Digital Marketing for Hotels or Restaurants is increasingly important. Indeed, 90% of potential customers search, find and choose a Hotel or Restaurant ‘online’. Relying exclusively on customers intercepted through OTAs, such as Booking.com or Expedia or Metasearch (meta-search engines) such as Trivago or Tripadvisor, can be very reductive, especially since this is what all your competitors do.
So how do you differentiate yourself?
I am Giancarlo De Leonardo, a former restaurateur and Founder of Caro Collega HoReCa, and for over 20 years I have been involved in developing the business of restaurants and hotels by relying on traditional marketing techniques (posters, flyers, advertising in newspapers or on television).
For many years, when I heard about digital marketing for Hotels or Restaurants I thought it was about social media management: facebook and instagram, which of course I managed alone and therefore badly.
In 2018 I left the hospitality industry to dedicate myself to the world of innovative startups and here I realised, or rather I became enlightened. I realised how important Digital Marketing is for Hotels and Restaurants, since most potential customers are online. That is why my first commitment is to prevent you from perpetuating the same mistakes I did.
In this article I will explain why you need a Digital Dream Team for Hotel or Restaurant Marketing to develop the potential of your online business and how you can make this effort economically viable and above all profitable for developing your business.
In this article
- What is an Integrated Digital Marketing Plan for a Hotel or Restaurant?
- The 7 professionals needed to implement a Digital Marketing Plan
- How to sustain the necessary investment?
- A counter-cultural approach: thinking from the end, i.e. setting SMART goals together
- Growing your employees through collaboration with the Digital Dream Team
What is an Integrated Digital Marketing Plan for a Hotel or Restaurant?
Digital marketing is to business as salt is to any dish. If you forget to add salt, any dish will never taste good! The same goes for hotels and restaurants that are content to do traditional marketing and do not think that 90 per cent of their audience is online!
Even I, until a few years ago, was unaware of the potential of digital marketing for hotels and restaurants and was content to promote and advertise in the classic way: billboards, flyers, newspaper and television advertising, press office, public relations.
Later, during my years in the world of innovative start-ups, I was ‘enlightened’ and realised that 90 per cent of people spend several hours a day online, on smartphones and computers, and this is where they can be reached with personalised messages.
The next step was to think about adapting analyses, strategies and tools that worked in the digital world to the hospitality sector, where Italian companies continue to base their performance only on unfair competitive advantage.
This is when I realised the importance of developing a website that respects the ‘core web vitals’ introduced in 2021 by Google, the practices of SEO and local SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media Management, Advertising, Web Reputation, and so on.
The 7 professionals needed to implement a Digital Marketing Plan
The 7 professional figures indispensable for implementing a Hotel or Restaurant Digital Marketing plan are:
- Digital Marketing Manager: this is the professional who coordinates all the digital promotion activities of the hotel or restaurant and is responsible for measuring the results. He/she must align with the Sales Manager who usually also deals with traditional marketing;
- Communications Manager: this person is responsible for defining the hotel or restaurant’s digital communication strategy, both internally and externally. He manages digital communication channels, including social media and the newsletter, and must align with traditional communication.
- Web designer: this is the professional who deals with the design and development of the hotel or restaurant website, ensuring a positive user experience and an intuitive interface. More complex websites may require the design and development manager to be 2 different people with specific skills (imagine an architect and a site manager).
- Content marketer: is the professional who deals with the creation of digital content, such as blog posts, videos, images and other types of useful content for the hotel or restaurant. This content is used to improve the visibility of the business online and attract new customers. It is the strategist who has to win the battle for attention as today we are bombarded by thousands of inputs daily: posts on instagram, on facebook, on youtube, on tiktok, on tv, radio, etc. The question to ask yourself is: why should the public look at my communication rather than that of my competitor?
- Social media manager: this is the professional who manages the social channels of the hotel or restaurant, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. He is in charge of publishing content, managing interactions with customers and monitoring results. In practice, he is in charge of grounding the strategy idealized by the content marketer: it is one thing to be creative and decide which photos and videos to create, it is quite another to master social environments such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok.
- SEO specialist: this is the professional who deals with the organic positioning of your business website on search engines for keywords (for example: boutique hotel, hotel & spa, restaurant in the centre, best breakfast in a hotel, etc). He also deals with positioning the physical address of a hotel or restaurant on Google Maps, real digital yellow pages that users use to discover restaurants, hotels and businesses in their vicinity.
- Digital advertising specialist: this is the professional who deals with the creation and management of online advertising campaigns, such as Google Ads or Facebook and Instagram Ads. His or her objective is to increase traffic to the hotel or restaurant’s website and attract new customers.
These are just some of the professionals that can be involved in implementing a digital marketing plan for a Hotel or Restaurant. Obviously, as the size of the establishment increases, the goals will be more and more ambitious and it will be necessary to expand the Digital Dream Team.
How to sustain the necessary investment?
I was a restaurateur for many years before and a hotelier for some years and I know what it means to make ends meet when you have 10 employees and when you have over 300. The cost of labour in Italy today is among the highest in the world, so I will never ask you to directly hire the professionals you need.
For at least three reasons that I will list below:
- Digital professionals are in high demand and have very high salaries.
- Digital professionals are used to working towards objectives and not the hours stipulated in the contract.
- Digital professionals need constant stimulation and comparison because digital is a fluid and constantly changing environment. Working for one company does not allow them to continuously improve.
Consequently, even if your company is very large, it is very difficult for you to create a professional and reliable team over time. But don’t lose heart because there are agencies that offer these outsourced services. You just have to be able to find the solution that is tailor-made for your business, so I recommend reading up and learning more about the digital world.
A counter-cultural approach: thinking from the end, i.e. setting SMART goals together
In my years as an Entrepreneur and Manager in the hospitality industry, I have always been wary of professionals and agencies offering to implement digital marketing solutions for hotels or restaurants for 2 reasons:
- No one ever bothered to make me realise the opportunity I was missing;
- No one ever bothered to start from the end, i.e. to set SMART objectives: Specific (specific) – Mesurable (measurable) – Achievable (achievable) – Relevant (relevant) – Time based.
For this reason within Caro Collega I wanted:
- At least two hours a day by the Digital Dream Team must be dedicated to the creation of free content that has the exclusive purpose of informing my former colleagues of the potential that digital also offers for their Hotel or Restaurant;
- Before starting a collaboration, we carefully evaluate whether or not an activity is eligible for the Caro Collega Method. And this eligibility implies that within 12 months pre-established targets must be reached, otherwise the investment made will be refunded.
Growing your employees through collaboration with the Digital Dream Team
One of the most frequent exceptions I get from my hotelier colleagues (and sometimes also restaurateurs) concerns the fate of employees who are already in their companies and should be involved in digital development.
At carocollega.com we are in favor of cooperation, as people already in the company can help us understand the state of the art and very often prevent us from making mistakes.
On the other hand, working with members of the Digital Dream Team on a daily basis allows them to grow and improve professionally and offers greater guarantees to the entrepreneur or manager who has hired us, who often does not have the time to follow our work closely.
Article written by Giancarlo De Leonardo, Former Restaurateur and Founder of carocollega.com