Content marketing: You’ve heard of it, you could’ve dabbled in it, but maybe you’re still on the fence – what is it, exactly? Is there a quantifiable ROI? Who else is doing it? Is it right for your hotel marketing strategy?
As Contently points out, content marketing has existed since the late nineteenth century. At that point, it was done almost exclusively in the form of magazines produced by brands like Michelin, John Deere, and Procter & Gamble. Later, it was radio and television programming. In the twenty-first century, it spans all corners of the media landscape, both print and digital, and has trended dramatically upward for most of this decade.
It’s not just big brands doing content marketing – it’s small businesses, too – and many hotels and others in the travel marketing world have reaped the benefits. For those in hotel and destination marketing who have heard all the buzz about content marketing but still don’t really get it, we distilled some of the top questions and answers you may have.
What is Content Marketing?
This blog – the very one you’re reading right now – is content marketing for our hospitality marketing agency. “But this is informative and interesting,” you (hopefully!) think. Good – that’s how it should be. Content marketing isn’t a vehicle to overtly push your products and services; it’s to bring value to your audience via information and/or entertainment, and over the long run, be seen as a trusted source that they may turn to when they’re in the market for your products and services. Practically speaking, content marketing can be in the form of a blog, a magazine, video, audio…really, any sort of media.
Why Is Content “King” Today for Hotels and Destination Marketers?
Content doesn’t just sit idly on your blog. It can power your SEO (remember to build your posts around keywords!), social, and email strategies. It’s not enough to just create content and expect bookings to flow in – content is important, sure, but distribution is the gas that makes the car drive. The payoff? Getting consumers back to your website. It’s one of the main weapons hotels have in their arsenal in their fight against OTAs. It starts top of funnel at the awareness level (paid, SEO), then moves into the consideration phase as you bring the property to life in a way standard marketing simply can’t, and finally leads to a conversion by aligning the topics you talk about with perfectly matched CTAs. In other words, content plays an important role cross-channel, and up and down the funnel.
What Are Some Top Examples of Content Marketing for Hotels and the Travel Industry?
We produce a blog for Ocean Properties called Opal Unpacked, highlighting ways to take advantage of their properties and destinations. Social media and email are then core parts of the strategy for how that content is distributed. Written content doesn’t have to take the form of a blog, though. Field Guide, which we produce for Hotel Saranac, has a handful of sections (Adventure, Explore, Drink & Dine, Unwind) that explain how to take advantage of the region. If you have an Activities or Things to Do section on your website, it’s a natural spot to build a content strategy around. Airbnb famously has a slew of content marketing initiatives, from their print magazine to their blog to Guidebooks, their version of Zagat. You don’t have to be a big brand or have a robust marketing arm to get going – you could start by publishing one piece of content per month that’s helpful, informative, and/or entertaining for travelers, see what works, and go from there.
How Can I Measure the ROI of Content Marketing?
There are a couple of ways to think about this. On one hand, content isn’t necessarily the last touchpoint in the sales funnel – it varies dramatically by industry. That means it may play an important role, but not necessarily lead directly to tons of sales. Views and unique visitors are easy metrics to look at to determine a piece of content’s effectiveness, but shares (if someone uses their personal social feed to give your content a lift, you know it has some sort of value) and time spent on page (are people just dropping in because of a well-written headline, or staying and appreciating the content?) go a little deeper. UTM codes help track referrals and make more sense of the raw numbers. Finally, for the vast majority of content you produce, there should be a CTA somewhere in the piece – near the top of the page, if that’s where most of the value is, or toward the bottom, if it’s a longer article. Maybe it’s for a special room rate that a guest could unlock, or a deal at a particular restaurant on-property. If it is some sort of giveaway, collect their email addresses and build a list. There are plenty of ways to “win” in content marketing; you just need to define what that looks like for your business.
How Is Content Marketing Evolving?
As the internet somehow gets even noisier, content needs to be better and better in order to cut through the noise. Something that grabbed our attention in 2013 won’t necessarily do the same today. Many marketers are investing in longer, higher quality “10x” pieces built around their most important SEO keywords to combat this (think: “Things to do in town X.”) Others have switched mediums and explored the promise of video and all its various-length edits for best social and web consumption. Some have even branched out into podcasts, a format that fits conveniently with many of their consumers’ media habits. One of the easiest ways to stretch your content marketing is to make it native to social media – use the space and tools these channels provide to communicate the same message, without requiring a click-through.