Budget friendly marketing tips for hospitality businesses

Megan Lipscombe

Megan Lipscombe

Head of Marketing

With hospitality businesses now open and customers keen to get back out and socialise with friends and family, competition is high. So, it’s arguably more important than ever to be promoting your pub, bar, restaurant or hotel. But there’s no denying that times have been tough and it might not feel like the best time for your business to invest in more marketing activity. To help you master your marketing in the meantime, I’ve put together a few budget friendly tips to help you stand out from your competitors and attract new customers.  

Make the most of user-generated content on social media 

Social media is a great platform for most businesses, but particularly for hospitality. With almost half of diners having tried a restaurant for the first time because of a social media post, it’s definitely a channel you should invest in.

But as many of you will know, social media can be a huge time investment. It’s not just about what you’re going to post; you need to factor in responding to customers, the imagery you’re going to use and replicate this across multiple social media platforms. So, if you’re a business owner trying to juggle a million and one other things, running social media successfully can be easier said than done. 

With 85% of people posting about having a positive dining experience at a restaurant, you don’t have to take the full weight of the content you post. In fact, posting user-generated content doesn’t just make things easier for you, it often resonates better with your audience. This is especially true when it comes to imagery, as 70% of people trust images taken by ‘people like them’ over brand created images. So make the most of the people out there taking great photos of your food, drinks and venues. As long as you are on the ball with resharing content and interacting with posts you’re tagged in, you can leave a big chunk of the content creation to your customers. 

But how do I encourage customers to post about my hospitality business?

If you’re offering great food and service then you’re off to a good start already, as many customers will post about their experience without any prompting. Others may need a little encouragement. A great way to incentivise your customers is by running a social media competition. Whether it’s encouraging your customers to share their own images or one of yours, offering them a chance to win something as a result gives them a good reason to do so. In terms of what you offer, a free meal or drink at your restaurant, or overnight stay at your hotel are all good options. Plus, it gives the winner the opportunity to share even more great content about your hospitality business! 

So in summary, let your customers help you with the content side of things and make sure you check social media regularly. As a bare minimum, you need to allocate some time each day to check in with your followers and share their content. Ideally you would do this multiple times a day; but if you’re pushed for time then once a day should do the trick. Just make sure you’re promoting things like menu updates and any key dates/events, and your customers can provide you with the imagery and reviews for your day to day posts. If you’re taking good care of your customers, they’ll help you take care of you on the social media front.

 Prepare for and promote key dates

When planning your marketing activity, primarily your social media schedule, keep an eye out for national and international dates that are relevant to your business. For example, ‘National Beer Day’ will be relevant to many hospitality businesses, so there will be a lot of noise around it on social media and via email marketing. Make sure you aren’t overshadowed by competitors promoting their offering and any relevant promotions, in the build up to the day. Plan ahead, promote your ‘beer’ and decide what is feasible for you in terms of any special offers you may want to run. And when it comes to social media, do your research and make sure you’re using the right hashtags to avoid going unnoticed. 

If you want to make sure you’re clued up on all of the key dates for hospitality, we recently published an infographic detailing just that. You can download it here

Don’t let your customer service go unnoticed 

Did you know that over 90% of people check online reviews before booking a hotel? And 87% of UK diners make dining decisions based on online reviews? So, it’s safe to say that online reviews are pretty key to attracting new customers to your hospitality business. 

But how many of your customers actually leave reviews? As is the case with social media, some of your customers might need a little prompting. Make sure you follow-up with customers after their visit and ask them about their experience; encouraging them to leave a review. It’s also important that you respond to your reviews, positive or negative, as 45% of consumers say that they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.

In terms of where you encourage your customers to leave reviews; research shows that Google and Facebook have recently overtaken the likes of TripAdvisor as the top two places to leave a review. You may want to invest your efforts here, but every business is different, so take time to consider which is going to work best for you. Whatever you decide to do, it’s probably best to focus on one review platform initially. This will likely be the one that you organically get the most reviews on already. 

Invest in your brand 

This one is particularly relevant to new hospitality businesses. There’s a lot to be said for a strong brand, so don’t overlook it. It’s not just about your logo or brand colours. When I speak about brand, I also mean your tone of voice, customer journey and the service you deliver. If you master all of this from the get go, your brand will do most of the talking for you. It’ll be easier to gain customer loyalty, make you more recognisable and make a good impression before people have even visited your hospitality business.

Encourage loyalty 

Attracting new customers is one thing, but getting them to come back time and time again is another. Especially at the moment when people are trying new pubs, bars and restaurants, and turning to ‘staycations’ over holidays abroad. 

Of course the key player here is the experience they have when visiting your hospitality business. But if you think you need that little something extra to help incentivise return visits, then consider implementing loyalty schemes. Think about offering something for free, or a percentage off of the bill after a certain number of visits. Or simply stay in touch with your customers after their visit; so they’re always in the loop and aware of any changes to your offering or campaigns you’re running. This leads us nicely on to my next point…

Don’t underestimate the power of email 

When it comes to email marketing there can be a lot of noise to compete with. But it’s a great way of keeping touch with your customers, especially if you’re on a limited budget. From review requests and reservation changes, to general updates and promotional offers, email can be a really effective channel. But only if it’s done right. Here are a few email marketing ‘musts’:

  • Keep it short and sweet. Your customers don’t want to read hundreds of words, so try to get to the point of your email across in as few words as possible.
  • Don’t overdo it. If you email your customers too often you risk becoming an ‘annoyance’, which will just result in unsubscribes. Plan your communications in advance and make sure you have good justification for every email. 
  • Personalise! This is arguably the most important thing to remember. A recent study showed that 95% of marketers who personalised emails improved their email open rates. But it’s not just a case of sticking their name at the beginning of the email. Make sure the content is relevant. Personalise offers and acknowledge past stays/purchases where you can.  For example… DO email with an offer on a dish they have ordered multiple times before, if you haven’t seen them for a while. DON’T email offering a free drink on their birthday, when their birthday was last month. 

To execute email marketing well, you do need to invest in an email marketing solution. Doing so will save you heaps of time in the long run and make personalisation really easy! And if you allow people to opt in and share their personal information via your website and/or reservation system, you’ll be able to take personalisation to the next level – with the likes of birthday offers and loyalty discounts. But if you’re just starting out, then stick to the basics. Focus on keeping your customers in the loop and personalise where you can.

That’s it…

There’s so much you could be doing to market your business but for me, these are the most budget friendly and easy to execute. Hopefully this blog has helped you identify some quick wins that’ll help you stand out amongst your competitors. If you have any questions about any of the above then feel free to email me at comms@rotaready.com. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have!

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