Browsing Tag

Online bookings

We’re Using the Wrong Message to Fight OTAs

October 10, 2017 • By

Have hotel marketers squandered their primary weapon?
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Looks like we might have been going about this all wrong.

The thought that a guest’s primary travel concern is saving money is an assumption that needs to be reexamined.

According to JD Power & Associates’ North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, guests are more likely to be dissatisfied with their hotel experience and come across more problems (like canceled reservations or last-minute changes) if they book through a third-party, such as Travelocity or Expedia.

So, what does this mean for you?

It’s time to change the overarching hotel industry strategy from emphasizing price parity to tapping into consumer fears of OTAs.

Instead of obsessing about Best Rate Guarantees, we all need to start focusing instead on how reservations, cancellations, changes, room selection and refunds are perceived by consumers when they book direct vs indirect.

Many consumers (especially older ones) have preexisting concerns about third-party bookings and fear that one mishap with an OTA could unravel their travel plans in seconds.

Meanwhile, hotels offer two vital things that OTAs do not: a secure, direct reservation and a dedicated staff that truly cares. (Smart marketers like Hilton have taken this dynamic to another level by enabling loyalty members to select their own rooms. This is a powerful differentiator, which adds even more peace of mind and diminishes OTA value.)

Trust Issues: Many Consumers Don’t Like OTAs

It doesn’t take much to prove how unhappy customers are with OTAs.

Both Expedia and Priceline have consistent and dismal 1-star ratings on a popular review site: Consumer Affairs. There are legions of horror stories by guests left in a lurch when they arrive to their hotel with an OTA reservation in hand, only to discover their hotel is sold out and there are no more rooms available. Or, even worse, that the hotel has no record of the reservation at all!

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The internet is flooded with examples of angry OTA customers, such as this family who spent almost 7 hours on the phone with Expedia customer service reps to get a partial refund when their reservation was canceled due to overbooking at the hotel.

Or, this traveler who booked a room in New Orleans on Priceline, only to have Priceline switch his reservation to a hotel of lesser standards, without an option to cancel.

How to Take Advantage:

The best hotel marketers have learned how to appeal to guests’ emotions, rather than rationale. Emotional messaging resonates more than simply selling physical amenities.

One way to leverage emotional messaging is to reposition OTAs in a guest’s mind. In Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, marketing gurus Jack Trout and Al Ries teach businesses to build messaging around their competitor’s weaknesses.

For example, Tylenol went after the aspirin business by adopting this message: “Aspirin can irritate the stomach lining, trigger asthmatic or allergic reactions and cause small amounts of hidden gastrointestinal bleeding… Fortunately, there is Tylenol.”

In the case of hotels vs OTAs, we should remind prospective guests at every opportunity that booking direct is the safer play. That your family vacation, business trip or long-awaited romantic weekend is too important to risk in any way!

Hotel marketers should communicate this critical message in key touchpoints with prospective guests during the research phase of their purchase journey:

  1. On your direct hotel website home page
  2. In your search/PPC ads
  3. In your retargeting display ads that follow consumers after they visit your website
  4. In social media posts
  5. In call/reservations center training
  6. Inside your booking engine, where more than 95%+ of date searchers will abandon before booking

The Bottomline: 

Price parity is important, but tapping into consumer fears of booking with OTAs provides smart hoteliers with ample opportunity to migrate bookings back to the hotel direct.

Hotels should remind prospective guests at every opportunity that their direct websites and call centers are 100% dedicated to handling the needs of their property… While OTA booking engines and call centers are servicing tens of thousands of properties (including your compset’s)!

 


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: Cut the Fat to Fast Track Mobile Bookings

October 6, 2017 • By

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

Each week we share one impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement immediately to drive more conversions and more revenue.

This Week’s Freebie: Cut out all unnecessary fields, steps, content, graphics, and clutter that stand in the way of streamlined mobile bookings.

There’s no denying that mobile bookings are rapidly rising in many segments of the hotel chain scale. (Urban/city hotels, are you listening?) In fact, an eMarketer study shows that by 2021, 50 percent of all online travel sales will be made from tablets and smartphones.

So, why are your mobile bookings languishing, while everywhere else they are exploding?

One glaring reason is that your hotel’s mobile experience doesn’t match up to the online habits and expectations of modern travelers.

Here’s a simple tweak to fix this: Cut the fat. 

Real estate on a smartphone or tablet screen is minimal, so instead of adding features, erase them. Streamline your hotel’s mobile booking funnel as much as possible. Get rid of the extra elements that aren’t vital to making a reservation. This includes extra fields, upsell features, navigational elements, ads, and superfluous links.

Remember, mobile bookings are being made on-the-go. Travelers don’t have time, nor the patience, for lengthy procedures. So, whittle down the booking process to 3 steps or less.

And don’t forget to pare down the content inside the mobile booking environment too. Only include copy that is necessary or a clear next step. Feature just one hotel image, versus a full gallery or video, which can slow down mobile load times even more.

Get More: Mobile Bookings are Up. Why Aren’t Yours?


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Why Hotel Management Companies are Obsessed with Marketing Costs

October 3, 2017 • By

Hotel marketing costs are affecting profitability more than ever.

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With profit growth slowing in the lodging industry, the focus among hoteliers is now shifting toward closely controlling costs, especially among management companies, whose earnings are directly tied to property performance (and incentives are tied to profits).

As the pressure to find cost savings mounts, experts say one of the most significant expenses to watch is marketing, which has only grown more expensive with the rapid growth of digital media.

In general, hotel management companies care deeply about costs, which have a direct linear effect on their ability to achieve profitability/incentive targets. And these days, marketing costs (especially OTAs and third-party channels) are rising at an alarming rate. Industry averages for marketing expenses typically range from about 4% to 7% of overall expenses, but can vary widely depending on the hotel and its management.

image2 “Marketing is a minimum of probably 6% of your expenses, so it’s a pretty big number,” said Richard Millard, Chairman and CEO of Trust Hospitality. “It could be as high as 8% to 10%, depending on what you’re doing.”

Between just internal staffing, OTA commissions, digital marketing programs (paid search, banner ads, etc.) and other forms of advertising (print, radio, TV, billboards, etc.), hotels are currently fighting a rising tide of seemingly obligatory marketing costs. And all too frequently, it forces managers to scrimp elsewhere.

“Marketing is costing more and more, and that means the training and service level of people on the hotel side suffers, because some way, somehow that money has to be saved,” Millard continued. “So what we as an industry often cut back on, instead, is human resources and training.”

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Finding the Right Balance

Smart management companies can still find methods to keep marketing costs from getting out of hand, while continuing to do all the right things to get their properties noticed in the marketplace. It requires careful planning, but it’s not impossible.

Experts say one core strategy for reducing and controlling hotel marketing expenses is to strategically outsource certain aspects of hotel marketing to third-party vendors and consultants, based upon the management company’s need and resources. For example, while it may clearly pay to hire a skilled, full-time revenue manager for internal staff, it may be more cost-effective to hire an outside agency for critical recurring functions that drive direct bookings such as email promos, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search/pay-per-click (PPC) and metasearch campaigns.

image3 “Marketing as a discipline has grown exponentially in how you reach a potential guest or interact with a guest. The reach has become enormous,” said Michael Tall, president and COO at Charlestowne Hotels. “There are certain disciplines and components of marketing that we feel are better left to those that specifically do that as their discipline. The key is figuring out what it is that you want to do internally as a management company, and what needs to be outsourced, and then it’s just selecting the right vendors and hiring the right people inside.”
Another critical method is managing OTA relationships and working to drive customers toward booking directly, rather than through OTAs. OTA commissions can run anywhere from roughly 14% to 25%, depending on the scale of the relationship (rates tend to be higher for independent, unbranded hotels) and the company’s contract with each OTA, but savvy managers can save considerably by optimizing this particular channel.

“We want people to book in the lowest cost channels,” said Tall. “Understanding whether you are able to get a guest or enough guests to book on the lowest cost channels, versus having to go out and market or pay for acquisition to OTAs, is really the balance that you try to understand. That’s a huge part of our business: understanding what it is we desire from the OTAs, and what are we willing to pay to the OTAs to acquire the guests.”

It also comes down to making sure hotel marketers are constantly up to date on the latest marketing techniques and trends, and then both planning and acting accordingly. (This is another area where a mix of both internal and third-party guidance can prove effective.) Most importantly, marketers need to regularly analyze their various channels for a firm understanding of what’s working and what isn’t, as well as where the future lies.

“You can only cut so many corners. It’s not just about trying to save marketing dollars; it’s about spending those marketing dollars wisely,” said Millard. “The secret is to be on top of it. Marketing is changing and you can’t depend on one thing. Experience is great, having people who know what they’re doing is great and having the right technology is great. But you’d better pay attention. Don’t be too sure that what’s working in September 2017 is still going to be here in January 2018.”


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

 

We Need to Talk About Hotel Marketing Metrics

September 19, 2017 • By

Unfortunately for hotel marketers, our industry is drowning in metrics.

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From “look-to-book,” to unique visitors, to sentiment scores, to clicks…the list of stats goes on and on. With so much to measure, it’s easy to get caught up in the wrong metrics.

Don’t waste precious time and resources by analyzing metrics that don’t matter in the grand scheme. It’s time to get perspective.

So we’ve outlined 5 popular marketing KPIs that are currently distracting you from what really matters – driving traffic into your direct booking environment and call center.

(As a bonus, we’ve also included the metrics that we think hotel marketers SHOULD actually obsess over!)

Approach With Caution: 

1. Bounce Rate

According to Google Analytics, a ‘bounce’ occurs when someone visits a single page on your hotel website, then leaves without visiting any other page. A high bounce rate can seem devastating. After all, that shows that visitors aren’t interested in pursuing you any further, right?

Wrong.

This is a quick, singular metric that depends on context. This implies that a guest could go to a page on your website (for example, meetings and events), consume everything on that page for 5 minutes, leave the page and still count as a bounce. Simply because the visitor didn’t click to any other page on your hotel website during that same session. But what if they end up emailing your sales team a few moments later? Or, return the next day to submit an RFP? That one visit will still be deemed unsuccessful since the visitor “bounced.”

Bounce rates can also vary according to page content and whether someone is using their smartphone or desktop. Mobile traffic bounces at a higher rate than desktop traffic. Plus, if you sent traffic to a specific landing page, like a promotions page, the goal is for the audience to engage ONLY with that one page. In that case, a bounce would be a good thing.

2. Online Traffic/Page Views

An overall increase in traffic to your website is a great thing. But, don’t let this metric mislead you to believe your hotel website is performing better than it actually is.

Ultimately, success comes down to quality, not quantity. Is all that traffic resulting in booked rooms, submitted RFPs, dinner reservations? Traffic is worthless if it is irrelevant or doesn’t convert.

Aim for action, not attention.

If you have to pick one thing to focus on to measure your hotel website’s performance, make it entrances into the booking engine AND calls driven by digital to the call center.

Smart hoteliers would rather have 25 page views that resulted in 25 booking searches/calls, instead of 1000 page views without any action.

3. Email Open Rates

Email is still one of the most efficient and persuasive hotel marketing channels out there.

However, tracking your emails’ success isn’t as cut and dry as it seems. First off, open rates aren’t reliable. The biggest problem is the way your open rate is calculated. Most email marketing tools add a small, invisible image to every message sent. The email is only considered opened when that undetectable image is brought up from the server where it sits. But, because most email providers allow you to turn off images, this skews open rates dramatically and renders them difficult to track at best.

And, even when someone opens your email, is it still considered successful if they read just one word, then delete it immediately?

Just like your web traffic, ultimately you want your audience to perform an action, such as clicking through to the booking engine.

4. Social Media Followers

It’s thrilling to see thousands of people excited enough about your hotel to follow you on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. This is purely a vanity metric. Yes, a large number of followers means a better reach. But, just slightly.

Organic reach on social media channels has been declining for years. It’s standard now for hotels to invest in social media advertising just to consistently reach a small fraction of their followers. Which means your followers mean nothing until you actually reach them by paying to play. Plus, if your huge social media following isn’t translating into leads, traffic or conversions, then what’s the point? Instead of boosting ‘likes,’ focus on optimizing your channels for lead generation and on increasing on converting the followers you already have.

5. Display Ad Impressions

When you are investing in digital advertising, it’s vital to know how many people actually see your hotel ads, right? Unfortunately, using impressions as a metric of advertising success doesn’t actually tell you how many people viewed your ad. It’s only a measure that shows how many times your hotel ad was displayed, whether or not it was clicked on.

According to Google Research, about 56 percent of your hotel impressions weren’t actually viewed by anyone! Stop using impressions to measure the reach of your hotel advertising campaigns. Because impressions don’t measure action, they lack any real value. Instead, use conversions and actual clicks that lead to calls and entrances into the booking environment as a yardstick to measure the success of any display advertising.

METRICS THAT MATTER

Instead of leaning on metrics that only sound impressive on paper, pay attention to the numbers that will actually measure your contribution to hotel revenues. Every day, you should be checking the KPIs that actually matter to your hotel’s owners and asset managers.

  1. MCPB (marketing cost per booking): Tracks the cost of each sales and marketing channel versus actual conversions. Try using this for OTA commissions as well… and see how that channel stacks up versus your other campaigns.
  2. DRR (direct revenue ratio): Measures percentage of online revenue from direct sources (your website) versus pricey third-party sources, like OTAs. If you’re not garnering 40 percent of your revenue from direct reservations, you still have work to do!
  3. Website conversion rate (from unique visitor to entrances into the booking environment): Converting a higher percentage of visitors into booking searches (or phone calls) is critical to reducing your cost of revenue and MCPB.
  4. Variance from revenue target: This metric showcases revenue goals versus actual results (by segment).
  5. TripAdvisor sentiment score: Using a reputation/sentiment monitoring tool allows hotels to measure guest satisfaction. This reflects whether your guests are enjoying your product, along with alerting you to hotel deficiencies. A bad hotel experience will outweigh any of your clever sales and marketing tactics.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: Creating Perceived Value to Stimulate Direct Bookings

September 15, 2017 • By

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

Each week we share one impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement immediately to drive more conversions and more revenue. 

This week’s freebie: Use generic amenities and perks to create perceived direct booking benefits.

One of the more impactful, yet simplest, ways you can convince people to book direct is to create perceived value. OTAs have hundreds of thousands of properties on their websites, they cannot keep up in real time with the perks and inclusions at all of them.

By cleverly showcasing a few of your generic, everyday perks as special book-direct-only rewards (i.e. “Book direct and get free parking!”) you will create the perception that free parking is a special, direct-only benefit…. without jeopardizing your OTA relationships over promo parity issues.

Most hotels are savvy enough to offer these amenities to entice business away from OTAs, however, they bury these reasons several pages into their website. Or, only display them once the guests make it to the booking engine.

Your direct booking benefits need to be obvious and displayed in areas where online visitors can’t miss them. Right on your homepage, directly in your advertising (including PPC), in a prominent place on all of your marketing emails, in your employees’ email signature, retargeting ads, etc.

Here’s an example of one hotelier, Couples Resorts in Jamaica, creating perceived value in booking direct right on their home page:

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Bring out your direct booking benefits front and center to amplify your chances of guests booking direct.

Get More: Three Ways to Overcome the Perception That OTAs are Cheaper


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

How Hotel Website Design Affects ADR

September 12, 2017 • By

Smart hotel websites can stimulate higher perceived value and ADRs

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Your hotel website is the first place virtually all of your future guests will engage with your property and set expectations. But more importantly, as hotels struggle to increase rates in the face of new supply and maxing occupancy… your hotel website can actually help you to sell guestrooms at higher rates (And possibly even higher than what is already posted on OTAs 😉 )

Today, savvy hotel marketers and their web designers are relying on psychology to guide their design decisions. Only then, can they build a website aimed at increasing revenue from the very start.  After all, the right psychological cues can influence guests to click where you want them to and book when you want them to. Conversely, the wrong cues can send them fleeing faster than a slow loading page.

Poor design, complicated navigation and cluttered pages can prevent your property from reaching its full revenue potential. And remember, the cost of fixing these mistakes is always higher than getting it right in the first place!

So let’s take a look at how hotel web design, tone and layout can strengthen your hotel’s appeal and justify higher room rates.

1. Clear and Compelling Value Proposition

Every hotel should have succinct, provocative and incisive message immediately obvious at first sight. These statements, done well, generate higher perceived value for your property.

Who are you and why should prospects care?

A mistake that many hotels make is using “me-too” cliché phrases that many of their neighbors can also claim, such as ‘located in the heart of downtown Nashville’ or ‘oceanfront dining.’

A good example of how to do it right is The Grafton on Sunset in LA, which immediately tells viewers what they should expect, where the property is and encourages further interaction without hyperbole:

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2. Social Proof

The influence of friends and family is another big factor in what people purchase. With 7 out of 10 Americans using social media sites, travelers will often pay a premium for properties their peers have praised.

One way to integrate social proof beautifully into your website design is through share-worthy user-generated content. There are a number of tools to seamlessly identify and collect guest images from Instagram and display them on your site, as well as other marketing assets. These visual “testimonials” compel customers to trust your brand even more and prove that you are worthy of their travel dollars.

3. Arresting Imagery

Have lackluster or outdated photos on your website?

People will automatically assume that your hotel is also lackluster and outdated and mentally price it accordingly. Studies show that hotel photography has the power to change a guest’s mind – making them consider a property that before was not in the running or to drop a hotel they were once interested in. Photos aren’t just pretty pictures, they matter to your bookings and your bottom line.

So, dump all the stock photography, delete your old images and establish higher standards for all new photography. Hire a photographer with an established portfolio of hotel or architecture work. Then, dip into your most valuable photographer pool – your own guests. Your guests are Instagramming their favorite moments from their trips, and some are pretty stunning!

4. Clutter Free Usability

The most profitable hotel websites follow the de facto mantra of luxury branding: Less is more.  Cluttered webpages will only confuse your audience and drive them away. Keep your site intuitive and user-friendly, two key design factors that influence conversion.

Usability is measured by how easy it is for online visitors to navigate your hotel website and find what they need, such as researching rates and reserving a room. Time is a precious commodity and smart hotel websites save their visitors time. Generally, a person can gauge your hotel website’s usability in the first few seconds and they will choose to move forward only if they deem it ‘easy’ enough.

Not only does a ‘clean’ layout make it easier for a guest to explore and book, it also generates better SEO results and faster download speeds. The best web design in the world can’t convince guests to stay and pay on a slow-loading hotel website.

Take a look at this site for Hotel Henri in NYC, an excellent example of uncluttered design that elevates perceived value:

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5. Accessible Communication

Giving people what they want quickly and easily amps up your value. Follow the example of luxury hotels and resorts, who offer instant access to reservations staff using online chat, phone or email.  Consumers are always more likely to pay a premium to properties that respond quickly to questions and establish high service expectations BEFORE the guest even arrives.

6. Dynamic Personalization

Personalization is a big industry buzz word right now. But cutting through all the hype, one place where personalization can truly make an immediate impact is on your direct website and booking engine, where personalized content can lead to more bookings at higher rates.

For example:

• Your website (and booking widget) tracks user behavior and auto-configures the booking engine with images and messages relevant to that demographic (i.e. family vs business traveler)

• You can prevent abandonment to OTAs by dynamically showing gated /loyalty rates to users who are automatically identified as past guests

• When a guest from London visits your website and moves into the booking engine, your website can automatically pass the user’s location and localize room rates in the booking engine to the guest’s native currency (i.e. instead of charging $100 USD for a room, you could charge 100 British Pounds, which is worth $1.32)


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: Three Ways to Keep Meeting Planners Away from New Competitors

September 1, 2017 • By

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

Each week we share one impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement immediately to drive more conversions and more revenue.

This Week’s Freebie: Three ideas to keep group business clients from moving to a new compset hotel.

Meeting plannersThe opening of a new hotel sends shudders among hotel sales managers at surrounding properties because new venues are a magnet for meeting planners looking for fresh group experiences.

How do you prevent your own steady group business clientele from running to the new kid on the block?

Jeff Spaccio, DOSM-in-Residence at Tambourine (former regional director of sales for The Procaccianti Group and Pyramid Hotel Group) suggests three ideas to keep your meeting planner clients coming back:

1. Help Planners Give Back: Create a charity rebate and offer a 5-10 percent rebate on all group revenue. That total will then be donated to a charity of the organization’s choice.

2. Make the Planner Look Good: Offer spa certificates, complimentary room nights, or complimentary dining experiences that the meeting planner can pass along to the client company for employee giveaways and incentives.

3. Organize a Creative Night Out: Create a package offering a group night out (not at your own hotel) to a fun spot in town, including bus transportation.

Get more: The New Supply Threat: How Hotel Sales Teams are Fighting Back


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

The Secret Weapon Page on Your Hotel Website

August 29, 2017 • By

Hotel marketing pros are amplifying their SEO power on this critical page.

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It may be the most boring place on your hotel website today, but your policies (and/or FAQ) page represents a major magnet for SEO traffic.

Why is that?

Because Google pays serious attention to the content on this page.

And, OTAs can’t.

Expedia, Priceline and all the others simply can’t keep up on every hotel’s policies and can’t compete for searches for information on pet policies, cancellation policies, etc. Use this to your advantage and get more people to land on this page, while gaining an edge on the OTAs in the process.

Too many hotels skimp on content on their hotel policies page. But, it’s one of the main anchors that Google uses to deem if your website is relevant or not for searches like: “dog-friendly hotels in Denver,” or “early check-in hotels in Boston.”

Shannon DeFries, Director of Search & Analytics at Tambourine, shows us how to transform a typical and bland hotel policies page into a destination for valuable guest content, while also earning Google’s trust and boosting your search engine rankings.

Here Are Shannon’s Top Tips:

  • Fill your policy page with relevant information that explains your policies, rather than just listing them.
  • Link back to your hotel policy page for specific marketing campaigns. For example, for #NationalDogDay (August 26), promote your hotel’s love for its four-legged guests on your social channels. Then, link back to the policy page where it outlines your pet program, instead of just pointing to the homepage or amenities page.image2
  • Write your policy page in a conversational tone, similar to an FAQ. Stay away from robotic jargon, like ‘covered parking – yes.’ By writing with a conversational voice, you are making it easier for mobile users to find you through voice search.
  • Use the policy page to target long tail keywords, such as ‘pet friendly hotels in Miami’ or ‘hotels in Nashville with free airport shuttle.’
  • Make sure your hotel policy page has unique content not written anywhere else. Lifting another hotel’s policy page content and slightly rewording is a big Google no-no. You can be penalized for publishing duplicate content. You can even double-check that your content is unique by using tools like Siteliner, SEO Review Tools and Copyscape.
  • Avoid being indexed by Google if your hotel is a part of a brand or collection that uses the same policy verbiage for every property. You can do this by placing a “No Index” code on the page.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Budgets Are Coming: 7 Lessons from Game of Thrones

August 22, 2017 • By

Hotel marketers are sharpening their pencils for battle.

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Just as winter (and a terrifying army of the dead) descends on Westeros in Game of Thrones, budget season is looming in the real world and hotel marketers all across the kingdom are arming themselves for battle.

To help hoteliers prepare, we turn to the lessons, themes and quotes we’ve learned while watching the battle for the Iron Throne between power-hungry lords and ladies:

1. GoT QUOTE: “When you play the game of thrones, you live or die.” 

LESSON: Your budget is your armory. Ask for everything you need to survive.

Hoteliers usually only think dollar amounts when working on their budget. How much will this marketing technology cost? How much should we dedicate to advertising spend? How much will our hotel website design cost?

But, here’s the surprise: you are not restricted to only asking for marketing funds during budget time! If you need more marketing staff or outsourced vendors to help you achieve your hotel’s revenue goals, then ask for them!

If your hotel is in dire need of upgrades and updates in order to effectively compete with newer properties and win market share, then ask for them. If you depend on another department’s performance to help you reach your targets, then ask to oversee them.

Here’s an example of what that request could look like:

“For me to achieve the revenue targets set forth by ownership… I need $_______ in funding, specific hotel upgrades to be made, and _______ new staff (contractors). Plus, I would like the ________ department to report to me.”

The road to achieving your property’s revenue goals begins with your ability to ask for what you need. Show your management team that without these items, you won’t be able to deliver the results they’re looking for.

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2. GoT THEME: Three Dragons versus Everyone Else

LESSON: Focus on quality, not quantity.

Forget the mass of Lannister soldiers that Queen Cersei has under her belt or the thousands of eerie wights brought back to life by the White Walkers. All it takes are three massive, fire-breathing dragons to wipe them out completely.

This year, vow to keep your budget uncluttered and uncomplicated. Your 2018 hotel marketing plan should be built on a few powerful initiatives, not on a mess of disjointed marketing tactics that just produce small bursts of wins and revenue. Build a strong budget that includes only marketing tactics that will have a measurable impact on your audience and the bottom line.

3. GoT QUOTE: “Words are wind, my friend…”

LESSON: Getting what you want takes proof.

Asset managers, hotel management firms and GMs are under more pressure than ever to deliver real bottom line results. However, many hotel marketers still shy away from being accountable for any revenue responsibilities. Instead, they lavishly tout their “rebranding initiatives,” number of social media followers or new hotel photography. This continued disregard for numerical evaluation will put you in a difficult position next year, when you attempt to request a larger marketing budget. Without measuring your success, owners and managers will be more apt to cut back on marketing expenses and staff, believing that your intangible branding results can be achieved with less.

So it’s important to have complete fluency in the KPIs that affect the bottom line. For example, if you know last year’s marketing cost-per-sale (CPS), you should be able to extrapolate that against future revenue targets to determine the budget required and make statements like this:

“Last year, we achieved a marketing CPS of X.
To achieve next year’s budget, I need $_______ .”

But remember, you will also be expected to reduce your CPS over time as you learn and tweak your programs.

4. GoT QUOTE: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” 

LESSON: You have data. Use it. 

This catchphrase, originally spoken by the red-haired Wildling Ygritte as she aggressively flirted with Jon Snow, has become one of the show’s most popular. But, don’t let it become your catchphrase. You should know everything about your marketing program results and not be guided by assumptions or gut feelings.

You should rely on data culled from the right sources to guide all future hotel marketing decisions.

And again, data is your ally when you need to ask for more marketing funds! Some data that you should always have on hand include key performance indicators, like DRR (direct revenue ratio), MCPB (marketing cost per booking) and your STR index versus the compset. All of these numbers will show you, and your hotel’s executive team, how much your marketing team is actually contributing to your hotel’s revenue.

5. GoT QUOTE: “Winter is coming.”

LESSON: Apathy about 3rd party costs is dangerous.

For a while, it seemed like winter would never come to GoT, despite numerous warnings with this ominous phrase. Yet, it was still on everyone’s minds. In hotel marketing, this means: Don’t ever be too comfortable in the here and now. For example, if more than 15-20% of your revenue is coming from OTAs, you need to prepare for the eventual downturn and start investing in programs, campaigns and assets that will deliver higher margin bookings.

When “winter comes” to the hotel industry and AOR goes from 75% to 50%, you don’t want to have the majority of your bookings incurring a 20% OTA commission!

6. GoT Quote: “A Lannister always pays his debts.”

Lesson: Ask hotel owners exactly what they expect from you.

Before you determine what marketing resources you’ll need for 2018, you need to find out the exact amount your hotel owner (or hotel management company) expects your marketing team to contribute to the hotel’s revenue.

Don’t move forward on a budget without knowing exactly what goals your team is beholden to. Get as much clarification as you can, including how many room nights, booked meetings, corporate bookings, etc. should be attributed to your marketing efforts. Ask management/ownership early on in the budget process, because this one question will give you clarity and insight to build out any other projected expenses.

Don’t waste time or make costly guesses, nor should you allow your hotel owner to determine how much they want to give you. Don’t place your hotel marketing in a dangerous position of always being underfunded, but tasked with lofty goals. Instead, use your hotel owner’s revenue goals to correlate the assets you need to achieve them.

7. GoT QUOTE: “I may be small, but I won’t be knitting by the fire while others fight for me.” 

LESSON: Don’t surrender your property’s destiny to 3rd parties.

Spoken by everyone’s favorite young spitfire, Lady Lyanna Mormont of Bear Island, this empowering quote hits at the heart of every hotelier. OTAs have had their moment, but now it’s time to take back control of your booking destiny. So, stop depending on third-party sites to fill the house. Instead of paying commission fees of 15-30 percent, invest in the right tools and technology for your hotel to pull in your own reservations. One place where hotels will see big ROI is by investing in their hotel’s mobile experience. Offer a mobile-compatible booking engine. Have a responsive website and hotel marketing emails. Offer immediate online chat. Investing in mobile is paramount to your success in 2018.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Mobile Bookings Are Up. Why Aren’t Yours?

August 15, 2017 • By

Hotel booking engines need to look and feel more like apps.

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Everybody is talking about the rise of mobile bookings.

In fact, a study by eMarketer estimates that by 2021, half of all digital travel sales will be made from smartphones or tablets.

Chris Bendtsen, an eMarketer forecasting analyst, told Travel Weekly that consumers are booking more travel plans on their smartphones and tablets for a variety of reasons:

  1. Easier methods of online payment.
  2. Larger smartphone screens.
  3. A desire to react quickly to last-minute travel deals. 

So why aren’t your mobile bookings growing as rapidly as the rest of the world?

Too many hoteliers may think a mobile version of their website & booking engine will suffice. However, today’s consumers are not just looking for your website to ‘come up’ on their phones. Your mobile experience has to match today’s modern consumer habits and expectations.

Mobile bookings are the present and the future of the hotel industry. Here are the three mobile booking tweaks you need to adjust to this new reality and outperform your compset:

1. Cut it Down

Real estate on a mobile screen is limited.

The first – and most important – step to maximizing the mobile guest experience is to cut out, not add, features. Examine your hotel’s mobile booking funnel and streamline it as much as possible. Strip your mobile site of any clutter, including links, ads, navigation elements, menu options etc. Pare down the booking process to 3 screens or less.

Mobile is meant for the consumer-on-the-go… they have no patience for long-winded, self-indulgent purchase processes! Since mobile screens are smaller than desktops or laptops, minimize the amount of text on the screen. Trim content down to only what’s necessary to convey (like calls to action or clear next steps), then use a single big visual per page to guide guests through the process.

Multiple photos, videos, and pages of copy will not only make your mobile hotel booking engine load slower, but possibly anger and turn away guests who are accustomed to faster uploads from other sites.

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2. Design for Thumbs

Call it modern intuition: smartphone users navigate mobile sites using one hand. Most often with just their thumb. This is why the best mobile hotel ecommerce experiences are built like apps, which allow guests to tap, swipe, scroll, and click using just one hand or thumb. Stay clear of requiring guests to ‘pinch’ the screen to zoom in and out for content. This means your graphics and text are not optimized for mobile users and are too small.

3. Simplify Payment Options

You pride yourself on giving consumers choices in room types, F&B venues, and other add-ons. Your flexibility should extend to the most important element in the customer-acquisition process: the checkout!

Yet, sometimes the simple reason shoppers don’t complete a purchase is that their preferred credit card wasn’t accepted in your booking engine!

Smart hotels offer multiple payment options, going beyond Amex, Visa and Mastercard to include as many forms of payment as possible, including third-party online payment services like PayPal. Some even take it a step further like Couples Resorts, who offer a “loveaway” payment plan. A complicated hotel booking engine process is often the reason guests abandon their reservations, so provide a simple and speedy credit card experience.


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com