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8 Effective, Low-cost Marketing Tools for Hotels

In a new digital era defined by distinct brand experiences, the bar for hotel marketing has been set incredibly high. It’s critical that properties competitively differentiate with unique branding that effectively engages (research shows engaged guests are 40% more likely to come back and also less price-sensitive).

So, what can hotels realistically do? Here are eight effective, low-cost (if not, free) marketing tools brands can strategically use to improve sales, value and quality of service:

UNSPLASH: Free, High-quality Images

As opposed to stock imagery charged at a high subscription rate, Unsplash allows you to download organic, high-quality images for immediate use (no cost and no attribution required). Unsplash images work well for social graphics, flyers, presentation decks, eBooks and infographics, especially when used within a graphic design tool like Canva (more on that below).

Hoteliers have a lot of great options here. Consider, for example, this social graphic I whipped up using an image from Unsplash:

PEXELS: Completely Free Stock Video

Unlike imagery, it’s difficult to find free, high-quality stock video. Pexels is one of few sites that offer competitive quality at no cost. Videos can be as short as five seconds and as long as one minute, offering plenty variety for handling different campaigns and projects. For example, this 15-second buffet clip could work well as part of a “behind-the-scenes” video of your hotel operations (similar to videos produced by Mohegan Sun and Disney Cruise Line). If you want to use one single clip as a video campaign, try to keep it at 45-60 seconds (Facebook prioritizes video content with completion rates of at least 30 seconds).

Particularly innovative is Mohegan Sun’s new original series “Back of House.” The program—touted as “an all-access pass to the back hallways, show stages, prep kitchens and executive offices you never get to see”—demonstrates a new form of branding that mirrors popular video sites and apps. This is especially important for engaging younger guests (research shows Generation Z spends more time on Netflix and YouTube compared to traditional TV).

ENVATO MARKET: (Nearly) Free, Fully-loaded Video

If you’re looking for something more comprehensive than Pexels, you’ll find it at Envato Market. Here you can shop collections of fully-loaded video—including background music coordinated to template video and imagery—priced as low as $8.

Consider this welcome video that can be played in your main lobby at just $29. Or, this video that can be used to showcase your property and amenities (great for social promotions), also at $29. Just keep in mind that you or your marketing team will need to use Envato’s editing software to customize the videos. All instructions are included with your purchase.

PROMO: Complete, Ready-to-Use Video

Promo is the most advanced and expensive video option on this list. Packages range from $49 for one video per month to $359 for 15 videos per month. While you may pay more, you don’t have to learn any editing software. Background music, video, imagery and text can be customized with just the click of a button, and your video is downloadable within minutes for sharing. Simply create an account for free and type “hotel” in the search bar to see dozens of targeted, customizable clips.

Other reasons to love the platform: plans are month-to-month, giving you complete flexibility to do what’s best for your organization, and the videos you make are yours forever with a lifetime license.

MAILCHIMP: Free Pop-ups, Newsletters and More

MailChimp’s free business package allows you to create professional campaigns and marketing automations with no design or coding experience. Pay $10 per month and get unlimited campaign sending, predictive demographics, email delivery by time zone, advanced testing tools, and access to the company’s 24×7 support team. Or, pay $199 per month for the works.

Hospitality ideas: a pop-up advertisement for your flash sale on new bookings; a monthly eNewsletter for loyalty members that offers exclusive news and discounts (embed a subscriber form on your site to capture quality leads); A/B testing on emails to see what kind of messaging is working and what’s not.

CANVA: Free Graphics and Templates

Canva offers so many options that are completely free. Simply create an account to explore unique designs fit for any marketing project or campaign. For example, below is a flyer I created for a training seminar I recently presented at a local fitness club. Canva offers free imagery, illustrations, backgrounds and more (or, you can upload your own from sites like Unsplash).

Keep in mind that some Canva-original designs do come at a price, but you don’t have to use them.

HUBSPOT: Free Marketing Templates

HubSpot’s “Resources” section is nothing short of a goldmine for marketing and branding. Go to “eBooks, Guides and More” for free templates that you can begin immediately using for your hotel.

Hospitality ideas: create a “guest expectations and trends” infographic using any of these 15 templates; create a PowerPoint presentation for SlideShare that details the evolution of the industry using these templates; organize your social campaign with this free social media calendar template. Other templates can be found for eBooks, on-page SEO and email designs for marketing and sales.

BUFFER: Free Social Media Management

Manage your social media accounts with the option to schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Buffer’s free package allows you to manage up to three social accounts and store up to 10 posts per account in your queue at any one time. Its most expensive package ($399/mo.) allows you to manage up to 150 accounts and store up to 2000 posts per account for scheduling.

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