Springtime Marketing Tips for Resorts

During spring, your resort transitions from hosting a wintertime audience to welcoming your summer crowds.  Whether you’re marketing a coastal getaway, a mountainous ski giant, or a charming lakeside retreat, here are some promotional tips to jump-start your summer resort season.

  1. Put your resort on the map.  One of the first things any business should do is register with Places for Business by Google, which will help people discover you on Google search, Google Maps, Google Plus, and their mobile devices.  Now you can go one step further and create a virtual tour with Business Photos for Google Maps. This will improve the way you appear on a search results page and offers a closer look inside your resort for people who have never been there in person.
  2. Get your mobile site and website guest-ready. This is a great time of year to take a look at your mobile site and website for some spring cleaning. Update your photos in the gallery, make sure your links are all still current, and add this season’s marketing copy to the key landing pages. Be sure you know how your website looks and acts on mobile and tablet screens.
  3. Claim your listings on review sites. Make TripAdvisor and Oyster your friends. Claim your listings and listen for guest feedback. Respond to your reviews – both good and bad ones as applicable – and follow up with what you’re doing to improve on any negative experiences.  Encourage your guests to add their own reviews in those public spaces, so your resort has more commentary and better rankings.  Foursquare, Yelp, and other review sites should also be part of your overall marketing strategy.
  4. Determine your best OTA strategy. As much as you may love – or hate – the OTAs (online travel agencies), Priceline, Kayak, Expedia, and Travelocity boast very loyal booking guests and can offer quick, convenient access to package deals: flights, accommodations, rental cars, and things to do.  These are actually good places to be if you want to be found by the masses.  But you need to devise a pricing strategy and promotional plan for each OTA, determining the best approach to this market for your resort and your guests.
  5. Invest in AdWords, retargeting, and Facebook ads.  Regardless of what your strategy is for OTA, you would prefer potential customers find your direct website or owned media.  Consider investing some advertising dollars into a Google PPC (pay-per-click) campaign for a sponsored listing at the top of a search results page, as well as a retargeting (sometimes called remarketing) campaign, which will serve ads to people who have visited your website on sites they visit after yours. In addition, Facebook has some great targeting components to show off your resort to people in your target market based on geography, age, and even interests.
  6. Segment your email subscribers for targeted campaigns.  Not every customer comes to your resort for the same reason, so sending personalized messages based on demographics or behavior will resonate better with your past guests than a one-message blast sent to everyone on your list.  For example, you can send a springtime skiing message to winter thrill seekers to encourage them to get to the slopes before the season officially ends and also send a family-friendly email with a list of children’s activities happening in the area during April and May to parents who stayed with their youngsters over the past year.  Being able to target your customers to this degree depends on having good data and a well-organized database.  Need help with segmenting your lists? Check out third party email services, such as MailChimp or Constant Contact.
  7. Dazzle the media and travel bloggers with what’s new this season. Write some compelling news releases and articles about anything new and exciting at your resort. Share via email, social media, or media kit deliveries with key media in your local market, as well as popular travel bloggers and industry leading magazines, journals, or entertainment sources.  Create buzz around your new “green” sustainability efforts, the newly hired Executive Chef at your on-site restaurant, or that remodeled pool deck your construction crew have been hard at work to finish before the start of the season. Heck, maybe you just want to show off your new Adirondack chairs on that gorgeous patio of yours. Whatever is happening right now at your resort can be made into a newsworthy story that is designed to attract media – and new customers.  You should also look for travel or resort-related awards that your resort could be nominated to win; you never know! You might get a new seal of approval to add to all of your marketing materials.
  8. Partner with other area attractions.  Find ways to co-promote your establishment with other area businesses.  Pass out each other’s information, sponsor a local event together, or link to each other’s websites.  One ski resort had a Facebook voting contest for fans’ favorite ski shops. Other resorts have worked out discount packages for their guests who want to eat and play at other places in town, and vice versa.  You may also want to provide your local tourism and convention groups with some educational or entertaining content for their sites in exchange for some promotion. (Baskets of mini muffins don’t hurt either.)
  9. Use storytelling, videos, and customer testimonials to your advantage.  You’re not selling a room, you’re selling an emotional experience. An adventure, perhaps, or a relaxing escape from the stresses of everyday life.  Tell stories, demonstrate those experiences in videos, and share customer testimonials to really show someone the heart of your resort and the benefits they’ll reap when they stay with you. Focus on what sets you apart from other resorts to reinforce your brand.
  10. Do content marketing through your digital concierge service. What’s great about how Google is ranking websites is that fresh content is also helpful for your guests, so you can kill two birds with one stone: make both search engines and your customers happy with great content.  Every day, you should be posting to your site (or blog).  Share the weather forecast, events at the resort or in your town, nearby restaurant reviews, recommendations of things to do, etc.  Search engines like fresh content, and your guests like to know what they can do while staying with you.  You probably want to give some link love to the hot spots in town, and even develop an app similar to Plannable for easy trip planning right from your site!
  11. Experiment with mobile marketing.  Whether it’s text marketing (try SlickText or Tatango) or a mobile app that’s choked full of helpful travel advice, local resources, weather updates, and activity notifications for your guests, explore the possibilities of reaching your guests before, during, and after their stay right on their cell phone. Balance the promotional content with information that your guests will find value in while they’re staying with you.
  12. Reward your past guests through a referral program or contest. Not have every past guest will have plans – or funds – to return year after year.  But they might go home and brag to all of their friends and family about the swell time you gave them. Design a way to encourage referrals – whether that’s through an ongoing program or an annual contest – and reward patrons who score your resort bookings through good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing.
  13. Get creative.  Cliche as it is, think outside the box. Challenge your marketing staff and employees to come up with fresh ideas on how to improve your marketing this spring.

As you develop your marketing campaigns, slogans, and strategies, I hope these thirteen tips come in handy for a successful launch into the summer season.

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