‘Tis the season to be… smart about your marketing themes Thinking of new marketing activities to keep things fresh can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to spend researching themes and events and then plotting them into a 12-month plan. Thankfully, there’s an event for pretty much everything these days to inspire your marketing activities. From established celebrations such as British Food Fortnight and National Afternoon Tea Week to the more obscure awareness-building campaigns like Don’t Step on a Bee Day and even Talk Like a Pirate Day (aaarrrrgggghhhh!). Of course you’ll have the usual annual suspects in the line-up – Father’s Day, Easter, Christmas – but there’s also an abundance of seasonal and topical events that can be used to amplify messages, attract new audiences, engage with existing customers and demonstrate your USPs by linking up with relevant occasions. Before getting started with a jam-packed calendar of events, make sure you identify solid objectives for each activity. Ask yourself what you want to achieve from being part of a national campaign or from holding your own event. Whether it’s bookings, increased profile or brand positioning – without this you won’t be able to measure if it was a success. Here’s some advice and ideas to get you started… Hop on the topic Often run by membership bodies and associations, awareness events provide hospitality businesses with an excellent opportunity to benefit from a much bigger campaign’s momentum. Getting involved with events such as British Food Fortnight (17 September to 2 October 2016) shows support for our country’s thriving food industry and the organiser – Love British Food – has an entire suite of resources to utilise, including profiling opportunities to flaunt your ‘best of British’ recipes. With high profile industry names, such as Le Manoir’s chef patron Raymond Blanc OBE , and The Telegraph as a media partner there’s already quite a following for this annual celebration. Why not get involved and share photos of your British dishes using the dedicated hashtag #LoveBritishFood? Go hard or just a little bit – it’s up to you You don’t need to invest endless amounts of time to be able to get involved. If you already have a great afternoon tea on the menu then getting involved with National Afternoon Tea Week (8 to 14 August 2016) can be as simple as reminding your existing customers that you actually offer one. You could shake things up and run an exclusive special offer or create a themed menu. Or pull out the stops like the Legacy Rose & Crown Hotel in Salisbury who is using this peak in afternoon tea interest to launch their ‘Book-a-Blanket Afternoon Tea’. For the rest of the summer season guests can simply have their afternoon tea packaged in a neat box, complete with picnic blanket, and head out to the hotel’s gardens to soak up the sights of the River Avon. If you haven’t got much time to prepare but it’s something you want to be involved with then social media provides a great platform for engagement. This year, The Clink Charity took to Twitter for #NationalVegetarianWeek (16 to 22 May 2016) to highlight some of the delicious, meat-free options featured on The Clink Restaurant menus so far this year. With vegetarianism continuing to rise in popularity and an abundance of fresh vegetables coming from The Clink’s own gardens at HMP Send, they’ve seen a 117% uplift in sales of their vegetarian dishes in May, June and July this year compared to the same period in 2015. With hashtags such as #VeggiesofIG (Veggies of Instagram) and #meatfreemonday garnering thousands upon thousands of uses there is an entire world of Quorn again veggies to engage with online. There’s more? Outside of awareness days, seasonal celebrations and big calendar events, one-off occurrences such as movie releases and book launches also provide a great opportunity to piggyback off an already established and popular theme. Georgian House Hotel in London’s Pimlico has seen huge success and put its name firmly on the book buff’s map when they launched their magically themed Wizard Chambers, giving guests the chance to stay the night in an enchanted dormitory style bedroom. In celebration of the opening of ‘The Cursed Child’ play in London this year the hotel has created an exclusive menu of magical treats to capitalise on the popularity of the play and tie back to the literary and cinematic theme of the Wizard Chambers. World news and naturally occurring events can often provide opportunities too. One of the biggest and brightest annual astronomical events – The Geminids meteor shower – occurs every December and last year Battlesteads Hotel and Restaurant in Northumberland chose to celebrate this occasion with an exclusive special offer. As the only hotel in the UK to have an on-site observatory and the hotel site being an official Dark Sky Discovery Site, this was an excellent way of keeping their existing stargazing customers interested and provided aspiring astronomers with the perfect viewing spot as hundreds of meteors lit up the sky throughout the night. How do I know if it’s working? Measuring your success is one of the most crucial parts in identifying if getting involved with a theme benefitted your business worked and how you can improve in the future. Make sure you track social media efforts using the reporting capabilities of each platform – did you see a spike in engagement? Have bookings and reservations risen? Monitor your Google Analytics to see if your website has seen a boost in traffic. Ensure your team is tracking when someone redeems a special offer. Look at ticket sales or event attendance. Whatever the metric, keep your ultimate objective in the back of your mind to ensure you stay on track and are able to demonstrate your success come the end. 3 tips to take away… Relevancy is key. Always make sure the event is relevant to your business, what you stand for and who you are talking to. With so many events and themes to choose from there’s bound to be a few that tie in with what you do. Make some noise. Utilise all the channels available to you – create dedicated content for your website, social media, printed materials, e-communications and anywhere else people who might be interested may be looking. Your plans should be scalable so you can do a little or a lot, just keep the messaging consistent to avoid confusing people. Utilise the tools available. Many organisers will provide a resource bank to help you when hosting your own event. From Macmillans’ World’s Biggest Coffee Morning Kitwhich includes posters, recipes and donation boxes to a simple hashtag, make sure you’ve looked at what’s on offer to help spread your message further. We’re exhibiting at this year’s Independent Hotel Show so make sure you visit us on stand 235 to pick up your very own 2017 Custard Calendar of Communication to help you plan your marketing themes. Want to spruce up your marketing calendar but aren’t sure how to get started? Get in touch with Petra to discuss how Custard can help shape your year ahead – 01483 740 747.