Digital marketing checklist for new hotel openings

Digital marketing checklistWhen building a new hotel, everyone is focused on the moving pieces of development in line so opening can happen as soon as possible. Just before opening, a shift occurs and there is a focus on sales, revenue management and, sometimes digital marketing.

Owners or senior managers overseeing this process are likely wearing multiple hats. If you start thinking about the digital marketing for a new hotel sooner, the typical panic heads-in-bed mentality can be less stressful.

1 year prior to opening: foundation

  • Buy your preferred domain. Develop a basic 1-page site until your full site or brand site is live.
  • Determine opening budget. Be sure to include a comprehensive photo shoot with a drone or video component, NAPW (Name, Address, Phone, Website) consistency and heavy paid marketing for the first few months.
  • Create a fact sheet.  The sales team will need a doc with renderings, amenities and proximity to local demand generators.
  • Pencil in a photographer. For more photo shoot considerations, visit these hotel photography guidelines.
  • Choose best partners.  For an independent hotel, ensure there is proper alignment between your PMS, Booking Engine, Channel Manager, Website and CRM.
  • Develop voice for your brand.  Include target audience, offerings against competitors and goals for digital marketing.

6 months prior to opening: website

Hopefully, your website is live or being built and these points are considered.

  • Define your value proposition. Consider what is unique to your hotel and location against the comp set.
  • Find niche keywords for your on-site search engine optimization.  Each page should be dedicated to different keywords.  Align meta descriptions with value propositions and integrate your keywords into on-page content and header/alt tags.
  • Write extensive content.
  • Have a working phone number. You should have your local number, but likely no front desk, so set this up to forward to your corporate office or someone’s cell phone.
  • Create a social media presence.  Start small with Facebook then expand later.

3 months prior to opening: rates

  • Ensure rates are live.  Rate strategy should be built and rates should be selling on your website. Do a few test bookings and check tracking.
  • Audit your content and imagery on the larger OTAs. Start with Expedia and Booking.com. This OTA checklist will get you started.
  • Build at least 1 local package. Here is a methodology on hotel package creation.
  • Activate local listings. TripAdvisor and Cvent are 2 top sites.
  • Check GDS strategy.  Ensure major Global Distribution channels are live and pushing AAA at a minimum.

2 weeks prior to opening: exposure

  • Write a press release.
  • Execute online partnerships.  Your sales team should extend their existing partnerships into the online space to help with off-site SEO.
  • Tweak your paid marketing budget. Ensure partners know the strategy and offers they are promoting.

Day of opening: testing and local

  • Ensure working phone number.
  • Do test reservations.
  • Distribute your press release. Also send to your CVB and chamber.
  • Communicate opening on social media.
  • Claim local listings.  This includes Google My Business, Yelp, Bing and Apple. There is usually a phone verification involved.

2 weeks post opening: paid marketing, GPS and photo shoot

  • Turn on paid marketing. Considerations are Google Adwords, MetaSearch, Groupon/Flash Sales, Social Media, Waze, Eblasts, Travel Ads, Retargeting, Banner Ads.  If you want cost effective exposure via Facebook, check out this article about how to run Facebook ads for hotels.
  • Submit the new location to maps sources.  With new builds, sometimes GPS devices don’t recognize road extensions or that a building physically exists.
  • Prep for photo shoot.
  • Gain access to all review channels.  Make sure someone has access to respond to all reviews on TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, Expedia, Booking.com and Yelp.

90 days post opening: clean up

  • Distribute new imagery to all channels.  Ensure consistent image story telling on your website, OTAs, local listings and social media.
  • Listen to front desk for guest complaints.  Cross reference sites to make sure amenities and directions are not vague or misstated.
  • Check analytics and reporting.  Here are the top 10 digital marketing KPIs for hotels.
  • Plan for Grand Opening Party.

If you align your digital marketing plan with sales and revenue management goals early in the process, a new hotel’s online presence will be stronger. Do not wait until the hotel opens to plan; it is already too late. The alignment of strategies will also prevent an over dependency of  OTAs and better profit margin.

About the authors

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If you want to ensure a consistent story is being told across all channels, the best story is told via your own website.  For assistance in executing on this timeline for branded or independent hotels, contact Cogwheel Marketing for your hotel digital marketing needs.

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