Stephanie Smith of Cogwheel Marketing joined hospitality experts Max Starkov and James Siebold on eCornell’s webinar, Effective Digital Marketing During COVID-19:  What Hospitality Managers Need to Know, hosted by Bill Carroll.

During the webinar, they discussed what hoteliers should be focusing on during the 3 marketing phases of COVID-19, Pause, Recovery, and Growth. Each phase needs to be planned for and adjustable as each phase as behaved differently in each market.

Marketing During the Pause Phase

Highlights about how to shift when in a pause phase.

  • Learn and understand the needs of the traveler
  • Investigate your comp set and find out who’s staying at their hotels
  • Continue to utilize your digital marketing team and digital agency to increase communication to past guests, future guests, meeting planners, group leaders, OTAs, and etc.
  • Focus on content marketing as a whole (email marketing, blog posts, social media, website content, and etc.)
  • Hoteliers must become creative during this time with their products and offerings
  • Use this time to assess website content and communication, SEO strategies, update outdated information, and etc.
  • Focus on creating a “community” on social media by partnering with local demand generators to create and share content.  This is a great time to humanize the hotel by sharing news and events of staff, community, and etc.
  • Top KPIs to monitor during this phase:
    • Engagement on social media and website traffic
    • Website booking engine interactions to gauge intent
    • Sentiment analysis

Marketing During the Recovery Phase

As your market transitions out of the pause phase into the recover phase, some topics that were covered are below.

  • Leverage the guest database and create custom messaging for past guests
  • Create strategies to target your drive and feeder markets
  • Create geo-targeting messaging for drive and feeder markets
  • Partner with demand generators and create synergy packages
  • Develop communications for short-term and long-term feeder markets
    • Short-term:  leisure travelers
    • Long-term:  tour operators, meeting planners, OTAs
  • Consider launching a paid search strategy focusing on branded keyword terms
  • Consider enrolling in Google ads pay-per-stay product for hotels
  • Continue to communicate changes at hotel and cleaning and safety protocols
  • Focus on using targeting parameters with social media to communicate with feeder markets
  • Top messaging during this phase include:
    • Community
    • Cleanliness
    • Cancellation policies
    • Present hotel as a viable option over comp set and AirBnBs
    • Promote packages that help alleviate the stress associated with COVID such as wellness packages
    • What value your hotel is providing over comp set
  • Top KPIs to monitor during this phase:
    • Reach with new audiences and engagement on social media
    • Bookings, room nights, and revenue
    • How traffic is engaging on your website

Marketing During the Growth Phase

As your marketing continue to accelerate into the growth phase, marketing should continue to shift. Some points of discussion were:

  • Continue to leverage guest database and create custom messaging
  • Understand changes to booking window and adopt strategies to capture travelers
  • Create creative and value add packages
  • Reevaluate your comp set
  • Spend marketing funds more efficiently
    • Continue to focus on content marketing
    • Revamp and utilize LinkedIn page to capture business travel
    • Increase budget for branded keyword terms and display ads – target feeder markets
  • Revamp hotel product for pent-up demand
  • Invest in direct channels to increase direct bookings
  • Compete with OTAs on value and not price
  • On social media, communicate value proposition against the comp set
  • Become more aggressive with call to actions
  • Top KPIs to monitor during this phase:
    • Demand 360

Please watch the entire eCornell webinar to understand the transition of each phase and how marketing should be able to quickly adapt.