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Friday Freebie: One Timeless Rule Every Hotel Marketer Should Follow

September 21, 2018

Welcome to the Friday FreebieEach week we share one impactful hotel marketing tactic that you can implement immediately to drive more direct bookings.

This week’s freebie: Forget your hotel. It’s all about emotions.

Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon Cosmetics, famously said,In the factory, we make cosmetics. In the store, we sell hope.”

It’s all too easy to get caught up in selling rooms each night.  Most often, hotel marketers are buried under a barrage of daily marketing tasks that take up most of their time. It’s little wonder then that some hoteliers may start seeing their hotel as a commodity – as a physical product rather than a “creator of emotion.”

But, the most successful marketers know that what you sell is probably NOT what you should market. So, instead of focusing on your rooms, your restaurant, your spa or any of your travel awards, focus on the emotional benefit that a stay at your hotel can bring.

For example, Revlon sells makeup, but they market hope for women wanting to look their best. Disney sells tickets to an expansive theme park, but they market family togetherness and joy.

What feelings can come out of staying at your property? Is it precious time with friends and family? A peaceful place to remain productive and successful on the road? Is it a place to rekindle romance? Forget about your rational hotel features and emphasize how your guests will feel.

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Get more words of (hotel marketing) wisdom here: Three Quotes to Inspire Hotel Marketers


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 Marketing Budgets: How Much is Actually Enough?

September 18, 2018

Hotel marketing budgets: how much is actually enough?

According to a recent study, Booking.com and Expedia return $16 for every dollar spent on marketing. This looks great on paper, but the reality is that over the last decade OTAs’ return on marketing investment decreased by 15%. 

This explains why Booking.com dramatically decreased its advertising spend. 

The same story is playing out across the hotel marketing landscape… cost-per-acquisition is soaring, and if the Goliaths of the industry had to change their strategies, it’s probably time to sit down and address the elephant-in-the-room: how much should you be spending on marketing? 

First: What’s in the Marketing Budget?

Allocations within the marketing budget vary from company to company. According to The CMO Survey sponsored by Duke University, Deloitte LLP, and the American Marketing Association, “less than half (47.9 percent) of companies include expenses for marketing employees in their marketing budgets. Most companies (61.3 percent) include direct expenses for marketing—such as advertising, trade promotions, and direct marketing—in their marketing budgets, but this varies by industry (See below):

What does your hotel or resort include in its annual marketing budget? Do you include employee or outside agency costs in your budget? How about OTA commissions or GDS fees?

This is a critical definition that will determine how much you need and how your results are perceived by ownership.

THE INVERTED U-CURVE

Hotel marketers can learn a valuable lesson from Malcolm Gladwell in his inspiring book David and Goliath. In the book, Gladwell talks about “inverted U-Curves:”

“Inverted-U curves have three parts, and each part follows a different logic. There’s the left side, where doing more or having more makes things better. There’s the flat middle, where doing more doesn’t make much of a difference. And there’s the right side, where doing more or having more makes things worse,” according to Gladwell.

The curve has been around for over a century and it has been applied to a wide range of different situations:  

Money: Scholars who research happiness suggest that more money stops making people happier after they exceed $75,000 per year

Class Size:  Contrary to popular belief, a class size decreases beyond an optimal number, learning effectiveness decreases. Apparently, the optimum number is 18-24 students per class

Punishment and Crime: Past a certain point, cracking down on crime and locking people up stops having any effect on criminals, makes crime worse and the juvenile delinquency rate increases

Similarly, hotel marketing budgets have an inverted U-curve; doing too little will result in sub-optimal results, but doing too much is often wasteful.

So how can you identify this sweet spot? 

WHERE ARE YOU ON THE CURVE?

Hotels on the left side of the curve (usually large branded properties) typically allocate little to no budget in marketing beyond their brand fees. 

They often have a lackluster brand.com web page, no outside marketing investments and their distribution relies almost entirely on third-parties. The good news is that if your flagged hotel is on that part of the curve, any additional marketing investment will help you move to the flat middle of it, where investments and return are in balance and your profitability is at its zenith. 

The majority of hotels fall between the left side and the flat middle of the curve (and need to spend more to achieve their goals. However, if you categorize OTA commissions as marketing costs, virtually every hotel immediately moves to the right side of the curve, where spending more often delivers diminishing returns. As Kalibri Labs notes in their recent report: Demystifying the Digital Marketplace: “if you’re growing top-line revenue —but you’re spending a lot to do it—then you’re ultimately less successful in contributing to overall profits. Not an optimal strategy.”

However, if profit is not your primary goal (i.e. hotels rebranding, new openings, brand awareness projects, etc.) spending MORE may be the correct strategy, but for the vast majority of hotels (if you believe Malcolm Gladwell) it is not. 

So, how much is too much when it comes to hotel marketing?

Marketing effects profitability

According to a recent Gartner Research study, companies spend an average of 12% of their annual revenue on marketing. A recent CMO Survey comes to similar conclusions, highlighting how tech companies are among the biggest spenders (14%) when it comes to marketing. The hotel industry, however, seems to pay an even higher price (up to 25%, according to Kalibri Labs).  Tom Klein, the former CEO of Sabre, recently stated in a Tnooz interview that Travel “is not 90% margin like many of the businesses that Google and Facebook and others are in.” With OTAs’ average commission at 19% and direct booking cost-per-acquisition growing year after year, industry margins are under siege. 

So while ADR and RevPAR are important metrics, you should also focus solely “ProPAR” (Profit per Available Room): the revenue generated per room minus the investments needed to acquire the guest. Here again, we strongly recommend categorizing OTA commissions as marketing costs to get a true picture of your marketing budget and its effect on profitability!

WHAT ABOUT DIRECT BOOKINGS?

Because of high 3rd party acquisition costs, there has been a lot of attention on building direct channels, just think about Hilton’s Stop Clicking Around campaign:

The unavoidable truth is that it is also very easy to overspend when it comes to direct booking investments and you can find yourself on the right side of the inverted-U curve without even realizing it. Similar to the OTA channel, direct reservations also have growing costs. 

Special discounted rates, loyalty programs, hotel digital marketing, PPC, metasearch engines and social media ads to name a few. Our advice to clients has always been: “you should have an unlimited budget for things that work…”

This philosophy requires a near-manic obsession with ROI tracking and analytics that requires serious software and some intensely nerdy data, scientists. As the CMO Survey reinforces: when respondents were broken into three groups—high, medium and low usage of ROI analytics— marketing budgets were 70 percent larger in the high group than the low group.

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

Before you can determine how much to budget for marketing, hotel execs need to answer three critical questions:

1.  What are the revenue targets by segment? (more on this here)

Without a concrete understanding of targets by segment, hotel marketers cannot quantify (or deploy) their budgets properly… leading to misalignment with ownership and missed targets.

2. Where is the property in its lifecycle?

Recently opened hotels, or properties which went through a rebranding, in fact, should be less focused on return on investment and more on building awareness. In cases like these, 20-25% of annual revenue spent on marketing is common. If, on the other hand, your hotel has matured to a more advanced stage and it’s been in business for 3+ years, then 8-15% of your annual revenue on marketing should be more than enough to guarantee you a good balance between profit and visibility. 

3.  How much revenue is marketing accountable for…?

As the CMO Survey points out: Marketing is responsible for leading revenue growth at 38.4 percent of companies. These companies have larger marketing budgets as a percentage of the overall company budget than companies that do not assign primary responsibility for revenue growth to marketing.”

Why every hotel paid media campaign needs a landing page

September 14, 2018

Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

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

This week’s Freebie: Every marketing campaign should lead to a corresponding landing page.

So, you’ve come up with a creative marketing idea to draw in winter bookings. You create catchy marketing emails and witty social media posts to lead people back to your website.

But, beware: This is where your audience can fall off.

Avoid confusion and abandonment by leading visitors to a page that shows the same offer, the same design, the same branding as your ads or email promos.

If you simply lead prospective bookers to your homepage or directly to your booking engine and assume visitors will just take it from there, you’re sorely mistaken. Most often they will abandon your site and head elsewhere.

Even the smallest of differences can be jarring to the customer and will slowly chip away at the trust that you worked so hard to establish. So, keep things consistent to boost both customer trust and conversion rates.

Instead, all hotel advertising campaigns should lead visitors to a custom landing page offering more details and a compelling call-to-action.

Check out this example from Charlestowne Hotels and see how their Cyber Monday email campaigns lead visitors to a correlated landing page:

Email promo for Cyber Monday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Correlated landing page with same offer, branding and prominent call to action

 

 

 

 

 

Get more: 10 Commandments of Hotel Email Campaigns

 


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 34th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale.
Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Can paid social media advertising rescue low booking periods?

September 11, 2018

No matter how well you run and market your hotel or resort, there’s a good chance you’re going to face some seasonality in your demand patterns, which inevitably manifest themselves as the mortal enemy of hoteliers everywhere: the dreaded low period.

Recently, smart hotel marketers are embracing paid social media advertising to alleviate periods of weakness and drive revenue from hyper-targeted social campaigns.

However, there are multiple best practices and nuances to be mindful of when formulating your hotel social media advertising campaign specifically intended for aiding low periods.

Here are some key ways to utilize social advertising to drive business during those slow times of the year:

1. Get Specific

One of the great strengths of social advertising is its ability to zero-in on very specific audiences, based on a host of factors, like interests, location, age, income, sex and more. This is an edge you don’t have with hotel pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which makes a social media advertising presence all the more vital during slow periods.

Elle Andress, social media director at Tambourine

“You’re able to get a lot more narrower targeting on social media in your advertising, so if you’re trying to grow specific markets, the ability to target any type of interest is something that’s incredibly useful,” said Elle Andress, social media director at Tambourine. “You may have specific interests or promotions you want to offer for people who like running, because there’s a big running event happening in town. You’re able to target those really specific audiences on social media, which you won’t find with PPC.”

2. Be Timely

Another of the helpful, hyper-focused advantages of social media advertising that can be vital during slow periods is the ability to isolate potential guests based on when those users are considering taking their next trip. It’s especially helpful for attracting last-minute guests, which can be used to fill holes in demand that are too close to the day of arrival to be marketed through less timely channels.

Social ads like this one from The Reefs in Mexico, target visitors interested in Mexico’s Independence Day celebration in September

 

 

“Facebook recently unveiled a ‘frequent travelers’ type of targeting, so you’re now able to serve social media ads to people who’ve shown some interest in traveling very soon,” said Andress. “If you’re in a low period, you’re able to target people who’ve specifically shown that they’re interested in traveling in the very near future, so you know that your ads are being sent to people who are actively looking to book a getaway.”

3. Don’t Be Afraid of the Bill

Social media advertising tends to be more inexpensive than hotel PPC advertising, which can get fairly costly, especially when trying to outbid deep-pocketed online travel agencies (OTAs) in Google AdWords. That’s why it’s important to approach social media advertising without fear of sticker shock. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the advertising bang you’ll get for your social media buck, and if it fills rooms that would be otherwise empty during a low period, it’s worth every penny.

“The cost is going to be a lot lower in most cases, so it will be more cost effective and you’re able to see direct results, like with PPC,” said Andress. “As soon as you drop that Facebook tracking pixel into your booking engine, you’re able to see direct conversion and ROI with social advertising. And the costs do tend to be a little bit lower, which is an added benefit.”

4. Embrace Creativity

Just like with your everyday “organic” social media content, social advertisements rely heavily on creative elements, especially photos and video, to tell your hotel’s story and engage the user. It’s ok to use candid, user-sourced content for regular unpaid posts, but your social ads need to always be visually superior. Invest in quality hotel and resort photography, ad copy and video that paints your hotel in the best possible light wherever social advertising is concerned.

Hotel and tourism marketers are increasingly using video in their social advertising to tell powerful stories

 

 

 

 

 

“You need to think of social media not just as this weird new type of advertising, but also as an extension of traditional advertising,” said Andress. “So you’re going to need creative elements that are compelling, beautifully designed and succinct. You need to treat it as a billboard online; or as a TV commercial. Just because it’s placed on Facebook or Instagram doesn’t mean that the creative can be less quality than people are used to seeing in other mediums.”

5. Double-Down on Facebook and Instagram

Social media advertising can be most effective when utilized on multiple fronts, especially when Facebook and Instagram—both part of the same corporate entity—are used in tandem. Not only will you garner more eyeballs using this method, but you’ll also save on advertising costs, which is always a strong incentive.

“We tend to find that the cost to advertise on both Facebook and Instagram together is much more effective than trying to segment it out to just Facebook or just Instagram,” said Andress. “The platform actually gives you better results if you’re willing to opt-in to multiple placements, versus just going one or the other. Instagram’s always going to cost a little more to advertise on alone than just Facebook alone, but if you’re willing to put your ads on both platforms, it has a lot better return as far as cost and the audience it’s being served to.”

6. Cast A Wide Net

When using social advertising, particularly during low demand periods, don’t just reach out to one specific demographic. Target several groups, including social users who are currently liking/following your page, and those who haven’t liked/followed your page yet. You can fine-tune the offerings for each group, while also growing your ongoing dedicated base of social media followers.

“You want to hit your people who are your tried and true fans, who are maybe considering a getaway, and they get an ad in their feed that prompts them to book,” said Andress. “The other piece to consider is to start focusing on growing those feeder markets. If you have specific feeder markets that you know perform very well, bring those people in, even if they’re not fans of your page. Anyone that’s come to your website or shown interest in traveling, but might not necessarily be a fan of your social media pages yet, are also a great audience to include for those offers.”

7. Be Clear with the Offering

It’s also important to tailor your social media advertising offering to its purpose; in this case, promoting specific specials intended to drive business during low periods. Being as descriptive as possible is also useful in that setting. That’s a very different approach than say, a generic branding promotion on social media, which is more about building positive goodwill. Be sure to understand these distinctions when creating and approving low-period social media ads.

Legendary ad exec David Ogilvy reminds us that regardless of the medium, the best advertising has a clear selling proposition

“When you’re doing those offer ads, that’s when you want to showcase whether it’s a specific room category that you’re trying to sell, or whether it’s a specific package that goes in conjunction with something else on the property,” said Andress. “You can really get into those micro-stories on the property level and showcase those things that make the property special, more so in those offers and type of ads, versus a general branding campaign.”

8. Don’t Forget Branding, Either

As we mentioned above, you should create specific, targeted social ads for driving business during low periods. But that doesn’t mean you should switch off your hotel branding campaigns during times of need. Actually, it’s vital to keep branding campaigns alive and active at all times, even if that means spending a little extra, so you can increase your social media advertising scope to encompass both branding and targeted low-period ads.

“Just because you’re in a low period doesn’t mean you should ignore branding,” said Andress. “People only want to push offers when they’re in a low period, because they think that will automatically result in bookings, but don’t forget that branding initiative as well. Instead of thinking of one versus the other, think about how you can segment your budget to have both initiatives running constantly to help with those low periods and with that overall branding, so when you hit your next low period, you’ve already grown your audiences that much more to serve those ads to.”

9. Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute

On a final note, you don’t want to be the hotel marketer who waits until they’re facing a full-blown demand crisis before taking action to bring in additional guests. Do your homework, analyze your hotel’s historical performance data, and then formulate your low-period marketing strategies well in advance. Even though social media can seem all about instant gratification, your social advertising efforts will also benefit from advance planning, just like more traditional channels.

“It’s never too soon to start thinking about advertising,” said Andress. “If you’re already advertising in other mediums, social shouldn’t be considered this strange unicorn, where, ‘Maybe I’ll throw in a little bit here and there.’ If you already have your set media planned for the year, we recommend clients provide their yearly marketing plan to us and then we’re able to recommend different plans depending on the high period, the offers and the need. If you have your marketing plan set, then you should definitely have your social media advertising plan set, as well.”


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 34th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale.
Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: If you do anything this budget season… do this

September 7, 2018

Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

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

This week’s Freebie: The most critical thing you do to ensure success is getting the budget you need to achieve your revenue targets… so you better ask for the right amount!

Summer is fading fast. But, before you start focusing on fall and winter campaigns, let’s talk about your 2019 marketing budget. 

By now, your hotel ownership and senior management team have started mapping out next year’s revenue goals and expect you to develop the marketing plan that supports those revenue goals. Before adding up what you THINK you’ll need to successfully market your property, ask ownership this vital question:

“Our marketing budget needs to align with revenue projections. So, what are the revenue goals?”

Don’t move an inch on a budget without knowing exactly what your marketing team is beholden to.  Insist on a specific answer – by segment.

Then, ask for EVERYTHING you need to deliver the results they’re mandating.  Your request should be fearless and contain some or all of the following:

“In order to achieve _______, I need $____ in marketing funds.

____ new marketing staff.

_____ product changes to be made.

And _____ department to report to me.”

Don’t use last year’s budget amount — you’ll be expected to do more with less next year.

And don’t let management decide how much to allocate on their own – they will always provide less than you need. Committing to a lofty revenue target without the proper resources and budget is dangerous for your property and your career!

Once you know the ownership’s revenue goals, you can now carefully consider what you’ll need to achieve them. And, thoroughly put together the ultimate hotel marketing budget for 2019.

Get more: How Much Should Your Marketing Budget Be – Part 2


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 34th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale.
Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Do You Know Your Hotel’s Optimal Business Mix?

September 4, 2018

As the number of hotel distribution channels, marketing tools and rate types increase—and the cost for each booking varies—so does the need for determining a hotel’s optimal business mix (OBM).

But with so much data to process and analyze, coming from multiple sources, the challenge is to maintain a high-level perspective on the hotel’s overall revenue goals and needs.

That’s where the art and science of determining a hotel’s OBM come into play.

To put it simply, finding a hotel’s OBM is the process of finding which sales channels, demand segments and rates work best for the property, factoring in the cost of each customer, during a range of time periods, including daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal patterns.

Without a concrete understanding and commitment to an OBM, hotel marketers cannot apply their budgets and resources properly… leading to misalignment with ownership and missed targets.

“Taking a step back and looking at the big picture is the key,” said Jennifer Hill, vp of business development for Kalibri Labs, a leader in hotel benchmarking and reporting systems and analysis that recently published the special report, “Demystifying The Digital Marketplace.” “It’s hard to see the forest for the trees and understand what is important to the hotel business and the profitability of the hotel during certain seasons and different times of the year, as well as with different demand generators. You can’t look at any of that information—whether it’s channel distribution or rate category production—in a silo.”

Not Your Average Comp Set

One of the primary and most radical aspects of determining a hotel’s OBM is the need to expand your thinking beyond the textbook comp set approach to hotel forecasting and analysis. Hill said that while the traditional hotel benchmarking method compares a hotel’s performance against its competitors’ average performance, optimal business mix benchmarking is not necessarily limited to just those self-selected hotels in a comp set.

“The traditional metric is comparing your performance to an average of performance in hotels that might no longer be your direct competitors and might not actually be comparable hotels for every segment and every channel,” said Hill. “The OBM helps hotels get an understanding of demand and business that is available in their market, and where they can make the most money.”

For example, a hotel may consider its optimal business mix versus two or three hotels on Tuesday or Wednesday for corporate via GDS bookings, compared to another five hotels among which the property competes for OTA business on Friday and Saturday, plus another different six hotels that the property competes with on Sunday. In general, the comp set increases as demand declines.

“We’ve found that sometimes that 800-room hotel may very well compete with that 100-room economy scale hotel for that Sunday business,” said Hill. “The traditional benchmarking method just shows you, ‘Here’s the average performance; if you can manage to capture that, this would be the revenue increase,’ but if you’re looking at optimal business mix, you’re fine-tuning your actions against more specific targets, so you can maximize profitability based on pretty much every combination of channel, rate category and day of week. The outcome of that generally is a much greater realization on a profit contribution basis, not just revenue.”

Decoding Demand Generators

According to the Kalibri Labs report, the OBM journey begins with forecasting demand for each source of business available to a hotel. From there, one must review the gap between the subject hotel and a reasonable target for its market share for each of its demand drivers.

That allows sales and marketing teams to better choose the most promising opportunities and quantify them, so results can be tracked.

“It’s determining what is most meaningful to your strategy at that particular time in terms of demand and what’s going on in the market,” said Hill. “You might find that loyalty business does really well via brand.com and that’s something you should continue to improve upon and potentially use as a best practice moving forward. You might find that loyalty via GDS or property or voice is completely different.”

Hill stresses the importance of taking a holistic approach when performing this stage of OBM analysis. Although it may seem tempting to focus on specific demand segments that have performed historically well for a hotel (or ruling out undesired demand segments), OBM relies more on making use of the entire demand spectrum, so that untapped sectors can be utilized at times as needed.

“Consider the entirety of the picture; don’t just focus on one particular channel or rate category, but look at it as a combination of parts of a whole,” she said. “A lot of times, people get zeroed-in on certain kinds of business that they don’t want for any number of reasons, but all business has a part to play in optimal business mix, and you just flex it based on need and demand in your market and for your hotel type.”

It’s not optimal unless its profitable…

The next stage of OBM analysis and strategy is to formulate a net revenue objective for the hotel’s desired OBM. Then, based on the targeted mix, establish a spending target for both booking costs and sales and marketing costs, to achieve the desired mix.

This is a place where hotel marketing teams often go astray, without having a proper OBM plan in place. Hill said it’s important to not just focus on revenue, but also the cost of securing that revenue, and determining how to best proceed given the costs of each channel and customer segment.

“We do a lot of education around revenue strategy versus revenue management and moving toward that goal,” said Hill. “It’s crucial to refocus efforts in the direction of profitability, rather than just top-line revenue growth or index growth, which sometimes can be misleading measures of success. If you’re growing top-line revenue like crazy—but you’re spending a lot to do it—then you’re ultimately less successful in contributing to overall profits. Not an optimal strategy.”

An added perk, Hill said, is that while courting higher-rated business can lead to higher profitability, it can also achieve that goal at lower occupancies. This boosts the bottom line still further by reducing related labor costs, as well as the depreciation of the asset.

“OBM could potentially reveal opportunities for higher-rated, or more profitable business, with possibly less occupancy, creating less wear and tear on the overall operation and the asset itself,” Hill said. “If we’re able to do an OBM view and find business that is contributing more profit overall, then the hotel is going to be equally or more successful, with less wear and tear in terms of occupancy.”

Measure, Measure, Measure

With demand generators identified, goals set and costs quantified, the final stages of the OBM process focus squarely on measurement and results.

The Kalibri report suggests measuring performance against the optimal business mix by channel, rate category and specific opportunity to grow market share. This further identifies areas for improvement and opportunity.

Finally, hotel and resort marketers should then evaluate where the hotel was successful and where there is room for improvement, to enable a gradual uptick in net revenue and revenue capture. This is one of the places where human intelligence—rather than computers—remains essential.

Although one may have utilized reams of data to get to this point, ultimately, performing these kinds of analyses and making strategic decisions based on the findings is a human process that’s still more art than science.

“Now, more than ever before, you really need to understand all of these nuances,” explained Hill. “Machines are starting to do a lot of the pricing and inventory allocation, so what can we add to that? The ability to synthesize all of this data, give it to an expert in the field of revenue strategy, and let them make marketing and tradeoff decisions that machines aren’t quite doing, yet.”


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 34th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: The most important thing hotel marketers can do to support group sales

August 31, 2018

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: The best way for hotel marketers to support their teammates in the meetings and group sales department.

Achieving group and meetings revenue targets can make or break your property’s annual performance. But incredibly, most hotel group sales departments lack consistent, effective marketing support and are forced to generate their own leads. Hotel marketers often ignore the need to boost their hotel’s revenue by accelerating the number of incoming sales leads.

As a result, hotel marketing departments usually stick to what they know: marketing only to leisure travelers.

Let’s change that.

There are several smart ways for hotel marketers to generate more group leads for their sales teams, but the most important way is to….

Be accountable and carry a quota

What?!
Marketing people carrying a quota?
While this may be a strange and radical concept among hotel marketers, other industries (ie: Silicon Valley software companies) have been assigning lead generation quotas to marketing teams for many years. 
Asset managers and property owners no longer want to hear about “branding initiatives” or logo colors… they expect their hotel management firm’s marketing team to contribute to revenue in a measurable way, communicate in number-speak and be accountable for tangible results.

Quotas for marketing teams can be memorialized in terms of leads or actual closed deals generated by leads driven by the marketing team. And marketers often receive bonuses based on their performance against their quota.

Hotel marketers need to remember that having a quota is not only a burden, but also an opportunity: if they hit their assigned lead generation targets, they increase their value in a demonstrably important way to their management and can ask for compensation increases as a result!


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 34th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale.
Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: 4 Smart (and FREE) Tools To Spy On Your Compset

August 24, 2018

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: Monitoring your hotel’s comp set is key to staying one step ahead.

Hotel marketing success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  It’s vital to keep up with all the changes in both the industry and your markets. And, just as crucial to monitor your comp set, their hotel or resort marketing strategies, then improve your own.

Monitoring your comp set isn’t about spying or conducting covert site inspections. It’s about discovering new online opportunities and pivoting your marketing strategies if needed, based on what your competition is doing.

Fortunately for hotel marketers, there are tons of FREE hotel digital marketing tools that can help monitor your compset’s activities: 

Here are some of our favorites – all free:

Moat

This fantastic free tool shows all the digital ads competing hotels have placed in the marketplace. You can see their ad creative, as well as various dimensions and placements.

SEO Analyzer

Research up to 3 competing hotels at one time and see how well their websites are performing, based on factors like SEO and speed. Best part? You can stay one step ahead of your comp set. This site will reveal what you should do to increase traffic so you can beat them to it.

Facebook Audience Insights

Get robust stats on your hotel’s social media audience, as well as your competition’s. Find out what their followers like, what they purchase, their age, who they’re friends with, where they live, etc. Leverage this audience data to target effectively and shape your messaging.

Spyfu

This competitor analysis tool reveals your comp set’s most profitable keywords. Use these details to improve your hotel’s own market share and outrank the others.

Get More: 20 Free Hotel Marketing Tools 


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 34th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale.
Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

 

What’s wrong with your hotel website? Ask your call center team

August 21, 2018

Hotel and resort marketers have a powerful secret weapon, which in many cases is grossly underutilized: their call center reservations team.

Even for hoteliers with a robust direct website, call centers remain a vital link in the booking and communications chain and are a near boundless source of guest information and insight.

Hotel and resort websites are great for showcasing amenities, telling a story and providing fundamental property info to a wide array of visitors, but it’s crucial for hotel marketers to tap their call center teams for acute feedback about what inbound callers truly NEED… and to learn more about where the direct/brand.com website falls short.

Doug Kennedy, hotel reservation center expert

“The importance is to realize there’s an interplay of voice and online, and rather than thinking there’s a separate voice customer and online customer. It’s the same customer,” said Doug Kennedy, founder and president of the Kennedy Training Network, which specializes in hotel call center training and support. “It’s not an age thing, either; it’s a misconception that 83-year-old people call and 28-year-old people never call. But really, it’s according to the need. If the 28-year-old is a mom with a 3-year-old kid and has questions about the kids’ club, she’s going to call. Voice is not going away, particularly in independents.”

Filling the information gap

Fostering an interplay between call centers and the web can yield suggestions for future hotel website design enhancements, while also leaning on voice to answer questions that are perhaps too specific to be addressed with basic web pages or increasingly vital (for SEO purposes) online FAQ pages.

Every day, the call center team talks to hundreds of prospective guests who are asking questions that the website is apparently not answering, or at least, not answering well enough.

By conducting regular conversations with call center staff, hotel marketers can glean valuable intel on their own site’s utility and shortcomings, including:

  • How can the site be improved?
  • Which pages lead to the most bounces from the web to the call center….  where is the need for human contact most inevitable?
  • Do the current promotions make sense? Or are guests confused by the choices?

We need to make sure the call center or in-house reservations teams have a way to capture and document and log the questions they’re getting so that you can circle back to adding that information,” explained Kennedy. “If the call center is getting frequent questions about something on the website, it needs to be moved or better positioned on the website. There may also be questions that aren’t on the website at all.”

A recent study of rate parity in major cities by RateGain illustrates the reality that call center agents face everyday… 
most hotels are still out of parity with 3rd party and OTA pricing

You may also discover that some of the current promotions your hotel or resort is offering are confusing to guests. This can happen especially when multiple promotions are offered at the same time. As marketers, it is imperative to get out in front of such confusion should it arise, in order to save the booking and not potentially lose it to an OTA.

“If you talk to most reservation agents, they will tell you there are way too many packages offered at resort websites,” said Kennedy. “Marketing thinks the more packages you have, the more choices. However, the agent will tell you, that there are so many choices, the callers can’t decide and can’t differentiate between the value of these packages. Therefore, they go somewhere that makes it easy, like Expedia.”

And as we have covered in the past, too many choices often leads to consumer dissonance and hotel booking engine abandonment.

Ears to the ground

Harnessing the power of one’s call center also offers more than just website and promotional feedback: Hotel and resort marketers can reap useful information about the guests themselves. In many cases, the call center team—who interact each day with customers—often have their finger on the pulse of guests’ needs and desires more than the hotel marketers themselves.

Instead of squandering those perspectives, marketers can put that knowledge to work, while in turn providing call centers with added information they can, in turn, utilize to better answer future calls.

Some of the guest desires and needs that are commonly discussed with call center staff include:

  • A range of questions and concerns about hotel facilities. This can be useful for learning more about what services and amenities are most important to your customers
  • Local area information, including restaurants, attractions, shopping and entertainment/nightlife venues
  • Travel information, such as area driving tips, traffic insight, realistic drive times, etc.

“What people want is local area expert information,” said Kennedy. “It could be, ‘What is the most authentic restaurant that locals go to?’ Or, ‘What are the actual travel times during peak periods, not just what Google Maps says?’ If you’re booking your flight and trying to figure out if you can make that flight, is it really 30 minutes? Or is it more like 90 minutes during peak season? What they really want is for someone to narrate the picture they’re seeing online.”

Making it happen

Once hotel marketers prioritize their relationships with call center teams, there are a number of steps that can be taken in order to strengthen and maintain those relationships. Two-way communication is a huge part of this effort, as well as providing the resources that call center staff need to answer common questions.

Some best practices for hotel and resort marketers working to leverage call center wisdom include:

  • How far apart are conversion rates of call center vs website? Geography, amenities and price will affect results, but effective call centers normally convert 30%+ of gross/”raw” calls, while very few hotel websites convert > 10% (major brand portals with huge loyalty audiences are the exception to this)
  • Asking call center team members how THEY themselves use the hotel direct website? Often, call center agents will use the hotel or resort website to look up information on the fly… ask them where they think it falls short?
  • Scheduling “Lunch and Learns,” where marketers regularly engage with call center staff over lunch and/or preplanned pow-wows
  • Virtual or phone meetings with remote call center staff. Many agents are offsite, work-at-home employees. Be sure to keep them in the loop, too
  • Provide call centers in advance with some of the property and local area information they require, especially if they are not based in the same location as the hotel(s) they are handling
  • Create tools based on customer demand. The more you learn from the call center about frequent guest questions and concerns, the more you can prepare in advance to respond. Be sure to share those resources with the call center

“Now that call center staff are spread out, what hoteliers should be doing is virtual online tours, using screen sharing, that they actually walk agents through. And while you’re training remotely, talk about the stories of the guests: Who stays there, and these are some of their reviews on TripAdvisor,” said Kennedy. “Instead of saying, ‘We’re a 300-room resort, we’ve got three restaurants and we have a spa and golf course,’ it’s, ‘This is John. He loves to golf, he never has time, and these are the things John says online.’ Talk about the stories that actually play out at your resort, rather than drilling staff with facts they already know.”


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 34th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

Friday Freebie: Use Data to Get More This Budget Season

August 17, 2018

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: This budget season, you’ll need to prove how much hotel revenue you brought in or risk losing your funds.

A successful hotel marketing budget not only requires the guts to ask for what you need, but the data to back it up.

We’re constantly pushing hotel marketers to attach numbers to their success and to keep track of hotel marketing metrics that matter, instead of simply touting website visitors, social media followers, ad impressions and email open rates.

Nowhere does data become more critical than during budget season.

Your owners care about bottom line results and hold your marketing team accountable for revenue just as much as they do with the sales team and revenue managers

Come budget season, you will be in a difficult position if you can’t prove how your marketing campaigns resulted in bookings.

Without numerical data, owners will be more apt to cut back on marketing expenses (and even staff!), believing that you can still achieve Instagram likes and social media engagement with less.

Here’s the solution: Have complete fluency in the KPIs that affect your hotel’s bottom line. This includes DRR (direct revenue ratio), MCPB (marketing cost per booking) and how your direct marketing expenses compared to the acquisition cost of OTA bookings.

For example, if you know last year’s marketing cost-per-sale (CPS), use that against future revenue targets to determine the budget required. Then say:

“Last year, we achieved a marketing CPS of X.
To achieve next year’s budget, I need $_______ (or ‘this staff position’)

Data is your strongest ally when you need to ask for more marketing funds. 

Get More: How Much Should Your Marketing Budget Be?


About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 34th year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale.
Please visit: www.Tambourine.com

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