Northern Ireland.

Having a star rating can also result in more customers finding you, not just showing potential guests what standards they can expect during their stay. Each organisation has a popular hotel search function, these can be found below.

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The AA website search function has over 6,000 individual hotels and B&Bs listed. Guests can search by their required location or enter the name of the establishment if they know it. They can choose a date to check in and the number of nights they’re staying for.

Visit the AA Hotel Search

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For VisitBritain, each country gets its own website with localised hotel search, you’ll be listed according to the country you’re based in. Guests can choose to search regions, counties and towns as well as specifying the rating level they’re looking for.

Remember that the only way to get listed in these accommodation search sites is to have a rating from either the AA or Visit Britain.

Secondary Assessment Schemes

In addition to the main Visit Britain accreditation, you can choose to go for one of the four ‘Welcome Schemes’ they offer. These can help to attract certain types of visitor – the options are:

welcome-schemes

  • Walkers Welcome
  • Cyclists Welcome
  • Families Welcome
  • Pets Welcome

Each scheme comes with its own set of requirements (i.e. for ‘Walkers Welcome’ you should have a separate space for drying outdoor clothing and footwear, etc) which you’ll need to demonstrate before you can display one of the ‘Welcome’ badges. You can view more about these schemes at http://www.qualityintourism.com/quality-schemes/welcome-schemes/ (additional fees apply). If you’re looking into the Cyclists Welcome scheme through Visit Britain, you may also want to consider a listing on the CyclistsWelcome.co.uk website:

Awards for Food

Visit Britain offer a ‘Breakfast Award’ – awarded only to those who provide a quality breakfast, great choice and a service level above the expectations of the star grade you’ve otherwise achieved. The AA award breakfast and dinner awards for exceptional examples of each – both require an emphasis on quality local ingredients.

Additional Benefits

Both the AA and VisitBritain accreditation schemes come with a whole range of additional benefits, so they’re well worth looking into. Everything from free business advice and member discounts, to training and listings in printed guides.

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The AA provides additional benefits through their accreditation scheme which include training, integration with AA Route Planner and the inclusion in their mobile apps. Additional advertising opportunities also become available, these include the option of appearing in the AA Hotel Guide.

Full details of additional benefits

visit-britain-benefits

VisitBritain offers an equally impressive range of benefits (outside of the hotel rating and inspection service) and these extend to providing a subscription to http://www.accommodationknowhow.co.uk, free legislation guides and a members discount scheme. They too offer additional advertising opportunities such as the inclusion in the B&B and Hotels Guide.

Details of the benefits and additional extras

Other Hotel Accreditation Schemes

There’s a second tier of accreditation available for UK hotels, less well known and recognised than the big two, AA and Visit Britain, but still useful nonetheless. These accreditations usually focus on something other than general hotel standards, more commonly they concentrate on one particular area.

The Green Tourism and Travelife Awards are good examples of a second tier accreditation. They look specifically at sustainability, green issues and environmental impact. If your hotel or B&B is based in the countryside, this type of accreditation might be especially important to you. Find out more about both schemes at the links below:

Travelife Awards

Green Tourism

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Local Destination Promotion

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It’s also worth exploring the opportunities for more local exposure. Whilst a typical hotel guest will be holidaying – i.e. they’re from outside the local area – these people have potentially come to visit friends or relatives who live locally. Therefore, we feel it’s important to be well known and well liked locally – people with family and friends looking for accommodation close by are far more likely to recommend you. The recommendation ‘circle of life’ continues and these people then have the opportunity to speak kindly of your hotel.

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Local Tourism Websites

Most towns and cities have invested in their own tourism schemes and many of these involve a website that will happily list local hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses.

Simply search on Google for ‘visit town/city name‘ and you’re sure to find something of use for your particular area. Here are some examples of local tourism sites which include hotel listings:

These are often visited by people looking to come to the area for business, events, occasions, short breaks and holidays so they’re well worth looking into.

Local radio

Don’t discount the benefit that being the good local hotel can bring. If you associate yourself with a local station well-liked by people in the area then it can become second nature for them to suggest your establishment. Local radio advertising is often cost effective, but to measure the level of business you get from your advert tell them to mention they heard about you on the radio and they’ll get a free bottle of wine in their room (for example).

Measuring the return on this type of advertising spend is always hard but encouraging staff to ask where someone found out about your hotel is a great start.  

Build relationships with good local pubs/restaurants/hotels

This is a great way to market your hotel and at the same time build relationships in the local area. Definitely a low-cost advertising option. The best way to start is by talking to local landlords and restaurateurs, explaining where your hotel is and even offering to show them around or let them stay.

restaurants

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Offer to take leaflets about their pub or restaurant in exchange for them taking yours and see if they’re willing to recommend you if people ask about accommodation. Remember, local people who visit these places might not have the need for a local hotel, but if they have people coming to visit them it might be the perfect solution.

Going one step further, you could hold an event a few times per year when local business owners get together to network and share ideas. Don’t exclude other hoteliers or B&B owners – yes, they’re the competition, but you could arrange to send them custom when you’re booked up and vice versa. Offering small discounts to customers of the pubs and restaurants might also be worth considering.

Leaflets in local visitor attractions

Most hotels are within travelling distance of at least one or two ‘attractions’. This could range from a country house or stately home, right through to theme parks or museums. Make connections with these attractions and offer to take a selection of their leaflets in exchange for leaving some of yours.

The next step would be to look at deals between your accommodation and their attraction. This is likely to only to be relevant to independently run attractions – but still worth exploring. If someone books a ticket to their attraction or calls to inquire about one, they could mention that buying X tickets entitles them to X% discount at your hotel. You would, of course, be expected to reciprocate. This is doubly beneficial – you’re getting someone else to talk to their target market about your business, and you’re able to offer a discount to a quality local attraction.

Attend locally focused events to build relationships

As well as laying the groundwork yourself, you may find existing local events which place focus on improving trade between businesses. These events are often networking or breakfast/lunch get-togethers designed to help you cement relationships, find local suppliers or get your establishment ‘on the map’. As an example, you could improve your food offering by sourcing local meats, cheeses and bread – thus increasing the number of very happy guests, which in turn has a direct effect on the numbers of potential positive reviews.

Promoting unusual or popular events that you think will get media coverage can be easy to do and very rewarding if done right. Offering a discounted rate for people attending these events can be promoted on your website and pitched directly to the venue or organisers. There’s some great examples of unusual events around including this popular zombie experience day that received plenty of media coverage and events that get local news coverage like the Dorset Nettle Eating Competition, Brighton’s ‘Sk8seeing’ or the Maldon Mud Race. Have a look around and see if you’re  close to a paintball centre, music venue or football ground – these offer a regular stream of people, often from outside the local area and so will require accommodation.

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Hotel Rating Websites

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Rating websites are often an important step on the journey to booking a hotel. They show comments and photos from real guests and provide a rating score, usually in star form. These sites are important to hoteliers, not just because they allow people to find your hotel, guesthouse or B&B – but because they give you the opportunity to garner real feedback from real people. There’s obviously a risk involved in this – you open yourself up to bad reviews. In most cases you have the facility to reply to a review – either privately or publicly – and hiding from these sites won’t stop a bad review. People can add your establishment onto sites like TripAdvisor and leave a review, so it’s best that you’re up to speed with these sites and monitor them regularly.

tripadvisor

TripAdvisor.co.uk

According to TripAdvisor, they’re the largest travel site in the world with over 100 million reviews – so it’s well worth looking at, especially because it’s free to be included. The site allows people to research a trip before they take it, looking at previous reviews and opinions, as well as encouraging them to leave their own review after their trip. The site also links to websites that allow people to directly book hotels, such as LastMinute.com and LateRooms.com.

There’s plenty of examples of hotels receiving a real battering on TripAdvisor – if your customer service and hotel aren’t up to scratch be ready for bad reviews. People rarely pull punches online and although you’re able to respond to reviews, having a raft of poor comments probably won’t do much for your occupancy rates.

Sign up for TripAdvisor here http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/GetListedNew

 Smaller Hotel Review Websites

TripAdvisor is really the biggest player in the hotel review market – but there are a few smaller sites that you might want to keep your eye on too:

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Hotel Booking, Search Engine & Comparison Websites

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Whilst you might have a website for your hotel already (if not, we’ll cover that later) it’s worth exploring the additional opportunities that hotel booking sites and search engine websites offer. Sites like Expedia and LateRooms receive millions of visitors and spend a small fortune on advertising. You can be listed on sites like this for free (additional advertising opportunities are available).

Here are the main hotel booking and search sites with a direct link to the signup page for each – all are free:

There are far too many hotel search sites to list in this guide – and many actually search and compare the same sites. Here’s an additional list of ‘second tier’ search sites you may want to consider:

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Small Hotel, Guesthouse, Cottage and B&B listing websites

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Not to be confused with the hotel comparison giants listed above, hotel listing websites are usually smaller with more of a focus on quality over quantity.  Sites like Sawday’s focus on great places to stay and offer a multitude of information about each establishment. Frequented by guests of all ages and situations, hotel listing sites are a valuable source of additional bookings and should be considered whatever type of accommodation you offer.

We’ve listed eight of the most popular sites below with direct links to their ‘signup’ or information pages.

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Getting a website

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A website is the crux of any online promotion effort; they can allow for bookings to be made (or link to another online booking provider), show great photos, make menus available and generally give a great first impression.

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DIY, Free and Low-Cost Website Options

If your budget for a website is low then there are plenty of free ‘DIY’ options available.

These have many good features like social media tools, easy editors and a choice of designs – but they often have some kind of restrictions too. These might range from a limited number of pages, a limited choice of designs/themes or having to use a free website address (i.e. http://hotel.wix.com instead of http://www.hotel.co.uk). Here are three of the best DIY website builders in our opinion, they all have a free option but allow you to pay to upgrade or remove restrictions.

The one paid option we recommend you choose, if you decide to use one of the sites above to build your own website, is the option to use your own domain name, i.e. http://www.yourhotel.co.uk. You’ll need to pay for the domain name every few years and you might need to pay a small fee to use that with the sites above, but it’s well worth it in the long run.

Self-hosted Domain

If you’d like more control over the design of your website and what features you can install on it, going down the self-hosted WordPress route is your best option. Prices start as low as less than £5 a month, although the more you pay, the more storage space and amount of visitors your website will get. For example, if you’re a small hotel and only expect to get less than 25,000 monthly visitors, you can expect to pay very little to secure your self-hosted domain. When you’re just starting out it’s worth not paying too much for a self-hosted solution as you’ll most likely find that you’ll only be using a slice of the limits on your package. You can always upgrade to a bigger package in the future once your website starts to gain traction.

One extremely important point to remember in today’s ‘always-connected’ online world is that more and more people are spending a large chunk of their time on the Internet through a mobile device. It’s, therefore, important to ensure that your website is ‘mobile friendly’ and displays correctly on the massive variety of mobile devices that your customers could be using. As with bad web design, a website that doesn’t work properly on a mobile device can be an instant turn-off for anyone looking to research your hotel. Again, while there is a huge amount of help available on the Internet, it might be smoother to pay someone to do this for you if you’re unsure.

If you don’t have the technical knowledge and the time to learn it, WordPress can be tricky for beginners. While hosting companies tend to provide help to get you started, it may be worth paying for an expert to help you get it setup and everything functioning correctly. Additionally, you could go down the following route.

Custom or Bespoke Websites

If your budgets are larger and you’d rather have something created just for your hotel and without as much direct involvement from you, then look for a digital agency or web design company. Prices for a custom website will vary depending on the features you choose – a simple brochure website showing photos and listing features might cost between £1,000 and £3,000 whereas a site which has full booking facilities included might be £3,000 and above. Shop around and get a selection of quotes before you proceed. Make sure to take a good look at previous websites they’ve designed and built too. If they’re a reputable, quality agency they shouldn’t mind you speaking to their clients to get the lowdown either.

Hotel Booking Systems

There’ll come a time when you decide you want to take bookings on your own website. Even if you use a third party site for this it’s not as smooth for the guest as having the entire ordering process on your own website. But beware, there’s a wide range of hotel booking systems out there.

booking-systems

These go from huge enterprise systems built for massive hotel chains (steer clear of these) right down to something simple and elegant for smaller accommodation like InnStyle or Lodgify. These systems let you control room bookings, create packages and generally manage the booking process – all for very little money.

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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

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Once you have your own website you’ll want to consider using search engine optimisation to ensure you appear for related searches on Google. I don’t have enough space to go into SEO in great depth here, but luckily Moz.com have a really great guide for beginners (see below). In the vast majority of cases, you’ll want to appear for localised phrases such as “hotel in location” and “location hotel” – luckily this is usually less complicated and time-consuming than focusing on phrases which don’t feature a location.

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However, the more densely populated the ‘location’ you’re targeting, the harder it’ll be to appear on the first page for those phrases – this is mainly down to the amount of competition you’ll be up against (there are more hotels in London than Launceston for example). Once you get started, don’t worry if you don’t see your site appearing for your chosen phrases straight away, it can take weeks and months for these ‘rankings’ to improve. Just remember that it’s important to make a start with SEO and consider it when making decisions about your site, just don’t obsess over it in the early stages.

Building Links

Many of the other elements discussed in this post can actually have a positive effect on your site’s rankings. Basically, anytime you get a new link pointing to your website you’ll be doing some good – as long as these links are from related websites. To attract links to your site from other website or blog owners, create content that’ll be useful and will stand the test of time (content marketing). A resource for the local area should be appreciated by related websites and local social media users. For example, this guide to things to do in Cornwall, produced by a hotel in the local area, will be useful to related businesses and has the potential to be shared socially. It then has the potential to appear in search engines for related phrases, driving people interested in visiting the area to your website. Additionally, creating a resource focused on an industry related to accommodation is a good way to attract links, this kitchen cleaning guide is a great example, targeting accommodation and restaurants (i.e. you!) with useful and free content. Do the same for travel or tours and you’ll potentially earn links as well as have the opportunity to build relationships with complementary companies.

For more tips on content marketing for hotels, take a look at these 30 content marketing tips.

Getting started with SEO

Have a read over the Moz.com Beginners Guide to SEO to get started. To progress further if you’re struggling, or to compete in very competitive areas, you should seek the services of an SEO agency. Prices for SEO can vary from a few hundred pounds a month at the lower end, right up to thousands of pounds at the top end. Do the same as with the web agencies mentioned in section 6 – get quotes from at least 3 agencies and shop around.

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Additional Online Marketing

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Email Marketing (and building an email list)

Sending out offers via email to people who’ve stayed with you before is a good way to attract repeat business and potentially fill empty rooms when you have a slow patch. This will work better with business travellers who potentially need to visit the same regions on a regular basis (i.e. Regional sales people). Of course, it can also spark someone into booking a break when they wouldn’t have done otherwise. If people know in advance that they’re signing up to receive special offers (i.e. offers only available to your email list) they’re far more likely to want to hand over their email address.

Be sure not to send emails daily, probably not even weekly – the last thing you want to do is make people unsubscribe from the list. Building the list up over time can turn it into a powerful marketing tool. Investing some time in your email content is important too – you should use a proper email platform such as Campaign Monitor or MailChimp. These services come with pre-made templates, all you need to do is add your logo and alter the colours and ‘hey presto’ – a branded email. You’ll usually be charged for sending these emails (a few pence per individual email delivered) although MailChimp currently offer a free package allowing you to send 12,000 emails to up to 2,000 subscribers per month for free!

To build your email list up, ask people who check out if they’ve enjoyed their stay and if they’d like to receive exclusive offers via email – you can record these email addresses on your computer or have something swisher – a tablet device with an app that’s designed to collect email addresses. MailChimp has an app called Chimpadeedoo which works on iPad and Android tablets, Campaign Monitor has the Enlist app which only works on iPad right now.

Social Media

Having a Twitter and Facebook account for your hotel, B&B, cottage or guesthouse is a great idea and something that actually won’t require too much upkeep. Start by signing up for Twitter here, and grab your Facebook Business Page here (make sure you’re logged in to Facebook with your personal account first).

The third social network we’d suggest getting involved in is Instagram, a photo-sharing social network. With Instagram you’ll need to download the app to your mobile device as that’s currently the only way to add photos, but this is ideal anyway as it means you can literally snap a photo and upload it wherever you are. We’ll talk about how best to use Instagram in a moment, but for now you can sign up to Instagram.

Signing up

Twitter has just one type of account so that’s easy – just make sure you choose a username or ‘handle’ that describes your establishment, ideally this will be its name (i.e. @PalaceHotel). Instagram is just as simple as Twitter when it comes to setting up an account. As with Twitter, you’ll initially choose an account name so make sure it’s your business name so it’s easy to find (E.g. Palace Hotel would display as havenhotel, although you may have to somewhat modify it if the account name is already taken). It’s worth having the same account name as Twitter if possible, as you’ll be much easier to find on the service that way. With your Facebook page things are a little trickier – on the signup page choose the top left option, “Local Business or Place”. Then select ‘Hotel’ from the first dropdown (there’s not a ‘Bed and breakfast’, ‘Guesthouse’ or ‘Holiday Cottage’ option I’m afraid). Complete your details and follow the steps to complete the signup process.

Customising how they look

With Twitter, you’ll get a nice, easy to remember web address like twitter.com/PalaceHotel – but with Facebook, you’ll start out with something very long and hard to remember – facebook.com/pages/Palace-Hotel-235/126770640478. Once you have 25 ‘likes’ on your Facebook page you can apply to have something friendlier like facebook.com/palacehotel – to do that you’ll need to visit www.facebook.com/username (make sure you’re logged in) and choose a new ‘username’ – this becomes the part after facebook.com in your page’s link.

social-media

Once you have both pages setup you’ll want to customise them a little to match your hotel’s brand and/or colour scheme. On Twitter, you can upload your logo, change the colour scheme and add a background image (here’s how). On Facebook, you can upload your logo to use as a profile picture and add a cover photo.

What to say on social

Now it’s a matter of what to tweet and what to put in your updates – you should try to keep a good mix of content related to your establishment and other content you think people looking at your profiles would be interested in. If you aim for a 50/50 split to start with you’ll be able to tweak this as you go. Potential guests who use either of these social platforms will possibly ‘look you up’ to see if you have a profile so it’s good to post offers, photos and nice things people have said about your establishment. Mix that with photos of the local area, interesting places to visit and observe relevant ‘national days/weeks’ (such as British Sausage Week for example) – and you should put yourself across in a good light. For example, sharing content such as ‘Top 10 Attractions Worth Visiting in Liverpool’ that was published on another website would be a good choice if you were a hotel in the area. It shows potential guests that you know your stuff and will also allow you to engage with the social profile of the website you shared the content from, who may, in turn, share your content.

On social people want to see that you’re looking after guests, responding to questions and comments, engaging with other users and posting interesting content. Social profiles that only post self-promotional updates/tweets can look pushy and off-putting to potential visitors. You can use Twitter and Facebook from your smartphone so you’ll have no excuse to not post content regularly – photos are really one of the best types of content you can post – try to add a couple per week at least. They could be to show the local butcher you get your meats from or the lovely views out of your window – get creative!

Above all, remember that social media is all about being social so it’s important to engage with people and not leave large gaps of inactivity where queries from potential guests go unanswered. Prospective guests asking questions about your hotel will also be much more impressed if you respond quickly, so be sure to keep your notifications on or at least check for any messages from people once a day.

Below we’ve put together a few more tips about the the three popular social networks.

Instagram Hotel Marketing Tips

  • Don’t just post generic pictures of your rooms and other interiors – your website is the place for these. Instead, you should take photos of things around your property and give the story behind why you chose that particular thing. A great, arty picture twinned with a short, descriptive story behind the photo is a great piece of content that will teach your followers more about the history and uniqueness of your property.
  • Show behind the scenes – it gives your place more personality and highlights the actual people who work for your hotel. For example, take photos of the meals being cooked up in the kitchen that day, or take a photo of the waiting staff ready to go on shift. You could even take photos of guests enjoying your hotel, but be sure to ask permission first.
  • Hashtags – While the use of hashtags on Twitter can vary wildly in effectiveness, Instagram tends to have better results. Tagging photos with related hashtags (Instagram will recommend lots as you begin to type) can bring in related likes and followers from people interested in similar content. You should also create a hashtag specifically for your hotel or B&B, encouraging your guests to use it to help spread the word.
  • Local area – As with other social networks, content about the surrounding area will be very helpful to people considering booking with you. Beautiful and stunning photography thrives on Instagram, so be sure to snap some great photos of the surrounding area, such as a stunning landscape nearby.

Paid Advertising (Google Adwords)

We’ve covered Search Engine Optimisation in section 7 (above) and using Paid Advertising could be described as the shortcut method. You still get to appear on the first page of search engine results pages liked Google, Bing and Yahoo – but you can be there in just a matter of hours instead of waiting weeks or months. The downside? You’ll pay for the privilege – this is ‘paid advertising’ after all so hopefully that didn’t come as too  much of a surprise! Paid Advertising or PPC (Pay Per Click) works like this – you specify the phrases you’d like your site to appear for and how much you’re willing to pay each time a visitor clicks your website link. You can set daily budgets to control your costs and you can turn the whole thing off whenever you like.

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Most hoteliers use PPC as a supporting marketing tool, either when occupancy is low or when low occupancy is expected. Additionally, you might want to look into PPC if you’re only just starting out with a website and search engine optimisation. SEO can take time, but you can have PPC up and running very quickly.

In terms of the costs, these should be fairly low if you’re in less populous areas – trying to compete for phrases like “hotel in London” using PPC is not advisable due to a large number of high budget hotels you’ll be competing with. As with SEO, be specific when choosing phrases to use with PPC. If your hotel is in Brixton, don’t choose ‘hotel in London’ as a phrase, choose ‘hotel in Brixton’ – it’s highly likely someone looking for a hotel in your area will be doing the same (it’ll cost less too).

You’ll get most visits from using the Google Adwords platform followed by the Bing / Yahoo network.

Here’s a useful PPC guide from a beginner’s point of view.

Local Business Listings

This one is fairly straightforward (phew!) but can be really useful. When people search for hotels and accommodation they’ll often be shown a map in the search results. This will have a selection of places marked which match the search query (i.e. hotels near Norwich). To get your hotel, B&B, holiday cottage or guesthouse listed just sign up using the links below:

It’s important to enter your location and business type details correctly so the marker on the map is correct and the information listed is up to date. As you go through the signup processes above, you may find that these search engines already hold some basic information about your establishment – that’s fine, you can just add to the listing by claiming it as your own. On Google you can claim a business by searching for your business on Google maps. Once you’ve found your business simply open the business information panel, scroll down and click ‘claim this business’. Google will then take you through the process. On Bing you can simply go to the Bing Places website and click on ‘get started’ for Bing to guide you through it.

Daily Deal Websites

We’ve decided to list a selection of popular daily deal websites – but approach these sites with care. Using a daily deal site can attract a throng of new guests to your hotel, but you’ll need to offer a hefty discount to even be considered for inclusion. As an example, if you offer a £100 per night room for £50 (a 50% off deal to catch the eye) – the daily deal website will take half of the £50 fee, leaving you with £25. Linking the stay with other elements such as a meal can help to claw back some margin (these meal offers can often exclude drinks).

daily-deal

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These sites can help you to create more brand awareness but have to be well thought through. They promote the offers on their websites but also through enormous email campaigns – millions of recipients receive these emails weekly and daily.

The sites all focus on local areas and require a set number of customers to take up the deal before it’ll become ‘live’. So, you can say that as long as 200 people buy the deal you’re happy to only take £25 for the £100 room – you’re obviously hoping that some of these guests return, leave positive feedback online and recommend you.

The most popular sites are below, each site tends to run localised offers and national offers – depending on your size you’ll want to either focus on a small area or open your offer up to the UK.

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Awards and Competitions

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Once you’re happy with the level of service you’re providing and the overall appearance of your establishment, you could consider putting yourself forward for an award. Awards aren’t just the preserve of huge hotels chains or massively expensive boutique hotels. There are plenty of awards aimed squarely at the smaller establishments too.

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We’ve compiled a list below containing awards ranging from those voted for by guests, specific to certain locations or judging certain hotel elements. Some will charge for entries but having an award can really enhance a potential guests’ view of your hotel, B&B or guesthouse. Even being added to a shortlist or receiving a commendation can result in a logo you can use on promotional documents and your website. Smaller hotels aren’t allowed in every category of the awards listed below, but each award does have at least one suitable category. Some are actually designed only for smaller establishments.

(Register with LateRooms and you’ll automatically qualify for your category)

As well as entering competitions you could also try running a competition for your own hotel to get some media exposure (albeit locally or online). Butlins ran a ‘Making Memories’ competition earlier in 2013 which asked people to write blog posts about their memories of staying at the resort. Of course, Butlins have a larger audience than most smaller hotels and B&Bs but there’s no reason you can’t run a perfectly successful competition for your social fans/followers or even directly to guests as they check in/out. You could ask people to post photos of their stay at your hotel to your Facebook page or sum up your hotel in 140 characters on Twitter – whatever it is we recommend you make it easy to do and make sure the prize is worth winning.

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Shows, events and exhibitions

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It might be hard to see how attending an event or exhibition could help you market and promote your hotel. Hotel and tourism/travel events are designed to showcase everything from products for bedrooms and kitchen equipment all the way to till systems and phone systems.

conferences
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Improving your establishment is a good way to ensure guests go away happy, leave good online reviews and recommend you to others. It’s less direct but also gives the chance to network with other hotel owners/managers. It can also keep, or elevate you, above the other hotels in your area – keeping you at the forefront of hotel design, style and service. All these things contribute to keeping guests happy – and that all results in more positive reviews and recommendations. Here’s a selection of shows and events relevant to UK hotel, B&Bs and guesthouse owners:

We hope this guide helps you get started with hotel marketing or encourages you to revisit your marketing plans. Let us know how you get on and if you have any questions, feel free to tweet us at @hildenlinens

We’ll be adding to this hotel marketing guide and expanding it over the coming months and years. If you have a resource, event, competition or other information you think would be useful to list here, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to add it in.

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