It Seems Universities and Colleges are Still Teaching us New Lessons
There are many industries (like retail eCommerce) that hoteliers can look to for ideas on how to develop successful marketing strategies. You may find it surprising, but educational institutions are a great place for hoteliers to look for content and visual storytelling strategies. There is one particular similarity between marketing universities and colleges and marketing hotels. They’re both selling an experience or a “story” to the
consumer which presents some unique opportunities.
This article “4 Content Marketing Ideas for Colleges and Universities” discusses the changing strategies American institutions are using for content marketing, most of which hotels can apply to their own content marketing strategies
Shift Your Stories to Digital
Schools have realized that the need for print material is dwindling in today’s online world. The article’s author, Kathryn Hawkins, from Eucalypt Media LLC suggests that “schools can replace or supplement print distribution with online distribution.” With 83% of leisure travelers and 76% of business travelers planning their travel online (The 2012 Traveler), hotels definitely need to follow suit (if they haven’t already).
Marketers need to think differently about their online content than their print materials. Consumers are looking for immersive experiences and just giving them generic photos of the hotel exterior, lobby and guestrooms is just plain uninspiring in today’s world. The goal of every marketer’s should be to provide interesting content and compelling stories that inspire their audience to take action.
Build Content to Appeal to your Guest Segments
Schools have learnt that not every student is looking for the same things from their university or college experience and therefore they must customize their story for different students – academics, athletes, and so on.
From a hotel perspective, business travelers are looking for a completely different experience than a family of leisure travelers. You, as a hotel marketer, need to cater your visual story to showcase that experience and show them that you offer what they need.
Hawkins suggests that marketers “Focus on providing engaging content that will appeal to each of your defined audiences.” Rather than using portals like the ones the schools use, hotels should create custom landing pages or tabs on their website that include content that caters to each specific guest segment they’re targeting like business travelers, leisure travelers, families, seniors and so on. It’s also important to ensure their content on third party channels is consistent and caters to the audiences they’re targeting. (For example, Concur and other Corporate Self Booking tools should have media available that focuses on the business traveler).
Spotlight Day-to-Day Life at the Hotel on Social Media
If you want to take your digital marketing and visual storytelling to the next level, think about ways to spotlight a day at your hotel. Universities often use imagery to show a potential student what a day is like at their school. For a hotel, it is a great idea to make a short 1-2 minute video depicting what guests can expect when staying at your hotel. A great example of this is the Orlando Airport Marriott with their “Business Transient Traveler” video on Travelocity.
Hawkins says it best, “Social media platforms — particularly Twitter and Facebook — can help you stay connected with your base on a day-to-day basis, and will give you opportunities to build stronger relationships with your community.” Social media platforms are important to both schools and hotels. Being active on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allows you to communicate what’s going on in and around your hotel on a day to day basis and build a community.
Get Your Staff Involved in Social Media
Duke University gets different departments involved in telling the university’s story online. Hotels can also get different departments involved. For example, the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel does a great job of highlighting all aspects of their hotel and from different perspectives on their YouTube channel. Their video, “The Doughnut, By Executive Pastry Chef from The BLVD at Beverly Wilshire” highlights their chef. They also have videos highlighting different hotel staff which gives travel shoppers a glimpse of the hotel’s personality.
Optimize for Mobile Combining Functionality and Compelling Content
As stated in the article, “two –thirds of Americans use mobile devices to connect to the internet.” “Nearly half (47%) of all 2012 travel plans began on a Smartphone.”(bazaarvoice.com). Mobile is a must, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. As Hawkins says, “it’s about presenting your library of content in a mobile-friendly way that will make people more likely to engage with it.” Individual hotels need to focus on optimizing their websites for mobile devices to ensure their story is communicated seamlessly.
Both universities and hotels have great opportunities to sell their “experience” online through powerful visual stories – on their websites, social media and mobile devices. Online is where the consumer often get their first impression of your hotel’s “experience,” so make sure it’s a good one! What are you doing to sell your hotel’s experience online?
For more information, check out our guide: The Hoteliers Ultimate Guide to Visual Storytelling on Social Media in 2013”