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Are You Keeping Up With Guest Purchasing Behavior?

November 30, 2015 • By

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The maze of today’s travel sites have made the road to booking a hotel room a long and complicated one.

The modern travel consumer visits more than a dozen places online before finally booking a room – from an OTA to a DMO site, to a last-minute hotel booking app, to Google Hotel Finder – on various devices from their desktops, to tablets, to smartphones.

Obviously, this ever-growing cluster of travel sites and devices have made the search path longer. But, they have also increased the number of last-minute bookings, which account for 13 percent of US hotel reservations.

So, what can hotel marketers do to respond and adapt to these longer search paths, later booking leads and massive clutter of marketing messages?

Here are two important ways to intercept guests more effectively on their path to purchase:

1. Gather Detailed Intelligence

Not so long ago, collecting data on each guest and visitor was a tedious chore that only the smartest and most well-funded hotel marketers were able to do. Now, it’s essential to your hotel’s survival and success. Gathering and managing customer data is both more sophisticated and easier than ever. So, truly, there is no excuse to not know what your guests want, who they are and their preferences. Only armed with this data is your hotel able to effectively break through marketing clutter and appeal to your guests with custom offers that appeal to their tastes. Plus, this intelligence will arm you with the tools to go after “look-a-like” travelers with similar traits. 

2. Personalize Your Marketing

Once you start collecting data on your hotel guests and online visitors, that’s when you can make the real marketing magic happen. Invest in tools that will track an online visitor’s behavior on your site so you can deliver a relevant retargeting ad for your hotel. Serve up content that would interest them, based on the pages and areas of the site they visited. Unleash personalized pre- and post-stay emails. Deliver a bespoke experience based on the visitor’s demographics and geography.

Recover abandoned and unfinished reservations. Read: Want an Instant Revenue Spike? Recapture Abandoned Bookings

Never forget that you’re marketing to one person, not millions. With the avalanche of analytics and customer data at our fingertips, the practice of mass marketing is now considered a relic of the business world and major faux pas among professional marketers.

Dedicating your hotel staff to personalizing their marketing efforts will guarantee that your email, aimed to a millennial business traveler, isn’t being sent to a mother searching for a fun family vacation spot, and ensure that a romance-seeking couple is welcomed with appropriate imagery when they arrive at your hotel website

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

90% of marketers ignore basic data that could easily increase revenue (Part 2)

October 14, 2013 • By

Tambourine: Hotel Marketing

(Read Part 1)

Continuing our last post: how to use simple data to improve results (without being a math geek)!

Here's a few immediate steps you can take to leverage your data, increase visitation and drive more revenue:
  1. Who's calling? Ask your phone provider to make sure the dedicated phone numbers on your website and advertising materials include a report showing the total number of calls… so you can evaluate the contribution of each source to overall inbound phone traffic. You may be surprised how important inbound calls still are to your sales!
  2. Listen in: Companies like LogMyCalls and Marchex now enable you to record inbound calls to your res centers and listen in to monitor the performance of your res center staff.
  3. Monitoring your comp set: Wondering what your comp set is up to? Check out https://mixrank.com/ This cool site scrapes the web to show you (for free!) your competition's digital marketing placements.
  4. Pinpoint messaging to new guests: Ever wonder how to reach people who visit the attraction down the street or eat at that hot Italian restaurant nearby? Facebook has given us a free way to do exactly that! Go to the search bar in Facebook and type: "People who like INSERT PAGE NAME. This will reveal potential guests with a predisposition to your neighborhood. Then, its easy to target them via Facebook ads.
  5. Watch your bounce rate: your website stats report includes a measurement called: "bounce rate," which is simply the percentage of traffic that visits one page (usually your home page) on your site, then leaves, or "bounces." Anything over 25% is sub-optimal. And usually means A) you're not attracting relevant people or B) you're not communicating an immediately meaningful message to visitors… in either case, change things up ASAP!
Try one of these and let us know how it goes!

About Tambourine

Tambourine drives revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide using advanced marketing technology. The firm is celebrating its 30-year anniversary. For more information, visit Tambourine.com.

90% of Marketers Ignore Simple Data That Could Easily Increase Revenue. (Part 1 of a 2 part series)

September 26, 2013 • By
Tambourine: Hotel MarketingA recent study revealed that only 10% of all companies use their existing data sources in a systematic way to increase revenue. Fortunately, the hospitality and tourism sectors have shown exciting improvement in this area over the last few years. Over the next two Numbers for Ninja posts, we'll suggest a few immediate steps you can take to leverage your data, increase visitation and drive more revenue:  
  1. Review past guest geography: create a simple chart showing where your visitors come from… this can help target your marketing investments.
  2. Evaluate past guest demographics: your CRM, PMS or customer database can easily be queried to reveal the demographics of your customer base. Have low occupancy in certain periods? Who came right before, during and right after that period last year?
  3. Evaluate past guest frequency & spending: If you have periods of high demand, you can increase yield by sending special invitations to loyal customers who spent an above average amount on past trips.
  4. Measure sentiment: affordable reputation management tools like Revinate make it easier than ever to measure guest satisfaction on sub-segments of your product experience. You may learn that service issues or cleanliness are causing past guests to post negative reviews… thereby deterring future travelers. Conversely, you may also discover subtle components of your product experience that customers love, enabling you to celebrate those assets with potential new customers.
  5. Search engine data: chances are, your search engine reports include a treasure trove of info about how people find you. You can easily discern which other sites send traffic to you (i.e.: nearby attractions, CVB sites, etc). Then, reach out to establish deeper partnerships with these relevant players.
  6. Improve your product: the most important component of marketing is your product itself. How can you improve it to meet the desires of your customers? Amazingly, Facebook has given us a free way to do exactly that! Go to the search bar in Facebook and type: Favorite interests of people who like INSERT YOUR PAGE NAME. This will reveal the things your fans like to do… helping you evaluate your amenity mix!
Try one of these and let us know how it goes… and stay tuned for Part II coming up!

About Tambourine

Tambourine drives revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide using advanced marketing technology. The firm is celebrating its 30-year anniversary. For more information, visit Tambourine.com.  

How Can a WWII Scientist Help Your Hotel Survive?

April 18, 2017 • By

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In WWII, Allied planes would often return to their bases with hundreds of holes from enemy guns. This inspired crafty ground crews to bolt on metal plating over the holes to strengthen the planes and prevent future losses. They assumed that the evidence clearly indicated where they should place the extra protection.

But one American scientist wasn’t so sure…  Abraham Wald, a brilliant mathematician and statistician, intervened and pointed out that while the surviving planes had been hit severely, they were still able to fly safely home.

He urged the military commanders to add more armor to the parts of the plane where there was NO DAMAGE. Wald theorized that the planes that didn’t make it back must have been hit in different places than the planes that did make it back.

In other words, it was the other parts of the plane that needed reinforcements – not the parts with obvious holes.

Enlightened commanders adopted Wald’s recommendation and his brilliant intervention would end up saving the lives of thousands of Allied airmen.

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Survivorship Bias: A Universal Human Error

Wald’s mind-blowing theory about the bombers’ weak spots is a classic example of survivorship bias. This is actually a common human error that leads us to pay more attention to survivors and “winners” instead of trying to understand the failures.

Almost everyone has survivorship bias without realizing it. Our entire global culture is about celebrating winners and forgetting the losers.

As author David McRaney writes in his amazing article on Survivorship Bias: If you are thinking about opening a restaurant because there are so many successful restaurants in your hometown, you are ignoring the fact that only successful restaurants survive to become examples. Maybe on average 90 percent of restaurants in your city fail in the first year. You can’t see all those failures because when they fail they also disappear from view.” As Nassim Taleb writes in his book The Black Swan, “The cemetery of failed restaurants is very silent.”

Think about these other examples of how you (and millions of others) focus solely on “survivors:”

Celebrities

Many children grow up wanting to be famous. After all, the rock stars and TV stars they see everyday are all famous. So, there is plenty of opportunity, right? The truth is that famous actors, musicians, comedians, etc. are only the ones who ‘made it.’ They survived the auditions, the competition and let’s face it – had some good luck or God-given talent. But, what about the millions of others who tried and failed to win the audition, to get that starring role in a sitcom, to even make it past a casting agent? This is a prime example of how we tend to obsess on and worship the winners, rather than the losers. If you understand survivorship bias and you truly want to be a rock star, then you would be better off interviewing failed musicians to understand how they veered off the road to success.

Senior Citizens

The most common question that people who live past their 90’s receive: “How did you do it?” One senior citizen could say they never smoked or drank one drop of alcohol in their life. Another might answer that they drank often, smoked everyday and ate whatever they wanted.

Whatever the answer, it doesn’t matter.

Because, we really should be looking at the millions of other senior citizens who DIDN’T make it past 90. What did they do that prevented them from reaching 90? What could you learn from them to stretch your own lifespan?

Fitness Gurus/Products

The fitness and health industry is notorious for profiting from people’s survivorship bias’. Consider how many weight loss success stories you see promoting a certain workout, diet, or even the advice of a fitness guru. It’s easy to fall for these testimonials and believe that these extraordinary claims produce consistent results.

Reality Check: These commercials not only show the survivors, but the super-survivors. The extreme and rare positive outcomes, like the person who lost 50 lbs in just a month. At the same time, they hide the failures and even the normal results, like the participant who lost a more stable 5 lbs in a month.

Survivorship Bias is Also Rampant in the Hotel Industry

Think about it.

We have survivorship bias thinking about our own guests and our own hospitality marketing efforts. Most, if not all, of your present data come from the guests or group business clients that successfully made a reservation.

But, what about the people who didn’t?

What about the people who visited your hotel's website, clicked on a couple of pages, then decided to stop looking and left?

Here’s the truth: The guest intelligence you have right now is most likely misleading, over-optimistic data that only focuses on the people who actually made it to your hotel PMS. Most hotel’s guest data leaves out those people who didn’t ‘survive’ the buying journey. You’re overly focused on your known audience, instead of studying the business you lose.

To thoroughly optimize your hotel’s most successful conversion paths, you need to consider the entire audience, not just those who actually converted. In other words, you need to consider not just what’s working, but what’s not working, to drive bookings.

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7 Ways to Prevent Survivorship Bias from Hurting Your Hotel’s Revenue:

1. Stop Copying Successful Hotels It’s easy to look at successful hotels and think their strategy can be replicated in your market. But also take time to consider the other properties that failed in that same location, especially within the same chain scale level. Find out what went wrong, instead of only focusing on what went right for the survivors.

2. Conduct Loss Analysis on Failed Group Business Bids Hotels often focus their sales efforts on seeking repeat business from specific groups, their “best customers.” Then, they proudly proclaim their venue is a ‘favorite’ of medical meeting planners, for example. Or, that their business is made up of mostly annual tech conferences. Instead, ask why other groups haven’t booked your hotel? What other industries are you missing out on?

Whenever you lose a piece of group business, the sales person needs to ask the meeting planner, “What went wrong? Why didn’t our hotel win your event?” This simple move could dramatically alter your sales efforts, sending your sales numbers skyrocketing in the future.

3. Discover Which Companies are Visiting Your Hotel Site You can find out if meeting planners are visiting your website, even if they don’t send a message or fill out an RFP. We at Tambourine (and many other firms) have the ability to identify inbound website visitors by company, enabling our clients’ sales teams to find out which companies are visiting your meetings and event pages. For example, you can find out if someone from Ford or Microsoft started clicking around on your site.

This now-warm lead can act like a trigger for the sales person on your team (in this case, the sales person who is in charge of the Pacific Northwest market since Microsoft is headquartered near Seattle) to reach out to the meeting planning department at that company.

4. Conduct User Testing Don’t fall in the trap of assuming what customers think about your hotel website. The only way to know how potential guests are interacting with your website and booking engine is to engage random, unbiased users to test it. (Shameless Plug: As part of our hotel marketing services, we implement random user testing for clients, and even provide videotape footage of tester's live feedback.)

5. Monitor Points of Abandonment Use your analytics to find out where you start losing potential guests on your website. Do you lose them right on the homepage? Or, when they encounter inconsistency moving from your website to the booking engine? Fixing whatever the problem is means you’re helping more visitors ‘survive’ the purchase journey to book a room.

6. Add More Languages Your hotel is a global product. Or, at least it could be if you allowed your website to ‘speak’ to global audiences. Right now, too many American hotels only use English on their website. So, what if a family from Spain wanted to book a stay? Or, a group of business people from Dubai? You may think your hotel only attracts American travelers (or that virtually everyone speaks English), but that is survivorship bias at work… you only see English-speaking guests! If your website is only written in English, then only English-speaking travelers book your hotel, which leads you to assume that only English speakers want to stay with you. Consider what adding other language translations could do to attract global travelers.

7. Don’t Put Your Marketing on Repeat It may seem like a smart strategy to repeat what worked for you last year, but again, this is survivorship bias at work. It’s even smarter to figure out why certain marketing tactics and campaigns failed. Did you have enough resources? Did the campaigns have enough time to flourish? Or, did you back down and just grab the lowest hanging fruit (relying on OTAs)?

It’s vital to know about ALL of your hotel’s online visitors and potential customers – not just those who successfully booked. This gives you more insight into how potential guests and group business clients engage with your hotel in their research phase. Plus, it will help you identify what to fix and where to make improvements. Examining your losses and avoiding survivorship bias can be the pivotal move that will lead to quicker buying cycles and higher conversion rates.


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 Painful Truth About Hotel Loyalty Programs

March 28, 2017 • By

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Key Takeaways:

  • Hotels can’t grow market share by targeting existing customers.
  • In today’s modern environment, even your most loyal guests will shop around.
  • It's vital to focus on boosting your exposure to new audiences.

For years, marketing gurus and experts have taught hoteliers to focus on driving bookings from their loyal customers.

These are the guests who book a few times during the year.

Admittedly, this seems like one of the smartest and most sound hotel marketing strategies around to boost direct bookings – market to the people who already know and love you. The plethora of guest data you now have at your fingertips makes marketing to this current base of customers even easier and seemingly foolproof.

However, new research may prove otherwise….

In his book, How Brands Grow, Professor Byron Sharp of The University of South Australia, applied statistical analysis to sales data to find what truly drives a company’s success. His conclusion sent shockwaves through the marketing world:


”Your customers are customers of other brands who occasionally buy you.”


Companies can’t grow sales numbers significantly by focusing on loyal customers, but instead they must focus on “light buyers” who buy products (i.e. book a room at your property) relatively infrequently.

In other words, loyal guests are not your ideal target audience. Single booking guests are.

To move the needle on your hotel’s growth, you must attract NEW guests, instead of relying on loyal customers to keep coming back.   

Single Bookings Spur Hotel Growth

Sharp cites Coca-Cola as an example of a successful global company that grew, not from Coca-Cola lovers who purchased and consumed the soda everyday, but from the millions of people who only drank it just a couple times a year.

Several other brands have come to rely on steady and strong sales from the masses that only purchase their products occasionally, with long breaks in between where these same customers purchase from competitors.

And let's face it, OTAs, the culture of flash sales and last minute deals has made the travel industry one of the least loyal markets. In fact, 50 percent of American Airlines’ 2015 revenue came from 87 percent of its customers who flew on American Airlines just once that year.

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Overall, data from Phocuswright suggests that – other than elite members – most travelers do not prefer to book direct through hotel websites. Many travelers do not seem to care about the hotel's brand, as long as they get the perception of a good value by booking through OTAs.

However, most hotels today focus on past customer data and ways to reach and re-sell to their existing customers. After all, selling to your own guests appears low-risk, dependable and the quickest way to boost revenue.

Wrong, says Sharp.

He contends that the expense and effort that brands employ to market to their own customers is largely ineffective. 

“Loyalty programs do practically nothing to drive growth,” Sharp said.

The Painful Truth: Guests Shop Around

Companies largely over estimate just how loyal their customers really are.

The McKinsey Global Institute has been studying consumer decision journeys (the often erratic path people take as they move along from brand awareness to purchase), since 2009. Their studies show that the key to top-line growth is understanding the behavior of modern consumers.

Their research uncovered that even your most loyal hotel guests, including members of your loyalty program, consider booking at other hotels more often than you know.

Over the years, McKinsey found that the bond customers have with their favorite brands has been slipping. Active engagement in loyalty programs slipped by 2 percent. Plus, 58 percent of loyalty members don’t even use the program or take advantage of its benefits after signing up.

Why aren’t travelers as loyal as they once were?

More choices and new technologies.

With all the channels and travel sites at a guest’s fingertips, it’s easier than ever before to research and book travel reservations. Hundreds of mobile apps open up a world of hotel options where guests can view and compare prices and amenities, read guest reviews and size up hotels side-by-side.

Also, people are more clued in to what their family and friends are buying, loving, referring (and disliking) via social media.  All of these distractions and online triggers can cause even your best hotel guests to shop around. 

And, suffice to say that in today’s digital world, people can’t help but consider more options.

Social Media Engagement: Not as Vital as You Thought?

Modern customer decision journeys are also challenging the notion of engaging your “loyal” hotel social media followers.

According to Forrester Research, people who join and ‘like’ Facebook brand pages hardly ever interact or click on them thereafter. Their research shows the engagement rate of a Facebook brand page is generally 7 out of 10,000 users and for Twitter the rate is 3 out of 10,000. This lack of engagement is even worse for hotels who fail to produce compelling, fresh, authentic social content every week - 24/7/365.

McKinsey noted that most customers aren’t aware of, and simply not interested in, the differences between your brand or your competitor next door. And, those guests who do have a brand preference may decide to book with another hotel brand if it happens to be cheaper that day.

This fickleness shows that single-bookers (again, the ones who are really driving your success) don’t think of your property as remarkable, or even unique. They’re also not likely fans of your brand, on social media or anywhere else. It’s no surprise then that these buyers aren’t interacting with your brand on social media channels. Engaging and enticing “loyal buyers” to re-engage with you is necessary, but hardly a silver bullet.

In addition to trying to push your existing audience to engage with your hotel on social channels, focus on boosting the broad awareness of your hotel experience instead.

Then, get creative about translating the broad awareness to actual hotel consideration by creating interactive content on your hotel website, including destination guides, Chat-with–the-Concierge tools and powerful galleries of user-generated photos.

Other industry leaders have perfected this concept. For example, L’Oreal offers make-up tutorials instead of simply touting their products, while Charles Schwab offers basic financial planning lessons and investment calculators, in addition to showcasing their products. 

Hotel Marketing’s Critical New Battleground

The shiftiness of guest loyalty suggests that hotel marketers need to focus more on the moments when guests are INITIALLY considering which hotel to book (known as the initial consideration set).

According to McKinsey, the players in the initial consideration set are twice as likely to book versus the ones that pop up later in the guest’s decision-making process.

This confirms the need for hotel marketers to win travelers’ attention at the very beginning of the booking journey. And, drastically changes the dynamic of marketing mainly to guests who have previously stayed at your property, a tactic that hotel marketers have counted on for years.

When marketing to loyal hotel guests, normally you focus on a narrow collection of high-value customers, then use your marketing budget to retain them. In contrast, when marketing to grow your hotel’s exposure in the initial consideration set, you need to cast out a wider net to reach people who have little or no knowledge of your property.

Boosting Exposure is Vital to Boosting Growth

So, if marketing to and engaging with your current customers doesn’t drive growth at your property, what will?

What will reach people who don’t need you and don’t know you, so that when they are ready to book, your hotel comes to mind?

Advertising, answers Sharp.

“Advertising works best when it doesn’t try and persuade, but merely makes us remember a brand at the moment of purchase,” he said.

Advertising opens people’s eyes to your hotel. For instance, by keeping their beverage brand in people’s minds, Coca-Cola ads increase the probability of people buying their product by such a small margin that consumers hardly notice it. For this reason, most consumers claim they are not swayed by advertising.

When crafting advertising experiences, think of your two audiences:

1st Audience: Guests who enjoyed a stay at your hotel in the past, but who have not booked since then. According to McKinsey, these lapsed guests hold high potential since they have some knowledge of the brand, even if their experience was several years ago. You just need to find out why they never returned or if their habits or lifestyle have changed.

2nd Audience: These are the travelers who have no experience with your hotel. They may not understand what you offer, have never considered staying with you before, or perhaps have pre-conceived notions about your guest experience.

For both audiences, the solution is to create a unique story and innovative new services, products and news to stay at the top of their minds. Continue building new packages, guest experiences and amenities to drum up excitement.

Conclusion

While the significance of boosting exposure to new audiences is hardly a cutting-edge concept, research confirms that it now requires a new focus.

Both Sharp and MGI don’t suggest ignoring your most loyal guests to make room for new customers. Rewarding and retaining these repeat guests is still important. In fact, 42 percent of purchases are from customers who had purchased from that brand before.

However, focusing your hotel marketing budget on mainly retaining guest loyalty is a risky move since today’s shop-around mentality means you’ll lose more guests than add new ones.

Instead, boost your hotel’s growth by focusing more on creative products and services for the 87 percent of consumers who are likely to leave your compset in favor of trying out others.

Get more: Hotel Marketing – 10 Things That Worked in 2016


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

What Would You Do With $5,000 Extra In Marketing Budget?

June 21, 2016 • By
shutterstock_137249807 Even after crafting a well-thought out marketing strategy, getting creative with resources and watching obsessively over every marketing dollar, it’s still common to wish your hotel marketing budget was more flush with cash.

So, just say, by the grace of the accounting gods, that your marketing department is granted an unexpected windfall of $5,000. How would you like to spend it? Or, rather, how should you spend it? Here’s what our team, with 30+ years of bringing in direct revenue for hotel clients across the country, recommends doing with that $5,000 to drive more bookings.


Put Your Money on Your Destination

Run a campaign that showcases your destination and aligns your hotel as the property that will give guests coveted front-row access to your city’s locally inspired and authentic moments. After all, modern travelers are not looking to stay in a hotel simply for the room and a bed. They want to immerse themselves in a sense of place and to experience things they won’t be able to replicate at home. The key is to focus your new marketing funds on answering this market need.

Here’s What We Would Do: 

1. Identify Slow Periods Start off by looking at your calendar and noting which months or weeks need the most boost in occupancy, group bookings and ancillary revenue. For most hotels, you will have several need periods all year-round. In this case, cast a wide net and try to capture a full continuous month – or even a season – rather than staggered dates that run at different times of the year.

2. Select an Attraction/Event Close to Your Property Now, comb through the attractions that are closest to your hotel, or a major local event that people are known to travel to. Whether it’s a landmark exhibit at your contemporary art museum or a new attraction, this will be the focus and star of your campaign, so gather as much information as you can for marketing. While it would be ideal (and give you the most visibility) to be an official partner as the host hotel, this is usually a pay-to-play transaction, and your funds can be better used elsewhere.

3. Create a Landing Page on Your Website That Focuses Exclusively on the Attraction/Event Many hotels make the mistake of creating campaigns solely in social media or email, linking them directly to the booking engine or to their homepage, hoping it's enough to usher the prospect to making a purchase. By doing so, these hotels leave a bulk of visitors floundering as they don’t know where to go next, or they start to question if the campaign is still running. Adding a landing page to your hotel website sustains the excitement of the event or attraction and its content can give the visitor even more reason to stay with your property if they want to join in the experience. And make sure to add a map on the landing page that shows distances form your hotel to the attraction/event!

4. Invest in Drawing Traffic to That Landing Page The bulk of your $5,000 budget should now be invested in reeling in online traffic to that landing page. Use targeted methods, such as a direct paid search and a Facebook ad campaign, using specific keywords in your advertising. Piggyback those efforts with emails to past guests who have stayed in that time period before.

Identify the market these travelers historically have come from in your PMS. If for example, most of the last few year’s mid-week July guests all came from local drive markets, export that guest data from your PMS, repeat guest email marketing and use those lists to build Custom and Look-alike Audience campaigns in Facebook. Start all of these marketing efforts a few months beforehand to build momentum and to garner as much exposure to the landing page and your hotel as possible. And finally, make sure your local CVB or tourism board knows that you’re investing in the campaign. They may be doing something as well, and may mention your property as a recommended place to stay for the event.


 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

SSL: The Latest Threat to Your Hotel Website

December 12, 2017 • By
Hotel digital marketers have yet another headache to deal with….  image1-2 Here we go again…. In hopes of fostering a safer internet, Google has moved toward new security standards for its Chrome browser, which requires a significant update to hotel websites in order to achieve compliance. Under the new specifications, Google now requires all websites that collect any type of personal data (i.e. forms, email addresses, credit card info, etc.) to migrate websites to HTTPS and upgrade their security technology in the form of “SSL Certificates,” or suffer the consequences. Right now, that consequence is primarily a security alert, which Chrome users see when they reach a web page that Google has deemed a “Non-Secure environment” when the mandated SSL certificate isn’t present. Considering roughly 60% of web surfers currently use Chrome, this is no matter to take lightly; it’s best to make the required changes as soon as possible, to ensure your site traffic isn’t at risk and/or potential guests being scared away. Can Someone Please Explain Why This is Happening? The new Google security standards are intended to safeguard sensitive personal information exchanged over the internet, making it harder for hackers to steal this data. The data lockdown is achieved by migrating websites from the unsecure HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) platform to the safer HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure) format. In order to make the switch to HTTPS, websites need an SSL/TSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security) in place. An SSL connection offers enhanced security because it encrypts data to hinder eavesdropping, protects data integrity to prevent corruption during transfer and enables authentication, ensuring users only communicate with the intended website. Some of the security risks that the HTTPS/SSL standard hopes to mitigate include:
  • Intruders attempting to exploit unprotected communications to trick your users into providing sensitive information or installing malware (“phishing”).
  • Hackers and/or legitimate companies attempting to insert their own advertisements into your website.
  • Intruders who passively listen to communications between your website and your users.
  • Hackers who look at the aggregate browsing activities of your website’s users, in order to make inferences about their behaviors and intentions, and to thereby de-anonymize their identities.
The new security standard is also becoming a prerequisite for a number of leading-edge technologies, which are increasingly requiring permissions obtained in a secure setting. SSL/HTTPS is considered the future for all web communication, so it pays to get on board now. The Penalties At the moment, Google is “motivating” hotel website owners to comply with the new standard by placing an information icon in the Chrome address bar that warns “Your connection is not secure” when site visitors arrive at a page not using HTTPS. image2 This may seem like a small detail, but it may have a huge impact on hotel website conversion rates. You don’t want to scare away customers with an unsecure website. Google has indicated that warnings may become even more pronounced in future browser updates. You also don’t want your customers’ data being compromised because you failed to provide a secure setting. As recent data breaches among numerous major hotel companies have proven, hacks can cause extensive damage to brands and they erode consumer trust, which can be disastrous to the bottom line. Given those risks, taking the steps to comply with the SSL/HTTPS standard is a no-brainer. The Solution The first step in meeting the standard is for hotel digital marketers to obtain an SSL Certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA). The certificate permits your website to communicate using encrypted, non-corruptible data, while also acting as a stamp of approval. Many providers offer free SSL/TSL certificates; (Shameless plug: Tambourine provides SSL certificates for all clients included in our monthly service package). With an approved certificate in place, the next steps are to conduct a full backup of your hotel website, change all your internal links, check code libraries, update external links and create a 301 redirect. It’s also important to claim all four versions of your site URLs (HTTPS, HTTP, www. and non-www.) on Google Search Console Analytics, AdWords and other paid ads, plus social profiles and business citations. Since there are multiple complex steps, you definitely want your digital marketing team or external hotel digital marketing firm to handle this.

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

Hotel Marketers and Accidental Narcissists

December 5, 2017 • By
Always-on, empowered consumers require a new digital strategy. image1 The rise of digital and mobile and its impact on commerce has given consumers more information, and consequently more power, than ever before, as well as an ever-increasing expectation for instant gratification. Marketing experts have dubbed this mass-consumer evolution happening right before our eyes “The Age of Assistance,” and adapting to it is currently one of the greatest challenges marketers face, in virtually all commercial industries. The hotel business is no exception, and in some ways, is at the forefront of this metamorphosis. In the past, consumers undertook greater effort to research expensive and/or important purchases, like homes, cars, major appliances, etc. But nowadays, experts say all kinds of purchases are being researched online, regardless of size, making online authority crucial for companies, as customers move through each stage of the sales funnel without salespeople (or human travel agents) involved. The hotel business is particularly entrenched in this revolution, since traveling has always been a research/planning-heavy purchase, and there are more resources than ever at your guest’s fingertips. In a recent article in Forbes, well-known author, Brian Solis points out that: “In the age of assistance, consumers are now relying on what they find in mobile-first “micro-moments” to help them take the next step. They’re seeking utility, information, direction and not classical marketing.” “I refer to this new generation of mobile, connected customers as “accidental narcissists.” It’s a term of endearment. Everything they want, they can have, in any moment. Literally, there’s an app for just about everything, consumers are plugged into an on-demand economy that delivers products, services, experiences, validation, gratification, et al., in the moment. This presents an opportunity (and a need) for marketers to become truly customer-, not marketing- or technology-, centric.” So how do hotel marketers deal with this new age marketing scramble? How do we provide these “accidental narcissists” what they need to engage with our properties? 1. Know Their profile  You can't assist potential guests unless you understand them first. You should have a fairly detailed “profile” of your ideal guest (or meeting planner or corporate buyer). You should know: - Where they live - How often they visit - When they visit - Which guests are most lucrative - What they like (and don’t like) about your property 2. Know Their Media Habits Starting with mobile, you need to learn about the discovery process used by your customers, starting with where they go to find their information, what they are searching for, where those searches take them, what engages or converts them from there and where they visit next. For more insight, try using Google’s insightful micro-moments playbook.  image2 3. Think Like a Publisher Armed with greater knowledge of your customer, their journey and research process, you can then begin tailoring content that engages them. Your content should offer solutions, versus selling rooms. And promise to change the viewer’s perspective on the destination and enrich their lives. Modern travelers are driven to book based on what lies outside your hotel walls, not just what’s inside. They want to experience your destination like a true local and crave front-row access to cool discoveries and remarkable experiences, unlike anything they can find at home. So, your website and marketing content should not only focus on your property; It should share the spotlight with your destination. Your hotel website should position your property as the epicenter of your destination. You need to show what experiences guests can look forward to and which are within reach. What cool wine bars or quirky, local coffee shops are within walking distance? What local secrets can your staff share? What should guests know about your immediate neighborhood? 4. Know What Your Guests Want This next directive pertains to embracing data and listening to what your guests (and your compset’s guests) are saying in public spaces. By paying attention to keyword searches, social media posts, Trip Advisor reviews, CVB data and responses to your post-stay surveys, savvy hotel marketers can see threats and trends that will define how guests want to “be assisted.” - Are your guests complaining about certain aspects of your property? - Are travelers to your destination talking about the new museum? - Is there a rapid spike in keyword volume for hotels near a certain hot neighborhood? - What are the top attractions near you (and how are you partnered with them)? These are priceless digital breadcrumbs for you in building a consumer path to your door! 5. Assist During the Transaction Consumers also expect their transaction experience to be seamless. Hotels are expected to simplify life, not confuse it… especially at the most critical point in their purchase journey! So make sure your hotel website booking experience is flawless, by avoiding these pitfalls: •  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. • Hidden Costs and Sticker Shock Studies show that nothing kills a sale – and trust - like unexpected costs. Mostly surprise hidden costs that many hotels like to sneak into the transaction right before asking for credit card information. Today’s travelers have no patience with additional charges and will be ruthless in abandoning any property that tries to spring on pesky fees. •  Your Mobile Experience is Poor Google studies show that 36% of business travelers and 40% of leisure travelers book hotel rooms on their mobile phones. And, bookings originating from users on iPads and other tablet-sized devices are growing fast. •  It’s Too Frustrating to Make a Reservation It’s a lesson hoteliers rarely hear, but should immediately heed: Your booking engine must be a simple process. Visitors are already uncomfortable giving out their information online, if your forms are cumbersome, consumers will exit before a purchase is completed. Yet, thousands of hotels are still cluttering their booking engines with too much text, too many pages and endless steps. •  Slow Means No 25% of visitors will abandon a website that takes more than 4 seconds to load. Almost 50% will abandon if the site takes more than 10 seconds to load. In our fast-paced, instant-gratification culture—fueled by high-speed internet—consumers expect your web pages to load immediately! •  You’re Not Speaking Their Language This seems painfully obvious, but far too many hotels treat everyone as an English-speaking American. Imagine the frustration of your overseas website visitors when they enter a booking environment that is not automatically defaulted to their native language or currency. •  Limited Payment Options 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.

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

5 Things Hotel Marketers Are Thankful for This Thanksgiving

November 21, 2017 • By
Hotel marketing pros are counting their blessings… image1 For most, Thanksgiving is a time for football, traveling to see relatives and diet-busting feasts. It's also the time of year we ask clients, colleagues and industry experts what they are feeling good about. And once again, we heard that the economy, industry dynamics and hotel consumer behavior are working in our favor like never before. Based on our informal survey, here are 5 things hoteliers are feeling thankful for this Thanksgiving: 1. Evidence That Direct Booking Campaigns Are Working  In 2016, major hotel brands and smaller hotels went after OTAs with a fervor and pushed aggressive campaigns to convince travelers that booking direct was best. Now, we finally have proof that the preaching paid off. Kalibri Labs compiled data from more than 12,000 U.S. hotels and 52 million transactions during the run of these highly publicized campaigns. In their recent report “Book Direct Campaigns: The Cost & Benefits of Loyalty,” Kalibri measured a significant net revenue benefit due to a shift in bookings from OTAs to Brand.com. While this certainly calls for a massive celebration, the momentum shouldn’t stop here. Experts agree that discounting to create loyalty can’t be the end-all, be-all of your book direct strategy; creating online and on-property experiences that the OTAs cannot must be the neverending quest for hotel marketers seeking to reduce OTA dependence and improve bottom line profitability. 2. Owners’ Willingness to Invest in the Product Hotel marketers know this best: No amount of brilliant marketing, guest data, or up-to-the-minute technology can compensate for an aging and run-down hotel property. Now, with property values on the rise and an overall healthy real estate market, hotel owners have the renewed confidence in investing in upgrades, redesigns and renovations that will help hotel sales and marketing teams compete with the new supply entrants in their market. And with so many major hotel brands launching new or re-imagined brands, it’s more vital than ever to keep up and hold onto your market share by offering compelling amenities, aesthetics and experiences.  image2 3. Demand and RevPar Still Going Strong Despite the threat of Airbnb’s climbing success (especially with their new focus on offering a complete travel experience, both in and outside of their hosts’ homes) and a ballooning hotel supply, RevPAR and demand are still holding steady. Based on a strong economy, hotel occupancies are still at an all-time high and the hotel industry is still experiencing an unprecedented string of record results. To date, RevPAR has increased year-over-year consecutively for 92 months, according to STR. 4. Social Evangelism Over the last few years, storytelling and “content marketing” has become one of the most popular (and cost-effective) ways for hotel marketers to win guests’ hearts and wallets. Why? Because consumers no longer trust advertising… they trust each other. As an article in Ad Age so aptly put it: “Your brand is defined by the interactions people have with it.” User-generated content (UGC), especially photos, videos and posts about on-property experiences are more authentic, less sales focused… and let’s face it, more creative than anything you could ever dream up yourself. Hotel marketers are feeling blessed to have guests who gush and brag about their stay on Facebook and post foodie pics to Instagram. Not only have they made marketing travel engagingly personal and authentic, they come at no cost to the hotelier. 5. Metasearch: An Attractive and Less Expensive Option It’s easy to see why travelers love metasearch, such as Google and TripAdvisor: They receive all the key details needed to research and book their stays all in one place, like real-time pricing, availability, hotel information, guest reviews and location. But, hotel marketers are loving metasearch too. They are using these sites to boost direct bookings instead of relying on OTAs and paying high commissions. You can pay-per-click or pay booking commissions (still less expensive than traditional OTA fees) – all while getting brand exposure and access to travelers who are just entering the consideration and booking funnel.

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

Hotel Digital Talent: Why Is It so Hard to Find?

October 17, 2017 • By
Hotel digital marketing requires an increasingly hard-to-find skillset. image1 If you want to be successful in the hotel business, it's now mandatory that you outperform your compset in the digital world. So these days it’s more important than ever for hotel companies to attract and retain world-class digital talent. In most cases, the first place guests now interact with your hotel is not inside your lobby—it’s within the digital world—yet all too frequently, we aren’t fully prepared to greet that guest accordingly. Hotel websites, CRM systems, data analytics, email, social media and search marketing all require deep expertise to deliver real ROI. Sure… digital talent is in high demand everywhere, but beyond that, there are other reasons why skilled digital professionals are sorely needed in the hospitality industry. Here Are the Five Hiring Challenges We See… and What to Do about Them: 1. Many Digital Experts Have Gravitated to Other Industries And/Or Start-Ups There are seemingly endless opportunities right now in the digital space, and the required core skills are adaptable to various industries, so digital pros can literally work anywhere that a business has a digital presence. That may be a huge Silicon Valley mega-corporation or a basement startup and everything in between. And in many cases, the Googles and Facebooks of the world are offering the hip, informal vibe of a startup that millennials crave, with the stability of a steady paycheck and job security and the cool factor of working at the digital avant-garde. 2. Hotels Are (Unfairly) Viewed As Stagnant and Non-Innovative Like other components of the traditional business sector, hotel companies are frequently perceived as stalwart, non-evolving dinosaurs, dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age. Brands, which have to carefully explore changes due to the sheer size of their operation, are perceived as being especially sterile places to work. While there are advantages to being dependable and maintaining steady growth, winning over top digital talent sadly isn’t one of them.  image2 3. OTAs Are Killing Innovation The online power of the OTAs—driven in part by their massive marketing budgets—has severely hampered most hotels companies’ ability to innovate and try new things, since the cost to compete against everything the OTAs do is just too high. With the price tag associated with competitive digital marketing efforts like pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns becoming simply too expensive, too few industry players are doing anything extraordinary, aside from just trying to keep up. 4.  Compensation and Turnover  True, there are perks from working in the travel industry, but the pay isn’t always one of them. Averages for industry compensation are not among the highest, because profit margins are increasingly compressed (those darn OTAs again!), causing hoteliers to focus on cutting expenses and controlling costs. That means the best hotel digital pros are often leaving to take higher paying jobs elsewhere, because they can. 5. Digital Skills Vs Business Skills  The millennial digital natives who are now in high demand by recruiters often have little to no experience yet delivering on the intense ROI expectations of an agency or corporate hotel marketing setting. This is especially true for recent graduates: Universities tend to focus on theory, and for many marketing majors, the specific skills used in online marketing are mostly learned on the job, through experience. So, for the young talent you do end up courting and successfully hiring, there will be a significant learning curve, provided they decide to stay. Look for These Three Things: For the hotel companies that can work through the issues listed above, the struggle isn’t over just yet. Once your company is successfully generating employment interest from digital mavens, it’s important to ensure those professionals have adapted their talents to the many nuances of the hotel industry. Therefore, it’s critical to find smart, capable digital pros who understand the following three essential things: 1. The Hotel Experience It is exceedingly difficult to understand how to market travel unless the marketer has traveled significantly themselves. This applies to digital marketing, too. The best professionals in digital travel marketing have personal travel miles to draw from, particularly when it pertains to the hotel experience and the digital booking process. 2. The Hotel/Travel Purchasing Funnel On the surface, it may appear as though there are only two stages of the hotel/travel purchasing funnel—researching and booking—but there are actually five distinct phases: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. Properly targeting your audience with the right media and message during each of the five stages is an integral part of extending your company’s digital reach. 3. How to Turn the Funnel into Tangible Digital Action Lastly, and most importantly, digital professionals need to understand which digital media are relevant for each stage of the hotel/travel journey, and how to gauge the ROI for each. Wherever possible, seek to eliminate guesswork: quality hotel digital marketers need to fully embrace data reporting and analytics, in order to properly track results and develop actionable strategies for the future.

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