COVID-19 has knocked the wind out of hotel profits. No more so than within the conference business, a traditionally bustling moneymaker that has wilted amid the pandemic.
Wondering how? Here are some ways …
How COVID-19 Has Shifted Hotel Sales and Marketing
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has demolished hotel and conference demand. But that lost demand is not permanent. It’s lying dormant as people remain hermetic, browse online and reassess how to move forward.
In turn, hotels that use sales and marketing to meet guests online can stay connected and spark future business.
Not sure where to start?
Here’s how to use sales and marketing to increase demand:
Conduct a Full Marketing and Sales Audit
Before jumping into new sales and marketing campaigns, hoteliers need to know what resources they have at their disposal. That’s why the first step of revamping a hotel marketing plan is conducting an audit.
Hoteliers can start by nailing down their sales and marketing budgets. Dig into what’s being spent in these areas and see how it compares to other investments. To get a firm grasp on a budget, examine metrics that stack marketing and sales spending against revenue, such as:
- Sales and Marketing Expenses & Payroll as % Total Revenue
When hoteliers know how much they have to spend, it’s time to decide what content to create and communicate. The content should get the most bang for the buck.
First, this means identifying the highest-value articles, blogs, ads or other content from the past. Dig into marketing content and ask:
- What content is driving the most website traffic?
- What pieces have had the most engagement?
- Have guests referenced content or ads in the past?
By identifying the most valuable pieces, hoteliers can repurpose and replicate the content that’s worked before. This reduces the cost and energy that goes into creating new messages and lays the groundwork for future marketing efforts.
Second, recognize these are unprecedented times. Your messaging will need to reinforce the good things about your hotel, while not ignoring the impacts of COVID-19. A focus on cleanliness and following protocols, such as those laid out by the AHLA, will go a long way toward placating potential guest fear.
Refocus Sales and Marketing Strategies
With demand deflated, now’s the time to build and feed a marketing and sales machine. By devoting time to creating useful content during travel lulls, hotels will be set up to thrive when the market crawls upward. Here are some ways to improve marketing efforts during downtime:
- Record podcasts
- Craft webinars
- Prerecord messages for guests
- Write articles that answer guests’ questions
- Reach out specifically to your most loyal customers with value-add deals
Even if demand for hotels and conferences doesn’t come back right away, online content will keep future travelers engaged. When the economy turns back on, hoteliers who solidify an online base will hit the ground running.
Take Advantage of Increased Web Traffic
Many industries cratered in the face of COVID-19, but web traffic has actually spiked during the pandemic. Hoteliers can use this usage uptick to drive future demand.
Start by examining the hotel’s current online presence. Ask critical questions to find any holes:
- Is the info on our website current and updated?
- Is the hotel using search engine optimization (SEO) to reach all of our guests online?
- Are we putting out content that educates our potential guests?
- Is our online presence promoting trust and thought leadership?
By identifying weak spots now, hoteliers can fortify their online presence and meet people where they’re spending the majority of their time.
Use Marketing to Bring Back Conferences
COVID-19 may have squashed demand for in-person events, but people still crave conferences and other learning opportunities. It may just take new techniques to tap into that demand.
In order to keep the spotlight on conference business, partner with some well-attended past events at your hotel to create a conversation. Most large conferences will not floor in 2020, but 2021 is another year.
Here are some strategies to consider:
- Promote postponed events — In the current climate, hoteliers have a chance to create a buzz around events that were postponed or pushed back to later dates.
- Repurpose past conferences — Have helpful insights or expert advice from past conferences in the can? Use it to create blogs, articles, infographics or other content potential guests might enjoy.
- Move events online — Even if in-person attendance appears to be low, don’t be discouraged. Hotels can build a brand and pull in customers by promoting online conferences.
By building the hotel’s brand and promoting conferences now, hoteliers will rev up demand on two fronts. First, they’ll spark excitement for the event itself. Second, they’ll be building trust with those customers who aren’t quite ready to venture out just yet.
Track Results and Adjust for Higher Hotel Profit
With a little work, hoteliers can use sales and marketing techniques as kindling for future event flames. And if they want to see long-term gains, they will need to have a firm grasp on hotel benchmarking data.
By coupling a data-driven hotel performance strategy with a well-oiled marketing machine, hoteliers can kick their efforts into hyperdrive, boost demand and secure a stronger financial position than ever.