You’ve probably heard that, if you have an accommodation business, you need to have a Content Marketing Strategy (!?). But, what does that even mean? Why should you have one? How can you apply this strategy to your hotel, hostel, or B&B?
We Are All Consumers of Content
It’s not revolutionary to say that the Internet has changed the rules of the game. The World Wide Web intersects the entire world, and we are all connected as a result! Online content today is more than just what companies publish. There’s so much more to hear, see and read. With the arrival of Social Media, emerges a new way to consume content.
But We Also Generate Content!
Today we can enjoy content created by people -friends, common folks, and even share our own content. We can recommend, comment and share.
We have turned into Digital Content Creators.
That’s why you need a strategy: To know what content to generate and share, for whom, why, and where. You better have a strategy.
What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?
You may think that a Marketing Strategy is all about increasing sales. So, why add Content? Because that’s what people consume! And our potential customers are among those content consumers. But giving away content for free? Yep.
A Content Marketing Strategy is based on telling instead of selling. The goal is to deliver relevant content to a specific audience and create new customers. When we do that, we have their attention. And we aim to hold onto that attention by re-investing in content, not in ads.
Relevance is Key
The name of the game in creating quality content is relevance. But, what kind of content is relevant? It depends for whom you create it. Knowing your audience is essential to making valuable content for them. In the accommodation space, that might mean travel bloggers, backpackers, tourists, honeymooners, etc.
Remember: The audience varies on your type of accommodation business and your goals.
In some sense though, all travelers do have some interests in common. Most are looking for information about their destination: attractions, cultural sites, restaurant recommendations, safety tips, required documentation for travel, required vaccines, best time to travel, etc. They may also want to know about your breakfast and the mattresses. The truth is that you're better off helping them with destination related topics, instead of trying to shove a booking down their throat!
Why Have a Content Marketing Strategy?
So, why have a Content Marketing Strategy? What advantages can you gain? Let’s review some of them:
Interest, trust, loyalty, sales
You don’t create and share content just because you’re a good person. You do it because you know that, over time, your sales will grow too. With interesting, share-worthy content, your audience will give you its trust and loyalty.
Then, when the time comes to book or recommend a hotel, without even thinking about it, they’ll pick yours. Make sure you have a good customer loyalty strategy, and you'll be building a long-lasting relationship with your customers.
Besides, becoming known for your content will bring you increased direct sales. Who doesn't want that?? When people trust you, they'll skip researching on an OTA, and visit your website to make a reservation. This way you'll become more independent from the booking channels, and bring down your commissions.
Your Road Map
A Content Marketing Strategy is mostly visual. This means that anybody should be able to gain a high-level overview of your strategy at a glance. It’s simple, concrete, concise, and above all: practical.
Because of its nature as a Roadmap, your strategy helps in scalability as well. When you expand your business goals (like opening a new Hotel), your strategy doesn't change. The size of your business is independent of how effective your strategy is.
It's also independent of who is generating content for you! That means that when you open another hotel, the next person will know how to generate consistent content with your brand.
Running through this strategy will also help you find your voice. This may sound strange, but a content strategy forces you to stick to a style.
This doesn’t mean the tone has to always be the same. On some channels, you may decide that a formal tone works better, and on others something else. Just remember that if you want people to recognize your content as yours, be consistent. Your brand -your accommodation- speaks in content, and differentiates you from your competitors.
Great! So, how do I write a Content Marketing Strategy?
Strongly influenced by Dan Norris's Content Machine, and his 10 Minute Content Strategy, we've outlined below what you need to get started. As a template, you can use the below Google Spreadsheets link to get started. So, let's get started:
Content Marketing Strategy - Starter Template:
How do you see your hotel business in the long-term? What do you want it to be? Your business vision is not about what you want to achieve, but rather what you want to be. It’s an aspiration.
For example: Be the most well positioned hotel in my city for business travelers.
What is the goal of your content strategy? What do you aim to achieve with its implementation? What is its raison d’être? Try to think of these goals as medium-term. Content marketing takes time and you won't be seeing huge effects next week.
For example: Increase year-over-year direct bookings by x% during Y period.
Objectives can be also understood as metrics. We’ll talk about this later.
What are the key values you will instill in your content? What are your priorities? What do you consider valuable and want to make clear to the readers of your content? Values are the features that identify your content. They operate like guides, beyond what you write.
For example: Transparency, honesty, clarity, practicality, usefulness.
Identify your current and potential competitors: who in your space catches -or may catch- your audience’s attention? Don’t forget that we’re talking about your content, not your business. It’s essential that you focus on the scope -or expected scope- of your content. This will help you know if other hotels, hostels or B&Bs that generate similar content threaten you, or not.
What are your most valuable capacities for making great content? With great content we mean better than your competitors' content.
For example: Having a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism, Hospitality Management, or any other relevant space. Having traveled around the world and learned about different cultures and people. Having a multidisciplinary team.
What makes your content unique and different from your competitors'?
For example: It’s funny and entertaining. You're focused on female backpackers and so can give much more targeted, relevant tips for that crowd.
Note: While Competitive Advantages relate to your ability to making great content, Differentiators have more to do with your ability to make content that's different than the rest.
Who are you targeting in your content? Keep in mind that your audience doesn’t have to be just one segment. Almost every audience can be divided into smaller groups.
For example: Your general audience may be tourists on vacations. Great. But, what type of tourists? Generally, the more specific the better.
Note: You may have seen that some companies use an identikit to describe a campaign's target audience. Something like: freelance working, single women between 25 and 35 years old. Don’t do that. Why? Because generally, different people consume the same products. Do you think that people’s age is significant for Samsung or Coca-Cola? You need to picture your audience like groups comprising people who share some interests, requirements or habits. Don’t look into age, gender or profession. Do look into what they're trying to get done.
Do you have relationship with stakeholders that may be able to help you promote your content? Could you come up with a deal for them? Maybe a travel-blogger that would help promote your useful content to their audience? Key Partners are those companies or people who can weigh positively on your strategy’s success.
For example: Destinations that have created Facebook groups. Other accommodation business who have started a Blog. Travel Bloggers. Instagram influencers.
You may have heard about CTAs. The initials come from Call To Action. But, what does that mean? CTAs are links, buttons or directions to take an action that aim to encourage your audience to take a specific action. They are usually pretty short and to the point. So, you need to be precise and clear. CTAs should always focus on actions.
For example: Download my "Travel Rome on a shoestring" ebook for free. Book Now. Join our Newsletter.
Note: Verbs should always be Imperative.
Last but not least, how are you going to measure your progress? You need to be able to tell whether your strategy is working as expected. When we mentioned Objectives before, we also said they should be transferrable to metrics. Why? Because aligning Goals with numbers to tell you how you're tracking towards them is key.
For example: Write 2 posts per month on your Blog. Achieve 50 more followers on your Facebook Page per month. Reach more than 100 likes in the last photo you shared on Instagram. Reach more than 15 shares in the last post you wrote on Facebook.
Great. Considering everything we’ve explained, you can successfully design your first Content Marketing Strategy (Wohoooo!). Remember that having a strategy will help you visualize why, how, where and what you create for content.
Something you can add to your strategy is a Channel Plan, where you can organize every action you make in every communication channel you use. We promise to write about this in the future!
Onwards: now you need some time to reflect. Take your time, think, search, be creative and design a Content Marketing Strategy for your hotel business. If you have any doubt or comment, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below!
Photo by Matthew Henry.