|Location-based marketing should be a critical part of a hotel’s online strategy, sources said.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—At the InterContinental Dallas, where the restaurant and bar were “reconcepted” just over a year ago, management is now looking to build brand awareness among local guests.
The hotel hired Michael Tijerina as e-commerce manager from the nearby W Hotel, where he created room and spa packages to maximize revenue. At the InterContinental, Tijerina now oversees all online initiatives, including promotions and packages, and his first goal is building that local clientele.
Lately, Tijerina has been focusing his attention on location-based marketing, specifically focusing on sites such as Foursquare, Google Places and Facebook Places, in attempts to build a base of guests in the Dallas area. Recently he rolled out a Jack Daniels Honey promotion to highlight his bar and hotel as well as co-promote the awareness of honeybees. To participate, guests must take a picture with a beekeeper statue of Jack Daniels, which will be strategically placed throughout the hotel in different locations, and post the picture to InterContinental Dallas’ Facebook page.
“You have to be here to do that. Then we want you to like us on Facebook. That’s going to help build awareness,” Tijerina said. “Periodically moving (Jack) from the restaurant to the pool to other locations showcases the hotel and kind of makes it fun.”
After pictures are posted online, the one with the most “likes” will win a prize to redeem at the hotel, which Tijerina said is engaging people in a more viral way. That, in turn, makes more local Dallas residents aware of the amenities at the hotel.
“Sharing pictures of cocktails and photos with beekeeper Jack, it will be richer media and maybe entice them to come in,” he said.
|The InterContinental Dallas rolled out a Jack Daniels Honey promotion to highlight a “reconcepted” bar as well as co-promote the awareness of honeybees.
Part of the whole
On a recent webinar hosted by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, social-media marketing experts said location-based marketing should be a critical part of a hotel’s online strategy.
Panelists said location-based marketing combined with other media, such as TV and billboard, can drive a more effective return on investment and consumer engagement.
Today, 114 million people use check-in services such as Foursquare, Google Places and Facebook Places, and that number is expected to grow to 1.4 billion by 2014, said Asif Khan, founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association. Smartphone manufactures will drive that growth, Khan said, as well as Google and Facebook, each of which is boosting location-based initiatives.
Khan provided a snapshot of the typical location-based user: 49% have college degrees; 21% have earned a post-graduate degree; and he or she comes from an average annual household income of $105,000.
Of those who are using location-based applications today, the primary functions are: navigation; find nearby friends; find restaurants; check public transportation; and look for a deal or special offer, Khan said.
Margaret Mastrogiacomo, manager of new media and creative strategy at HeBS Digital, said many hotels have not been able to dive into location-based marketing because of limitations with budgets, time and staff. Before getting started, she suggested hoteliers outline what they are trying to accomplish.
Experts outlined three tips to help hoteliers get started with location-based marketing:
1) Mobile website
Before a hotel dives into location-based marketing, it first needs to have a mobile website strategy in place, including mobile search-engine optimization and mobile advertising, Mastrogiacomo said.
Don’t include everything that appears on your desktop website on your mobile website, she said, because customers aren’t there to research their entire trip. Make sure they’re easily able to make a reservation by either calling or booking online.
“Really make those things front and center, easy to click on,” she said.
Hotels also need to have a social community in place, with a robust presence on Twitter and Facebook. Profiles should be updated at least three to five times a week, Mastrogiacomo said.
|Hotels need to have a social community in place and profiles should be updated at least three to five times a week, sources said.
2) Claim pages
Next, hotels should claim their Google Places page and begin managing the content that appears there.
“It’s something new that hasn’t been out there, so start managing that just like you would your TripAdvisor content,” Mastrogiacomo said. “This becomes suddenly more urgent as the popularity of Google reviews rises.”
On Facebook Places, hotels can set up offers and “friends” will see them in their feed stream. It’s essentially a coupon, Mastrogiacomo said, where the hotel would redeem the coupon upon receiving it.
Also, hoteliers need to claim their Foursquare listing—the Foursquare site manager will verify by phone or mail that they are the owner—and update the content regularly, she said. “If you don’t have it set up correctly, you’re missing out on an opportunity,” she said.
3) Get the team engaged
In Dallas, Tijerina said the InterContinental soon will be placing collateral in the guestrooms that encourage guests to “check-in” or “like” the hotel via social-networking websites. If a guest does so, the hotel will send a small amenity to their room, a coffee mug for example, to show its appreciation. Tijerina said the guest might take a picture of that amenity, post it online, and then friends would see it and remember InterContinental next time they need a place to stay.
Tijerina said it’s critical to get the entire staff engaged with these types of location-based marketing efforts. What the hotel doesn’t want is a guest coming in to redeem a coupon he or she found online and the staff member not knowing what the coupon is.
To engage all staff, Tijerina works with almost all the hotel’s departments.
“I have to work with director of (food and beverage) to get approval on pricing, then work with revenue management to assure everything is in line with pricing parity,” he said. “Then I work with the rest of the staff to make sure they are aware of the promotions.
“It’s a team effort because there are a lot of working pieces.”