When you look at a paid advertisement for a hotel on Google, what do you see? You see an incomplete picture, a chapter of a larger story the hotel is attempting to tell. When you visit a hotel website, you may believe the design to be compelling, but you are blind to the gears turning behind the scenes to identify who you are and why you are visiting the site.
Taken as individual components, digital marketing can seem disjointed, disorganized and tactical. Hoteliers often ask questions in the moment, in response to a short-term need. Should I increase my budget on Google? Should I spend money to conduct a photo shoot? Should I participate in the most recent Expedia promotion? The noise from these tactics can become deafening, drowning out perspective.
A pinnacle of my marketing ethos is a belief that ALL of your digital marketing initiatives are interconnected, whether they are planned that way or not. The way you display on search engines, the grace with which you respond to TripAdvisor reviews, the packages you choose to promote at your hotel and the relationship you maintain with each OTA all contribute to your overall digital marketing outcomes. Yet we often debate these and other tactics on their own merits, as if they must and do stand alone. However, proven customer behavior and common sense demand that we see digital marketing components as part of a whole. A great majority of the time, travelers are going to visit many sites before deciding where to stay. They are going to do their research via multiple sources, on multiple devices, and they are going to use the entirety of their understanding to make a decision that best suits them. That is the essence of the Zero Moment of Truth movement, which I have written about previously.
So how does one take all these varied and far-reaching components and make them work as a comprehensive whole? A well-defined marketing strategy allows these tactics to become organized around a singular purpose, transforming them into brushstrokes of a larger masterpiece. Strategy gives search marketing purpose beyond page ranking and website development something to achieve greater than design awards. Strategy allows marketers to answer tactical questions with perspective. “What keywords should I be bidding on” becomes connected to the current initiatives on the website, efforts through social media and promotional strategy for the summer. Whether it be during your annual marketing plan development or as you redevelop your digital marketing efforts, start by defining the clear business objectives you deem most important to the success of your hotel. Invest the time to develop a comprehensive strategy or set of strategies that can instruct all initiatives. Then, when planning each of your individual actions, be maniacally committed to confirming that they are supportive, not disruptive, of your strategic direction.