While the world stares down the barrel of another COVID-19 variant, how should marketers in the hospitality industry forge a path forward to ensure hotels can consistently generate hospitality leads?
In this article, we will walk you through six smart B2B lead generation tactics for hospitality professionals who want to make sure those valuable hotel leads don’t disappear again.
The Hotel and Hospitality Industry Fights Its Way Back
The hospitality industry has been hard at work pushing toward that all-important U-shaped recovery after bookings came to a dramatic halt during the pandemic. The U.S. Travel Association estimates business travel, which accounts for a quarter of total travel revenue, could return to pre-pandemic levels as soon as 2024.
The industry experienced a noticeable uptick in 2021 as summertime per-room revenue at hotels in popular travel destinations such as Miami pushed occupancy percentages to their highest rates since August 2019. A good sign.
Between now and the next summer travel boost, there are proven methods for keeping B2B sales pipelines generating a steady stream of new and warm leads for hotels and hospitality businesses. Here are six ways to successfully generate new customers.
#1 Local SEO
According to Finances Online, location influences 41 percent of all accommodation decisions. With that statistic in mind, travel marketers would be wise to optimize a hotel’s website for location-specific searches. Enter search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important digital marketing strategy for just about every business. SEO is the discipline of creating content and structuring websites so that they are more likely to show up in search results for relevant topics.
Most hotel and hospitality-related searches are location-specific and local SEO optimizes a brand’s online presence for those types of searches. Searches can be as narrow as “hotels near me” or as broad as “best hotels on the West Coast.”
#2 Content Marketing
Content marketing is one of the most effective methods of reaching hospitality buyers as they are actively in the research process. Six in ten B2B buyers say that they can make a purchasing decision based solely on the content they find online. That’s a very clear indicator that content marketing should be part of your lead gen strategy.
The average B2B buyer views at least eight pieces of content during the purchase process, according to data published by The Shelf Influencer Marketing.
Of the eight pieces of content, five will come directly from the vendor, which for most travelers includes lots of content published by online travel agencies.
For hotel content marketers, the videos, blog posts, graphics, reports, and other media you create as part of your content marketing strategy won’t (or shouldn’t) always be sales-focused.
The goal isn’t to get fast conversions since business travel is typically planned well in advance of actual travel dates. The goal with content marketing is to build your brand awareness, establish credibility, stay top-of-mind, and gently lead prospects through the B2B customer journey.
Does content marketing work? Yes, it does. Even if you doubt the effectiveness of a blog post, the Content Marketing Institute reports that 88% of B2B marketers surveyed have successfully used content marketing to boost brand awareness and build credibility. 80%t of B2B marketers said they successfully used content marketing to educate audiences. And 72% were able to generate demand and leads from content marketing.
#3 Paid Ads + Retargeting
Support any organic content marketing efforts with a digital paid strategy. With close to 40% of online shoppers under the age of 40 using ad blockers, you may be wondering if display ads are even worth the money. Yes and no. Here’s what we mean.
It’s true that the click-through rate of the average display ad is 0.07%. However, the click-through rate for retargeted ads is 0.7%. But you’re not just looking for high CTR.
Paid ads work best when used in conjunction with your content marketing strategy. Smart consumers understand that when it comes to the customer journey, their online search history is an important tool for passively uncovering opportunities, discounts, and promotions from brands they have previously researched and even brands they have not researched.
Consumers know that Google will always be there to provide them with content they have already demonstrated an interest in learning more about. This consumer behavior gives hospitality marketers the chance to run their content marketing strategy parallel to a targeted pay-per-click strategy. You can then retarget B2B travel buyers with more and more content from your hotel brand.
Here’s a stat from Expedia Media Solutions that will tie together this whole idea of running paid ads for visibility, not CTR: 34% of US online travel bookers say hotel ads influence their buying decisions. For millennials (and millennials make more than 70% of B2B buying decisions), the percentage creeps up to 40%.
Read that again: 4 in 10 of your customers are being influenced by ads they see from the hotels out there that are using paid ads and retargeting to stay top-of-mind. You should be one of those hotels.
#4 Social Media Marketing
Find ways to leverage social media to generate sales-qualified B2B leads. There are dozens of ways this strategy can shape up. Here are a few examples.
You can host or sponsor a live webinar that will be shown across the social channels B2B buyers spend the most time using. These include LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as video meeting platforms like Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet.
You could create travel guides with hacks, tips, and advice specifically for Instagram and Pinterest. The majority of Instagram and Pinterest users rely on those two platforms for inspiration, ideas, and product discovery. This can even be articles and blog posts from your website that your team repurposes as visual content.
You could do a giveaway or run a contest targeting your B2C customers with the understanding that 81% of B2B buying decisions are influenced by employees who will not be making the final decision. So, getting into the feeds of marketing team members, social media team members, interns, employees who are parents, and anyone within an organization can ultimately result in building your social proof within that organization and simplifying the decision-making process for higher-ups. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn allow you to target ads to the employees of specific companies.
#5 Influencer Marketing + Whitelisting
We tend not to think of social media influencers as the fastest path to reaching those important B2B sales KPIs such as increasing occupancy rates and per-room revenue. But one in three B2B marketers incorporate social media influencers into their social media strategies. Their platforms of choice – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
If you can find a reputable full-service influencer marketing agency to help craft a creative campaign, the agency can partner you with real estate influencers, welders and other blue-collar personalities, builders, tech gurus, and all sorts of B2B influencers and professionals who are well-known in their industries.
You can partner with B2B influencers who have expertise in niches that align with your customer base. B2B influencers can help other people in their industries find your hotel when they are looking for their next convention site, or trying to find a low-key country destination with a great internet connection for digital nomading, or planning ahead for a place to hold the first company retreat they’ve been able to have in two or three years.
About whitelisting… One thing to remember about marketing on social media platforms is that most social platforms will automatically suppress the organic reach of brands. And yes, they do that to get you to spend money on ads. Spend the money.
Whitelisting is a method of optimizing the results of an influencer campaign by turning an influencer’s posts into an ad that runs through the influencer’s account.
Anthony Nestel, the Director of Digital Strategy for The Shelf Influencer Marketing Agency urges brands to whitelist influencer content sooner in an influencer campaign rather than later.. “An influencer’s audience is never going to be exactly who you want to speak to,” says Nestel. “Whitelist as much content as possible. Wait for two or three pieces of content to go up, and from there on, whitelist until about two weeks after the last post goes up.”
#6 B2B Cold Calling and B2B Appointment Setting Services
B2B cold-calling services and appointment setting services are made up of people who are experts at forging off-the-cuff connections with strangers. Not the easiest thing in the world to do. But cold calling is a staple of the sales industry. More than half (55%) of high-growth companies use cold calling as a primary lead generation strategy (Finances Online).
Cold calling has a 1-3% success rate, meaning one or two out of every 100 calls will lead to an appointment. In a world where Slack messages and DMs are considered fast and easy ways to reach people, 57% of C-level B2B buyers and 51% of directors prefer to be contacted by phone.
But as most marketers will tell you, timing matters when it comes to cold calling and appointment setting. Not just the timing of your promotion or the timing of a prospect’s next planned travel date – though those are important times – you also have to be mindful of the timing of your prospect’s availability as well as knowing when and how they have engaged with your branded content online.
That’s where cold calling services and appointment services become really valuable. Outsourcing hospitality and hotel lead generation to a company that has dedicated agents who can manage your cold calling campaigns and be responsive as B2B buyers are researching their options and engaging with your content online can drastically improve your conversions numbers and improve B2B sales KPIs.
Knowing how to generate hotel sales leads is a matter of creating a framework that will allow you to engage with B2B buyers at every stage of the buyer journey. It’s smart to incorporate as many of these tactics into your overall marketing strategy as you can.
One final word about B2B marketing for hotel and hospitality companies: Reputation management is very important. Customer reviews matter. When someone has left a negative review or posted an in-feed comment to your social media profile, it’s important to respond. Leaving them unanswered doesn’t make them go away and it doesn’t keep those bad reviews from being read.
If you don’t already have one, put a process in place for all inquiries, complaints, and reviews to be answered and remedied. Remember – most of your hotel leads will be making their buying decisions based strictly on the things they read online about your brand.