It’s Time to Get Personal: Delighting Guests with Individualized Experiences

Ever since the introduction of Big Data, individualized experiences have become the new status quo. Advertisements online highlight products we’ve previously shown interest in, video streaming services suggest content catered to our tastes and preferences, and google searches return results that reflect our location and online history. Personalization is no longer a perk; It’s a convenience we’ve come to expect. And in the hospitality world, there’s nothing more important than meeting (and exceeding!) the expectations of your guests. Make sure you’re doing what you can to personalize the guest experience at your property and win guest loyalty.

Gather Information

The first step in creating a personalized experience is knowing your guest. And to do that, you need data. PMSs and CRMs allow you to create detailed profiles for every guest. So use them. Any information you learn (whether it’s their profession, preferences, or interests) should be added to the system in order to be leveraged later. How do you get that information? A lot about your guests can be learnt from the following sources:

Special Requests >> Giving customers a chance to make special requests for a booking is standard practice and one of the best opportunities to learn valuable information about your guest. Whether it’s a room preference or a dietary restriction, any special requests should be preserved in the guest profile so needs can be anticipated for future stays.

Ancillary Services >> The services they use, and the products they purchase can tell you a lot about a guest. Do they buy a tea and bagel every morning? Spend most of their time at the spa? Taking note of their habits and preferences gives you a lot to work with when it’s time to surprise and delight a guest.

Personal Accounts >> With everyone documenting their lives and engaging with friends and brands on the internet, social media accounts are treasure troves of data. It’s common to get a customer’s email at the time of booking. Why not their social media handle as well? Not only can you connect with guests online, but it’s easy to get a feel for their likes and dislikes. Do they obsess over coffee? Have a bag of local beans waiting in the room. Are they huge sports fans? Let them know what games are going on during their stay.

Surprise and Delight

Now that you’ve gathered information, it’s time to put those meticulous profiles to use. Wow your guests with unexpected gestures that show you care. They don’t need to be big. A hot chocolate on arrival for the guest with a sweet tooth, waived WiFi fees for the business traveler, restaurant recommendations for the foodie. It’s the little, personal touches that stand out in our memories. They are also the details that will likely be documented on social media and shared with friends—ensuring you’ve not only earned guest loyalty but expanded your marketing reach as well.

Keep in Touch

A personalized guest experience isn’t restricted to on-site interactions. With a customer’s email (or social media handles) you can continue the relationship long after they’ve checked out. If you’ve noted a guest’s birthday, why not send them a quick message wishing them a happy day? If you know a customer loves live music, let them know about an event in town that might interest them. People like to be remembered, and in return, they’re sure to remember you.

Hospitality is a hard industry to stay on top of. Competition and guest expectations continue to grow, and you need to keep up. Focus on creating a memorable, personalized experience for all your guests in order to win their hearts and loyalty.

Micro-Moments: The Future of Digital Marketing

American consumers spend an average of five hours a day on their smartphone. These powerful devices provide us with constant connection and instant access to the entirety of human knowledge. So, it’s no surprise that the prominent role they now play has fundamentally changed the way we relate to the world around us. And that includes how we interact with brands. Gone are the days of traditional advertising and a linear customer journey. We’re playing in a new arena. So, what should you be doing to keep your marketing game strong? Google says: focus on micro-moments.

What are micro-moments?

With infinite information at our fingertips, consumers have become accustomed to finding answers and taking action the moment the need strikes. A quick internet search can find nearby restaurants, research a destination or book a hotel. These intent-rich moments are what Google refers to as micro-moments. Our lives are full of them. Moments when we want to know something, moments when we want to do something and moments when we want to buy something. They’re frequent, they’re specific, and we’ve grown accustomed to them yielding high-quality results in a short amount of time.

What does this mean for hoteliers?

The expectation for instant payoff—whether it’s the answer to a burning question or making a purchase—and the fact that people are inundated with information and advertisement all day long, means marketers need to make sure their content is both concise and valuable. You need to provide the right information at the right time, so the customer gets something out of engaging with your brand.

Capitalizing on micro-moments

Google identifies four types of micro-moments specific to the hospitality industry. To market your property effectively, you should think about how you’re catering to the following:

“I want to get away” moments >> These are the moments a browser begins to think about a vacation. At this point, they are unattached to accommodation or even destination. It’s the perfect time to make an impression and leave them dreaming about a stay at your property. To capitalize on these micro-moments, create content that inspires (think #travelinspo-worthy visual content) and informs. Photos and online videos are critical to travelers choosing where to go, and 67% of browsers are more likely to book with a property that’s provided useful information abut a destination.

“Time to make a plan” moments >> The destination has now been chosen, which means the next micro-moments for the browser are all about plan-making. Getting noticed at this stage in a buyer’s journey is about showing up on the appropriate internet searches. This means doing what you can to optimize placement for searches like “hotels in [destination],” “hotels with [amenity],” and so on. In these moments you should also be providing specific information about your property including pricing and amenities.

“Let’s book it” moments >> It’s finally the moment a browser decides to make a booking. At this stage, a customer has likely settled on a brand but a seamless and credible booking experience is necessary to ensure customers follow through. Your site should be set up to take mobile bookings with as few steps as possible and provide fast load times. People are quick to switch sites if the booking process is too complicated or too slow.

“Can’t wait to explore” moments >> Don’t ignore the customers that have already booked with you. You can still take advantage of their exploration micro-moments in order to nurture customer loyalty. At this stage, browsers are making decisions about what to do on their trip. Offer useful information about local attractions, activities, and weather leading up to (and during) their stay.

 

Smartphones have changed the way guests research, plan, and purchase. The buyer’s journey has been fragmented into distinct moments of specific intent. Start catering to these micro-moments by being available and useful at every stage.

 

 

 

4 Considerations for Choosing the Right OTAs

Online travel agencies (OTAs) have taken the hospitality industry by storm. What began as a platform for selling excess inventory when demand was low, has grown to dominate the entire booking landscape. Today, the majority of reservations worldwide are made via these online platforms, which makes OTAs an essential component of all lodging operators’ distribution strategiesoften accounting for the majority of a property’s revenue.

While the cost to play the OTA game can be steep (commissions range from 10-30%), the benefits of exposure on these platforms are many. Not only does an OTA distribute your business to a wider audience than you would be otherwise capable, but it can also act to promote direct bookings on your website due to the billboard effect. And it’s worth noting that OTAs can aid international customers in understanding and booking with your property. Offering details in the appropriate language and currency helps open your doors to guests from all over the world.

When it comes to your OTA strategy, it’s a good idea to diversify. Don’t rely on 1 or 2 agencies; you want your property to be visible across multiple channels. But there are a lot of different platforms to choose from, so how do you know which OTAs to use? The right distribution channels will vary for each property, but here are a few things to consider when choosing the right OTA for you:

Cost

Obviously, one of the biggest concerns (and most important things to consider) is the cost of partnering with an OTA. There’s quite a bit of variability in the commissions charged by various OTA platforms, and some can be prohibitively high. When determining if an OTA is worth the cost, remember to account for the customer lifetime value (CLV) of guests brought in by the channel in question. If your landing high-spending, returning guests, steep commissions may ultimately be worth it.

Target Market

OTAs are not all the same. Just as individual lodging operators cater to different types of guests, OTAs have their own demographic sweet spots. For a productive partnership, ensure you choose an OTA that aligns with your target market. Platforms that cater to hostels (like Gomio and Hostelworld) are not the ideal distribution channel for boutique properties; and OTAs designed for vacation rentals (like Airbnb) would do little for a chain hotel. The same can be said for geographic region. While many of the major players (like Booking.com and Expedia) are prominent worldwide, others focus on a more specific region (like Ctrip).

Experience

The experience of an OTA should be considered when choosing the platforms on which to sell your inventory. How many bookings do they facilitate? How long has the OTA had a presence in your market of interest? Does the channel in question have a history of serving properties similar to your own? While you may choose to take a chance on a newcomer, it’s wise to prioritize reputable channels with a demonstrable history of success.

Functionality

Finally, ensure the platforms you choose have interfacing capabilities with your channel manager. Any changes to availability made over an OTA or on your property management system should update automatically. Avoid any situation that would require you to input inventory changes manually. It’s a waste of your time and could result in overbookings.

 

Deciding on a combination of distribution channels that compliment your property is an important job. You need to sort through a lot of available platforms to find the ones whose cost, target market, experience and functionality meet your needs. And it doesn’t end there. While OTAs expose your brand to a massive audience of potential customers, they also do the same for your competitors. If you want to get noticed on an OTA, you need to manage your profile in a way that maximizes exposure.

 

 

 

A Hotelier’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

Ever feel like you’re in a marketing rut? It can be challenging to find new and exciting ways to connect with customers and improve your bottom line. Fortunately, there are moments sprinkled throughout the year that offer unique opportunities to mix things up: Holidays! Whether it’s New Year’s Day, Easter or Halloween, public holidays are an excellent occasion to stretch your creative mucles and create fresh promotional content for your lodging operation (an imperative in the age of social media).

Of all the holidays throughout the year, Valentine’s Day has some of the greatest potential for maximizing revenue. In fact, consumers spend around 18 billion dollars on the holiday in the United States alone. So take advantage of it! With February 14th fast approaching, here are a few ways hoteliers can make the most of Valentine’s Day this year:

Offer Special Packages

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, guests are looking for a special way to celebrate with their special someone. Offering packages exclusively for the occasion adds an element of luxury often associated with the holiday. While tried and true features like Champagne and chocolate will never go out of style, you don’t need to limit yourself to the classics. Why not prepare all the fixings for a romantic picnic for two? Or partner with a local business (think carriage rides, wine tastings, etc.) to curate a date night to remember? Standing out from the crowd will land you more bookings and nurture loyalty with your guests.

You also needn’t limit yourself to Valentine’s Day packages designed for couples. Broaden your reach with offerings that appeal to singles as well (perhaps a “Girls’ Night In” package equipped with movie rentals and popcorn).

Seize the Opportunity to Upsell

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for upselling that shouldn’t be missed. Guests are looking to make the occasion exceptional, and they’re more than willing to splurge. After bookings are made, offer additional amenities like a couples massage, a room upgrade or a nice bottle of wine. These upsells will enhance their guest experience.

Host an Event

To really seize the day, consider hosting a Valentine’s Day event (or events) at your property. You can plan a party, offer dance classes, or schedule a Paint Nite – anything that suits your brand. In additional to being great publicity, you’ll also boost food and beverage revenue and likely increase overnight bookings. If you choose this option, make sure to advertise locally and include tickets in Valentine’s Day packages.

Celebrate on Social Media

However you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day at your property, don’t forget to include a compelling social media campaign. Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, it’s a good idea to:

Highlight the romance>> Leading up to February 14th, begin sharing content that showcases the romantic aspects of your property. A candlelit table set for two, a suite adorned in rose petals, a bottle of Champagne on the beach – post images that let your guests know your hotel is the idea spot for the Valentine’s Day of their dreams. And be sure to use words that evoke romantic imagery. On Valentine’s Day, guests are looking for an experience that is “cozy,” “luxurious” and “intimate.”

Encourage engagement>> Like all social media campaigns, you want your guests to interact with your content. Consider creating a Valentine’s Day hashtag that increases brand exposure through user engagement. You could even choose to host a giveaway for those who share your holiday-related posts or use your hashtag.

 

Valentine’s Day has enormous potential for those in the hospitality industry. It’s an opportunity for hotels to both maximize revenue and increase guest satisfaction by delivering an extra special experience that lives up to all the expectations of the day.

How to Sell Hotel Rooms Without Offering Discounts

Slashing room rates can feel like an obvious and easy solution to a decline in bookings. However, your marketing strategy should not appear obvious or easy. Low prices invite the idea ‘you get what you pay for’ and discounted rates can indicate a hotel-in-trouble. For many, price determines quality, and price is likely to determine a potential guest’s first reaction to your hotel. If rates were the only factor in selling a room, the hotels with the lowest rates would always be fully occupied. So, while discounts may lead to some short-term bookings, they rarely lead to the long term goal of establishing a sustainable and flourishing business. But the question is: how do you sell rooms without slashing rates?

1. Be Distinct.

It’s laughably obvious, and of course, what everyone and every business desires to be. But it’s worthwhile to spend time and repeatedly revisit the following questions: What makes you different than other hotels, inns, and B&Bs in your area? Why should someone book with you instead of with the hotel down the street? Who are your ideal guests? What do they value? Be specific. You cannot build a successful marketing strategy without understanding who you are. Get out a piece of paper and jot down ideas. If your hotel’s unique qualities and distinct assets do not come quickly to mind, this is where you need to spend time and energy because the following pieces of advice rely on your answers to these questions.

2. Add Value.

Instead of discounting prices, maintain your rates and add services and products. Your potential guests will perceive and then receive increased value, which not only sells rooms but strengthens your brand by providing another opportunity to highlight your assets.

Add value in two ways:

Offer hotel products, amenities, or services. Consider offering unlimited access to your onsite gym, a complimentary massage at your spa, free laundry services for business travellers, or whatever services or products that make your hotel unique. This takes some creative thinking, as you want to ensure you’re offering something that your guests find valuable but also keeps costs low.

Collaborate with local businesses. Approach restaurants and music venues to offer a combined price for a night or weekend away. Collaborate with museums to bring out-of-towns guests to see the opening or closing of an exhibit. Create packages with sports teams or theatre companies that offer season passes that would bring guests back multiple times a year. Understand what experiences your ideal guests desire and work with local businesses to offer mutually beneficial packages.

3. Enhance your Online Presence.

Website. Your property’s website is vital. It offers a powerful first look at your hotel and should immediately present the feel of your establishment. Your website should make someone want to stay at your hotel. Currently, minimalism is the trend for websites, which is particularly effective for hotels because it gives a clean and calming impression. It’s important to understand that a website should be updated regularly, not just for its content but to keep it looking fresh and modern. This is especially important if your brand incorporates these traits. A website should be easy to navigate, responsive (so that it can be viewed on every possible screen), feature high quality images, and offer information that’s readable and concise. It’s recommended that you hire a professional. A good website designer, writer, and developer can help you tell your brand’s story through images and concise words, and can also ensure that your website is easily found through online searches.

Hotel Rating Websites. Websites like TripAdvisor have become a necessity… and a thorn in the side of many service oriented businesses, even the ones who consistently get good reviews. You cannot stop people from posting negative reviews, but you can respond to them, giving potential guests an opportunity to see how you resolve issues. Here’s a helpful guide to maintaining online reputation.

Social Media. Social media is a good medium for showcasing your carefully curated packages, but mostly it’s a storytelling platform. Many modern travellers seek individualized experiences, and one way to show that you can fulfil their desires for individuality is to be unique yourself. Tell and show the behind the scene stories of your hotel through original photographs; highlight the people who work for you or the people who stay with you (with their permission); and feature your surrounding area’s attractions. Remember, too, that social media is meant to be social. Don’t focus solely on presenting your story. Interact with other businesses and members of your community; engage with former and potential future guests; and respond quickly to inquests.

Cultivate Repeat Business. It’s easier to encourage repeat guests than to attract new ones. To do so: think small. Small gestures have a big impact. Ensure the front desk staff know and address repeat customers by name. Walk around at breakfast and briefly chat with guests about how their enjoying their stay. Send handwritten thank you notes and birthday cards. Offer complimentary champagne upon the arrival of a repeat guest. Also, consider starting a customer loyalty program based on the number of nights booked or referrals made.

Empower your Staff. While their main role is not to sell rooms (although staff members are potentially your hotel’s greatest ambassadors), they can upsell. Whenever the opportunity arises, your front desk staff should have the knowledge and freedom to offer room upgrades – the suite with the oceanfront view, the room with the king size bed or garden terrace – for a suitably enticing price.

Welcome Pets. More and more people desire to travel with their pets, especially dogs. This is particularly important for guests travelling within a 300-kilometre radius. These are the clientele who are most willing to pick-up-and-go for a weekend (or even mid-week) getaway, and they’re more likely to embrace spontaneity if they do not have the added complication of finding care for their four-legged family members. Need more incentive? It’s likely you can charge extra for a pet-friendly room. Here are some considerations for accepting four-legged guests.

Offer Discounts when Appropriate. Discounts have a time and place, but they should be offered for a reason. Guests become irritated when they discover that they could have found a reduced rate through another website or if they had waited longer to book. However, there are ways to offer discounts fairly and effectively. Consider offering discounted rooms for extended stays, for repeat customers, and for referrals.

If you offer discounts too frequently and without a specific purpose, you run the risk of having discounted room rates become your regular rates, which means your revenues will decrease, you will no longer be able to offer a high level of service, potentially driving away repeat customers. It’s a trajectory you do not want to instigate. When facing a slump, it’s natural to think ‘let’s try lowering prices,’ especially if other hotels are doing so. However, it’s best to maintain your rates, maintain your service, and return to the foundational questions: Who are you as a brand? What do you do well? Who are your ideal guests? What do they most desire? The answers to these questions will help you build packages, market your assets, tweak services, enhance communication with the public, and ultimately, sell rooms without slashing prices.

Pricing 101: A Guide for Independent Hoteliers

One of the most challenging things for hoteliers is determining how to price inventory. Charging too much will deter customers and increase vacancy, while charging too little can significantly undercut your revenue. It’s not an easy problem to tackle, and there are a few different approaches that can be taken. Here’s a quick overview of the various pricing strategies utilized by lodging operators.

Cost-Based Pricing

Cost-based pricing strategies are the easiest to implement. Hoteliers simply calculate the sum of all expenses involved in running their hotel, divide that cost by the number of units at the property, and then markup each unit based on the profit they hope to make. This is a logical approach to pricing that aims to ensure expenses are always covered, but there are certainly some drawbacks. Without accounting for the state of the market or the perceived value of what you have to offer, opportunities to maximize revenue could be missed.

Customer-Based Pricing

Taking a customer-based approach to pricing is a bit more labor intensive. This strategy requires a hotelier to understand who their customers are and determine what they are willing to pay for a particular room or package. Because rates are determined by the perceived value of a unit (as opposed to the actual cost), adopting this type of pricing offers the best potential for maximizing profit. But make sure your pricing decisions are backed by thorough analysis. If you over-estimate the perceived value of a stay at your establishment, customers won’t have a problem choosing a cheaper competitor.

Competitor-Based Pricing

Another approach for determining appropriate pricing is to base decisions on competitors within your market. Hoteliers that use this strategy do a complete audit of rates offered by similar operations in their area and then adjust their own accordingly. To use this method effectively, it’s imperative to make appropriate comparisons (single rooms to single rooms, and so on) and then decide how you want to respond. Depending on your property and the market, you may choose to:

Price match>> This strategy involves setting room rates at the same price point as a competitor offering a similar experience (although you don’t necessarily need to do this for all unit types). Price matching ensure you’re in the running for customers looking for the best deal.

Price high>> Setting your rates higher than other operators signals to browsers that your property has a higher value. If the customers in your market prioritize quality, this could encourage bookings and improve your average daily rate (ADR). If you use this pricing structure, make sure to justify your higher rates with superior service and amenities.

Surround the middle market>> Another strategy involves setting your most basic room as the cheapest in the market while pricing the rest similar to the first available rates offered by your competitors. This is called “surrounding the middle market.” Essentially, it allows you to get customers looking for the best deal while also snagging those willing to pay a little extra.

A Combination

Many operators use a combination of these approaches. You may start with cost-based or competitor-based strategies as a new operator but later transition to customer-based pricing once you have the means to do a proper analysis.

Psychological Pricing

Whatever strategy you choose, avoid round-number pricing. For example instead of offering a room for $100, offer it for $99. Instead of setting a rate at $150, set it at $149, and so on. People associate the number nine with getting a deal and studies have shown that room sales increase when establishments adhere to this commonly used structure.

 

There are many different approaches to take when setting pricing for a hotel. Each has its advantages and shortcomings and not all work for every type of property. As you play around with different strategies, use reporting to determine what works best for you.

 

Five Habits of a Successful Hotelier

Whether you’ve been running a hotel for decades or are brand new to the game, reflecting on your practices as a hotelier is always a valuable exercise. Nobody’s perfect, but taking the time to consider your methods, and making improvements where you can, will get you pointed in that direction. Curious if you’re doing everything in your power to help your lodging operation prosper? Read on to discover five habits of a successful hotelier.

Focuses on communication

Hospitality is an industry about people, which makes communication particularly important. It’s not just about being professional and engaging with your guests, but also being open and approachable with your employees. A hotel staff is a team, so everyone is (and should feel) valuable. Great hoteliers have safe, open lines of communication with their employees, offer regular feedback, and often involve staff in decision-making. A healthy company culture will directly affect the experience you provide for your guests.

Knows their customers

It’ll surprise no-one that prioritizing customer relations is essential to finding success in the hospitality industry. But it’s not just about having genuine in-person interactions with your guests (although that’s certainly important!).  Great hoteliers go above and beyond by learning about and keeping track of who their customers are as individuals. With a powerful PMS or CRM, it’s possible to log details about returning customers’ interests and preferences to surprise and delight. Is a guest consistently traveling on business? Throw in free Wi-Fi or offer recommendations for comfortable workspaces. Do you know a customer’s birthday? Send them a quick email wishing them a happy day. Personalized experiences make guests feel appreciated, and go a long way in nurturing loyalty.

Assesses the competition

Lodging operators have a lot of competition. But instead of seeing that as an obstacle to overcome, successful hoteliers use it as a means to make their operations better. Make a routine of checking out competitors’ websites, social media platforms, and physical property. What are they doing well? Where could they improve? Noticing patterns across successful operators (or similarities between unsuccessful ones for that matter) can offer critical insights which may prove exceedingly beneficial for your own business.

Keeps their head in the game

Even when their property is running smoothly, great hoteliers don’t get complacent. Hospitality is an ever-changing arena, and it isn’t good enough to simply play defense. Read articles and network with other professionals to stay on top of new trends, changes in the market, and emerging technology. And be proactive about evolving and improving your business. It’s important to set long-term goals and construct a step-by-step action plan to realize them. The most successful people (and businesses) are never satisfied merely resting on their laurels.

Recognizes the role of technology

There is a lot that technology can do for a business, and a good hotelier embraces that. Property management, reputation management, and revenue management software are only a few examples of what’s available to help streamline operations and maximize revenue. And let’s not forget the marketing potential of social media platforms. A hotel that shies away from all new technology misses out on some unbelievable opportunities to improve their business.

Now, that’s not to say you should be adopting every new system that crops up. Every business is different, and using tech for tech sake doesn’t do anybody any good. What makes an hotelier successful is their open, yet discerning, consideration of new technology that becomes available.

It’s never a waste of time to reflect on your habits as a business owner. If you’re looking to improve your practice (or are just starting out and need a few tips), consider adopting these five strategies of highly successful hoteliers.

Marketing 101: A Guide for Independent Hoteliers

There are a lot of moving parts to juggle when running a hotel. From property maintenance to managing staff to ensuring guest satisfaction, it’s easy to spend all your time attending to on-site matters. While it’s obviously critical to ensure a quality experience at your hotel, you won’t have any guests to impress if you’re ignoring your marketing duties. We recognize that marketing can seem overwhelming and unwieldy (chain hotels employ entire departments for the task after all), so we’ve created an outline summarizing the platforms you need to prioritize. Welcome to our crash course in marketing for independent hoteliers!

Website

Creating and maintaining a website is the most important thing you can do to market your property. This is the first place a potential guest will go to find out more about, and judge the legitimacy of, your hotel. When attending to your property’s webpage you should consider:

Design >> Considering your website will likely be the first point of contact, make sure it looks professional. People expect sites to be visually-pleasing, intuitive to navigate and mobile-friendly. If they don’t like your page, they’ll navigate away without a second thought. First impressions matter!

Content >> As an independent hotel your strength is your individuality. Use your website to highlight your property’s unique charm with professionally shot images and personalized copy.

Functionality >> Getting a browser’s attention with your website is the hard part, so don’t miss the opportunity to turn it into a sale. Incorporate a booking engine directly into your web page to maximize conversion rates and score direct bookings.

SEO >> Now that you’ve expended so much time and effort on your website, you need to make sure people can find it! Optimize your placement in search engine results by (authentically) incorporating keywords throughout your website copy and in your meta-description.

The previous tips are essential for an effective site, but like anything in life, there is always room for improvement. If you’ve tackled the primary aspects of your website and want to take it even further, think about upping the ante with these advanced options:

Blog >> An excellent way to get traffic on your site, and inch your way up search engine pages, is to add and update content continually. Blogging can be a powerful way to keep your site dynamic and showcase your hotel’s unique personality. Bear in mind, a blog can be a big commitment and will only be effective if you give it the TLC it requires.

Landing Pages >> Using landing pages can have a huge effect on your conversion rates. Start by creating a ‘Book Now’ landing page and work up to creating pages for special packages, upselling, and targeted campaigns. You can never have too many landing pages!

If you need help designing (or revamping) your website, feel free to contact our design team today.

Social Media

Effective marketing is all about reaching potential guests. You need to bring your brand to the people, and the people are on social media. When constructing your social media presence, start with Facebook (which has over two billion monthly active users!) and then consider incorporating other popular sites as you see fit. Regardless of the social site in question, make sure you:

Understand the platform >> Each social media platform is different and should be utilized in a different way. Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Snapchat, not every vehicle is going to be suited to your marketing needs. Understand the value of each platform, choose the ones that compliment your business, and then use them appropriately.

Don’t seem corporate >> Social media is by nature very personal. People are using it to express themselves and engage with one another, so your business’s activity should reflect that authenticity. Posts can be funny, sincere or even silly, but overt advertisements will not be effective on these sites.

Engage >> Don’t think of your profiles as a one-sided conversation. Social sites are dynamic communities. Actively engage with your guests by replying to comments, liking their posts and sharing content you think they’ll like (not just specifically about your property). You may even want to consider holding social media competitions which will have users interacting with your brand (and expanding your marketing reach).

Online Travel Agencies

Whatever your opinion of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), they are an integral part of marketing for all hotels (independent and otherwise). While you should be doing what you can to maximize direct bookings, it’s a good idea to make the most out of your OTA presence. Take some time to:

Manage your profile >> There is a lot of competition on OTAs. Stand out by completing all the fields on your profile, curating a collection of professionally shot images, highlighting special promotions and keeping all information and inventory up-to-date.

Optimize your placement >> Each OTA has a unique search algorithm and will typically offer suggestions for optimizing your placement on their site. Do what you can to capitalize on this advice.

Review Sites

The internet is littered with websites dedicated to reviewing products, services, and businesses. This matters because 92% of shoppers read online reviews. While you can’t control what people post about you online, that doesn’t mean you should ignore these sites. On the contrary, there is a lot you can do to manage your reputation on these platforms. There is no way you can address every review site online, so pick the major players (like Trip Advisor) and be sure to:

Claim your profile >> The first step to making review sites work for you is to claim your profile. This will allow you to keep the information on your profile accurate and up-to-date, and add a link to your online booking engine (yay for direct bookings!). These sites also typically include analytics that you can use for your own marketing analysis.

Respond to reviews >> Claiming your profile will allow you to take one of the most important steps in managing your online reputation: responding to reviews. Every property will experience negative reviews; that just comes with the territory. But the fallout associated with a negative review can vary dramatically depending on how you deal with it. People want to feel heard, so responding (as long as you are polite) will go a long way in rebuilding burnt bridges. Offer your apologies and contact information for further concerns and communication. Remember: your responses are public and will affect the way your property is viewed by general browsers as much as the individual reviewer.

Marketing can be scary—we get that. Take it one step at a time and try not to be overwhelmed. You’ve got this!

Choosing a Loyalty Program that Works for Independent Hotels

In an effort to land repeat customers (and increase direct bookings), loyalty programs are one of the most effective strategies out there. A study by Cornell University found that guests book 50% more rooms each year when they are involved in a loyalty program. That’s a lot of extra revenue!

Traditionally, these programs were the exclusive territory of chain hotels—which had the resources to create complex rewards systems and enough ubiquity around the world for frequent travelers to accrue and use points. But it’s 2017, and we don’t have to settle for outdated concepts. There are some excellent options for independent hoteliers to offer their own rewards programs and reap the benefits of improved guest loyalty.

It’s important to set up a program that considers your clientele and company culture. Think about the type of program that would best suit your business. Are you interested in a more traditional points-earned system? The new trend of instant rewards? Or maybe you want to come up with a creative blend of both!

Points-Earned

The classic loyalty program is, of course, a points-based system. Customers earn points in proportion to how much they spend using a simple mathematical formula. When guests have earned enough points, they can be redeemed for free nights, discounts, etc. On their own, independent hotels have trouble effectively using this system because guests struggle to earn enough points to be worthwhile. Group schemes, such as Stash Rewards and Preferred Patron, mitigate this problem by creating a network of independent properties that benefit from a shared rewards system. In addition to providing your property with a loyalty program, group schemes can also expose your business to a wider audience.

Instant Rewards

While many still love point-programs, it seems a lot of today’s travelers find more value in unique and immediate rewards. Instead of making customers wait until they’ve accrued enough points for a free room or discount, these programs offer smaller rewards (think free WiFi, room service vouchers or a box of artisanal chocolates) for simple tasks like booking direct, sharing on social media and so on. This sort of instant gratification goes a long way with guests and is easier to manage as an independent property. If you’re interested in an instant-rewards program but uncomfortable managing it independently, look into partnering with a company like Stay Wanderful.

An Innovative Combination

Don’t feel limited by the two options mentioned above. With a powerful CRM (and a bit of creativity), you can design a program custom-fit for you.

The ‘Friends of the Brand’ program, offered by Kimpton Hotels, is a great example of an innovative alternative which blends a points-based system with personalized rewards. By using invisible credits, they award points to guests for a variety of actions (like positive reviews, sharing on social media and booking direct) as they see fit. The guests never know how many points they have, but at any time an employee can use them to surprise and delight guests with instant, personalized rewards.

Final tips

Make it Accessible >> If you’re offering a points-based system, ensure that members can access and use their points easily. Consider using a mobile hotel app or online dashboard.

Communicate and engage >> Make sure to send emails, and engage with members on social media, so they don’t forget about your loyalty program.  Send updates on their status in the program, suggestions for earning more points and ways to redeem rewards.

Know your customers >> Consider what it is your guests want. A personalized, thoughtful reward can be more appreciated and memorable than a generic offering of higher cost. Unique perks are what can set you apart from the competition.

 

Building customer loyalty is critical for survival in the hospitality industry. Think about adding a rewards program to win repeat customers and boost direct bookings.

A Hoteliers Guide to Targeting Millennials

People have a lot to say about Millennials—some of it flattering, some of it less so. But whatever your opinion about Generation Y (born in the ’80s and ’90s) they’re one that cannot be ignored by marketers in any industry. Now outnumbering baby boomers, and aging into financial independence, Millennials have become a powerful cohort in the consumer landscape. In fact, it is projected they will collectively spend 1.4 trillion dollars every year, by 2020. Considering Millennials have a greater desire to travel than any other generation, you can bet a significant chunk of that spending will find its way into the hospitality industry. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to start thinking about ways you can begin targeting what has been dubbed the ‘Wanderlust Generation,’ to capitalize on this powerful demographic.

What Millennials Want

So what are Millennials looking for in a vacation? When it comes to trip-planning, this generation prioritizes authentic experiences, unique spaces and a social atmosphere. Luckily for you, this places independent and boutique hotels at a distinct advantage!

Authenticity >> Studies show that more than anything else, traveling Millennials are in pursuit of an immersive cultural experience. This generation wants to eat authentic cuisine, explore colorful neighborhoods and enjoy new activities. Cater to this appetite for authenticity by highlighting your community’s character and offering suggestions for the unique local businesses that will stand out in your guests’ memories (and on their social media feeds).

Unique Spaces >> In the past, chain hotels were frequented by guests for their consistency. It was a comfort to know exactly what to expect from a property regardless of location.  Now that potential guests have access to so much information online (including user reviews and virtual tours) it’s much easier to ensure quality. As a result, Millennials are able to focus on seeking out unique properties instead. Make sure to emphasize your hotel’s individuality on your website and OTA profiles in order to appeal to this generation.

Social Atmosphere >> Another significant change from previous generations is a desire for communal areas and social events.  Millennials are spending less time in their rooms and looking for shared spaces to work, relax and socialize. Hotels are forgoing traditional lobbies for an aesthetic more closely resembling a living room or your favorite coffee shop. Consider creating spaces at your property where guests can work on their laptops, read books and play board games.

Marketing to Millennials

As an independent hotel, you have a lot to offer to the Millennial generation. But that doesn’t mean much if you’re not marketing to them effectively. Generation Y interacts with brands and businesses in a very different way than previous generations. To maximize Millennial clientele, make sure your marketing is mobile-friendly, social media heavy, and emphasizes engagement over selling.

Mobile >> 49% of Millennials use their smartphones to plan and book vacations, and most don’t bother trying to navigate a site that isn’t designed for mobile devices. We’ve been talking about the importance of mobile-friendly sites and booking engines for ages.  With Millennials beginning to dominate the consumer market, this advice is only becoming more relevant and necessary. If you haven’t made this change yet, it’s officially time.

Social Media >> Millennials are known for their avid use of social media. If you want to get their attention you need to be targeting them where they are, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even Snapchat. Your strategy for these platforms should include plans for your own content (like choosing images that evoke #travelinspo) as well as campaigns to encourage guests to share their own experiences. Consider partnering with social media ‘influencers’ (whom Millennials trust significantly over traditional advertising) by offering complimentary stays or perks for sharing their experience online.

Engagement  >> The use of social media has changed the way Millennials expect to interact with businesses. Marketing campaigns that feel too corporate will completely miss their mark. This generation wants personalized interaction and two-way communication with their favorite brands. It’s a good idea to share, comment and engage with guests regularly on all your social media platforms and inspire loyalty with promotional campaigns and insider info.

The Millennial generation has become an exceedingly important group of consumers. Due to their size and growing spending power, Generation Y has changed the way brands do business across all industries. Start thinking about ways your property can target Millennials and capitalize on this generation of travelers.