16/07/2015

By Willem van Lynden, Director of Marketing and Sales at Boost Capital

Britain has basked in a rare heatwave this summer and for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the hospitality field higher temperatures can mean big business. Punters flock to pubs, bars and outdoor restaurants, while couples and families take impromptu breaks to enjoy the unusually good weather. So, how can business owners make sure they’re winning the most of the sunny, summer trade?

Be social – and visual

The British weather is nothing if not unpredictable and it’s impossible to tell if the summer will continue to be a scorcher. But when the sun does shine, social media is a fast and cheap way to attract attention to your business. Have you got a sun terrace? Tweet the fact. Are you offering a seasonal menu or summer drinks promotions? Take some photos of your latest dishes and cocktails and get them on your social feed. Has your hotel got a tempting outdoor swimming pool? It could be just what a last-minute weekend guest is seeking, so spread the word and put yourself ahead of the competition.

Images are incredibly powerful in terms of generating traffic – recent research by digital marketing experts Stone Temple Consulting found adding an image to a tweet doubles the chance it will be retweeted or marked a favourite. And hospitality businesses lend themselves very well to visual representation – pictures of food, drink and happy customers all make for a very attractive offering. Keep content fresh, lively and constant. And get your timing right – social media traffic is at its busiest from 3pm until 1am, according to recent findings from web analytics firm Chartbeat, so put up posts when the most people are likely to be looking.

Be mobile

The average man or woman on the street is rarely without their smartphone and many will be searching for restaurant, hotel or pub information via their handsets. Yet, remarkably few SME websites are mobile-enabled.

– More than eight out of ten people use local businesses as a result of searching for nearby options via their phones, according to research from Google.

– Yet, about two-thirds of restaurants, bars and hotels don’t have mobile-enabled websites, a study by Yellow Pages owner hibu found.

Google changed its ranking algorithms in April to include searches made via mobile devices, meaning websites not available to mobile users will drop down the search engine’s listings. Hoteliers, restaurateurs and bar and pub managers should take note. Make sure your company’s website is optimised for mobile searches to maximise traffic and to create a seamless digital experience for those searching online. And use highly searched terms in your web copy to improve your search engine optimisation, providing Alt tags for photos to attract more browsers, too.

Be easy to find

So, people typically search in their immediate vicinity for places to eat, drink and stay. Since so much consumer research is conducted locally through mobile devices, businesses should ensure their details and keywords are entered into Google My Business, which provides maps and puts its listings ahead of organic rankings, so casual browsers can find firms easily.

– Four out of five consumers use search engines to find local information, according to Google and four out of five want advertising customised to their city or immediate surroundings.

In other words, it’s not enough to tell people what you’re doing – you have to tell them exactly where you’re doing it. Make sure your address, clear directions, plus information about how to establish table or room availability, for example, are included in your online content.

Be the customer

It’s time to think like your customers. Would you fancy your menu in the current weather? Lighter meals and more cold options will probably be popular, so make changes where possible. If you’re offering something different, advertise the fact through all the usual channels – social media, local press and radio and on chalk boards inside and outside your premises.

Have you thought about changing any of your price points or launching any seasonal promotions? People may be more inclined to go out and spend money while the sun is shining, but they still want a good deal. This could be an opportunity to work with your suppliers to push their goods aggressively in exchange for some free or discounted stock. You could give a reduction on the food bill if customers order a particular brand of beer, for example.

Scrutinise your premises with a customer’s eye. Any outside space will be a major selling point during a warmer spell and customers will flock to a bar or eatery with a beer garden or terrace. Make sure it looks attractive – and that people know it’s there via any advertising efforts.

Be responsible

Hospitality businesses are largely judged on their customer service. And in the hot weather that extends to ensuring people are comfortable and safe, particularly those who are older, physically less able or pregnant. Make sure your premises are well ventilated, with windows open, blinds down where the sun blazes in and air conditioning or fans running to keep temperatures at a sensible level. Outside, provide shade in common areas using awnings or umbrellas. Taking such responsible measures may not seem like a marketing opportunity, but you can advertise the fact you have air-conditioned rooms on an A board on the street to attract those desperate for some respite from the sweaty conditions. Equally, a shady terrace could be a selling point on social media. And don’t forget employees in the heat – keep them properly hydrated and protected against the sun, too.

Summer is the big season for many hospitality firms, so embrace the good fortune the elements have brought this year. If you get the marketing formula right, as the mercury is rising, your profits will be, too.

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