How To Make Digital Marketing Work For Hospitality

A summary of Ignite's presentation at London's Boutique Bar Show 2015.


Ignite Editor

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Boutique Bar Show in London, which joined up more than 100 brands across the very quirky venue that is the lovely London Art House in Islington. 

I was asked to discuss the topic of ‘How To Make Digital Marketing Work For Hospitality’ to the people and brands exhibiting, who showcase the “small, independent and quality focused” part of the industry. Here I have summarised (honestly!) some of the main topics covered so get comfortable as we discover why digital is important for hospitality, the process we go through as an agency and then some chat about channels and tools to use.

1. Why is digital important for hospitality?


The main answer to that is simple – we’ve all gone local. The world has gone beyond the point of just saying we’re all becoming more connected – we’re increasingly hyper-connected while simultaneously becoming hyper-localised.

With food and drink the current trend of “going local” is about finding the origins; it’s about the terroir, where does it come from? etc. This trend also applies to the web, where we’re seeing massive growth in local activity. Google, for example, is doing a big push to help drive local business.

It’s a great time to jump into this, as all of the channels are pushing local, so there are lots of opportunities to help your business to take advantage of it. Also, you’re in hospitality – which is the ultimate localised business!

2. Let’s dive into what “local” really means for hospitality in the digital space….


We don’t go online anymore; we live online.

And we’re doing this on all types of screens – laptops, tablets, phones, watches. People are on-the-go and expecting a seamless use of technology along the way. Proof of this can be found in our interactions with the online spaces.

“Words like ‘near me’, ‘closest’ and ‘nearby’ are increasingly common across the billions of queries on Google every month. More and more, people are looking for things in their vicinity—be it a gym or a shopping centre, a plumber or a cup of coffee.” (Think With Google)

“Google search interest in ‘near me’ has increased 34X since 2011 and nearly doubled since last year. The vast majority come from mobile—80% in Q4 2014.” – Think With Google

(Slide 10) According to Google, if people don’t know where they want to eat, around half of them will start searching within the hour before going.

But this digital advice doesn’t stop there… Once at their destination, consumers are searching to help make good choices. Another survey showed that 40% of millennials looked up information about their food while in a restaurant; “coffee near me” is a popular search on mobile, but so is “macchiato calories.” (Think With Google)

Likewise – when I type “What’s in a…” into my mobile search – two of the results were cocktail ingredient requests. Boom! (Try this and let me know what your results are! Remember, it needs to be on mobile as desktop yields a different result. So does your language/country setting).

3. Just because you’ve got a mobile site doesn’t mean you have a local strategy.


On their mobile, your customers are engaging with lots of “channels” that relate to your bar and the experience to get there. To have a proper localised strategy, you have to reach them on some of these key channels. People are dipping in and out of multiple devices and websites, applications, etc. and your ads can appear there too, it’s not all about a Google search anymore.

So let’s follow the journey of a typical customer – searching on Google for a bar, then switching over to maps to locate it, then opening a familiar review app to see reviews and/or book, then sharing that info with a friend through WhatsApp, and finally booking an Uber.

There’s an expression being used by technologists at the moment about the concept of thin-ternet. This is the idea that the digital world is evolving into a series of personalised apps with experiences catered and curated for each individual – therefore removing the vastness and irrelevant parts of the Internet.

“The key is that the web is more shallow – each frame of the internet is already personalized to us, secure so that our personal data can be used to make payments, and browsing and search are made easier.” – AdAge

It’s a curated web experience, and by making sure you’re appearing where you should be for your customer, you’re enhancing that curated web for them and allowing your bar to be found.

4. Meet your Patron


In hospitality, we’re in one of the most shareable industries. You’re in the business of fun! An example of this is that Madison’s rooftop at St. Paul’s is the most Instagrammed part of London, only after Hyde Park.

Have a look around, ask your staff, look at any social statistics and online data you can get (from your website or newsletter for example). What do these people like? The ones who engage with you on social media – where else do they go? What does their Twitter bio say? What can you tell by what they order and how they act at your bar?


There are lots of ways to go about making a “customer persona” or “customer profile”. The best way I can suggest to just write it out, assign an image to it (make it a real person if at all possible) and think about these basics.

This activity doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s simple to do. This technique is hardly ground breaking but it’s still very important. We always go through this process as an agency and sometimes it throws up something, sometimes it throws up nothing. The point isn’t what you can discover – the point is to put yourself in the customer mindset.


One of the things that makes digital important is how it can be a fixture in the journey your customer goes on when deciding where to go. You can really get into the detail here as it’s about identifying their daily patterns and habits.

After you’ve established your customer, think about why they could be going out. There are the obvious ones like hen dos, birthdays, etc. but also not-so-obvious ones like when someone is looking for a specific type of bar experience (think gin or mezcal bars).

These are some of the ways a customer behaves and some of the touchpoints they may have with your brand – some even before getting through the door.

5. Excite & Delight


Let’s start with your story. This is the next phase in our process after identifying the customer; what makes you unique? Don’t say service; don’t say quality.

So many people are fighting for attention out there in the digital world. A big part of what we go through is to find the angle that makes you interesting.

By default: no one gives a shit what you think. You think you make the best drinks in town, well just you saying that through your communication isn’t going to matter to an over-pitched audience.

You’ve got to make it interesting and become a storyteller.

We’ve got some examples up in our case studies or you can quickly view on these slides.

6. Set the Strategy


Pre-decision: People like to go to bars, eat and drink out. They will go out, so it’s a matter of when. We know there is power in targeting that area, even before people are looking for a specific type of bar of experience.



Actively looking: they now have a reason to go to a bar (back to the mindset but from earlier) and so they want to know where to go tonight.



Decision made: They want you! You’re in. See how to help your customers actually book and/or find you.

Next would come the experience. The experience phase is what you’ve worked for and this should be the heart.

But just because you’re going to nail the whole experience process – and that is very critical – you still have to get people in the door in the first place and sadly, remind them you exist in a city like London to keep them coming back.

7. Target


Start with zero-ing in on where your customers are. The ability to geographically target is quite precise, allowing you to target them within 1 mile.

You have your channels mix now, so you can communicate across all of your channels in a small radius.


Here comes the data. So, you’ve always had your email database and you’ve been collecting that for a while, but now with the data you hold via email sign-ups, bookings or even just with cookies monitoring the people who come to your site – you’re able to re-connect with them. The value of that data has sky-rocketed!

If someone visited your site in the past year, maybe you want to remind them through Display Ads on their favourites news sites that yes, that brunch was amazing! Maybe you want to show an ad of your signature cocktail to a person who aligns with your fans and is similar to them.

Regarding times of the day or week, if you know you’re a late-night dive bar, maybe let’s save money and only target when people are searching in the evenings. Maybe you’re a touristy spot, so again – let’s work with that schedule.


But moreover, you take all of these different aspects and you find the overlap. That’s the target!

It’s small, it’s focused, but it allows for the most relevant approach to getting in front of the people who would actually like to meet you.

8. Implementation & Practical Tools


Just a bit at the end here on putting this live and a quick moment to explain SEO to people who don’t have to say that acronym 50 times a day…

If the internet is like a library, Google is our librarian. And we need to put info into a sort of index system to get it found and read.

Citations are mentions of your business name and address on another website. And they have a huge impact on local SEO. You want to make sure you’re covered on these key sites on the slide, and then any additional which might have to do with your specific type of business.

The main bit is to make sure you have a consistent ID across them all – same brand logo, same main key images, same address and contact, opening hours, and key tagline and summary – as this heavily builds up your SEO and plays into your rank on search engines like Google.

9. And Finally… Do!

With each phase, see what worked, experiment and press on again. Maybe no one likes you on Facebook, but Twitter is engaged. Maybe some random combination of keywords keeps getting bookings through Search. Discover the combination that works for you and go for it!

So, to sum up:

Digital is important and will continue to play more into your business. And we hope by following a few bits from our approach that you’ll be able to:

…and then invite them in for a drink!

Thanks for sticking with me until the end of this presentation, I hope you’ve found some useful insights. To find out more on what our digital experts can do for your business, please get in touch.

For the full slideshare:

How to Make Digital Marketing Work for Hospitality | Boutique Bar Show 2015 from Ignite Hospitality Marketing
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