There’s a number of direct-booking strategies and tactics that will drive occupancy to your hotel, much of which have to do with online engagement and presence to compete with OTAs.
Today’s hotel guests have many online booking behaviors, such as checking prices, looking at multiple destinations, reading reviews, abandoning carts just before pulling the trigger on a deal, and visiting many sites on their phone, tablet and computer before finally making a decision. They often book their rooms on their desktop or laptop computer—for now. And this trend is changing toward mobile devices rapidly.
About 65% of searches begin on a search engine, according to TravelClick. This has given online travel agencies a big advantage as they are dominating the marketing spend here. A lot of conversation today is about converting OTA revenue streams to direct bookings. Yes, while it may take a few months to see a difference, it is well worth the effort. The real key to achieving direct bookings is to target the right customer and convert the sale. Then, it is critical to measure the results. To target, ask questions like, “has this guest stayed with us before? Have they been to our market and competitive set? Use ad words and look at your rates and value proposition vis-à-vis your competitors. Price continues to be a major factor in a customer booking decision.
According to Meredith Rauch of Screen Pilot, "Brand awareness is, of course, essential to marketing whether you’re a well-known brand or a new business. There are always new customers to acquire, and displaying yourself to them at the right time is key. Facebook is a great place to begin with brand awareness. It’s less expensive than other channels such as Google AdWords, along with vast audiences and targeting options to reach the right customer.”
So if you want to fill up your hotel for the holidays, pay-per-click is the way to go. PPC returns are likely to be at least 5:1, revenue to cost. Move now and more occupancy during the holidays is yours!
Longer-term strategies and tactics for 2018
There are a number of strategies and tactics that can have a significant impact on 2018 bookings. The ability to interface in multiple languages and regions, coupled with ease of making bookings and a mobile-friendly site are a good start.
Use comprehensive personalized content, a loyalty plan that includes customer relationship management and optimize your marketing spend by building a community of travelers. We as hoteliers need to think like a customer. Is your story compelling? Is there a clear path to booking? What are your conversion metrics and what strategies and tests do you have in place to improve upon those metrics?
Other key components are a re-marketing program to motivate visitors to return to your website, text descriptions that are complete and up-to-date and photos that are current and compelling. Our marketing manager, Sheryl Paulino, lists a few key points for strategies and tactics here:
- Talk: Share relevant, timely and eye-catching content from the portfolio on a consistent basis.
- Listen: Monitor conversations involving your property on social channels and online reputation websites like TripAdvisor to maintain online reputation and identify revenue opportunities;
- Gain amplified brand exposure through the social networks of individual fans, partners and sister/parent companies.
- Integrate social media into other online and offline marketing channels.
- Develop channel-specific plans that follow established guidelines for “Level B” engagement (see tactical channel breakout below).
- Optimize content with keywords, tags, and links when possible and appropriate.
- Track network growth, engagement, revenue generation and other key metrics through a monthly online engagement report.
- Develop an internal content calendar and meet on a monthly basis to plan upcoming initiatives.
- Purchase paid advertising or content enhancements on central social channels to elevate visibility for key initiatives.
- Create a yearly report to evaluate performance.
- Team up with key partners on social media-based promotions and contests to gain exposure to their networks.
- Update share tags and social media icons on website and email templates and signatures.
In addition to the above, post keyword-rich blogs, use Facebook and appropriate social media depending on your property type. Pinterest and Instagram are very effective, and a reputation-management program is well worth the investment. If this is foreign to you and your team, hire a digital agency who specializes in the hospitality industry to do the work. They know more than any hotel operator—and if you need a help with identifying the right team for you, I am happy to provide my two cents. Call anytime!
Robert Rauch is an internationally-recognized hotelier, CEO, and founder of RAR Hospitality, a leading hotel management and consulting firm based in San Diego, California. RAR Hospitality’s hotel collection includes independent, boutique and branded properties throughout North America.
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