Towards the end of last year, The Cape Marketing & Consulting Company was retained by a guest lodge, AshDen Lodge in South Africa, to help them raise their profile amongst local and international travellers to the Mafikeng area.  

Now, the hospitality sector is not a market within which we traditionally operate but we decided to accept the project on a zero fee basis to build our experience in this arena.  Developing a marketing programme with next to no budget was also a challenge that interested us.

AshDen Lodge 1

The Challenge

There were a number of challenges presented, not least of which was that there was little surplus budget available as the Lodge had recently expanded by building five additional rooms. The low budget in particular meant that we had to target our efforts, use low cost channels and ensure that all marketing activities were mutually reinforcing.

 

AshDen Lodge 2

Market Analysis

We conducted a series of informal, semi-structured interviews with previous and current guests of the lodge, as well as a number of business and holiday travellers, to gain a better understanding of the market, customer requirements and key differentiating factors. We also conducted in-depth interviews with the AshDen Lodge management team regarding the Lodge, its facilities, surroundings, and their plans and visions for the future.

Finally, we conducted extensive secondary research into the area to gain a better understanding of the area, reasons for travel. We also took a very hard look at competitors & substitutes in the form of B&Bs, guesthouses, hotels and lodges in the area, focusing in particular on their positioning and market offerings.

AshDen Lodge 3

The Solution

After we had gathered all of the required data, we identified a number of core activities that would cost the Lodge very little in terms of budget outlay but would reach the target market in a way that was credible and appropriate.

We decided against using any traditional channels in the marketing mix and used web presence and social media to drive the campaign.

Web Presence

A web design team were commissioned to build a simple website (www.ashdenlodge.co.za) for the Lodge that would form the base of the marketing campaign. The design guidance provided was that the site needed to look neat and clean, with no scrolling required when viewing pages.

The copy was written to showcase the Lodge’s peaceful surroundings, modern, air-conditioned & spacious rooms and excellent reputation with regards to catering and baking. In addition, after discussions with business travellers, the copy also highlighted the free Wi-Fi and the presence of desks in each of the rooms.

Visually, the web team used plenty of photographs provided by the AshDen Lodge management team to provide a bright and colourful introduction to the Lodge and gardens.

Social Media

The most important social media channel identified from the interviews was Trip Advisor, which made having a presence on this site an absolute necessity. The AshDen Lodge management team mobilised previous and current local and international guests to review the lodge on Trip Advisor after their stay, building a solid core of positive, independent reviews on the Internet.

Other social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook were evaluated but not prioritised, based on the feedback received during the investigation phase.

Costs

Excluding consultancy fees (there were none as The Cape undertook the project pro gratis as a favour), the total cost to the Lodge was less than ZAR 2,000, about £110 at current exchange rate.

Results

The Lodge has seen a substantial rise of more than 50% in occupancy over the 8 months since the programme started and there is no sign of the trend falling. On discussion with guests, almost all said that they had decided to stay at AshDen Lodge either due to the reviews on Trip Advisor or due to word of mouth feedback they had received from previous guests.

In particular, the Lodge has seen an increase in international guests on their way to and from the Madikwe Game Reserve who found the Lodge on the web, either through the website or on Trip Advisor.

Conclusion

The internet offers small businesses an outstanding channel through which to reach their customers, as is shown in this case study. It offers businesses unprecedented reach to customers at a cost that would have been unthinkable 15 years ago. It also allows customers access to a wide range of alternatives and reviews to enhance their purchasing decisions, whether they are buying a car or a night’s accommodation.

There is a caveat, however: the rules and principles of marketing still apply to the online space and understanding your environment, customers and competitors remain as important as ever if you wish your campaign to be successful. If you get your online presence wrong, or misrepresent your offering, the world is watching and customers can destroy your reputation as quickly as they can build it.

If you would like more information on developing multichannel marketing plans or would like The Cape Marketing & Consulting company to develop a multichannel plan for your product, please contact Andrew Wilmot at andrew.wilmot@thecmcc.com. 

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