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Marketing for Boutique Hotels: Top Tips from Frances Kiradjian

In this interview, Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) founder and president Frances Kiradjian shares her thoughts on the digital marketing for boutique hotels today.


What benefits does the web bring for small hotels?

The web makes it easier for small hotels to be found – if they’re utilizing the tools available to the fullest extent possible. Learning the details of any technology you use is crucial to ensure you are taking full advantage of opportunities that exist.

For our association, we select technology based on what we find via research as well as what we find is the most effective for the marketplace; not only the highest quality technology, but also the best for our segment of hotels in particular. We look through hundreds of marketing materials, and have a pretty good idea of what’s out there and what our hotels need to focus on.

Owners and managers of small hotels must be diligent in keeping up with things like digital marketing and promotion and distribution.  The opportunities are there to attract the right customers–for business and leisure– to reach them directly, and encourage as many direct bookings as possible.

The web has definitely leveled the playing field, but there is a lot of work to be done. It’s not like we can just sit around – we have to work very hard. We still need to focus a bit on legacy channels, because they’re still there and providing revenue for hotels, but we really have to pay much more attention to online and digital channels now.

What are the competitive advantages small properties have, and how can they leverage these?

Service is an obvious competitive advantage for the category. Independent boutique & lifestyle hotels can stand out from other hotels if they constantly work to improve this. It’s about paying attention to what customers are saying, and making sure that you’re addressing suggestions they have suggested for improvement.

And not just making changes, but telling the world that you’re making changes. Communicate operational changes you make throughout your entire social media and online presence. Let your community know that you’re listening and that you’re taking action. Show examples of what you’ve done based on customer feedback; use images and video if possible.

Flexibility is a challenge in some big, branded hotel groups, but smaller hotels can have unique advantage in this area.

Owners must focus on creating an amazing property with unique design, upscale services and enhanced amenities, and staff that are trained in very high end customer service. That’s a prerequisite.

Then implement a technology-driven marketing program. The hospitality industry has been a bit slow in innovation, but that’s not acceptable any more. Your booking technology can make or break you. And the way you manage feedback from online reviews can make or break you if you’re not paying attention.

What are the biggest marketing challenges for small hotel owners/managers?

It’s  really knowing the full gamut of options that are available to them. That’s something that BLLA is doing. It’s really hard for a small property or a small brand to know all the marketing opportunities that are available, and finding something different that will get them noticed.

Hotels should also look at potential partners and alliances: they do not necessarily require a cash investment, but provide valuable marketing leverage.

Consistency can be a challenge with many owners and managers who run things sporadically. Consistency can be achieved by selecting the right technology that can do the work for you, so that you simply have to look at the reports. It’s the 80/20 rule. Pay attention to the top 20% – whether that’s clients, partners or something else.

Invest in technologies that can help you take advantage of opportunities effectively, efficiently, and at a very low cost.

Best practices for the social web for small hotels?

Pay attention to images. Use large ones and pay attention to quality.  Hiring the best photographer is a must and will pay off.  Images are the most important type of content you can publish, as a client can really dive into an image online, whether it’s on an iPad or iPhone or on a computer. You have to invest in producing the very best images to provide the ability to experience the property through the images, whether they are of the room or the bathroom or the restaurant or the area surrounding the hotel property.

Video is as important as images today. Create short videos that not only show off the property – everyone does that – but videos that share something unique. Tell the story of what’s going on in your property. This is one way to really stand out and be different. Tell more stories!

Look for ways to enhance your online footprint. Everyone is focused on Facebook and YouTube, but there are many other social media sites out there that deserve to be looked at, because there’s a ton of new potential clients lurking there. (Pinterest is an example of this.)

Finally, pay attention to keyword optimization. Review them consistently to make sure you’re getting the strongest returns as possible from your search engine marketing program.

In your experience, what role does social media monitoring and reputation management play in managing a small hotel?

Reputation management is foundational for small hotels building their online strategy. Social listening tools are crucial to be able to respond rapidly to both bad and good reviews.

It’s also a valuable sales channel. Staff can look at things like good reviews, and reach out to those guests and ask for referrals. I think a lot of people don’t think of doing that.

If someone’s really happy, they’re happy to refer their friends to you. If you can come up with a special promotion that is value-added, I’m sure that happy customer is going to be willing to pass that on as well.

Some “quick wins” to achieve the fastest ROI?

Focus on a few channels and put all of your effort into them. Don’t worry about everything else that’s surrounding you initially.

Make social media insights a part of your daily, weekly sales meetings. Many hotel managers are already doing this, picking out opportunities based on the leads they are getting from social channels. Make it a priority to do something with those opportunities.

[Photo credit: Jeda Villa Bali]

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The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association is the first and only association dedicated to uniting the world’s boutique and lifestyle properties. Created to be the unifying voice of this distinctive subset within the hospitality industry, its goal is to unite the world’s collection of boutique & lifestyle properties and the suppliers that sustain them, offering them the opportunity to successfully compete on a level playing field with major hotel companies, as well as market themselves to meet the ever-increasing demand from discerning boutique-seeking clients. For more information, visit: www.blla.org.

The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association and ReviewPro have partnered to offer reputation management services to hotels worldwide.

For more information about ReviewPro, request a demo now.