Hotel digital marketing is particularly complex. From the hotel property to the corporate office, knowing where to focus your digital marketing efforts can make or break your success. We believe that the best way for new digital marketers to learn the ropes is to hear from hospitality marketing veterans who have “been there, done that” and know the ins and outs of hotel digital marketing.

Read this article to learn:

✔ Why detailed analysis is critical to success in digital marketing
✔ Common content management challenges faced by hotels and chains
✔ Best practices for managing hotel content on your most relevant channels

Michaela PapenhoffMichaela Papenhoff | LinkedIn
Managing Director
h2c GmbH

Michaela Papenhoff has been in the hospitality industry for over 25 years and currently runs a professional services company serving independent hotel chains and hotel properties called h2c, which she founded in 2001. Here’s what she has to say about how to find success in hotel digital marketing today.

John McAuliffe: If I were new to hotel digital marketing today, what would you recommend I focus on to be successful?

Michaela: That’s a very broad question that we could discuss for hours. It depends on whether you’re working at an independent property or a hotel chain – they’re very different.

John McAuliffe: Say I’m working at an independent property. Where would you recommend I start?

Michaela: We’ve done several studies with independent properties at h2c and we consistently find that their websites and internet booking engines are not preforming well in terms of conversion, on both desktop and mobile. That’s something I would tackle first.

John McAuliffe: Ok, what would my first step be?

Michaela: Always start with analytics. Your website analytics tool and your booking engine analytics will provide you with the information that you need in order to understand: Is my website performing? How good is it in terms of usability, information, revenue conversion and so on? Is my website responsive? Is it easy to use? Is it fast enough?

Once you’ve looked at the analytics and have your action points generated, then you can go ahead hire a developer or agency to build your website. I need to emphasize that before you start this process, you need to do your analysis. We see it done the other way around too often.

Once you’ve looked at the analytics and have your action points generated, then you can go ahead hire a developer or agency to build your website.

John McAuliffe: Is there anything else I should analyze before taking action to improve the hotel’s web presence?

Michaela: Yes, absolutely. Use a tool to look at the online reputation and look at the social media. How healthy are they? How could they be improved?

John McAuliffe: Going back to website conversion, is there an ideal conversion rate for a hotel website?

Michaela: Website conversion rates differ depending on the market, region, specific location and property type. It helps to benchmark your conversion rates with your competitive set (if it exists). Talk to your OTA market managers, they have access to data that can really help you understand of the dynamics of your market. This is one reason I always advise clients to treat the OTAs as partners, not enemies.

John McAuliffe: Can you share any tips on how to measure performance?

Michaela: Yes, here are a few to consider:

  • Always define your website KPIs so you have criteria to measure performance against.
  • Analyze your website reporting based on your pre-defined KPIs regularly.
  • Use heat maps to understand how to improve your website’s usability and where to position your booking link.
  • Remember, ease of use is always more important than sophisticated features!

John McAuliffe: What if I were working at a hotel chain? What would I want to focus on there?

Michaela: We see a lot of corporate offices, particularly small to mid-sized hotel chains, struggle with content strategy today. They’re not really organized in terms of content strategy for the corporate website and all of the distribution channels they’re using. By content, I’m referring to visual and textual content.

One of the common reasons for this is that there’s no department that is fully responsible for content management. Sometimes it’s being managed by the marketing department, sometimes sales, sometimes revenue managers and even the reservation manager. This is a major issue because content is so influential.

John McAuliffe: What could a small to mid-size hotel chain do to improve the way they manage their content?

Michaela: In working with chains, we often find that they’re only managing content on three or four of their most important distribution channels, while the others are being left behind. We suggest that they focus on managing their content on the most relevant channels for them, beyond the three or four major channels that bring them revenue, ideally 10 or 12.

Trying to manage content on more than 50 channels is a waste of time, mostly because there’s really no central database for managing content on all of the distribution channels. If you manage content on 10 different OTA extranets (depending on how many room types you have) you could have more than 4,000 – 5,000 different fields that need to be updated. That’s something that hotel chains simply don’t do. Neither do independent properties for that matter. It’s a lot of work, it’s time consuming and there isn’t a technology solution that does it for you. At h2c, we’re currently building an easy-to-use static content management tool called CONTtest. It’s a single database for managing all third party content distribution, including OTA, meta search and review sites.

Trying to manage content on more than 50 channels is a waste of time.

John McAuliffe: Technology seems to be a common theme here. How important is technology to success in digital marketing?

Michaela: Individual properties rely on the technology that is available to them from industry vendors, which can have its challenges and limitations. Meanwhile, chains have the freedom and budgets to build their own technology and tools, but doing so takes a lot of time and effort – it’s just not fast enough.

What success really comes down to is how technology serves the marketing strategy. Bringing technology and marketing strategy together has always been a challenge in our industry, although in different ways for individual properties and hotel chains.

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