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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Should Instagram be part of your Hospitality Marketing Strategy?

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks today. But, should this social platform be part of your hotel, restaurant, bar or event venue’s marketing strategy?

Instagram was released in 2010 and bought by Facebook in April 2012 for $1bn, with just over 30 million users. The platform now has over 600 million users – 100 million of which came in the second half of 2016 alone! This is largely linked to the fact that the platform has put a huge emphasis on product development in the last six months.

As with the other social platforms, Instagram is growing and evolving constantly. In the last six months alone we have seen the introduction of Stories, Live Video Broadcasting and Shopping Tools integrated within sponsored posts.

Instagram Filter Coffee-958333-edited

What Instagram offers and how it benefits you

Promote your brand with an active, young audience

We’re talking Millennials. The Millennial generation is larger than its predecessors (Generation X and even the Baby Boomers) and is starting to move into its prime spending years. They are the tech generation that has grown up with the internet and the technologies it has conceived.

Being the first native digital generation, they are the most active demographic on Instagram and as such, make up the majority of the audience. Social media is the way Millennials are choosing to interact with the brands that they use and hashtags are the method of connecting through Instagram.

Hashtags and what they can do for you

Hashtags are terms that you link to your posts in Instagram, much like Twitter. These terms can then be searched for by anyone, who will be looking to see posts related to those terms.

We know that people are increasingly doing their research online before spending their hard earned cash. You need to recognise that the generation that has developed the hashtag is going to use it to help make their buying choices. They will search for terms like #LondonBar and #NewquayHotel on Instagram to get visual inspiration for places they may like to visit.

If they already know of your brand, they may search your company name directly and they will be looking for images and videos that will influence their buying decision. This is where previous posts will appear (if hashtagged correctly). With enticing visual content you can influence your potential customers that are considering booking a stay at your hotel or a table at your restaurant.

Hashtagging your images about the latest services your hotel, spa and resort offers can reach a new audience on Instagram too and create brand awareness. But, be aware that you need to post regularly as results are shown chronologically. Depending on the popularity of the term and competition, a post can shoot down the results pages beyond the point where the attention span of the user may find it.

FREE promotion from guests

If you provide a great service, your guests will want to share their experience at your hospitality venue with their followers. Social media platforms have become tools of vanity for many users, wanting to show they are making the most of their lives. They will share their highlights with all their friends and followers, adding hashtags and location information to their posts as appropriate.

In the world of the consumer, when better to do that than during your experience at a luxurious event, restaurant or hotel? This will generate free publicity for your hospitality business and give an authentic representation of your services that you can’t create operating as the brand yourselves.

Social Monitoring

As with all social networks, you will need to monitor Instagram for mentions of your brand, to ensure that posts are positive and to act on any negative feedback. Even if you receive negative posts, your quick response and the manner in which you deal with the complaint can turn it into a positive experience for your business.

Social monitoring is also another opportunity to interact with your potential customer base. Following the posts of existing customers and qualified leads can give you an insight into what matters to them.

Sponsored Posts (advertising in Instagram)

Instagram have been developing their advertising options since sponsored posts were launched at the tail end of 2013. The original launch was with retail brands, but it is a great platform for driving awareness of your hospitality services. With the recent development of Instagram’s shopping tools, it is now also capable of driving sales through your website.

Instagram provides a range of sponsored post options that appear in your target audience’s feed. From these sponsored posts they can then click through to “learn more” revealing the comments and a link to your website landing page, where you can convert them into a customer. Here are the options with some simple case examples for the hospitality industry;

  • Photo – A clean and simple professional still image showing your restaurant’s signature dish.
  • Video – Share a video up to 60 seconds promoting the experience of attending one of your luxury events.
  • Carousel – Create a group of images each representing the variety of rooms available at your hotel.
  • Stories – Similar to the video option that appears on the main feed, these videos appear within the Stories feed on instagram, showing seamlessly between the videos of the people and brands that the user already follows.

You can target the audience that your sponsored posts appear to based on;

  • Location
  • Demographics
  • Interests
  • Behaviours
  • Custom Audiences (Existing customers based on your linked database of emails)
  • Lookalike Audience (Potential Customers with identifiers similar to your database of existing customers)

With these targeting options you can be sure you are displaying your visual content to the right audience to achieve your hospitality marketing goals.

Conclusion

To answer the question should Instagram form part of your hospitality marketing strategy moving forward? Simply put, yes it should.

The platform is based on visual content, which play a huge part in the selling of hospitality services and venues online. Instagram is a social platform that is growing in terms of users and uses as a tool for promoting and selling your hospitality products and services.

If for no other reason, your potential customers are already using it to share their experiences with their friends and followers. These are some of the most qualified potential customers you can find for your business, so it is essential you have an active presence that also monitors and connects with these people in order to develop your overall marketing strategy and ultimately develop more sales. However, as with other social platforms, you need to approach it strategically and have the resources and tools dedicated to it in order to successfully use it.

 

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Is Salesforce Right For You?

Introducing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution into your hospitality business is a massive decision. If implemented correctly, it can create huge efficiencies within your hotel, restaurant, bar or event venue business. Not only from an employee perspective, but for the entire business. So, why choose Salesforce as your CRM provider?

Salesforce-Hospitality-CRM

Why Salesforce?

A Brief History of Salesforce

Salesforce were founded in 1999 and went public in 2004. They currently have over 4 million users and revenue last year was over $8billion. Salesforce is the most used CRM, worldwide.

Salesforce have been around for 18 years and in that time have built a reputation as the leading CRM system worldwide, catering for many restaurants, bars, event venues and hotels in that time. They have invested billions into the Salesforce brand, which allows them to push the boundaries of what a CRM can do. Their annual R&D budget is currently in excess of $150M.

Salesforce currently have over 10,000 employees worldwide. The Salesforce Success Community has 2.5 million members, who are part of an online portal where you can collaborate with partners, developers, product specialists and other customers.

The Salesforce family is growing on a daily basis.

The Infrastructure

Salesforce owns the servers that are used to power the CRM software. This means that they have control over a huge number of aspects involved with running a multi-billion dollar software package and why it is always Lightning fast.

Whether you are in New York, Japan or London, your Salesforce installation will be powered by servers closest to your location, delivering a truly global solution.

Utilising cloud infrastructure removes the need for onsite servers and administration, along with complex security implications associated with the running of virtual private networks (VPN).

The Ecosystem

The third party Salesforce ecosystem is powered by the AppExchange. It’s true that Salesforce can’t accommodate every single niche market perfectly, but you can bet that there is a Salesforce Partner who can.

Salesforce AppExchange makes it possible to find extensions to many aspects of Salesforce, from modifying the calendar to integrating with Mailchimp. Many major software companies have built integrations for Salesforce, which really shows off the power and flexibility of the ecosystem.

The open architecture of the Salesforce platform has allowed Salesforce Partners to create software that acts as a “connector”. This allows Salesforce to communicate with hundreds of other software platforms, from accounts packages and booking systems to email. A recommended solution is Workato (https://www.workato.com/). This allows for hundreds of software solutions to effectively talk to each other, not just Salesforce.

It’s perhaps this ecosystem of partners that provides salesforce with its main competitive advantage. Similar to what Apple has been able to do with the App Store, Salesforce has been able to capture the largest share of the CRM market by enabling it’s software to talk to the widest number of external systems. This not only increases the capability of the software, it future proofs your overall business systems by allowing for replacement or upgrade of various elements over time. E.g changing or upgrading your booking systems, accounting software, email marketing, ecommerce systems, etc etc.

The Mobility

Salesforce realised the growth in the mobile market, so developed their own mobile application, called Salesforce1, available on iOS and Android. It allows you to have the benefit of Salesforce, but on the go.

Salesforce1 is built using the Lightning platform, which was developed inhouse by Salesforce, using their own proprietary code. It has over 11,000 reviews on the Google Play App Store, with an average rating of 4/5. The Apple App Store has over 3,000 reviews, with an average 4.3/5.

This shows how Salesforce innovates and can use its dominant position in the market to be able to develop the core platform as well as the mobile variant simultaneously!

The Innovation

Salesforce is a premium CRM system. That premium enables extensive development of the software at no additional cost to your business. As a Salesforce client, you will receive three major updates a year, which includes a host of upgrades and improvements, new features and integration possibilities.

Salesforce were the first company to offer an iPhone CRM app, called Salesforce Touch, back in 2013. They also pioneered App marketplaces, with the AppExchange in 2005, in comparison, Apple’s App Store didn’t surface until 2008.

The speed of change within the digital landscape coupled with the central role your CRM system plays in all business operations means that stability and investment from your chosen vendor is secure. No other CRM system has invested or continues to invest at the scale in which Salesforce continues to do.

The Scalability

One of the great aspects of Salesforce for hospitality is that it’s suitable for businesses of all sizes. Not only will it support small hotels, bars, restaurants and venues, its already supporting complex hospitality businesses, such as Caesars Palace, Quintessentially and Opentable.

This provides great comfort, in the fact that, it is possible to grow Salesforce with your hospitality company and provide Lightning speed, no matter how many users or customer accounts you control.

With the Salesforce API (Application Programming Interface), there are hundreds of possible integrations, so no matter if you move to another accounting system or change your ecommerce systems, there will be a solution to integrate Salesforce within that ecosystem.

The Affordability

Salesforce can start as low as £20/month per user, which is perfect for small hospitality businesses and start-ups. You get access to many of the features mentioned here including the huge community and resources that Salesforce provide and three free upgrades a year.

If more users are required or you have a more complicated booking and sales process, Lighting Professional and Lighting Enterprise allow for more bespoke customisation and open up more features of the Salesforce platform. Prices for the upgrades range from £65 to £120 per user, per month.

The Support

Ongoing support with a system as critical as CRM is an important consideration. As more and more systems become integrated together, so the overall solution increases in complexity.

Although other CRM systems exist with similar core Salesforce integrations, no other solution offers the range of vendors to provide ongoing support and development.

Salesforce as a system is constantly growing and evolving, with new features added every year. Because of this, the solution will need ongoing support and development, so Salesforce have many Salesforce Partners, who can support and maintain any implementation at an additional cost.

To put the scale of their partner network into perspective, Salesforce host a yearly event, called Dreamforce. Dreamforce ’16 was attended by over 171,000 people, from 83 countries. Over 15 million people participated online, and for the first time, 125 viewing parties were hosted, globally.

Conclusion

The Salesforce platform will allow you to grow every part of your hospitality company within an integrated suite of business applications. Monitor and manage everything from bookings and sales leads to customer support, and from digital marketing to website analytics — all from any desktop or device.

 

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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.

Inbound1-Keyboard-Coffee-685431-edited

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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How to Hire an SEO Consultant

Google-SEO-Consultant

If you’re looking into bringing an SEO Consultancy Firm onboard, Google has released a video on what your checklist should look like. This 11.5 minute video with Google’s Maile Ohye (Developer Programs Tech Lead) explores the process of hiring an SEO consultancy firm.

Ohye covers what questions to ask, what to look for and some examples of red flag responses.

The process is outlined in the following steps:

  • Conduct a two-way interview with your potential SEO (Search Engine Optimiser).
  • Check that they seem genuinely interested in you and your business.
  • Check their references.
  • Ask for a technical and search audit.

 

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Here’s the video:

5 Ways to Improve your Customer Experience

Customer experience is everything. The way your customers feel, the interactions they have and their entire end-to-end journey with your brand define this experience.

This can refer to physical interactions (such as the cleanliness of your venue) and the non-physical (digital) interactions with your brand. We will be focussing on the latter of the two, looking at the Martech (Marketing Technology), which can support you in improving your customer’s experience.

How to improve hospitality customer experience

Customers demand a high level of personalisation, in every interaction with your brand. Employing a personal touch is what will place you above the competition. With the tools available today, there’s no reason you cannot also provide this level of personalisation on the digital front. Some platforms will even help your on-site staff, by personalising your customer’s experience even at your venues!

1. Website

Your website is likely to be the first real impression a customer has of your brand. It is therefore, essential to make a good first impression. Here are a few points to stick to with your website, to ensure an incredible customer experience;

Usability

Often referred to as UX or User Experience, it is critical that your website is well designed and easy to follow, for anyone visiting for the first time. It is essential to have clear and concise navigation that guides visitors through your site, to anything your potential customer could find valuable. This varies from information about your product/services, to pricing, or simply the booking process. It is also critical that your website is quick loading! In this world of immediacy, nobody stays on a website that slows them down.

Conversion Tool

A great website guides a visitor through a refined, thought-out conversion path. This may include making a booking, requesting more information, posting a recommendation or just finding out your location/opening times. While this sounds like the top requirement for you and your business goals, it’s also a requirement of your customer. Your website needs to make it easy for the visitor to do all of these things. Any friction, and they’ll leave your site and go to a competitor.

Aesthetics

Your website needs to make an impact visually, but also deliver an authentic representation of your venue and services. Hero images have become a great way to present beautiful imagery throughout your website and are likely to be the very first impression you make on your visitors. Make sure they are high-quality (not pixelated) and alluring. Photography is an art, be sure to use a professional.

Cross-platform friendliness

Today, people are visiting your website from a variety of platforms. According to StatCounter in a report towards the tail end of 2016, global mobile web browsing actually overtook desktop for the first time. Given this fact, It’s never been more important than now, to make sure your website is optimised for mobile devices. In-fact, you may even wish to consider a separate design that specifically caters to mobile visitors – rather than trying to make desktop content work on mobile.

Alluring visuals, backed up by a smooth user experience – quick, easy to use, with clear and concise navigation, are all critical elements for your website and the experience of your visitors, alongside the information you provide. Additional content based around visiting your venue will also solidify your expertise within the customer’s mind – for example; Hotels might offer local sightseeing information, or restaurants may provide information on local entertainment venues. It all shows that you care about your customer having the greatest experience possible.

2. CRM

CRM platforms are all about leveraging data made available to you, given by customers as they progress along their customer journey; from strangers to brand authorities & promoters of your services.

A Customer Relationship Management system can benefit your Hospitality company, both in terms of the physical and digital experiences of your customers. On the digital side of things, CRM’s can log every visitor interaction with your company, adding their details to a centralised database. This makes it easy for your team to then personalise communications with potential customers!

However, a great CRM can also take it one step further, providing all this information to staff at your hotel or restaurant, for example, ahead of your customer’s visit. This enables a unique & personalised service that takes into account any requests and requirements, well ahead of time. Think about it this way, if you were to return to a hotel you had previously stayed at, wouldn’t you prefer to to be greeted with “welcome back” rather than the question “have you stayed with us before?”. It is this level of detail that can make a huge difference in your customer’s experience, by making them feel special in this way you also promote a sense of luxury.

Find out if Salesforce CRM is right for you here!

3. Email Marketing Automation

Email Marketing is an effective tool for reconnecting with your existing customers and extending their lifetime value. It is also a great tool for creating a personalised customer experience using automation. So how can something automated be personalised?

Automation is all about utilising the data that is available to you. Data such as name, date of birth, bookings and details such as reason for booking are all accessible if you have a centralised database CRM system. You can use this information as follows;

Name

You can use name tags to address your customer personally in your automated emails.

Date Of Birth

If acquired during booking process can be used to send Happy Birthday emails with special offers

Booking Details

If your guest booked a room or a table as part of an anniversary celebration, you can have an automated email scheduled to ping them the month before this date in the following years to prompt booking the same again or making a special offer.

If your guest booked a standard room in your hotel, you could have an automated email offer the opportunity to upgrade to a superior room or to book additional services that you may offer.

The opportunities to provide a personalised service to your customers via automated emails are pretty much limitless. You just need a strategy for acquiring these details and a system set up to make the most of the data.

For more information on Email Marketing, see our top 5 recommendations to enhance your email marketing campaigns.

4. Social Media Monitoring

Social channels like Twitter and Facebook are great for proactively promoting your brand and the services you offer, meeting your customers where they are. But, they have also become a great tool for customer service.

You can use tools such as Buffer or ‘Social Inbox’ within Hubspot, to monitor social media channels for mentions of your brand, or keywords relevant to your service. With social monitoring, you can get the inside track on what your potential customers are talking about and identify opportunities for engagement through social media channels. It can also be used to flag any mentions of your brand or products, allowing you to respond directly and with speed. With social monitoring you can turn negative experiences into positive ones.

Answering your customers, on the platforms they reside in, gives a personalised feel based on the direct response via their personal profile. It is important for the respondee to be sympathetic with the customers concerns (if negative) and try to resolve any issue quickly and to a satisfactory level.

5. Customer Survey

If you’re really struggling to find ways you can improve your service, you probably aren’t utilising social monitoring or a CRM system as described above. The best thing you can do is ask your customers directly via a customer survey.

Customer surveys work in two ways for improving the customer experience. Firstly, you will get actionable responses from your customers. They will tell you what you need to do to improve their experience! But, secondly and quite subtly, you will also show that you CARE about their satisfaction and are looking to improve based on their recommendations. Again, this feeds back to providing a personalised experience of your brand.

Conclusion

Today’s economy is starting to be driven by millennials who want experiences more than anything, as suggested by the Harris Research study commissioned by Eventbrite back in 2014. Advances in technology and the leveraging of data can support you in creating these experiences in both the digital and physical interactions you make as a brand.

Customers want to feel special and unique and this is what they are willing to pay for. A CEI survey revealed that:

“86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience” – Forbes.com

The points raised in this article are the foundations of creating first-rate customer experience. If you get these right you will be well on your way to improving your customer experience, retaining your customers and extending their lifetime value.

 

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Why Your Hospitality Email Marketing isn’t Working!

Email Marketing is a fickle beast. Fact.

You spend a mountain of time coming up with the perfect strategy, have meetings with management/clients/sales etc, to discuss each aspect of the email in fine detail, and then write the most beautiful piece of script since Shakespeare – only to send it, get barely any opens and feel utterly down-heartened. It sucks.

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, chances are your email WAS actually fantastic, but something about the full process wasn’t quite right!

Here’s our top 5 recommendations to enhance your email campaigns:

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1. Are you mobile optimised?

Did you know that on average, OVER HALF of emails are opened today on mobile devices – with this number only set to grow through 2017! It’s therefore more vital than ever, to ensure emails you create work for all subscribers, on both desktop and mobile. This is not just about the core design, but you also need to think about how text appears on different screens, the use of imagery (will it appear on all devices?), and the overall responsive layout.

E.g. if you use a photo in the header with text as-part of the image (rather than overlaid or above/below), but the subscriber’s device doesn’t open images by default, you’ll have lost your title and potentially, confused the message entirely. There’s a great article on the subject by Inc.com, click here to view.

2. Do you know who’s receiving your emails?

With email marketing, the most important aspect will always be your subscribers – or more specifically, the relevance and value of each subscriber to your brand. I’ve seen too many campaigns where companies have sent out entirely irrelevant email content, only to wonder why no-one is opening them. It’s because you’ve sent information about steak nights to vegetarians – just because they signed up to your restaurant’s website!!!

KNOW YOUR SUBSCRIBERS. If there’s just one thing to take away from this article, make sure it’s this point. Whether it’s by refining your subscriber onboarding processes, sending out surveys or simply splitting the subscriber lists you already have. Just don’t send vegans meat stories, they’ll never buy!

3. Are your subscribers even still active?

“I’ve got 3 billion subscribers on my email marketing list, therefore my brand must be awesome!” – say’s the same guy who buys Facebook and Twitter Likes just for ‘branding’. It’s all nonsense, especially when you realise only 10 of those 3 billion subscribers opened your last email campaign!

Don’t get complacent thinking that high subscriber numbers mean high engagement, and NEVER buy subscribers from 3rd parties – all you’ll end up with is a pile of useless email addresses who’ve never heard of you.

DO organically source new subscribers using newsletter sign-up forms on your website.
DO monitor how subscribers interact with your campaigns, and regularly attempt to reconnect with inactive emails; think about a “We Miss You” style process which could be automated.
DO use your social media channels to source new subscribers.
DO use paper media as a way to obtain sign-ups; think about receipts you give out, booking confirmation letters, guestroom information booklets etc…

4. Is 5pm really the best time to be sending out emails on a Friday?

Scheduling is a massive failing point for most email marketers, mostly because there is no one right answer. At LeadDigital I work with a brand who get their best open and click rates at 1pm on Sundays, but another similar company whose emails are entirely ignored at this time, and actually do best on Thursday mornings!

Most campaign scheduling can be done with simple logic, and from understanding how your subscribers have interacted in the past. For example, If you’re pushing a specific ticketed event, make sure you give subscribers enough notice (not just a day in advance) – but don’t send it weeks beforehand, or you risk losing the urgency to buy tickets all together.

You also need to think about the frequency with which you send emails; is once a week just irritating for subscribers? Does 1x email per month mean subscribers forget about you and ignore it?

Then there is matching email messages with the season; so a slow period could be boosted with a well timed special offer email. All of this comes from a deep understanding of your hospitality company and never being afraid to test new ideas, unusual times and different messages.

5. Does your email speak directly to each subscriber?

Last month Steve and his wife stayed at your hotel for two nights. During his stay he signed up to the newsletter proactively, but has since heard nothing from your hotel. Out of the blue he then receives a generic email from your hotel, talking about special rates for corporate bookings. Guess what, Steve ignored the email.

Lets re-write the story. This time, a week after Steve’s visit to your hotel he receives a personalised email thanking him for staying, which asks for feedback on his experience – offering a special rate on his next stay as a thank you. This email was sent automatically by MailChimp (our recommended email platform), but Steve doesn’t know that and is impressed, replying with comments about how much he enjoyed the chef’s fish menu.

Three weeks later it’s Steve’s birthday. He gets a lovely personalised email to wake up too, from your hotel, wishing him a wonderful day and suggesting a great event coming up in a few weeks time. Automated email, you know his birthday from the original booking.

A few weeks later Steve gets another email, this time inviting him and his wife to a unique couples evening, where you’ll be delivering a new fish menu which you know he’ll love! – This email was actually sent to multiple people, but he received it because you’d noted down his love of fish on the subscriber data and used first name tags to speak to him directly.

This is a particularly detailed process, but it’s all possible and reasonably automatable with some careful thought into your data gathering, campaign planning and automation processes. MailChimp is great for this level of customised contact with subscribers, whether it’s through the detailed automation options or the varied ways of filtering and grouping subscriber information. In reality, these five points are only the tip of the iceberg, but if you get these right first, your email marketing’s chances of success will greatly improve.

Know your subscribers, Speak to your audience, Be relevant and Make content that works on all devices – and you’re onto a winner!

 

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How Much Should Your New Website Cost?

Why do website prices vary so much? As an agency, we hear this all the time. Along with, “we saw a TV commercial that tells us we can buy a website for as little as £99”. And “our son’s friend has been learning web design at school and has offered to do it for nothing”. At the same time, we often hear of large multinationals paying seven-figure sums for website design!

How can there be such disparity in pricing? This article hopes to explain the top level factors that together create a price for a website.

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1. Goals

All too often this elementary question gets forgotten. In its absence, a website simply becomes nothing more than a glorified brochure. A well-designed website should function as a sales and marketing funnel.

All too often this principle is at odds with the goals of your agency. In the minds of the client, more pages means more work, which means more value, doesn’t it? The truth is, each page of your website should have a goal in mind. Each goal should form a step along the sales funnel. Transforming a prospective customer into an enquiry or booking.

2. Architecture

A well-structured website should act as a funnel which drives customers to enquire (leads) or make a purchase (eCommerce). Unfortunately, most websites aren’t designed in this way. Rather than being shaped like a funnel, they could be more accurately described as a sieve. A series of disconnected web pages which have no purpose other than to frustrate the visitor.

Don’t underestimate the time it takes to design a sales funnel correctly. As important as aesthetics are to the hospitality industry, it should never overshadow the true goal of your website.

3. Analytics

Why do you need your website? If you don’t have hard data on the return that your business generates from its digital investments, then you’re basing your decisions on opinion and not fact. The often forgotten or bolted-on aspect of website projects is analytics.

When configured correctly, analytics provides the ongoing information which enables you to measure the return on your digital investments. Whether that be something as simple as how many people visited our website yesterday, to the more complex, like, how many Facebook visitors from yesterday’s post made a booking?

Analytics needs to be aligned to the business strategy, the goal of your website and the metrics on which you plan to measure its success.

4. SEO

There’s a lot of confusion around the meaning of SEO. In its most general sense SEO means Search Engine Optimisation. In the context of website building, the term optimisation should really be replaced with optimised.

The easiest way to view SEO in the building phase is to think of it in terms of building regulations. Just as is the case with building construction, the critical work happens behind the scenes, in the foundations.

If a website is built with disregard to SEO, then it could arguably be described as unfit for purpose. Retrofitting SEO to a poorly thought out website project can be an extremely costly and time-consuming process.

5. Mobile

Mobile traffic to websites today is rapidly outpacing desktop. Although most businesses have embraced this change and created mobile versions of their website, they haven’t considered the user interface. That is to say that people’s habits when using a phone are very different to when using a computer.

A great example is the interaction people have with photo galleries. Sites such as Facebook or Instagram have taught consumers to interact in very different ways on their mobile devices than they would in front of a keyboard. Simple things such as swiping left or right, or pinching to zoom are functions expected on touch screens, yet absent on a desktop.

Factoring in these additional design features means to a certain extent designing a second site. Rather than thinking of mobile as the poor cousin of the desktop, we need to be increasingly placing mobile front and centre in our design process.

6. Content

This is a huge area and can significantly impact the final cost of your project. Website content can not only be costly to produce, especially when it comes to video and photography, but also in terms of time. One of the most common delays in a website project is the production of content.

When faced with delays, you run the very real risk of focusing on the input and not the output. In other words, you focus on getting something onto the website so you hit your deadline, rather than focusing on the real goal of the project, namely increasing your new business.

Don’t rush this stage of the project or underestimate its importance. The return on your investment will be impacted heavily by shortcuts taken in this area.

7. Content Management System (CMS)

Do you plan on updating the content of your website regularly?

You can pay to have a CMS included in the price of the build. Be warned many design firms use proprietary software to keep you tied to their business. Try and leave and you will have problems updating the content yourself. So if you do opt for a CMS, make sure it’s not something custom built by the agency, and something that they can demonstrate is used by the wider community.

You can also opt to have the agency maintain the content on an ‘as needed’ basis. The assumption being they can make changes to a website more efficiently than you.

8. Design

Do you already have clear branding guidelines that your agency can work from? It stands to reason that project costs can dramatically increase if the designer needs to create everything from a logo to the layout of your booking forms.

Avoid low-cost template websites that promise everything for a fixed price. Your first impression these days, more often than not, is online. If you’ve invested time in differentiating your business from your competitors in the physical world, doesn’t it make sense to do so in the digital?

9. CRM Integration

CRM (customer relationship management) system is critical to not only manage the development of potential customers but to manage the relationship and lengthen the lifetime value of each guest.

It’s likely that over 90% of the visitors to your website won’t be enquiring or booking anything on the first visit. Even more frustratingly, many of those which do enquire, will more often than not, get stuck in the sales funnel you’ve created.

As we already mentioned, the website is just one element of your marketing and sales funnel. This makes it critical that any current or future CRM system, should be tightly integrated. The cost of doing this type of project can vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the CRM solution.

10. Other Integrations

Following on from the CRM system, it’s also important to consider any further integrations within your business. Do you need your website connected to bookings, payments, calendaring, email confirmations, SMS, marketing automation? Although impossible to fully scope out all the potential future integrations, careful consideration at this stage can ensure greater compatibility in the months and years to come.

11. Timeframe

A word of warning when it comes to including deliverable dates in your agency selection criteria. The real hidden costs related to time is actually around delays. This comes in the form of the agency slipping your project. Which can often be the case when timeframes are a factor in the contract bidding process. When agencies are forced to quote unrealistic deliverables in order to win the contract, the inevitable happens.

It’s also rare that an agency is working on a single project at a time. Expect to pay a premium if your timescales are so tight, that resources need to be pulled off other client work to focus on yours.

12. You

It’s time to take a look in the mirror. Are you the type of client who has a very clear idea of what their website is setting out to achieve? Or do you require strategic input from your marketing agency? If it’s the latter, aside from the impact on costs, you need to really consider the capability of the agency. A portfolio of shiny new websites doesn’t mean they have in-house expertise when it comes to business strategy.

Conclusion

Hopefully, at this point, you can appreciate why there’s such a huge disparity in pricing within the industry. At the same time, we know how frustrating it can be to take the time to read an article on price, and never see one quoted.

Before we get to that number, it is important to point out that LeadDigital has a very clearly defined customer profile which needs to be taken into account in relation to our typical costings. Our clients typically have very clear branding and product positioning. Their businesses are usually at least 10 years old. They are generally in the £5-10M revenue range. They’re private companies that generally have a singular vision driven by the founders. They have in-house copy and photographic archives for use with creative projects.

Our average website project is in the range of £15K – £20K. That budget would generally include an eCommerce component and some level of lead management, generally in the form of integration with CRM or marketing automation.

 

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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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