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How to Market a Restaurant, Hotel, or Attraction: 10 Helpful Tips

tourist backpacker walking through a busy street

We just became the newest members of Tourism Calgary!   This is going to be an excellent way to build on our hospitality marketing base.  So, we thought we’d give you some fresh and original marketing tips, designed for attracting visitors to your exciting destination.

  1. Do-it-yourself market research.   Have you asked anyone you trust to mystery shop your restaurant, hotel, or attraction lately?    It’s an amazing way to get brutally honest feedback – especially if you ask for it that way, i.e. “be brutally honest.”  Perhaps tiny things such as how long the service took, the frustration of not finding a parking spot, or even the “funny smell” in the bathroom are undermining a whole ton of marketing effort you’ve been investing.   Ask people of various ages if you can — maybe the door is too heavy for an elderly person, or the seats are too stubby for a tall person.  Offer any incentives you have to in order to get the help you need.  Maybe a prize for the most brutal feedback ? 😉
  2. Meet the neighbours.   Are you in a shopping district, or are there other businesses nearby with whom you could collaborate on marketing?    Go and meet them.  See what they’re doing to attract visitors to their locations, and see if you can direct your customers to them, and vice versa.  “Friend” and “follow” each other on social media sites, drop flyers for each other…just help!  The more collaboration, the more reasons you are giving people to come to your area in the first place.   If you can get a bigger group of businesses together and form a team, then you can do some real events together for your zone.
  3. Capitalize on Tourism Calgary.   Like an expanded idea of the previous point, your tourism association is gold. As a new member of Tourism Calgary, I got a big run-down today on all the marketing they’re doing to attract visitors to Calgary.  Did you realize their website gets about 100 times the traffic of a typical business site in Calgary?   Over 115,000 visitors a month!  And people stay on that site awhile, looking for things to do in Calgary, and places to go.  As a member you get a profile page within their site, and a link back to yours, which really helps your site rank better too.  What’s more, it’s free to list your events, which gives people another reason to come on down and see you.  And a final thought:  Tourism Calgary is packed with hospitality marketers, who will give their time to you to help you make the most of your  membership, advise you on marketing, refer you to other member companies with whom you can partner, and generally help you learn how to market your company  (i.e. lots of excellent seminars)!
  4. Use your selling skills.  If you’re waiting for business to just walk in the door, you’re missing an opportunity to tackle it as it’s walking on by.   Just about any hospitality business can take in business groups or private events.   Go out and meet event producers or wedding planners and pitch your location as a great-sized place for various types of events….suggesting those that would be a best fit.  This will involve some cold calling and rapport building, but there’s a quicker way that we recently discovered: a membership at ISES Calgary, the International Special Events Society of Calgary.   This is a great way to meet people who plan the thousands of events taking place in Calgary every year.
  5. Build online through offline marketing.   When people come into your location, do you make them feel like a part of your community?  Think about how you can transfer the offline (bricks and mortar) community to an online community.  Consider taking shots of your best customers (with their permission) experiencing your offering, and posting them to your website, Facebook page, and Twitter.  If this sounds like a lot of work, there are cool little cameras now that have social sharing features.  Once you set up your accounts on such a whizzy camera, all you have to do is snap the picture (or video), then you hit “share” and up it goes to your social sites.   That makes your customers feel like they’re on a celebrity wall!  And of course, getting them to then “Like” or “Tweet” about you is a no-brainer.
  6. Use your networks to boost rankings.  Did you know that when a big, credible website has a link back to your website, it really helps you rank better on Google?  Most businesses are members of various industry associations, but never have bothered to go make sure their listings include their website links.   What’s more, you can boost that by getting your best suppliers (and friendly neighbouring businesses, as per point #2) to link back to you.  The more of these good quality links, the better your site will rank, and the better you will do online.
  7. Professional photography:  more, more, more!  I am convinced that photographers’ businesses are going to start booming in the next few years. Why?  Because most websites look pretty much the same — templated layouts of some sort, standard.  What makes them different is the quality of the photography, and the uniqueness of it!  It’s where people’s eyes go first (and I’m talking about the main page banner images here, and feature images of your rooms, facilities, or dining.)  You cannot, and must not, scrimp on photography of your destination.  What’s more, get it NOW, when the weather is so beautiful, before it starts “snowing in the city, and the streets are brown and gritty” to quote Gordon Lightfoot!  The more beautiful photos, the more they will sell for you, a thousand words at a time.
  8. Strategic content.  At the same time you need great photography, you need great text content.  This brings the traffic in the door (while the photos go a long way to keeping the traffic on your site) because text is what search engines recognize.  What words would people use to find you?  Try punching some ideas into the Google Keywords tool, and see what suggestions it makes.  Or, give us a call to get some help with this.  You can get a tutorial for this and other search phrase tools on YouTube.
  9. Write a daily blog about new things going on at your location.  Talk about that new menu item you’re working on, talk about what happened on the big ride today, talk about the deer who wandered through your field and stole all the apples…whatever.  Just make it personal, and give people a flavour for the character of what you’re offering.  You want people to imagine what it’s like being there.  Take photos as you go (these don’t need to be professional ones, but try to get good lighting) — just keep it coming.  Who knows, one day you might use your blog to write a book about your adventures in running your business — and what a wonderful resource it will be!
  10. Track and Improve, Track and Improve.  Whatever marketing you are doing — ads in the local paper, flyers, pay per click ads, radio, events — it is critical to track all the sources of your offline and online traffic.  Use Google Analytics for online traffic monitoring, and use table-card surveys (say, to enter a draw) or other methods to ask about the foot traffic.  This is the only way to hone your marketing into a science.  Marketing is often a best-guess at first (unless you hire a great marketing strategy firm!) but if you continually track it, you can make it work over time.  Just keep at it.  Think about this question: Do you know a company that failed due to having too much marketing?  Neither do I.

So there are our tips!  If you would like a little more in-depth help on the marketing front, contact-us for a consultation. Details on these and our fees are on our Consultations page.

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About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."