A marketing budget does not necessarily have to be high to make a huge impact. Sometimes, the most effective way to attract guests is by sharing real stories and experiences.
Imagine generating $368 million in media coverage, almost 9 million unique website visits, and 55 million landing page views from a single, low-budget marketing campaign. No, this isn't wishful thinking. When Tourism Queensland launched a video marketing campaign inviting people to apply for the "best job in the world" - taking care of a Great Barrier Reef island - more then 35,000 people submitted user generated content applications that took the world by storm.
And that's just one example of the power of user generated content. UGC is one of the fastest growing trends in hospitality and tourism marketing thanks to the widespread emergence of peer review sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp. Blogs, social media, and reviews give customers a glimpse into what your cuisine tastes like, what your resort looks like, and what your standard of service is. No filters and no advertising.
As hospitality marketers, turning the reins over to your customers, and away from advertising, might feel like a risk, but the benefits are irrefutable.
Booking a vacation is a long-tail sales cycle because it is an emotional, elective purchase that usually comes with a slightly higher price tag. User generated content can help prospective customers move through this process more quickly and, according to AdWeek, can increase online booking conversion by up to 29% if placed effectively on your site. User generated content increases conversions by giving prospects a point of reference about your hospitality experience they can fully trust. This supports customers' ability to compare, choose, and feel confident in completing their booking.
The millennial market represents a multi-billion dollar industry and growing. In fact, millennials are the largest growing source of disposable income as baby boomers retire. Of them, 45% of millennials indicate that they rely on UGC to choose hotels and 40% look to UGC when making general travel plans, according to CrowdTap. As this market grows, supporting your brand with UGC will become more important than ever before. In addition to review sites, travel blogs, photo journals, and even social media help expand your brand reach and influence. For example, according to Travel + Leisure magazine, one of the major factors that influenced the recent popularity and reemergence of tourism in Greece can be traced back to pictures on social media showcasing the islands' deep blue waters, stunning sunsets, and charming architecture. That's some powerful free advertising.
Speaking of free advertising, user generated content can also help reduce your search engine marketing budget. Every time your customers, past guests, and fans write about your brand, you get an immediate boost in natural search engine listing. While user generated content may not replace your total advertising budget or your search engine optimization efforts, it can effectively complement your paid marketing tactics.
The best part is that your customers do it for you. Consider every review site and blogger as a member of your team. Instead of fearing reviews and posts, encourage them. It will hold your staff to a higher standard of service and create a deeper, more meaningful relationship between you and your customers.