A billboard on the side of the highway is no longer the best way to attract guests to a hotel. Technology—especially social media—has created new opportunities for hotel marketing professionals to connect with group, business and leisure travelers alike. Here are 20 tips from hospitality marketing professionals to remember.

1. Have a Plan

A marketing plan should be part of the hotel’s annual business plan and be its guide for the following year, said Brittney Jones, VP of sales and marketing at Raines. “The marketing plan is not one to set and forget as it needs to be reviewed and tailored often to meet the changing demands of the market in order to stand out against your competition. Report your marketing plan performance on a monthly basis.” 

2. Know Your Needs 

Pat Weldon, area director of sales and marketing with TPG Hotels & Resorts and Marshall Hotels & Resorts, advised determining 10 upcoming need periods and identifying potential market segments to communicate special offers utilizing targeted marketing through all platforms.

3. Invest Early in Branding

Sam Trotter, digital experience and marketing at The Indigo Road Hospitality Group, said hotel businesses need “a living, breathing guidebook” that helps define “everything from the greeting at the front desk to the community involvement your hotel supports.”

4. Know Client Concerns

Cleanliness, safety and sustainability are top-of-mind for travelers, Weldon said. “Hotel marketing—including website, digital platforms and onsite information will need to incorporate and answer all of these client-generated needs and requirements as we push to differentiate ourselves from the competition.”

5. Take Advantage of Omnichannel Marketing

Maury Lundahl, VP of marketing for Extended Stay America, said the average consumer has 42 digital touchpoints before booking. “This means it’s imperative for marketers to activate truly multichannel campaigns,” she said. “In our experience, exposing guests to consistent messages at various points on the customer journey not only increases conversion, but also improves marketing spend efficiency.”

6. Focus on Organic Search

Hotels that prioritize SEO practices are going to have a significant advantage in being found online by potential guests, said Dustin Soper, Spire Hospitality's corporate social media manager. “It will drive more exposure to your website, allow you to spend fewer marketing dollars towards [pay-per-click] campaigns and produce higher quality leads.” 

7. Invest in Digital Media

“Your photos and videos will be used everywhere. Expedia, TripAdvisor, CVB, CVENT, ads, press, etc.,” Trotter said. “Tell your story. Use talent. You will absolutely get your [return on investment].” 

8. Take Lots of Photos

Jones advised taking professional photos several times per year, whether to capture the hotel in different seasons or updates made to guestrooms. “Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer to see the photos he or she is taking during the shoot.”

9. Use Video 

If content is king, Soper said video content is emperor. “Visual storytelling will dominate, as hotels can share videos across social networks through their website and email marketing,” he said. “Google is soon to incorporate video advertising in their search results, and this has great potential for paid advertisers. Once this happens, video is sure to drive hotel advertising.” 

10. Adjust Tactics to the Target

“Your tactics should be defined by channel, including website and SEO, social media, guest loyalty, reputation management, collateral, trade shows and events and [public relations],” Jones said.

11. Have a Vanity Site

Do your research on vanity site partners before selecting one, Jones said. “Research the vendor’s portfolio. Do they provide analytics monthly or have a dashboard you can access? Who is responsible for making website edits? Do they allow a website refresh after a year or two?” Vanity sites can also help build a database for customer outreach, Jones noted.

12. Connect in Real Life

Larissa Straily, director of sales at the Hilton Garden Inn Bend & Hampton Inn Bend, Ore., advises attending networking events, being a member of the Chamber of Commerce and actively visiting clients to stay top of mind. “Be a community partner and build local partnerships,” she said. “As you build relationships in your market you will be able to better align your brand/company with businesses in the community.” 

13. Work with the Local Community

Jones advised partnering with local businesses the community. “Local relationships can be used in many unique ways to enhance the guest experience and drive direct bookings,” she said. For example, have a list at the front desk or as collateral in the rooms of local restaurants that will offer discounts to guests. 

14. Find New Customer Markets 

Lundahl noted the growth of “digital nomads”—people who work remotely while they travel. “Making a connection with digital nomads can result in bookings at multiple locations over a longer span of time, especially if they are loyal guests who will look to book their next stay at your brand first,” she said.

15. Leverage OTAs

Working with online travel agencies is key to building occupancy at most hotels, Soper said. “Expedia garners 50 million visitors monthly,” he noted, adding that while “almost all” hotels will see some benefit from promoting on major OTAs, this needs to be used strategically and through high visibility.

16. Hold on to Classic Methods…

Jones said that email marketing is still one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing—and typically produces the highest return on investment.

17. ... But Let Obsolete Ones Go

Weldon noted that corporate clients do not want printed materials. “Access to the same information at a moment’s notice will continue to be the norm,” she said. “Barcodes linking your clients to you is a trend we will continue to see.” 

18. Work With Influencers

“Influencers are being used now more than ever to promote brands because they work,” Straily said. “They come with a following of people who trust them and buy into what they are doing/selling.” 

19. Keep Up on Data Trends

With third-party cookies becoming obsolete, Lundahl said marketing professionals need to have a strong first-party data strategy in place to better understand online buyer behavior. “By collecting data firsthand, we will be able to continue to analyze how our guests interact with us.” 

20. Keep an Eye on Your Online Reputation

Online reviews build traveler trust, Jones noted. “Happy guests leave good reviews and those reviews will drive other guests, and ultimately revenue to your property.” Good reviews can be promoted on social media or vanity sites. “It is also important to respond to reviews, good or bad, as guests like to see you are engaged.”