This is a question I get frequently, and it came up recently when an inn asked for specific times to advertise specials and packages. I recalled having written an article about this awhile back and went in search of it. This post (after the photo) originally appeared last year on http://www.freetobook.com.
In addition I am adding the calendar that I use for inn promotions, this is not a set in stone calendar, as it needs to be customized for your inn, your specials and packages, and where you are in the world. An inn in Southern California may not be impacted like the Northeast does with Leaf peepers/foliage season for example. Please visit the calendar here and please feel free to download it if you can make use of it!
In tab 2 is a suggested schedule for holidays. You may need to wait a moment for the tabs at the bottom to appear. Tab 3 has a mini calendar for each event with an example, remember to add larger or well advertised local events to that section if you use this. You may want to combine all of the calendars together, this is a basic outline.
If a desk calendar or dayrunner type calendar, or calendar on your phone works better for you, than use it, there is no way that’s a bad way, the important part is scheduling it and making sure you stick to the schedule and track it. Tracking while it seems time-consuming, once you’ve gotten into the habit takes only a few minutes and is VERY worth it long-term to track bookings, revenue, brand exposure and historical data.
Keep in mind putting in the days of the week and the weather will also give you better tracking data long-term and help you plan. Valentine’s Day happening on a Wednesday one year, may get less bookings than it happening on a weekend for example. Or a rain out on Memorial Day weekend.
The time to start planning ahead for your promotions throughout the year, is best done in slow season when you actually have a little down time, a little space to actually think and work on your marketing for the upcoming year.
Developing a social media and content calendar in advance, is key to getting promotions out in a stress free and timely manner, so you have the best chance for a journalist to pickup an event or special for a story, and to make sure you work any kinks out of the special or offer in advance.
If you are doing specials in conjunction with other area businesses, i.e. a discount at a local restaurant in conjunction with a stay, or free or ½ price tickets to a museum, for example, as part of your packages, it’s best to be able to make those connections, and iron down the details as far ahead in advance as possible.
When making joint package deals it’s very important to stress to the partnering business that they will be getting a lot of free publicity out of it. Working some numbers up, and letting them know where and how you will be promoting it, and them, is leverage for getting you a better deal on a partnership offer or discount.
If you are hoping to get your special or offer picked up by the news for inclusion in a newspaper or magazine, be cognizant of the fact that the lead time for both, is very different. A newspaper generally needs several weeks lead time to run an article. Monthly magazines generally need three to six months, sometimes more.
Realistically any unique specials or promotions should be up online on your website at least 6 months prior to the actual event. If you send press releases out about it, it should be sent out at least 4 months or more prior. Advertising them on social media should start being pushed out at last 3 months prior, 2 at the very latest.
If you have something that you know will book up and sell out in advance, advertise it on social media at least 4 months in advance, so that if you get the inevitable cancellation or two you have time to rebook it. Developing the social media calendar will help you keep on track for when you are scheduled to start promoting your specials.
Specific Holidays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are generally high traffic days for lodging packages, and many potential guests do like to plan ahead for those. You may want to consider starting to advertise these on your social media channels a little earlier than the rest of your other packages.
Posting your specials on social media should not be done more than once a week, each post should be unique, have an appropriate and inviting picture accompanying it (make sure you either own the photograph or image, have permission to use it or have purchased it from a legitimate stock photo source), and be written in a way that utilizes the soft sell approach.
As an example of the soft sell post: Father’s Day is coming up soon. What better way to thank your Dad for being there for you, and your family, than treating him to a weekend away from it all. “Our special Father’s Day Package includes a full day of golf at the historic Beach Head Golf Club, followed by a day on the water fishing for Bass on Lake Bestinach. For more information about this special Father’s Day package please visit http:thejanedoeinn.com/fathersdayspecial.”
V.S. the hard sell post: “Father’s Day Package, June 18-19, Package includes 18 holes of golf, cart included. River tour with Bass fishing instructor, $360 for the weekend D.O.. Exclusions apply. Book Now at 800-555-1212.”
Make sure to keep your social media calendars from previous years, and note when you have gotten the most traffic and bookings for each previous year on them.
You should also include anything of note that happens during the time your packages have happened. The Christmas of 2013 had a horrible snowstorm resulting in cancellations, Easter of 2011 had a travel ban, etc.
Long term this helps you better plan for next year, as well as being able to look back and see what previous years results were based on what you did for marketing as well as any external events that may have happened that were outside of your control.
Don’t forget to visit the calendar here and please feel free to download it if you can make use of it!