The internet is an unforgiving place. It takes trust for customers to interact with brands online, particularly in the hospitality sphere. One of many hospitality marketing mistakes can cause your efforts to be mute.

After all, guests not only pay for accommodations. They invest time and energy to plan a trip. Even more is spent on travel to-and-from the actual destination.

Unfortunately, hospitality branding is like constructing a house of cards. While it may take ages for a brand to earn a trustworthy reputation, a single marketing mistake can cause it to crash. Sometimes in a matter of days or hours.

Awareness will keep your branding and marketing efforts sailing smoothly. Here are four hospitality marketing tips to ensure your reputation remains in tact:

1. Don’t Attempt to Censor Negative Reviews

A hospitality brand might live or die by customer reviews. While reviews help win the vote of confidence of new guests, negative reviews can put a serious dent in your ROI.

Many are tempted to delete a bad review or comment. This is often true if it’s displayed on your own website or social media pages. Never develop an elaborate campaign that blocks dissatisfied customers from speaking out.

Even worse, don’t threaten to penalize someone for it. In 2014, Union Street Guest House attempted to discourage negative reviews by charging customers $500 for every bad review on any online channel. The policy was explained on their website:

“If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH, there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event.”

When the policy got the attention it deserved, the owner claimed it was a joke. He said it wasn’t meant to be on the site. Unfortunately, the damage was dealt.

Within days, torrents of fake reviews popped up on major sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook — blatantly making fun of the situation.

This led to the eventual shutdown of the Union Street Guest House. While their website is no longer active, the negative reviews are there to stay.

Remember, any attempt to silence your customers can have irreversible consequences. Instead of trying to block out negative reviews, leverage them as a way to showcase your staff’s professionalism.

Respond and engage guests through every channel accessible. It could be through a review website or social media. Keep in mind, with the right approach, negative feedback is a stepping stone to improvement.

2. Always Have a Content Strategy

Some businesses deal with online reviews. Others barely have any engagement at all. The reason? It usually relates to their content strategy, or lack thereof.

The Pocono Plaza Facebook page, for example, has little activity despite regular updates.

In online marketing, you need to give value to receive value. You need to be relevant to your audience. If you want engagement, offer valuable content they want to see. It doesn’t have to be your own content, either. Curate relevant posts from popular sources. This often is enough to get the attention of your followers.

Still, it’s better to develop your own material. Tools like Ubersuggest offer useful content ideas for your social media pages and website. It expands a relevant “seed keyword” into long-tail variations for which users search:

When using Ubersuggest, make sure to find the sweet spot between search volume and keyword competitiveness. A competitiveness score of 0.4 means low-medium competitiveness. This makes keywords feasible for smaller brands without hefty marketing budgets.

3. Don’t Rely on Discounts

Discounts are time-tested tools to increase sales or certain transactions. For hotels, this means extended stays and off-season bookings. However, you should never depend on deals as your marketing bread-and-butter.

Your target audience can always find a cheaper alternative if they want to to minimize costs. So, instead of focusing on discounts, turn to maximizing value and building solid relationships with your customers.

Contrary to popular belief, discounts also aren’t reliable if your goal is to bring in new customers to your business. Discount-seeking customers probably aren’t eyeing your services or accommodations. Rather, they’re more likely drawn to the money saved.

4. Always be In-Tune with the Audience

To be fair, every digital campaign could go awry. This includes campaigns by big brands. Always brainstorm strategies with a grain of salt. For example, #McDStories is an official hashtag McDonald’s used for a Twitter campaign.

It was a good idea on paper: promote a hashtag and let the audience share heartwarming stories. The intent was to elevate the brand’s social presence. Sadly, most stories weren’t heartwarming nor even halfway pleasant.

An hour into the campaign, users tweeted waves of negative and controversial experiences with the #McDStories hashtag.

According to McDonald’s social media director Rick Wion:

“We saw that it wasn’t going as planned. It was negative enough that we set about a change of course.”

Although the buzz around the #McDStories fiasco faded, the hashtag itself is still used to share negative stories.Make sure you’re in touch with the general tone of your community when planning marketing campaigns. If you want to give customers a platform to share reviews, target those who are actually qualified.

A good strategy is to send review requests via email sometime after checkout or booking. Automate this with the help of email marketing tools like MailChimp or GetResponse.

Conclusion

Learning from mistakes may be effective, but failures aren’t always necessary to learn the lesson. Try to avoid these hospitality marketing mistakes to keep you brand reputation in tact. If you have a marketing horror story you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment below!

 

Author Bio: Jimmy Rodela is a freelance writer and the owner of the GuildofBloggers.com. He is also a marketing manager at InboundJunction.com

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