9 tips to marketing your destination online – Guest post by Benjamin Powell of the Cha-ching Group

Images & Video are vital to Marketing your Tourism Business

Images & Video are vital to Marketing your Tourism Business

So, you’re a world weary traveller who has spent the best part of forever trotting the globe and you’ve lucked upon the most idyllic beach in all the world and lo and behold you have just acquired the lease on, what might possibly be the most beautiful little hotel that has ever graced God’s green earth (unless you’re in Florida and it might have a slight brown tinge to it..)

You have worked your fingers to the bone fixing the guttering here, a door hinge there and now you’re relaxing on your favourite chair looking at your hard work in all its resplendent glory, sipping an iced tea and feeling, well…. pretty bloody chuffed with yourself. Now to get some customers…..
You’ve built it, they should come right?
No.

You need to get the word out there and the most obvious and cost effective way is online, there are, as of 2009, 6,767,805,208 people on the internet… you only need a small percentage of them to know who and where you are, and once they see your little gem, they will come flocking!

So, where to start?

1. Build a site and work on your Search Engine Optimisation (S.E.O)

This of course is the most obvious step in the whole process, build a site or if your reading this you may not have the skills to build it yourself so, find a reputable designer in the area and have a chat.

A tip is to have a look at the websites of other hotels in the area, and it’s more likely than not you will find on the bottom of the page the designers contact details. It also helps you get a better idea of how your site could look. If you’re in Bangkok get in touch with www.chachinggroup.com (gratuitous self promotion there) and have a chat.

What you also need to do is think about your keywords. Keywords are one of the many things that Google looks for on your site when people type in search queries. What you want to do is have a think about the words that someone would use to describe your hotel and make sure that the information that you write on your site contains those keywords.

2. PPC and PPM ads

You may have noticed that when you search on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other pages ads come up at the top and on the right of the screen, the same type of ads are also visible as you browse Facebook. These are paid ads that you can purchase to help drive traffic to your site. They’re relatively inexpensive and are targeted towards keywords and demographics that you determine making them highly effective and a worthwhile investment on the whole.

3. Business Marketing via Affiliations

The hotel industry is characterized by the fact that there are literally hundreds of affiliate reservation sites you can list your hotel with. These sites take a small percentage of your booking fee for the promotion they provide your business. Its worth taking a little loss here as they’re working their butts off to market your services. Since you’re getting someone else to do all the hard work for you, it stands to reason they be compensated for it…

Affiliate sites have the added advantage of providing links back to your website, which helps improve your Google ranking, thus placing your website higher in Google’s search lists. Always a good thing.

An additional form of affiliation is with complementary businesses is in your local area. Think whether there are conference centers or large arenas nearby that host events. These can be a great resource for you as they normally attract large out of town crowds that may well need the accommodations you provide. Get on your local event center’s website, have a look at what is coming up, and get in touch with the organisers, you can offer a discount for any of their members or attendees coming to the event.

4. Promote Your Business with Quality Content

In the new online world, “Content is King”. This means you need to think long and hard about what your site is saying to people and how you’re interacting with them.

It’s not enough to say ,hey were a hotel and we have rooms, and we have room service, and we have a mini bar, and we have a shower and on and on. You need to give something to your audience that they won’t find anywhere else, think of something that your demographic is really interested in.

5. Images and Video are Vital to Effective Marketing in the Tourism Industry

Like the fashion industry, hotels have a relatively easy job when comes to providing enticing and alluring images, but that doesn’t mean you can get cocky! Maintaining a high-quality image policy on your site is absolutely essential for your site to appeal to your audience.

You need to show, with images at least, and ideally with videos as well, just how scenic your hotel is. You need to represent that escape that everyone sitting in their office wants. That photos have to convey the joy, relaxation, beauty and comfort that your hotel can give them. A couple of happy-snaps taken by your friend’s-cousin’s-nephew-twice-removed of a bed in a badly lit room, plus one of the pool, will simply not do. Get a professional to do it. Spend the money and get it done right.

If you have even just a little extra in the budget, the biggest recommendation I can offer is to enhance your site with video as well, long slow panning shots of your foyer, cutting to the barman making a cocktail and serving it to a happy smiling couple lazing by the pool on a sunny day, will go even further in capturing your clients’ imaginations.

Nothing can capture the true essence of a holiday like video can, and again spend the money and get it done properly.

10 gazillion hours of YouTube holiday videos can’t be wrong now can they?
People just seem to love those flickery moving images…

6. Manage Your Online Persona and Monitor Mentions of Your Business

You have a facebook page and you have people commenting on it and you’re not answering them…… not good at all.

Your brand has come online offering you the opportunity to have a conversation with your clientèle.

You need to talk to them, you need to represent your brand like you would a person. Think of your online marketing as having a conversation with your customers and potentials. Let the world know who your brand is and be sure to listen and respond to what people have to say or ask about it.

Remember that people are incessantly bombarded with cheesy marketing messages – you need to stand above the rest. The way to do this is to invest in your brand’s personality. The more you invest in explaining to people who you and your business are, the more likely it is that some of the audience will identify with you.

Oscar Wilde once wrote:

‘The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about’

A truer word has been penned.
Be aware of your brand name mentions. There are a host of free and paid tools available online that can assist you in tracking mentions of your brand name and the most crucial thing to do is react to those mentions.

Everyone enjoys reading praise, unfortunately you’re probably going to read some less enjoyable references as well. Negative postings regarding your hotel need to be dealt with carefully and patiently. Post apologies and offer to make amends. Don’t be argumentative or defensive. A lot of potential customers will be reading your response, so be nice…
Remember to thank people who give you praise, that sort of thing goes a very long way.
This is a list and review of some of those services you can use: http://mashable.com/2008/12/24/free-brand-monitoring-tools

7. Market and Advertise Where Your Potential Clients Hang Out

More and more people are spending a lot of their time reading about, and interacting with others who share their interests online. You need to find out where they are and direct some of your marketing efforts at them. Banners can do this quite effectively, especially if the banner is targeted. Don’t just slap your brand name up and hope for the best, target them. Be sure to include information relating to your audience in your ad, and not just to your offering.

Make sure the site you choose to spend your ad budget with has plenty of traffic. You don’t want to spend good marketing dollars on a forum that has two members who do little more then share pictures of Megan Fox in a bikini. Here too a little research on your part will go a long way to ensuring your money is well spent.

8. Market in Context to The Times

You may have noticed recently that there have been a few planes cancelled throughout Europe due to a pesky cloud that stopped a lot of air traffic, why not use this to your advantage?

Try to use events, both global and local, to create your own marketing advantages. For example:

‘In Jamaica the smoke will help you fly’

Note that a tongue-in-cheek  approach has to cater to your customers’ sense of humor. The line above would do well with the backpacker crowd, but probably less so with a more settled demographic.

It’s worth noting that government agencies often do sponsored promotions for inbound tourism. For example the Thai government is currently advertising in China, Hong Kong and Japan to promote to Thailand after the recent civil problems. This is a bandwagon you want to get in on. Promoting your hotel using the tax money you pay is not only great ROI, it also feels good too. Note that when advertising abroad you should consider translating your marketing materials (copy, banners, ads, etc.) into the local language. Just make sure you can trust the person who is doing the translation for you, you don’t want to have your slogan end up like some of these: http://www.everyjoe.com/articles/top-13-worst-slogan-translations

9. Be different and stand out!

Have a look at your competitors, see what they are doing and then do something else.

Are they all talking about how fluffy their pillows are?
Are they talking about how convenient the shopping is?
Do they boast the coolest pool in town?

That might be fine for them, but what’s different about you?

Make it funny!
Make it interesting!
Describe your hotel from the perspective of  the cat that roams the garden.
Let your customers describe their stays and use that.
Anything, just make it interesting!

Benjamin S Powell is the sales and marketing manager for the Cha-Ching Group – one of Bangkokg’s leading web agencies specializing in servicing Thailand’s booming Tourist Industry. He’s a Web marking enthusiast who blogs about Online Marketing and Advertising.

image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bmanolakos/3958897626