Inbound or Outbound – Which Marketing Strategy is Best?

The way we market hospitality brands, services and products has changed considerably in the last decade. This has been driven by a change in consumer behaviour, due to the development of internet technologies and how people use them. According to a report on the European Commission website, 87% of internet users in Britain made an online purchase in 2016 and these figures are growing year on year.

With the ever developing digital consumer, we look at whether hospitality companies should be transitioning from an Outbound to an Inbound Marketing strategy.

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Outbound Marketing

Commonly referred to as interruptive marketing, the outbound methodology is focused on actively seeking potential customers. The practice involves pushing a message out far and wide to broad audiences, grabbing the attention of anyone willing or forced to look.

Traditional advertising methods such as billboards, cold-calling, TV and radio ads are identified as Outbound. However, these are becoming less effective and less affordable, with mainly just large corporations paying for the diminishing results as part of a larger ‘top-of-mind’ brand awareness campaign. More affordable, modern, versions of outbound marketing exist, such as internet banner ads, pop-ups and cold-emailing. But, as with traditional advertising, these methods come at a price and they are also becoming less effective.

Technology is not only enabling these marketing methods, but it is also empowering the consumer to block and avoid these interruptive practices. Just as consumers are able to fast-forward adverts on recorded/on-demand TV, they are also using ‘ad blockers’ while browsing the internet. Consumers don’t want to be told what to buy or when to buy it. Instead, they want to research themselves (at a time that suits them) and make informed buying decisions. In-steps Inbound Marketing.

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Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing challenges traditional Outbound marketing techniques, by not fighting for the customers attention. Inbound is defined, by its originators Hubspot, as “an approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful”. The focus is on being found by your potential customer, not seeking them out to sell them a dinner for two at your restaurant or tickets to your event.

Inbound traditionally uses social publishing and SEO techniques to promote content, making it visible to the consumer when they are looking for it. This requires skills and resources to create, but unlike outbound, this is the end of your costs. Once you have created, optimised and published your content it continues working for you.

A contentious form of promotion in the world of inbound, is Pay-Per-Click advertising. At LeadDigital, we believe using AdWords to promote your content to the right people, at the right time, forms part of the inbound strategy. Promoting your content at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages enhances the visibility of the content and ensures you are seen above your competitors.

With Inbound, the onus is put on the content to engage your potential customer and answer any questions they may have when making their buying decision. This shouldn’t be a problem, because who knows your potential customers better than you do? You can create Buyer Personas to help you focus content around your potential customer. These personas describe your ideal customer and detail their typical challenges and interests, which you can use to engage the reader.

What content should you be looking to create? Here are some content examples that are applicable to hospitality businesses;

Blog Posts

Market your brand in new and interesting ways. Share the latest developments and provide a relatable character to your business.

FAQs

Answer questions that potential customers may have and point them in the direction of further relevant information and how to purchase your product.

Reviews

Develop trust and turn your existing customers into promoters.

Menus

Potential customers will want to see the options before booking a table at your restaurant or bar.

Checklists

For all they need to make the most of their visit.

Guides

To the surrounding area of your venue or of the different room options at your resort.

Images and Videos

Visual representations showing your products and services.

Infographics

Show the history of your business through an infographic.

Conclusion

In years gone by, print, TV and attention-grabbing online advertising were the cutting-edge and most effective way businesses could influence potential customers. But, with the development of technology, consumer behaviour has changed and the Outbound method of actively searching for potential buyers is becoming ineffective and inefficient. Why try to buy your way in front of consumers, when they aren’t paying attention?

Today, a large proportion of consumers are purchasing through internet connected technologies. They are also using the internet to make informed buying decisions, researching articles online and seeking reviews from their peers before making purchases. Inbound Marketing is the answer to the evolving consumer behaviours and your answer to attracting new bookings and sales for your hospitality business. Better still, it’s cheaper than outbound marketing and is based on tapping into knowledge resources that likely already exists within your company.

 

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What Is Inbound Marketing?

Over the past 5 years the term “Inbound Marketing” has been rapidly growing in popularity.

The term Inbound Marketing is credited to being first coined by Hubspot’s co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan, during the company’s inception back in 2006. Hubspot are the developers of one of the leading content marketing platforms for business of all sizes – a platform we at LeadDigital are committed to using ourselves and one we know to be beneficial to hospitality businesses such as event venues, bars, restaurants and hotels.

Inbound marketing describes the marketing strategy of attracting customers through digital content and interactions to your website. However, you may be more familiar associating this description with the term content marketing. You aren’t wrong! Content marketing is the process of attracting prospects to your website through a variety of content formats, like video, case studies, infographics, etc. However, inbound goes beyond this.

Arguably, content marketing has been incorporated as a part, or subset, of inbound. Content marketing only covers the initial stage of attracting potential customers within the inbound methodology as you can see from the graphic below.

Inbound-Methodology

Inbound Methodology

The above graphic represents Hubspot’s Inbound Methodology. It is made up of four actions, along the top (Attract, Convert, Close, Delight), which companies must take in order to obtain visitors, leads, customers and promoters. Along the bottom are the tools companies use to accomplish these actions. It is important to note these tools are listed under the action where they first come into play. Tools, like email, can play a big role in several stages of the inbound methodology.

The overall practice focuses on turning strangers into customers and customers into evangelists of your brand. Here is a quick summary of each stage of the inbound methodology, with reference to the above graphic;

Attract

Potential customers discover your hospitality brand through content such as blogs, videos and reviews via social media publishing and search engines. This content needs to aim at providing helpful information and answer questions. These are questions you know your potential customers will have when researching and booking a hotel, event venue, or table at your restaurant, for example.

This stage of the practice relies on a strong understanding of search engine optimisation and content creation skills. It also requires a good understanding of your customer base and an ability to pick out characteristics of your ideal customers. See more on how inbound can help your hospitality business increase sales.

Convert

Having successfully attracted potential customers to your site, this is where you make your website work for you. Using a combination of Call To Action buttons, Landing Pages and Forms, you capture the details of your potential customers, turning them into enquiries (leads).

Close

This is where having a good CRM (customer relationship management) system, that keeps a record of all customer interactions, really supports you in turning an enquiry into a customer. Email also plays an important role at this stage as a form of drip marketing, which nurtures your prospective guests and encourages them into becoming customers. An email marketing platform, like Hubspot’s or MailChimp, can automate much of this process while providing a customised experience (see point 5 in Why Your Hospitality Email Marketing isn’t Working!).

Delight

Continually using your CRM system to manage communications with existing customers. You can utilise email and initiate social monitoring to connect with your customer, provide excellent service and keep your brand top-of-mind. It is during this stage where delighting your customer also turns them into an evangelist of your hospitality brand.

Conclusion

Inbound begins with the principles of content marketing and utilises other tools and disciplines, which you may already be familiar with, to generate qualified leads, increase sales and convert customers into promoters.

We at LeadDigital work with hospitality businesses to establish and manage inbound marketing strategies, which deliver high quality enquiries and increase bookings.

If you’d like to attract more guests to your website and increase the volume of repeat business, then click below!

 

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Do You Need a Bigger Agency?

Large agencies have fancy offices, more resources, big name clients and shiny awards on their walls. Game over, right?

size

 

“Does size really matter?”

Not so surprisingly as a boutique agency we tend to take offence to suggestions we can’t play in the big sand pit. So we put together the top 5 reasons we believe size really does matter.

1. Communication

The number one reason marketing agencies lose clients, isn’t lack of talent or even poor execution, it’s ironically, as a result of poor communication. Lack of progress reporting, excessive technical jargon, erratic schedules, and unclear results all combine to create divisions in the client / agency relationship. Trust is gradually eroded until the end is all but inevitable.

Smaller agencies necessitate flat management structures. A system of management which allows for much greater transparency. Information is shared far more freely between team members working across a client account as well as between both businesses.

This is in stark contrast to larger firms where layers of management and departmental boundaries often create information silos.

“Departmental boundaries often create information silos.”

2. Specialists

Small agencies are able to become specialists in a chosen field. This can be a marketing discipline such as SEO or design, or within an industry vertical, like Hospitality or Retail. This specialisation allows them to often out-skill their much larger rivals.

Larger firms have to support a much larger overhead, which forces them to become what’s referred to as “full service” agencies. They rarely focus on individual sectors or channels, needing to aim instead at larger national or multi national clients. Perhaps the expression “jack of all trades” exists for a reason after all.

“Small agencies can specialise!”

3. Accountability

When you work with a small agency, it’s extremely likely the person who presented you with the proposal, will be working on your account. This level of personalisation brings with it a different level of honesty and ultimate accountability.

A larger firm is likely to employ dedicated sales teams and account managers. Their jobs are selling and not necessarily linked to delivery. Depending on the compensation schemes utilised, it’s not surprising over promising is common place.

“Over promising is common place.”

4. Agility

Smaller agencies are able to anticipate and adapt quickly to changes in an incredibly fast paced industry. Larger agencies need to deal with the management and bureaucracy before hiring or training in a new discipline can even begin.

Small firms share ideas much more easily. This isn’t something limited to the world of agencies. Large hospitality brands are rarely labelled as agile or innovative. A 10-20 person team can all fit in a single room share new ideas and have a decision made in a matter of minutes. A multi-tiered organisation with departments competing for glory, reporting to a board of directors is a whole different story.

“Large firms are rarely labelled agile”

The days of doggedly following 5 year plans are over. Hospitality business, perhaps more than any other industry needs to embrace change as a way of life. Choosing a partner with similar capabilities is critical to success over the long term.

5. Customer Service

Last, but certainly not least. Small agencies care more! There are two main reasons why. Firstly, the owner is most likely engaged directly with your account. When was the last time you had a poor customer experience and blamed it on too much owner involvement? The second and perhaps most obvious reason, you mean more to them. The value of your account will represent a far larger percentage of their overall business than it would at a larger firm.

“When was the last time you had a poor customer experience and blamed it on too much owner involvement?”

Now thats not to say there aren’t trade offs. Larger firms can provide 24/7 call centres and layers of management through which issues can be escalated. And they’re far more likely to offer SLAs and detailed contracts with terms of service delivery. It’s a case of deciding which you value most.


Obviously we accept there’s a place for large agencies. Primarily working alongside businesses that share their working philosophy. If you’ve read this far, then we’re guessing that doesn’t fit your way of thinking!

We’re proud to say that LeadDigital is an agile boutique marketing agency that specialises in the hospitality industry. Our most amazing work has come from relationships with brands where owners are deeply engaged in the projects we’re working on. If that sounds like you then click below!

 

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How to Increase Sales with Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing has become one of the most effective marketing methods for generating business online. It is becoming the go to hospitality marketing strategy – helping luxury hotels, restaurants and event companies to generate new bookings and sales, across the UK.

This article looks at the initial stage of the inbound hospitality marketing methodology of attracting potential customers to your website.

So, how can inbound marketing help your hospitality business increase sales?

Firstly, let’s establish what inbound marketing is.

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What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound is all about producing content that your prospective customers find interesting and helpful. It is a method of attracting your potential customers to your website and raising awareness of your brand and service offerings. This is what is known as a “non-intrusive” marketing method, achieved through content channels such as;

  • Blogs
  • Social Media
  • Landing Pages
  • Videos
  • E-Newsletters and more…

These all contribute towards your inbound marketing strategy for attracting customers to your service or product. This content, created with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) fundamentals at it’s foundation, focuses on answering questions you know your potential customers may be searching the internet for, before making a buying decision.

Aiming your content towards answering specific customer queries with relevant and optimised information will generate a high ranking on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This in turn, will drive interaction from your target audience with your website. Which, if set up correctly, will work for you – converting your visitors into customers.

Not only is this a highly effective method for generating new bookings and sales, but it is also extremely cost-effective in comparison to other marketing methods such as paid advertising. With both inbound and paid advertising, you pay for the time and resources to create your content. But with paid advertising, you also pay to appear above the natural, search engine optimised, results. Once you stop paying, you stop appearing.

With inbound marketing, the content you create keeps working for you long after the initial cost of the resources it took to create it. If your potential customers keep searching for the relevant terms covered by your content and your website proves to be the destination for their search queries, you’ll keep appearing atop the results pages.

How does it work for Hospitality Businesses?

More and more hospitality companies are buying into the inbound marketing methodology, creating content to attract more qualified visitors and drive more direct bookings and sales from their websites. Here are the first steps in attracting the right visitors (potential customers) to your website and making them aware of your brand and service offering:

1. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Optimise your website so that Google and other Search Engines can easily understand what your website is about (known as indexing). You can achieve this by ensuring relevant keywords (industry terminology) for your service, page titles and user-friendly URLs are used throughout your site. The result will be a higher ranking on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), making you more visible to your potential customers when they are looking for the answers you’re providing.

2. Blogging

While you may be limited to a number of pages, based on the number of services or products you provide, blogs allow for infinite content creation on anything and everything. Create content on subjects you know are of interest to potential customers, based on experience with existing and past customers. Giving them insight and helpful information will influence the buying decision when the time is right.

Example:

If you run a restaurant or hotel – creating content covering the best things to do in the area your business is situated in, may attract an audience researching what to do when visiting that area. This transforms what was a stranger, to your business, into a visitor and will raise the awareness of your brand and services.

Regular and frequent blog posts also show that the site is active and “fresh”, which has a positive impact on Google rankings, according to Moz.

3. Social Media Publishing

While creating optimised, keyword rich content is a great start, it isn’t enough on it’s own. You need to be actively promoting content and reaching your customers in the world they inhabit on a daily basis, the land of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Having a consistent social media presence, and including the right hashtags, can keep you in the forefront of your potential customer’s mind. Plus, on social platforms the users have the opportunity to share articles of interest with their network, extending your reach even further.

No matter what life cycle stage your Luxury Events, Transportation, Bar, Hotel or Restaurant company is currently in, you will have looked at multiple marketing strategies for your business. Inbound is one of the most effective hospitality marketing methods for attracting more highly qualified visitors to your website, which leads to better conversion rates and ultimately more direct bookings and sales.

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5 Capabilities Your Next Hospitality Marketing Agency Must Possess

Marketing technology (Martech) is constantly evolving and the capabilities of Marketing Agencies must evolve as well if they are wanting to stay at the forefront of their industry. They need to be offering their clients the latest marketing services and executing successful and measurable digital marketing strategies in 2017 and beyond.

Does your marketing agency tick all the boxes when it comes to growing your hospitality business?

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Hospitality Marketing Agency Checklist – Data Analysis, Web Design, Marketing Automation, Content Marketing, SEO and SEM

Below are the top 5 marketing expertise, we believe, any hospitality marketing agency must possess to deliver successful marketing campaigns for their clients.

1. Data Analysis

Arguably the most important aspect of any marketing effort in 2017 and beyond is data analysis.

“Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed” Dan Zarrella

Data is everywhere and in everything we do! By now, you should be aware of data and how it can be captured in every digital interaction we make. With the ever growing importance and abundance of customer data (which is only going to increase further with the development of the Internet of Things), every marketing agency must have the capability, knowledge and passion to measure, analyse and interpret data.

Data enables you to;

  • Create more effective and targeted marketing campaigns
  • Create comprehensive customer personas
  • Improve marketing personalisation
  • Reduce bounce rates
  • Improve customer experience
  • Attract more and higher qualified leads
  • Increase customer retention

Ultimately, data is the driving force to increased revenues.

If your marketing agency doesn’t analyse data, how can they decipher what marketing initiatives are working for your resort, restaurant or events venue? If they don’t know what’s working, how can they develop strategies that achieve your marketing goals?

2. Web Design

While “web design” includes the aesthetic design of your website, there is a lot more to it than this. There are too many websites that look visually stunning, but don’t actually work.

Websites MUST work on a technical level, aligning to your business goals and supporting you in achieving them. Website design must include all the backend processes that enable your site to track and generate leads before converting them to customers. This includes but not limited to; data tracking, landing pages, forms, CTAs, and integrating payment processing and booking systems.

Without this capability, your web presence is just for show and is not working for you. If your website isn’t working for you, it’s working against you, generating more demand on resources and if not optimised properly, wasting your resources. A good hospitality marketing agency knows how to deliver your visuals and make them work for you, converting visitors into customers.

3. Marketing Automation Tool Mastery

The marketing platform landscape is vast. Social media alone presents at least 5 major platforms for the Hospitality Industry (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and Pinterest) for posting and sharing content.

With the growing network of communication platforms, for various types of content, marketing automation tools such as Hubspot, Mailchimp, Buffer, Salesforce Pardot and Marketo have become a necessity. However, it is important you have an expert in these automation tools, that can guide you on best-practices and efficiency.

Automated emails, social media and content marketing campaigns deliver more and better qualified leads, culminating in more sales. Marketing automation tools allow for more marketing efforts to be achieved in less time, generating better ROI, let alone the opportunity for greater personalisation.

To get the best out of these tools, you need a marketing agency that has tried and tested the tools, learnt how to get the most out of them and only works with the best. They can either manage your in-house marketing team efforts or manage your automated marketing efforts for you.

4. Content Marketing

Content Marketing has evolved in the last decade, largely due to the development of data enabling it to be measurable, and become the foundation to any marketing strategy.

Nobody likes receiving unsolicited emails or advertising pop-ups that fight for your attention over what you’re actually looking for. These are the intrusive tactics of Outbound Marketing. Content Marketing on the other hand, is the foundation of the non-intrusive, Inbound Marketing methodology, first coined by Hubspot.

Inbound Marketing is the practice of creating content that is informative and useful for your target audience – Content that directly answers the questions you know your potential customers will be typing into search engines. By addressing their questions you will attract your potential customers (earlier in the buyer’s journey) directly to your website. It is from here that you use your landing pages as tools for converting visitors into customers.

For example, say you run a Hotel in London. Creating a piece of content on the ‘Top 10 Things to do in London’ answers questions your potential customers are researching before booking their trip. Clicking through to this content will subject them to your brand and you can use this opportunity to convert them from a stranger into a lead – Link them to why your hotel is the perfect choice for a trip to London or place a CTA (Call-To-Action) to the latest offers that are available.

Content has become one of the strongest methods for lead generation. Working with a marketing agency that understands Content Marketing and the Inbound methodology is incredibly important for the success of your marketing strategies moving forward.

5. SEO & SEM

Last but by no means least, Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing. To get your website, content and services in front of your existing and potential customers you need to get them ranking highly on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Search engines are constantly developing and becoming smarter with their algorithms frequently being updated. It requires an expert with their fingers on the pulse of Google and it’s competitors to keep you appearing at the top of the results pages.

A lot of businesses try to take this in-house, unaware of the skills, knowledge and resources it takes to be successful in this area. It is important to work with a marketing agency that lives and breathes SEO and SEM, advising and optimising your keyword strategies, to ensure you consistently rank highly.

Achieving higher rankings for your website content generates more traffic, which coupled with your content marketing strategy develops better qualified leads and more sales.

Summary

Proficiency in data analysis, marketing automation tools, website development, content marketing and SEO & SEM are the top requisites for your marketing success in 2017 and beyond.

Marketing agencies that boast these services are going to be the ones with the most successful marketing strategies for your hospitality venue. Be sure to review your current marketing agency and check that they offer you all of the above, or risk being surpassed by your competitors in partnerships with those that do.

 

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