Stand-out digital marketing for hospitality: our 6 top tips

Digital marketing is fast becoming one of the key strategies for hospitality businesses to reach their existing customers and find new ones. Potential customers are going to look for you online when they’re deciding where to dine, so it’s worth investing in your online strategy and taking charge of what they’ll discover. And with Restaurant & Catering magazine reporting that nearly three quarters of the hospitality industry experienced increased competition over the past twelve months, getting your digital strategy right can also help you stand out from the crowd.

That’s why we’ve created this short guide to tried-and-tested digital marketing strategies for the hospitality industry.

1. Liven up your website

If you haven’t overhauled your website in the last couple of years, now’s the time. Google is now ranking websites based on their mobile performance, and they’re offering a free tool to test your site. The results will show you how you rack up against your competitors and what action you can take to speed up your site.

Search engines also value fresh content, so be sure to add new text and images on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work—just update your menu on a regular basis, and write some blog posts about what’s happening: your newest products and services, upcoming events, and special offers.

2. Know your audience

Digital marketing is an investment, like any other, and you want to put your time and money where you’re going to make a solid return. So spend some time getting to know your customers, and learning about the social media platforms they’re most likely to use. (We talked more about getting to know your customer base in last month’s newsletter.)

When deciding which platforms you’ll focus on, keep in mind:

  • Email direct marketing (eDM) has the highest conversion rate; that is, it generates more sales.
  • Facebook has the largest audience.
  • The younger generation has taken to Instagram and Snapchat, and these visual platforms are well-suited to food and beverage marketing.
  • LinkedIn remains one of the most popular platforms for business-to-business (B2B) marketing and network building.

Whichever platforms you choose, take the time to understand how they work. Setting up a personal profile instead of a page for your business on Facebook or LinkedIn is a sure way to get yourself booted off the platform!

3. Get social

You’re more likely to stay on customers’ minds if you reach out to them regularly. On most platforms, that means at least one or two posts each day. It’s the only way to show up in your fans’ social media feeds, with each platform’s algorithms curating what people see. Remember, you aren’t restricted to original content—you can also share content that your customers have created, and interesting articles from others in your industry.

Be sure to place social sharing buttons prominently on your blog posts, and put links to your social profiles and pages on your website and in your email footers. To extend your reach, run social promotions that incentivise your fans and followers to share your content with their wider networks.

Entice customers to sign up for your email newsletter with a simple sign-up box on your website and a place to drop business cards in your venue. Segment your audience based on information you’ve collected through your point of sale system, including visit and purchase histories, and send targeted campaign messages to each group.

4. Use all the features of your chosen platforms

Your digital marketing strategy will be more effective if you’re using social media platforms the way they were intended. For example:

  • Most platforms offer a way to promote your content with paid advertising, meaning more users will see your posts.
  • Twitter lets you pin a post to the top of your profile, so it’s the first thing any visitor will see and the ideal spot to advertise your latest promotion.
  • When posting a link on your Facebook page, you can edit the headline and blurb in the preview.
  • Instagram doesn’t allow hyperlinks in post captions, so users often update their profile link on a regular basis, and use the caption “link in bio”.
  • Facebook Messenger and Instagram both feature vanishing “stories” at the top of the screen, a technology that’s based on Snapchat.

5. Follow the trends

Social media is constantly evolving as users find new ways to express themselves on each platform with animations, videos, photo carousels and even games. You could host an “ask me anything” session for customers, add downloadable recipes to your website once a month, or run a competition on social media. On Instagram, users are now creating spreads of three or even nine photos that combine to create a larger image, and they look fantastic when users click through to your profile.

One of the more enduring trends is influencer marketing. Influencers are prolific social media users who craft original content to promote your venue to their large and engaged audiences, for a fee. A similar approach is collaborative marketing, where businesses pair up to share audiences. For example, if your produce supplier also sells direct to the public, you can give them a shout-out on social media and draw your customers’ attention to them; they can return the favour by telling their own fans that your business uses their fresh produce.

6. Don’t get too caught up in the stats

As a measure of success, your number of likes and shares are not as important as your conversion rate. Remember that your goal is entice customers into your venue, not to be the most popular hospitality business online, so you should focus your efforts where they’re delivering the largest return on investment. Your digital marketing tools should offer inbuilt statistics that show you which parts of your strategy are working (and which aren’t), and your customers will usually be happy to tell you where they discovered you.

We hope this quick overview has given you some ideas on how you can use digital marketing to stand out from your competitors. But there’s a lot more you can learn about digital marketing, and we recommend visiting reputable sites like HubSpot or Digital Marketing Institute to find out more.