Marketing of hotels and hospitality is for the most part still approached by an inside-out view. Here are three mistakes that most hotels make in online marketing.

After reading this article, marketers in the hotel and hospitality business might want to defend themselves. If so, the easy punches would include “we aren’t in control, central marketing is”, “Michael Leander is not the typical customer” or “we get very few bookings from our own website“.

Whatever the excuse for not listening to your customers is, it is a lame one. If you are marketing a hotel property or any other kind of hospitality business, you are in the business of servicing people. Plain and simple. And the service experience begins way before a person arrives at your property. Giving good service involves understanding what people wants.

So to counter any excuses hotel marketers may have;

  • If you are not in charge of improving the experience potential hotel guests gets on your website, fight to get the attention of whomever is, and do something about it.
  • Michael Leander is a typical customer – read below to find out why
  • If you are not getting enough bookings directly on your website, I would wager that you are doing something terribly wrong. You need to find out what that is, and get started improving your online presence

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What makes me an expert?
Some people say that I know a thing or two about marketing. But that is not what makes me an expert in the topic matter of the mistakes hotels make when promoting their products and services. What makes me an expert is the insane amount of nights I have spent in hotel rooms. Last year more than 200 nights. This year only around 120-130. Next year probably 150 nights.

So I am a marketing expert with an enormous amount of personal experience using the products and services offered by hotels – and the hospitality industry as a whole. But in all fairness I am using my own personal opinion in the following. I haven’t got access to any studies that would suggest that other customers share my opinions, or not.

So what are the three mistakes?
First of all, I could easily come up with 9, 11, 13 mistakes. But for now let me focus on three mistakes hotel marketers often make. These are relatively generic and probably apply to some 70-80% of all hotel websites.

Mistake number 1: Hotel marketers do not display the hotel room properly

cavendish hotel marketing pictureFor a large number of travelers, the actual hotel room is the product. Hotel marketers need to understand what a customer would want to know about the room they are contemplating to book. The picture above (from Cavendish Hotel in London) is an example of how not to display your room. In the case of Cavendish Hotel in London there is no way for a potential customer to easily get a feeling for what the room is like. No detailed pictures, no video of the room, no examples of different views from the room etc.

Many hotels have a tendency to show emotional pictures. A cute vase with a nice looking flower on the table, a little piece of chocolate on the pillow etc. And that is all good, but not if you cannot show me exactly what the room looks like, what the desk looks like and give me a general overview of what I can expect to get.

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What is good about the page you see above is

  • that a guest can book directly from the page
  • quick navigation to other room types
  • it is very clear that internet is not free !

Mistake number 2: Focus on displaying what most people are interested in knowing

Different customer segments are conscious or even concerned about certain amenities while other groups of customers gets convinced only if specific amenities are offered.

Clearly there is a difference here between what (especially) experienced travelers want to have and need to have. And I suppose there is a difference between leisure travelers and business travelers.

For example, I always check if the following is offered;

  • free internet access
  • complimentary coffee/tea

For me these are prerequisites to even consider booking a hotel room. And if you think about the free internet stuff – I think you will find that is what people expect nowadays. It is a bit like electricity. Hotel guests would be quite surprised if you suddenly decided to charge for the electricity they use. Wait a few years, and you will see that no one – and I mean nearly no one – will be willing to pay for internet access.

Complimentary coffee/tea is a question of convenience. Many travelers to not want to be hazzled by having to wait for room service. So in many cases it is not about the €5, €10, €15 that you would charge for a cup of coffee from room service. It is about that I want my coffee now, not 20 minutes later.

Back to the point of mistake number 2: Hotel marketers need to understand what most travelers are looking for when they are deciding which hotel room to book. If for example many travelers are looking for free internet access and complimentary coffee, you need to display that in a way that goes unnoticed. Think about how the eye scans a page and then make sure you place these USPs appropriately.

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Mistake number 3: Make it easy to understand the price level and to book the room

hotel marketing radisson hotel lisbonMany hotels have this really inconvenient booking process. Now imagine that a potential guest came directly to your website, liked what the person saw and wanted to quickly understand what sort of price level you offer. In most cases that is not possible without going through the booking process.

The example you see here on this page is a great one from Radisson Blu in Lisbon (a hotel I can recommend if you don’t need a swimmingpool at the hotel). As you can see the prices are prominently displayed making it easy for me to decide if this hotel is for me -and when I have, to chose which room best fits my budget.

This is important because many of your hotel website visitors will be visiting quite a few hotels before they decide which one they want to book. If you do not answer the price question in an easy way, there is a good chance that website visitors will simply assume that you are either too expensive or too cheap, and then go somewhere else.

In the case of Radisson Blu in Lisbon I also very much like how they summarize the facilities. It serves as a reinforcer – a reminder of what else they offer. You will notice how health club, airport shuttle and high speed internet takes a prominent place there.

In summary – understand your audience and give them what they want on your website
Sheraton Sopot image booking hotel roomThis is not rocket-science or open heart surgery. To be good at marketing your hotel or hospitality property on the web, you simply need to understand what your customers are looking for. One hotel that does that reasonably well is the wonderful Sheraton in Sopot (that’s a seaside resort in Poland).

Notice how “everything” is nicely summarized on the overview page. Sure internet is not free – in fact it is extremely expensive, but at least the information that a surcharge applies is there. Room size is included as well. Something that seems customary for almost all 4- and 5 star hotel properties in the Middle East, but not so much used in Europe. Perhaps because many European hotel rooms are pathetically small.

So how do you get started?
Ask your customers what they are looking for when they book a hotel. Study hotel marketing industry research and beware that different customer groups are likely to behave slightly differnent.

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