(Editor’s note: This post initially appeared as a guest post on Daniel Craig’s Reknown blog)
Do you want to make a commitment to content marketing as part of your online strategy but are unsure where to begin? Or perhaps you struggle to maintain consistency with your posting schedule?
As a former hotel owner I truly comprehend the overwhelming feeling caused by the seemingly endless social media options available today. Trying to make sense of it all can feel as though you are standing on the edge of a cliff and staring down into a never-ending abyss.
“Content marketing” has unquestionably been the preeminent buzzword in marketing for a few years now, and for good reason. When done right, it can help you to build credibility and trust among your clients and even brand you as an “expert” for your particular destination or hospitality business niche.
For this post I’m assuming you have some type of online platform to post your content to: a blog, Facebook, YouTube, etc. However, if your blog is sitting dormant or your Facebook feed is “collecting dust,” perhaps you need a little push to get going again. My goal by the end of the article is to inspire you to either start producing content or to resume your efforts.
What is content marketing?
Whether you are responsible for promoting a destination, are the GM of a well-known brand, or own a small B&B, one thing is certain: in today’s online world we all have the power to be publishing companies and public relations firms.
In its simplest form, content marketing can be thought of as information and communication materials that you create (in text format, video, photos, etc.) that are helpful, enlightening and even entertaining for your customers.
Content marketing is intended to create value for your customers by answering questions or by helping to solve their pain points. Frequently it comes in the form of customer stories, anecdotes that share your backstory, insider tips, informational videos and engaging photos. If your efforts are successful, your clientele will actively seek you out online,
In direct juxtaposition to traditional advertising, whereby businesses simply broadcast a pushy sales message and do not provide any inherent value, a well thought-out and successfully implemented content strategy will allow you to gain the attention of customers, develop trust and build business connections.
This is a great sample post to get you thinking about articles that you could be creating. Undoubtedly, the hotel is providing beneficial information for their guests and you don’t get that “sales pitch” feeling. In fact, the only mention of the Distrikt comes in the fifth listing where they let you know that the Landmark Tavern is close to them.
Consider the following: if your website is analogous to the front door of your business, then your content posting platforms—blog, Facebook, etc.—are similar to your comfortable lobby area where stories are told, ideas are shared, questions are answered and trust is earned.
Three Content Marketing Quick Start Best Practices
Now let’s look at some best practices to help you to build an enhanced connection with your guests, and ultimately to increase sales and bookings.
1. Know who your ideal customer is
Your content marketing efforts are intended to create value for your customers by educating them and helping them in their decision making process. If you don’t have a solid understanding of who your ideal guest is, then it’s going to be difficult to produce helpful information. (Note: if you have different customers depending on the season or time of year you should keep that in mind and adjust your work accordingly.)
As an example, when I owned my hotel, our ideal guest was an active traveler who liked adventure. Typically, guests were in their twenties to late forties and liked activities such as hiking, snorkeling and bird watching. Many were also interested in experiencing the local culture and trying non-touristy restaurants and out of the way spots.
To help get you going, ask yourself:
Many potential customers will simply mute out overly promotional messaging that screams, “My business/destination is great!” However, if you educate your clientele, or perhaps even entertain them, you will not only grab their attention but may compel them to share your content, thereby exposing you to a whole new network.
2. Build a backlog of content ideas
If you’re ever at a loss as to what to post next, you’ll find my next quick start best practice helpful: build a backlog of ideas that you can refer back to.
Mind mapping is an exceptional technique for coming up with a steady stream of content ideas. The mind mapping method utilizes the creation of a diagram commonly referenced around one key point. For a tourism business or hotel, a mind map could be developed around a topic that might include your destination, your business niche or popular activities.
During my time owning a hotel I frequently would do this exercise so that I could come up with twenty to thirty posting ideas. A mind map for content ideas for my current location, Rincon, Puerto Rico, would look like this:
As you can see, I began by jotting down the name of the destination and then came up with numerous topics and sub-topics that could each be turned into a helpful post for visitors. What would a mind map look like for your destination?
3. Develop a posting schedule
As a hospitality or tourism professional you most certainly have a tremendous amount of daily responsibilities. “Finding the time” seems to be the number one obstacle to developing a content plan and sticking to it.
Having the discipline to consistently create and post quality content requires real focus and a long-term commitment. Your third quick start best practice is to develop an editorial calendar based on how often you think you can post.
Much like exercise, if you do not schedule time to fit your online work into your day, you won’t do it. However, if you can make it a regularly scheduled habit, then you are more likely to stick with it and be successful.
Certainly, hotel staff would never say that they do not have time to check in a guest or to clean rooms. Your online efforts need to be weighted with equal importance or they will always get pushed to the side.
A special quick start content marketing bonus
Here are four types of posts to use while developing your strategy.
List post – people like content that is easily digestible. One of the most popular forms of online posting is what’s known as a “list post.” A sample list for you might include: “Top Five Activities,” “Three Restaurants You Must Experience,” or “Four Great Spots for a Family.” Include your destination name in the title for SEO purposes.
“How to” post – potential customers want answers to questions about your business and destination. The “how to” post provides a convenient way to develop information that is valuable to your guests. Sample titles might include, “How to Experience (Your Destination) Like a Local” or “How to Spend a Long Weekend at (Your Location).”
Customer/guest interview post – whether in text or video format, guest interviews provide a powerful way for you to have an additional touch point with your clientele. They provide a “real” customer experience for those researching your venture online.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specific post – Google offers a very handy and freeKeyword Planner tool. When you type a phrase into the tool, e.g., “Florida beaches”, it provides a list of the average monthly search volume and competition for the keywords. From this information you can create targeted SEO content/posts that provide answers to questions your customers are actively searching for online.
Regardless of the type of content you develop, be sure to optimize it for search by including your destination, business name, activity, tags and hashtags – whichever are appropriate to the platform you are publishing to.
The most powerful aspect of content marketing is it allows you to answer the simple question, “How can I best serve my customers?” In order to take advantage of the boundless possibilities that content marketing can provide, you must be willing to put in real energy, real effort and real commitment.
Always remember, the number one rule is it’s not about you. If you start your content from a place of empathy, transparency and an unbridled willingness to be helpful, then you can’t go wrong.
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