Selling hotel experiences and gift vouchers online. Part 3: the trick
So, you have your team on board and you know what experiences and gift vouchers you want to sell. Now, you need to put your heads together to create a marketing plan that will work best for you.
Hotel marketing team is typically focussed on facilitating selling rooms - working with distributors, travel bloggers, exhibiting at trade shows, etc to attract guests. This will be different. To promote your shop you will need to find the best ways to engage with local residents and businesses based in your area.
Here are a few tips from our most successful clients.
Your website and emails
First, you will need to make sure your online shop is very clearly visible and accessible via your website.
- Add a link to the shop to the main menu of your website (have a look at this example)
- Add a link to your Spa treats to your Spa sub-site, F&B treats to your Dining or Restaurant sub-site, etc. (have a look at this example)
- Create a banner promoting the shop that can be displayed on the main page or any of the sub-sites
- Create clickable buttons linking to the shop next to events you are organising (New Year's Eve Gala, Valentine's Day Dinner, etc.)
- Make sure the shop is easily accessible on mobile too - this is likely how most transactions will be completed
- Add a link to your shop to email signatures of your team
Do not fret if linking the shop to your website is impossible. We actually work with some customers who only use alternative means to attract customers and sell experiences. Here is how:
Make sure your guest-facing team is well aware of the shop and gift vouchers that can be purchased. Most often it's the Front Office, Spa or Restaurant team who pick up the phone from customers looking to buy gift vouchers. They must know where to direct clients, how vouchers can be purchased online, and what offers you currently have on. You may read more about the importance of getting your team onboard here.
Social media - where the magic really happens!
With their glossy pictures and polished content, experiences you create will lend themselves to sharing on social media. You certainly have local residents already following you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They will become loyal voucher-buyers if you only let them. How can you increase their number?
- We noticed it’s most effective to share particular treats, not necessarily information about the shop as a whole. You may want to announce it’s go-live once but then focus on sharing particular experiences. You should aim to share about five posts per week via your social media. Two or three of them should be about particular treats your followers will be able to buy instantly by clicking on a link to this treat included in your post. You may also use buttons such as “Buy now” on Facebook or add to Instagram stories to make this very clear.
- Encourage followers to share your posts. Post one of your experiences and ask your followers to tag the person they would like to enjoy it with. Snoop around to see how your competitors do it. We love how Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise engage with their followers (all 60,000 of them!) on Facebook.
- Think of competitions you can run to help your posts go viral. Perhaps you can offer a free Afternoon Tea for Two to one of the people who ‘like’ and share your post about it within a week of posting?
- Perhaps you can invite a few local bloggers to enjoy one of your experiences and write about your shop in return?
- Make sure you are aware of local groups on Facebook. I'm sure you will be able to find plenty of groups of people interested in your offers. We recently had a client in Barcelona organise a Mexican Food cookery class. They managed to find a "Mexican Food Lovers in Barcelona" group on Facebook and promoted it there.
Use your newsletter and blog to promote the shop. Use a list of local businesses which have used your facilities or booked stays at the hotel to promote treats which can be bought as corporate gifts and bonuses for employees. Do this again especially before Christmas - the earlier the better!
There are a lot of creative ways to promote your experiences and events which will be highly specific to your location. You will need to think about your audience (local residents and businesses) and see who might be interested in what you are selling. A good example comes from a client who wanted to promote a Haloween themed party they organised last year. They promoted it using the usual channels (banner on their website, link to the treat from their Dining sub-site, social media). But, they also used a few more creative ideas:
- Shared the event with a Facebook group of American expats living in the city, and another group of expat housewives
- Tweeted about it to the local US embassy, who retweeted the information to their followers and ended up emailing their newsletter subscribers about it too
- Got in touch with the local international school, who forwarded the information to the very active Parents Association
- Got in touch with a few US companies with offices in the area
Together, all of this made for a very successful campaign, which cost absolutely nothing.
This channel is often overlooked but can be extremely effective when promoting treats suitable for corporate gifts or quarterly awards and end of year bonuses. Post treats to your hotel profile and get your team to share them with their connections. Reach out to HR teams, Compensation & Benefits teams or Company Directors in your area to make sure they are well aware of the shop. Perhaps offer a free treat to a person who buys at least 10 treats for their employees?
Selling to corporates
There is a lot of synergy and feedback between promoting treats to local residents and businesses. A person who comes to your hotel to enjoy a concert you organise may well like your facilities so much, they will choose to organise their next corporate event there. A person who buys a Gourmet Dinner voucher for their partner as a birthday gift may very well be looking to buy end-of-year gifts for his / her employees a few months later.
Some of our clients use print a lot! We have seen online shops and particular treats advertised on:
- Business cards added to each bar & restaurant bill
- Posters hanging in various places of the hotels, including the back of the door in toilet cubicles!
What other channels and ideas can you think of?