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Hospitality Marketing for the Small and the Brave

Anthony Tattum, MD, Big Cat Agency

Anthony Tattum, MD, Big Cat Agency.

by Anthony Tattum, MD, Big Cat Agency

As a small business marketing can slip down the priority list. With limited time and in increasingly competitive trading conditions it is difficult to know which marketing activity will deliver the biggest impact. This article will provide a practical guide to generating more sales, more bums-on-seats or heads-on-pillows; increase spend per head, visit frequency and improved customer experiences.

1. Do Your Research

The first thing to get right is your product. It is crucial that you speak with your customers and get their feedback about what they think about your business: food and service, beverage range, bedroom specification, branding, price point, decor and ambience. This may be painful at first but getting your product and service right is the basis of all future marketing activity.

As part of this customer research you should make it your business to find out which competitors your customers use and why, how they compare against your strengths and weaknesses; and what deals, offers and loyalty schemes they operate. This information should give you some further ideas for improvements of your offer. You could start this off by inviting 10 friendly regulars to spend an hour or two chatting with you in return for a free meal or a couple of drinks. This should provide a gentle introduction into customer research and focus groups. You should then follow this up with a trickier crowd. This critical feedback will enable you to make improvements and investment with confidence, and based on real data.

2. Update Your Branding & Website

Congratulations your product is now competitive or at the very least you’re on the journey from good to great. Next it’s time to look at the marketing foundations: branding and website. These can both be pretty big investments relatively speaking. However done right they always pay off. Refer to the competitor analysis conducted in your customer research. You don’t need to be the best in the UK just as good or better than your local competitors. A simple, professional, modern logo and colour palette can be translated into appealing signage, menus, screen ads and posters, emails, social media profiles, and a website.

Your website should be search engine friendly (we generally use WordPress as a platform for our clients websites), easy for visitors to navigate (make the most relevant bits of your business really easy to find) and updated regularly (with deals, offers, new menus, new hires, business improvements, comments and opinions, social media posts, relevant industry news).

3. Search Engine Marketing

A really effective (and free) way to promote your business is add your details to Google My Business. This is Google’s free business directory and is given a lot space on the search engine results page (SERP). Registering your business on local business and industry directories is a cheap and simple way to get backlinks, which is the single biggest ranking factor for Google. There are literally hundreds to go at and all help to inch your website up the SERPs.

Google (and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo) like websites that are regularly updated. As discussed above you should post your latest menus, freshly painted bedrooms, seasonal offers or weekly deal on your website. WordPress websites allow you to easily update your website content without you needing to pay a developer. Seasonal, monthly, or daily specials are perfect content for your site and can be nicely promoted via your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages. If you’re a bar or restaurant you can have different and compelling deals every day of the week; morning, noon and night. Continually updating content on your site is great for search engines but will also encourages your customers to visit and return to your site regularly and even share your offers with their friends.

4. Data Capture and Emails

You need to be a bit careful collecting customer data in light of the new GDPR data protection and privacy legislation but provided you are very clear about what the data will be used for, capture the minimum your reasonably need, keep the data very secure, and enable people to opt-out at any time you will be fine. Capturing name, email address and birthday should be all you need. Incentivise sign ups with monthly prizes, exclusive invitations and the promise to be the first to know about your exciting new developments. This should be an ongoing, forever project, endorsed by your staff and will result in a hugely profitable, long-term business asset.

We’d recommend at least a monthly newsletter email of 3-5 things. Most of these can be the deals, news, offers and updates discussed earlier. You can also promote your shiny new Instagram account or run competitions, encourage sharing through voucher codes, and track the results. We use Campaign Monitor as our email client, but MailChimp is also a great platform. These tools allow simple customisation of emails templates and send heaps of relevant traffic to your website.

5. Customer Reviews

Everyone reads reviews from previous customers before booking a restaurant or hotel room. This is a crucial tactic for independent hospitality businesses. Provided you’ve got your offer right of course, you should encourage and even incentivise your customers to give you reviews. The quality and frequency of reviews on sites from TripAdvisor to Google increase your businesses visibility on those search engines.

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