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Blog Post | Jan 10, 2023

Marketing for the Hospitality Industry: It's All About the Journey Before the Journey

Travel and tourism will be booming in 2023. To reach eager and affluent adventurers, think about the customer journey before the journey. By segmenting customers based on unique behaviors associated with how deep they are into the funnel, hospitality marketers will be better prepared to connect with them at the right time.

Topics: Marketing Campaign, Content Marketing

All the experts agree: 2023 will be a big year for the hospitality industry, with spending continuing to rebound. Marketing experts also agree that direct marketing is still your best bet for reliably getting “heads in beds.” When you combine the warm, personal touch of direct mail with the immediacy and cost-effectiveness of direct mail, you've got a combination that's hard to beat.

However, if you're just segmenting your customers based on whether they're prospective or existing clients, you could be missing out on opportunities to put heads in beds sooner and for longer. Google has provided uncanny insights into behaviors based on a unique journey that aligns with the five stages customers go through when thinking about travel. And we've provided tactical suggestions to help you reach them and drive them deeper into the funnel.

Dreaming: This is the very top of the funnel. These potential customers just have the itch to get away, and they're open to where and when.

This is not the selling stage; it's more about motivating and inspiring. So instead of advertising, these prospects are more likely to respond to content such as immersive videos, blog articles and anything else that ignites their imagination.

Ultimately, at this stage, everything should be driving back to your website, so make sure it's optimized for mobile: 63% of customers say it's extremely important for them to be able to book and plan trips using their smartphones.

Planning: These customers are actively planning a vacation and are considering their options. It's crucial to stand out from your competitors at this stage.

Now is the time to make a big impression and reinforce a personal connection through direct mail. Wow would-be customers with a beautiful, full-color brochure that puts your property or business in the best light. Oversized postcards and “lumpy” or 3D mailers can also help you grab attention.

Booking: They're queuing up their options and may likely have their index finger hovering over the “book it” button. This stage is about “sweetening the pot” and removing any roadblocks.

You can incentivize and activate these customers with information about your rewards or loyalty program since 44% of travelers agree that a loyalty program influences their hotel choice. A good loyalty program can be hugely influential in not only getting repeat business, but shortening the sales cycle, so you get that business faster. And you need to be prepared to act quickly with retargeting emails, which can help you get up to 20% of cart abandoners back to your site.

Experiencing: The customer is on vacation and looking for amazing things to do. Even if you don't directly benefit from promoting other attractions, turning visitors on to local hotspots and events is a great way to help them get more out of their visit.

You can reach them with digital newsletters that compile local hotspots and seasonal events. This is when you present any available offers, whether it's two-for-one appetizers during Happy Hour, savings on meals or packages, or anything else that can help them have a great time and engage more.

Sharing: A satisfied and happy customer will share their experiences on their own social media feeds, as well as on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Trivago.

Show customers you value their experiences by actively engaging with them on social media, especially encouraging and sharing user-generated content. You should also reply to their reviews (both positive and negative) on third-party sites, which can help you create a favorable impression and appear more trustworthy to other potential travelers.

Start Your Own Segmentation Journey
Of course, what's described above isn't the only way to segment your audience. There are simpler approaches, but the more touches tailored to customers’ intentions and mindset, the more likely they are to convert.

We can help you with all aspects of your direct marketing needs—from segmentation and strategy to database maintenance and automation and production and beyond.