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Best Digital Marketing Practices for the Hospitality Industry


The hospitality industry thrives in local environments. Restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, special services – all of these succeed when real people walk through the doors and become guests.

But companies in the hospitality industry can easily fall into a trap. Because of the brick-and-mortar nature of their businesses, they can easily start to believe that they don't need to prioritize digital marketing. After all, how would a nice website attract real people to walk through your doors? Would digital marketing even be worth the investment?

The short answer is yes.

In recent years, everything has gone digital, and people aren't just searching for nationwide organizations. 46% of Google searches deal with local needs. Consumers learn about local businesses online. They find local companies to meet their immediate needs, and they buy from them. 28% of local searches end in a purchase. Modern consumers use digital means to discover which doors they'll walk through.

Hospitality-oriented businesses have an opportunity to reach these consumers by making some simple adjustments to their digital marketing efforts. We'll cover some of the best practices below.

Have a Great Website

Websites function as the backbone of any digital marketing strategy. Customers need a steady place to find information and connect with your brand, and that's exactly what websites offer. It's why 92% of business owners see having a website as the most effective piece of a digital marketing strategy.

As a digital presence becomes more valuable in the hospitality industry, so too does the quality of that presence. A well-designed website helps you do better business. It's often the first impression customers have of your brand. Since they now have the opportunity to engage with countless of your competitors, it's critical to stand out with the following qualities.

  • Use the latest technology available for web design
  • Easy to follow user-experience
  • Responsive pages
  • High-quality content.
Don't Underestimate the Power of Social Media

Social media has drastically changed the hospitality industry as it has for any other type of business. What began as an interesting way to connect and keep up with friends is now a major marketing channel for local businesses. These days 74% of consumers utilize social media to inform their purchasing decisions. Neglecting this channel means missing out on a great opportunity to put yourself in front of your customers.

Hospitality businesses can use social media to

  • Post product images
  • Promote specials, events, or other time-sensitive content
  • Engage with customers via commenting and replies
  • Partner with other local businesses to stir up buzz

As with a website, quality is crucial. While you don't necessarily have to go out and hire a full-time photographer, having someone on staff who can post consistent, creative images will help you get the most of your social media. People will be more attracted to something they like to see. They're more likely to visit your brick-and-mortar if they enjoy the content you post online.

Utilize Local SEO

Local SEO helps your business get in front of local customers searching for your services. These potential customers don't scroll through pages and pages on Google (who does?). Instead, 92% of them make a choice based on the first page results alone. Local SEO, when done correctly, gets you on that first page, and, even more important, it gets you into the illustrious "three pack."

We've covered Local SEO in detail here, but will reiterate some of the key points here. Local SEO is most successful when your company

  • Optimizes for Google My Business
  • Utilizes Google Post
  • Tracks data to make informed improvements.

These practices – along with a great, reliable website and quality social posting – will boost your brand's reputation with Google and improve your overall ranking when people in your area search for your services.

Send Valuable, Personal Emails

Email marketing often gets overlooked. Businesses assume that people don't want to read emails from them, and in a sense, they're right. Customers don't want to read pointless emails that don't bring value to their life, but not emails have to be that way.

Good email marketing involves sending out specific, personalized content directly to your customers. It's another channel available to make announcements, offer special pricing, promote a timely event, or update your customers with other important pieces of information.

Emails get read when they've got a catchy subject, clear copy, and a nice design. The messaging should quickly make it clear why the customer will want to open your message and how it will make their life better. Compare these two subject lines below to see what we mean:

  • New Specials Coming to [Restaurant]
  • Hey [name], want 10% off these new specials?

The first is all about the sending company. The second is personal and entices the customer with a special offer. Any email marketing service – Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, etc. – make it easy to design the page and customize the name field, so you don't need to worry about becoming a web developer to accomplish this, either.

While you'll never want to overwhelm inboxes, sending occasional, informative, and valuable content can help foster loyalty in existing customers.

Leverage Social Sharing and Online Reviews

Having your brand post great content on social media will expand your company's reach. Having other people post about your brand will spread it even further.

People like what other people like. A customer's followers may not come across your brand's feed on their own, but you can encourage your existing base to share images and experiences with your company. This not only gives you a chance to see how people are enjoying what you offer; it will likely intrigue the people who follow that customer as well. At the very least, it will bring you some exposure to a new audience.

Social contests and giveaways are a great way to get this kind of free, local promotion. Entice your followers with discounted products or unique experiences and encourage them to share photos where they tag your business. Select a couple of winners and see how well it worked by looking at the increased engagement and followers after promoting the content.

Online reviews work the same way. 97% of customers read reviews, and those reviews influence 67.7% of purchasing decisions. People trust online reviewers as much as they trust personal recommendations. Encouraging customers to leave reviews can help new customers trust your brand, making it easier for them to make a purchase.

Offer Online Ordering and Digital Menus

The COVID-19 pandemic forced every local service to offer some sort of online ordering or booking system and digital information. Everything can now be done with just a few clicks. Restaurants probably saw the greatest change, like curbside pickup and digital menus became the new norm.

Now, consumers have gotten used to these luxuries, and the changes seem to be sticking around. Design will once again play an important role as these digital assets represent your brand. People should be able to easily access and navigate online menus, ordering, or booking options as they go through your site.

Capitalize on Community Events and Holidays

Local events provide a great opportunity for local businesses to reach new audiences. Staying aware of what's happening on the calendar allows your business to create special offerings around these celebrations. Think about things like

  • A Mother's Day brunch special
  • Discounted services around the Holidays
  • Reduced prices for customers with tickets to a local festival.

There might even be opportunities to partner with the city or local promoters for some of these events. Plus, in addition to attracting more customers, these events make it easier for you to create content for social media and emails because you know you can focus the assets around the particular event.

Consider Partnering with an Agency

Ultimately, creating and implementing an effective digital marketing strategy requires focus and dedication from businesses. Most local hospitality professionals love the idea of improving their online efforts, but they don't have the kind of time necessary to dedicate to doing it well.

Digital marketing agencies like Think Donson exist for this very purpose. We want to help small businesses realize the power of digital marketing without burning themselves out with all the work. We work one on one with our clients to create a comprehensive digital strategy that brings more customers through your doors.

If you'd like to hear more about how Think Donson can help your local hospitality business thrive in the digital world, reach out to us. We'd love to hear about your business and see how we can help. 

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