DIY internet marketing for the hospitality industry

October 17th, 2011 by H&R | Categories: feature, industry, Press Office, products, technology

The idea of internet marketing is daunting to many people. However, as times change, marketing yourself on the web is changing from being a nice-to-have into an absolute necessity, especially those who work full time in the hospitality and restaurant industries.

The reality is that if you’re not visible on the web, you simply don’t exist for a significant portion of your clientele. The 7 million or so people who are online in South Africa are most probably your target markets – affluent, young, up-and-coming, fashionable and connected men and women. If they’re looking for a “guest house in Grabouw” or “Italian restaurant in central Joburg” and your establishment doesn’t show up in a Google search, you are unlikely to get their patronage.

Taking the first steps online need not be expensive, difficult or frightening – here are four simple things you can do today to kick off your internet marketing plan.

Have an online home

This is the essential first step – create a website that can serve as your online “front desk”, where you can direct patrons to access vital information and where you can be found by anybody who searches for your establishment’s name. While you could spend tens of thousands of rand building a fancy and elaborate website, you really don’t need to (and, in fact, it’s usually better if you don’t).

Ideally, your website should have a simple design and contain basic information – contact details, location, a breakdown of your services, a little about your establishment. You can even build the site yourself by using a free, user-friendly online website tool like Yola (or any other that you like – simply search for free website builder). The most important thing is to get your website up and running as soon as possible.

Get listed

Once you’ve created your online home, find as many online directories for your industry and business type as you can, and get yourself listed (along with your new website address). Be specific and honest when defining your offering to make sure you attract just the right customers – if your restaurant serves French food, don’t add yourself under continental, fusion and Italian in the hopes of attracting a wider audience. It looks dishonest and is bound to lead to disappointment.

Leverage word of mouth

As you well know, accommodation and restaurant establishments flourish or founder on personal recommendations. People are much more likely to try out a new guest house or café if a friend went there and reported back positively on the service and quality. Online, where people are connected to hundreds or thousands of others through social networks, this effect is hugely magnified.

Marketing yourself effectively on social media can be tricky and should be approached with caution. It can definitely pay to have a Facebook Page or Twitter profile to communicate with your fans – it makes it that much easier for them to share and spread information about you. But remember that social networks are out of your control – they belong to the customers, whose whims and impressions can have a considerable effect on your business. Also bear in mind that social networking is incredibly time consuming – to do it effectively, you need to be connected all the time, answering queries, joining conversations and creating new valuable content to spread.

Before you launch your social networking campaign, do a lot of research on your target market and the tools you want to use – make sure you are reaching the right people on the right media.

Advertise smartly

Online advertising tools allow you to target your audience with unprecedented accuracy. Whether you market according to search terms (for example, with Google AdWords) or demographics (Facebook’s advertising tool is especially powerful), online adverts are some of the most cost-effective ways of getting your target audience’s attention.

Most online advertising is costed in one of two ways: cost per click (CPC) means that you pay a set amount every time someone clicks on your advert, while cost per thousand impressions (CPM) is a fee that you pay for every thousand times you advert is displayed. Advertising tools generally allow you to set a per-click, per-impression or overall budget, meaning that you can manage your expenses accurately. It’s also incredibly flexible – you can experiment with very small amounts and change your adverts on the fly to find out what works best.

Again, do your research before you start out – there are many resources online to walk you through the process.

The 10-week part-time University of Cape Town Internet Marketing course commences on 14 November 2011 and is presented online throughout South Africa.

GetSmarter are offering a R500 discount on the UCT Internet Marketing course from 17 October – 31 October 2011. Place “Hotel and Restaurant” in the Promotional Code when you register for the course and the R500 will be automatically removed from your payment. Click here or contact Emma on 021 447 7565 .