It’s that time of year again: the dreaded season of budget planning. With so many numbers and different parts of your organisation to keep track of, it can be a challenge to set and keep to budgets. To make your job a little easier, here are our top tips on how best to budget for your 2018 digital marketing strategy. Our digital marketing experts have determined the key trends for 2018, both in the travel industry and in wider digital marketing and have combined those with our insight gathered from years of specialist knowledge to determine the best way to approach your digital marketing strategy and budget planning for the year ahead.
1. What lies ahead? Digital marketing and industry trends for 2018
A successful digital marketing strategy needs to address the (current and future) digital landscape. It’s essential to keep up with digital and consumer trends so that you know how your audience is most likely to interact with your brand online and optimise their likelihood of finding you in the first place.
Key technological advances transforming the way travellers interact with accommodation providers include personalisation and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies may seem futuristic but they’re already here and consumers are increasingly expecting them in all online interactions. Obvious examples include Netflix and Youtube, which offer targeted viewing recommendations based on users’ viewing and search history as well as what’s currently trending. Personalisation and AI also enable accommodation providers to tailor the direct booking journey to each individual website visitor and show them more relevant, personalised results, which are more likely to appeal to them and encourage guests to book direct. For more on this, see our article on Allora, the world’s first AI booking engine.
As always, it’s essential to watch the performance and trends of online travel agencies (OTAs). A recent Tnooz article revealed that within the last two years, travellers who visit both hotel and OTA sites fell from 40% to 30% while those exclusively visiting sites like Expedia and Booking.com rose from 48% to 60%. It’s therefore critical to optimise your direct channel so that you can compete effectively. Incorporate search engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click (PPC) campaigns, link building and social media campaigns to encourage travellers to book direct.
Direct is not dead. In Avvio’s case it’s very much alive and in 2016 we continued to stay ahead of the game with various book direct benefit campaigns. Avvio has also partnered with new channels and developed relationships with third parties, such as WIHP, Bing and HSMAI, which help us to keep our hotel partners at the top of the search results.
Google has released new products, which have had a knock on effect throughout many industries. New Google products such as Google Trips, Google HPA and Google News have continued to be brought to the forefront. It’s worth addressing these updates in your 2018 digital strategy to drive your direct channel.
Three digital marketing trends you need to be aware of are video, voice search optimisation and influencer marketing and native advertising. Incorporate these methods into your 2018 digital strategy to drive organic traffic and increase brand awareness. Read our top tips on these trends here.
2. Define your overall business objectives and goals
Before you dive into any numbers, it’s important to look at your business objectives, not just for the marketing department but for your overall organisation. This will help you align your marketing priorities with those of the business so that you concentrate your efforts in the right areas. For example, if your overall business goals include improving revenue from your restaurant, you’ll need to factor into your strategy a way to promote or even re-brand your restaurant to encourage guests to dine there.
3. Incorporate your digital strategy into your overall marketing strategy
In order to move ahead, you need to look at current and past performance, challenges, key objectives and trends. This will enable you to improve weak areas, play to your strengths and achieve your objectives.
Looking into your data, you’ll be able to strengthen your understanding of what your audience likes and what they don’t like. For example, determine which marketing campaigns drew in the most business. Analyse previous campaigns to judge which channel your guests engage more with (i.e. social, email, post, blog, events etc.) and strategise ways in which to drive each of these channels. Different guests are likely to engage with your brand in different ways. It’s important to make room in your budget for reaching out to all these guest types.
3. Distribute your digital marketing budget
Now for the tricky part – working out how to distribute your marketing budget. Here you need to consider all elements of your digital strategy, such as revenue projections, availability, online travel agency (OTA) involvement and more. Here at Avvio, we gather the above information and forecasting templates for each of our partners, which look at projections based on past performance. We use this analysis to advise each of our partners using our digital services how best to distribute their budget in order to get the best return or exposure, based on their goals and what they’re trying to achieve.
When putting together your digital marketing strategy, the main areas that hotels should typically look at include:
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Content
- Traffic Growth Recommendations
- Social Media
- Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns
- International Growth
- Performance and Measurement
- Action Plan
Analyse your performance in the above areas to determine which are likely to give you a higher return in the coming year, which areas may need higher investment and which you can afford to minimise spend on. For help with this, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our digital marketing team.
4. Look ahead
The digital marketplace is constantly changing, as are the ways in which consumers interact with brands. Because of this, you should be poised to identify new initiatives likely to attract guests. Avvio’s digital marketing team do this for each of our partners by defining the target audience and building personas for this audience. Personas are basically more of an in-depth look into a guest type that determines their interests, behaviour, spending and engagement habits. Once complete, these profiles make it easier to spot opportunities to appeal to these guests and create campaigns to draw them to the brand.
5. Create a plan with a timescale
Ensure your digital plan has a tangible timescale. From here, measuring and reviewing performance is essential. Digital marketing is an ever-changing industry so you need to adjust your strategy to key trends as they happen; i.e., increasing CPC’s, changing where adverts appear, etc. See our quick tips on the latest digital marketing trends so that you can incorporate these into your strategy and download your free content calendar template here.