Love it or hate it, you know that marketing is an integral part of your business. From building brand awareness to increasing sales, marketing plays a key role in business growth. No matter the quality of service you offer, or how unique your hotel experience is, without a solid boutique hotel marketing strategy potential guests won’t know to consider you.
Marketing is broad term, encompassing everything from public relations and traditional advertising to your boutique hotel website and the seemingly endless number of social media channels. When creating your boutique hotel marketing strategy, you need to consider which avenues present the greatest opportunities for your business, as well as return on investment, customer reach and several other key factors.
Ultimately, the right boutique hotel marketing strategy will align with greater business goals while increasing brand awareness with your target audience and strengthening brand affinity with existing clientele.
But where to start? Well, let’s begin!
Key Components of a Boutique Hotel Marketing Strategy
Our guide to developing a boutique hotel marketing strategy breaks down the process into four key steps:
But not before making an important distinction.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan
The terms marketing strategy and marketing plan are used interchangeably in everyday culture and even some marketing teams, yet there is a key difference – and it is a distinction worth noting.
- A marketing strategy details the goals you want to achieve through your marketing efforts. Your boutique hotel marketing strategy is driven by the overall goals of your business and includes a critical analysis of several key factors.
- A marketing plan is an in-depth road map, outlining the steps necessary to achieve the marketing goals outlined in your strategy. Your boutique hotel marketing plan is your strategy in action, a schedule of the specific, purposeful actions you will take to meet your goals.
Why highlight this distinction? Often, businesses rush to decide on and execute the “how”, all set to build out their marketing plan, without properly defining or clearly understanding the “what” and “why”. However, skipping the strategy can be costly in both time and money.
Without a thorough understanding of the motivation behind your marketing efforts, or the goals you set to achieve, there’s no direction or reasoning to support your actions. Sure, your efforts might drive success, but it’s not reason to start an Instagram account simply because ‘everyone else is’.
Understand Your Audience
What do you hope to achieve through your boutique hotel marketing strategy? What do you understand the aim of marketing to be? Peter Drucker, considered the father of modern business management, explains;
“The aim of marketing is to understand your customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
The purpose of marketing is to engage your target market and facilitate their buyer journey; educating prospects, helping them make decisions, and presenting specific, easy and low-risk calls to action that move them further through the funnel.
In both the aim and purpose, the key here is that it all comes back to the customer. Before you can successfully market to your target audience, you need to understand the audience itself. Understanding your customers identifies who to market to and what you hope to achieve through your marketing efforts. You do this by researching and defining:
- Buyer personas
- Customer goals
From understanding the needs and wants of your clients, to providing insight on how to segment and target your marketing, there are numerous benefits to developing detailed buyer personas, and the numbers speak for themselves. A case study conducted by MarketingSherpa demonstrated that by using buyer personas to tailor customised website experiences for their users, one company saw:
- 46% increase in conversions
- 171% increase in marketing-generated revenue
- 900% increase in the duration of website visits
- 100% increase in the number of pages visited
- 111% increase in the open rate of emails
To create your customer buyer personas, you’ll need to collect both quantitative and qualitative data.
- Quantitative data can be measured and defined. It’s the numbers that not only tell you the demographics of your target audience, such as their age or average income, but also their behaviour and buying patterns, including where in the sales funnel they abandon or convert. Collect this type of data through your booking process, Google Analytics, social media channels and quantified ratings, such as those on TripAdvisor.
- Qualitative data is descriptive in nature. Among other benefits, it can give you insight into customer’s wants and expectations and the language they use to describe the value of your services – a huge bonus when writing ad copy! Collect this type of data through conversations with guest-facing staff, your hotel guest book, social media channels, surveys and text-based reviews.
When creating your buyer personas:
- Devise a list of questions that will be answered either directly by your guests, through conversations or surveys, or indirectly via internal processes, such as research and data analysis.
- There are many questions you can ask but, ultimately, you want to understand your guests and their motivations.
- After collecting your responses, look for patterns and similarities. Can you identify common behaviours or characteristics within the data? These commonalities will form the basis of your personas.
- Condense your information to create persona profiles.
An important consideration is to collect your data before creating your customer personas. If you create your personas first, you’ll make assumptions about your audience and then analyse the data to fit these preconceived identities.
Since the purpose of creating the personas is to better understand your audience, you don’t want biases clouding your findings.
While understanding who your customers are is an important step in creating your boutique hotel marketing strategy, it is only part of the equation. To optimise your messaging and effectively engage potential guests, you need to understand the intent of their behaviours and the goals they are trying to meet.
The head of an HR consultancy firm may be browsing your hotel’s website to find accommodation for an upcoming business trip, but what she really wants is a home-away-from-home, a seamless transition to all the creature comforts and modern technologies that allow her to carry on with business as though she never left the office.
Promoting your popular cocktail bar may not be of interest, but letting her know that high speed WiFi, printing facilities, or same-day professional laundry services are all complementary offerings demonstrates that you can meet the needs of travelling professionals.
The importance of understanding the goals or motivations that drive your guests was discussed at the Call to Action Conference. In her presentation Out With User Personas, Claire Suellentrop argued the importance of grouping customers based on their needs or “Jobs To Be Done” rather than lifestyle attributes, in order to create more relevant and higher converting marketing campaigns.
While the JTBD framework could fill a whole post itself, in its most basic sense jobs are considered the struggles customers face to make progress on something and they are done when the customers have made the progress they desire. To understand and tailor your marketing to the jobs to be done for your audience, Suellentrop provided the following:
When [insert the event that triggers the struggle], help me [insert struggle here] so I can [insert the better life/’done’ outcome].
And note that ‘help me’ may be replaced with any number of alternatives (such as give me, free me, equip me, make the, take away). Using the example of our head of HR from above, a JTBD statement might look as follows:
When I am travelling for business, give me a fast turnaround on laundry so that I can look professional at meetings and be prepared when last minute business opportunities arise.
So, while I’m not suggesting to totally do away with personas, the JTBD framework demonstrates the importance of developing your understanding of HR Helen beyond her demographics.
Ask yourself, “Do I understand what the guests of my boutique hotel truly want from their visit?” Once you recognise the goals of your guests, you can ensure they align with the goals of your business. And customer-business goal alignment is a good indication that the services you are offering will meet the needs of your target market.
Conduct a Business Analysis
Now that you understand your current and potential customers, you may be tempted to jump straight into setting your marketing goals. However, the next step in your boutique hotel marketing strategy is to understand your business, the unique value it offers clients, and the success of your previous marketing actions. This can be achieved through:
- Conducting a SWOT analysis
- Defining your unique value proposition
- Evaluating your marketing efforts
A SWOT analysis evaluates both your business and the market, and is a useful tool for developing awareness of your market position, and informing your marketing strategy. Conduct an honest assessment of the internal identifiers, strengths and weaknesses, and external factors, opportunities and threats, relating to your business. Example items in a SWOT analysis of a boutique hotel may include:
- Strengths: Favourable location, exceptional staff, consistent nightly bookings
- Weaknesses: Lack of an online presence, small marketing budget, underdeveloped relationships with tourism operators
- Opportunities: Growth in local tourism, innovation in customer services, development within the local area
- Threats: Nearby hotels, volatile economic climate, online travel agencies
When you have completed your analysis, look for ways to capitalise on opportunities that play to your strengths and how you can address weaknesses to deal with potential threats.
Unique Value Proposition
Unique value propositions are an often overlooked aspect of marketing, yet they are the cornerstone of your competitive advantage and an important conversion factor. Your value proposition:
- Communicates the value of your hotel; identifying guests’ goals and how you meet them
- Addresses the specific benefits guests can expect
- Identifies why guests should stay with you over the competition
To create your unique value proposition, you may want to first evaluate your competition to identify who your direct competitors are and what you do differently. Then, when it comes time to write your boutique hotel’s value proposition:
- List the specific benefits and value your hotel offers
- Differentiate yourself from your competitors and define your target market
- Use language that is clear and easy to understand
- Keep it focused and to the point
Once you’ve established your unique value proposition, feature it prominently in your hotel’s branding and messaging across all marketing channels.
The final step in analysing your business is evaluating your current marketing efforts and position, as this will prepare you to set your marketing goals.
“The key to setting achievable marketing goals is to spend time evaluating your current position.”
– Shanelle Mullin, Director of Marketing, Onboardly
Conduct an audit of your existing marketing to date. Analyse your marketing efforts by asking:
- Which channels or types of marketing have we used?
- How did we implement our plans within each channel?
- Were we consistent in our approach?
- Did we have a detailed plan to direct us?
- Were we following best practices?
- Where did we experience growth and success?
- How have we defined and measured this success?
- What data has been collected to indicate benchmarks were met?
- What business and marketing goals did our most successful marketing efforts meet?
- What customer needs did our most successful marketing efforts meet?
By evaluating what you have done in the past and, in particular, identifying key metrics, you have a solid foundation upon which you can now set challenging yet achievable marketing goals.
Define Your Goals
Once you’ve analysed your business and evaluated your current marketing efforts, your boutique hotel marketing strategy needs to define your marketing goals. Your goals should:
- Align with your greater business goals
- Be SMART
- Consider both short and long term objectives
These goals will define your marketing plan, provide guidance in selecting the best marketing methods and, once your plan is in full effect, act as an indicator to ensure your efforts are on target to bring about the broader goals of your business.
Marketing Goals Support Your Business Goals
Ultimately, your goal is to increase awareness of your boutique hotel and grow your business. To do so, you need to align your marketing and business goals, which requires a solid understanding of your business and some number crunching.
Start with your business goals and work backwards when creating your marketing goals:
- Calculate the revenue your marketing efforts need to generate.
- Identify the number of sales needed to build that revenue.
- Determine your site’s current conversion rate.
- Establish the site visits needed to meet your goal.
Example: You aim to increase hotel revenue to $725,000 for the next financial year. Your calendar shows that your current bookings for the next year will bring in 60% of this, so you need to generate the remaining $290,000 over the next 12 months. With an average sale of $400, you’ll need 725 more sales to reach your goal. If your hotel’s conversion rate aligns with the industry’s average of 2.25%, you’ll need 32,222 visitors to your site throughout the year to meet your goal.
Create SMART Marketing Goals
Nobody wants to set themselves up for failure and, particularly when resources and time might be scarce, you want to ensure your goals are achievable. Setting SMART goals positions you for success and clearly articulates what you want to accomplish through your marketing efforts.
- Specific: Include the marketing platform, numbers and deadlines.
- Measurable: Ensure you can track your goals against key metrics.
- Attainable: Create goals that are challenging but achievable.
- Realistic: Consider your limitations and any challenges you may face. If you’re a one-man marketing department who also runs front-of-house, maintaining accounts on three social media channels will be a challenge.
- Time-bound: Set deadlines to keep your efforts focused and on target.
Example: You want to communicate regularly with past and potential guests, but this in itself is not a SMART goal. “Collect 200 email addresses via the hotel newsletter subscription pop-up by the end of the year,” ticks all the SMART goal criteria, while the email marketing campaign keeps your hotel front-of-mind for previous guests and leads who sign up.
Consider Short and Long Term Objectives
Consider both short and long term objectives for your boutique hotel marketing strategy. This will focus your immediate efforts while putting actions in the context of achieving a bigger picture and ensuring you stay on track to reach long term goals. But don’t set an overwhelming number of goals that will stretch your efforts.
“The single most important thing to remember about marketing goals is to stay focused. Choose 1-2 core goals that impact the bottom line and 3-5 supporting goals. Anything more than that will distract you from what’s most important (as will changing goals too often).”
– Shanelle Mullin, Director of Marketing, Onboardly
Focus your efforts by setting goals with the final outcome in mind. By mapping the steps needed to achieve your ultimate goal, you can identify and prioritise the key actions required. This list of priorities will determine your immediate core and supporting goals, and keep you on track.
Be sure to schedule time to regularly review your progress, analysing key metrics to evaluate whether you are meeting your goals and if you are ready to set new targets.
Now that you have a solid understanding of your audience, your business and your marketing goals, you are ready to begin planning. But how do you decide where to invest your marketing efforts? Your analysis of customers should provide insight into popular channels within your target audience, but evaluating which channels will generate the most traction can be extremely beneficial.
Gabriel Weinberg, co-author of Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth discusses the Bullseye framework that will help you determine which channel will get you traction.
Essentially, it boils down to four steps:
- Identify your traction goal.
- Brainstorm any possible actions within each traction channel that could bring about success.
- Run cheap traction tests for each promising channel, in parallel, to determine the viability of the channel.
- Focus on your core channel until you’ve exhausted all tactics.
At this point, you will want to write up a creative brief to ensure you are passing on all relevant information in an easy to digest manner.
Start Writing Your Boutique Hotel Marketing Strategy Today
By following this process and conducting some thorough research and analysis, you can create a comprehensive boutique hotel marketing strategy that provides clear direction for your marketing actions, grounded in data and previous results. Remember that your strategy is a living, dynamic document and, as such, should be under continual review.
While this process is certainly no five-minute brainstorm, the benefit of creating a comprehensive strategy is that it brings together stakeholders from all aspects of your organisation and, through collaboration, helps align your team to ensure everyone is on the same page.