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Friday Freebie: How Smart Hotel Marketers Convince Owners to Reinvest

February 2, 2018

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

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

This Week’s Freebie: The most important aspect of marketing is the product itself.

But what happens when hotel marketers are asked to bend steel with their bare hands and meet lofty revenue goals with a tired and inadequate product? How can hotel marketers contribute evidence to ownership that there is a problem and it’s time to reinvest?  

Here’s a few ways to support your case with real data:

1: Show past guest reviews (and aggregated guest sentiment scores) regarding common issues reported at your property, such as uncomfortable beds, old bathrooms, dirty carpets or tired decor.

2: Prepare a summary of new supply or newly refurbished compset properties, as well as your STR index trends against those properties.

3: Pull PMS or CRM data that illustrates the decline in repeat visitation from past guests as a result of inferior product experience.

Without a commitment to property upgrades, hotel marketers are facing an uphill battle, while owners are facing a decline in profits and ultimately… a decline in their property value.

Get more: Hitting hotel owners where it hurts: real estate values


About Tambourine

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

Friday Freebie: Do This Instead, Tap into Consumer Fears about OTAs

January 19, 2018

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

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

This Week’s Freebie: Stop competing on rates. Win back bookings from OTAs…

by reminding guests of how unreliable, uncertain and problematic OTA reservations can be. 

Think hotel consumers are always driven by the lowest price?

Think again.

Travel decisions are also based on emotions, not just practicality. And, there’s one emotion that hotel marketers need to tap into more: FEAR.

According to a recent JD Power & Associates’ North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, people are more likely to have a bad hotel experience (ie: hidden fees, unfair cancellation policies, and canceled reservations) if they booked through a third-party, like Expedia or Travelocity.

In fact, it doesn’t take long to find legions of complaints and horror stories of travelers left in the lurch because of strict OTA policies or apathy from OTA call centers. Travel plans are likelier to be unraveled by OTAs, not hotels.

So, tap into that fear to remind customers that you offer two things that OTAs don’t:

  1. A reliable reservation from a trusted source
  2. AND a staff that actually cares about them

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

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

• On your direct hotel website home page

• In your search/PPC ads

• In your retargeting ads that follow consumers after they visit your website

• In social media posts

• In call/reservations center training

• Inside your booking engine, where most abandonment occurs

Get more: We’re Using the Wrong Message to Fight OTAs


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

10 Killer Hotel Website Conversion Hacks

January 16, 2018

Hotel website conversion is key to any direct booking strategy. image1

There’s a good chance you’re killing the conversion rate of your hotel website.

Right now, potential guests are bouncing off your hotel website as you read this.

What good are your brilliant marketing strategies if you can’t hold onto the customers’ attention once they get there?

Your hotel product is not to blame.

Most likely, there are holes that need to be taken care of on your hotel website.

Make these fixes and watch your conversions increase.

Hack 1: Use Dynamic Personalization

Too many hotel websites use sliding graphics to showcase different messages, amenities and promotions. If the first screen isn’t right for the visitor… maybe the next one will be!

Unfortunately, it turns out that sliders kill conversion rates. Instead, we recommend using simple dynamic personalization to deliver the right message/promo to each visitor.

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An example of dynamic personalization welcoming past direct bookers with their previous date search.

For example:

By using campaign tracking codes to identify various inbound traffic sources, you can customize the messaging of your homepage to be more relevant to your visitors. For example, if you are promoting an in-state resident sale, you can dynamically set your home page to detect website visitors from your state and display that promo first.

• You can prevent abandonment to OTAs by dynamically showing gated/loyalty rates (see example above) to users who are automatically identified as consumers who have used your direct booking engine.

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

Hack 2: Keep Offers Consistent

Using promos across all your digital channels to drive traffic is nothing new, but if you don’t keep the offer consistent throughout the purchase journey, you are causing dissonance and inhibiting your direct hotel website conversion rate.

This is especially critical when guests expect to see the promo they clicked on reflected in the pricing inside your hotel booking engine. If an offer disappears during the booking engine conversion process, visitors can lose confidence in their purchase and abandon their checkout.

Here’s a great example from Couples Resorts showing a 7th Night Free promo on their Specials page, then carried forward all the way through into the booking environment:

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The jump between your website to your booking engine is a dangerous place. If the transition isn’t seamless, it’s notorious for causing people to ditch their reservations. One thing to blame for the abandoned reservations: Mismatched online experiences.

The best booking engines are the ones that go unnoticed by the guest. If you transfer guests to a booking engine with a different design, different colors, different fonts than that of the website, it will cause guests to feel uneasy about moving forward. 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.

Hack 3: Keep Messaging Consistent

Sure, setting rates and keeping content consistent across the vast array of digital channels can get overwhelming. But maintaining STORY parity is vital to your hotel’s bottom line.

Smart hotel marketers also know that their USP (unique selling proposition) has to be consistent across all brand touchpoints and channels. If consumers see your property described as “urban chic” in one place and “a traditional business hotel” in another… dissonance occurs, causing erosion and attrition.

People are often distracted and impatient when they’re shopping for travel online. They’re eager to find information that gives them confidence in their purchase decisions. In the early days of the web, researchers at the Xerox PARC laboratory in Palo Alto defined this as “information scent.”

According to the conversion gurus at Unbounce, people follow visual and information clues that help them find what they’re looking for. If they lose the scent, they’ll abandon the trail. If the information scent is strong, they’ll keep going. The question is: How consistent is the information your hotel provides across all your digital channels?

Hack 4: Offer Live Chat

Smart customer service can give you a serious bump in bookings. A recent study found that 62 percent of online customers are more likely to make a purchase if you offer live customer support.

Let’s be real:

Most of the people who visit your website will have questions. Don’t assume they will read every word on your website to find the answer. They want answers now. And offering them instant responses and open dialogue will make them more confident in booking. Online chat is even more important within your booking environment itself. Up to 98 percent of guests looking for availability on a hotel website will end up NOT BOOKING. Invest a few dollars a month in online chat to reduce attrition and guide your most valuable prospects to booking.

Hack 5: Fix Your Clunky Checkout

The faster a guest can get through the booking process, the higher your conversions. A long and complicated booking process can derail all of your efforts to get the guest across the finish line. Studies show that 28 percent of customers abandon their online purchases because they were frustrated with the long checkout. So, simplify, simplify, simplify. Take out irrelevant steps, mandatory sign-ups and upsell pages. Reduce the number of room types. Pare down as much as you can.

Also, sometimes the simple reason shoppers don’t complete a purchase is that their preferred credit card wasn’t accepted in your booking engine. Smart hotels offer multiple payment options, going beyond Amex, Visa and Mastercard to include as many forms of payment as possible, including third-party online payment services like PayPal. Some even take it a step further like Couples Resorts, who offer a “loveaway” payment plan.

Also, don’t forget to mention security clearly on your checkout page, otherwise you run a serious risk of abandonment. Customers need to feel confident that their payments will be handled securely. A statement of secure payment (or security badges) reassures your customers and could be the difference between a new guest and a lost sale.

Hack 6: Be Very Picky About Photography

Don’t shrug off hotel photography as simply pretty pictures. They carry far more influence than that: They convey your experience with a single glance. A study by Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management found that travelers thoroughly inspect photography to see if your room rates match your experience. And, that photography has the potential to change a guest’s mind. So skip the old, dated, blurry photos and kill the cheesy stock images. Invest in a legit, professional hotel photographer with a compelling portfolio of previous work at similar properties.

Hack 7: Harvest Social Proof 

Modern travelers, especially millennial and affluent guests, are highly driven by user-generated content. In fact, a recent marketing study found that UGC is 20 percent more influential than any other type of marketing when driving purchases among millennial shoppers. Leveraging your guests’ own images (especially images from Instagram) in your marketing materials not only shows authenticity, it brilliantly demonstrates ‘social proof.’

Also, potential guests turn to sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook and OTAs to research what others are saying about your property. Our advice: Beat them to it. Select and showcase some of your best reviews directly on your hotel homepage to amp up conversions. Scour through guest feedback for the most poignant reviews, skip those that are too generic or lack-luster. The idea is to add credibility with authentic guest feedback, as well as build excitement about what’s in store.

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Hack 8: Automate Your Best Rate Guarantee

Having a Best Rate Guarantee badge on your website is no longer enough. Instead, smart hotel marketers now show 3rd party rates alongside their own direct rates, so that customers aren’t tempted to leave and compare prices on other sites. Widgets like TripTease make it easy for hoteliers to show rates form third parties… and (shameless plug) our very own booking engine takes the concept a step further by auto-matching third-party rates when direct rates are showing higher than third parties.

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Booking engines, like Tambourine’s, can now auto-display third-party rates and auto-correct direct rates when they are out of parity.

Hack 9: Speed Things Up!

Attention spans online are at an all-time low.

If you want to turn lookers into bookers, every second counts. The ramifications of a slow hotel website are swift, and often permanent as well. About 25 percent of visitors will abandon a website that takes more than 4 seconds to load. Almost 50 percent will abandon if the site takes more than 10 seconds to load. Worse, once they leave, they will likely never come back. Today’s consumers expect immediacy online, so this is essential to your conversion rate.

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Hack 10: Be Mobile-Friendly

Mobile bookings are up. According to eMarketer, by 2021, half of all digital travel sales will be made from smartphones or tablets. So, why aren’t your mobile bookings climbing, too? It’s not enough for your website to just ‘come up’ on a smartphone or tablet. Or, to merely offer a mobile version of your hotel website. Your hotel’s mobile experience has to match the expectations and habits of today’s consumers on-the-go. So, streamline the booking funnel. Design for one-hand navigation. Allow for alternate payments. Then, watch your mobile bookings rise.


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

DOSM Checklist for 2018

December 26, 2017

Portrait of happy mature man wearing spectacles and looking at camera outdoor. Man with beard and glasses feeling confident. Close up face of hispanic business man smiling.

15 essential activities for hotel sales and marketing leaders.

We work with a lot of DOSMs across a wide variety of properties of all sizes in many countries.

Some are good, some are great… and some are working hard to improve.

What do the great ones have in common?

Which activities and disciplines deliver better results?

The answers might surprise you!

Based on our experience, here are the 15 things we recommend to hotel DOSMs seeking better results in 2018:

1. Assess Your Top 20 Sales Opportunities

Successful DOSMs constantly scrutinize their monthly and yearly group business goals and know where they stand on any given day with each pending opportunity. Leave the fluffy weekly sales meeting to the other hotels; instead, keep track of the progress toward your group sales goals by meeting with your team every day. Review top opportunities, get a no-B.S. status on critical deals and determine what each salesperson can do that day to edge closer to winning that piece of business.

Do you know your current closing percentage? And how long the average deal takes to close?

You should!

A daily check-in is paramount to hitting your group room night goals.

2. Be Vigilant About Your product

With all the sales and marketing strategies and technology you have in place, at the end of the day, it’s an exceptional guest experience that will attract bookings again and again. So, it makes sense to get your head out of the computer and leave your office to simply walk your property at least once a day.

Be mindful and try to see the property with fresh eyes. Talk to guests!

Scrutinize any flaws or opportunities for improvement. Notice what’s missing or what is possibly holding your property back. Is it the restaurant’s uninspiring menu? Or a cluttered spa entrance? Or dismal hallway lighting? Maybe it’s outdated staff uniforms or procedures? No amount of brilliant marketing can cover or compensate for property shortcomings, so it’s up to you to start there first. Submit a report to ownership at least once a year detailing the product shortcomings that are affecting results.

3. Embrace the Metrics Owners Care About the Most

Every day, you should be checking key performance indicators (KPIs) that hotel owners and asset managers consider high priority, such as marketing cost per booking (MCPB), direct revenue ratio (DRR) and your STR index vs. the compset. Monitoring these KPIs will help you and your owner understand how your sales and marketing team is actually contributing to the hotel’s revenue targets. Plus, these numbers will ultimately drive performance each day. Most hoteliers tend to wait until a slow season to pay attention to these metrics, then scramble to frantically catch up when the numbers reveal how behind they are in reaching the hotel’s goals.

4. Monitor Guest Sentiment

In addition to speaking to real-life human guests, online guest reviews are another direct link to your hotel’s future success. They tell you what went wrong (and right) in the past, and what you need to do moving forward. Even if it is someone else’s job to read and respond to guest reviews, successful DOSMs need to know what guests are saying as well. Do the same with mentions of your hotel on social media, such as photos taken by guests and posted to Instagram or Facebook. These posts can be extremely revealing and give an unfiltered view of guest sentiment. Notice what comes up most often, and then outline how you and other management staff can make improvements.

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5. Speak to Actual Guests

Pardon us for repeating ourselves: Resist the urge to stay glued to your computer or attend your own meetings all day. Get out and talk to guests, especially attendees of groups and events if that segment represents a large chunk of your revenue projection!

You are a host, first and foremost. So, talk and mingle with the people who really matter: your guests. Chat with guests in the lobby, or walk the meeting space and chat with attendees during their downtime. Start a conversation and see how things are going. Ask what could make their stay or meeting experience even better. Discover what really matters to them. Jot down and collect their responses, and use that as inspiration to drive your sales and marketing efforts. All of this intelligence can be used to attract more transient bookings or group business in the future.

6. Build Your Story

Travelers are no longer drawn to facts, promises of a wonderful stay or mentions of your recent industry awards. They want to be a part of something that intrigues them, connects with them and gives them something to brag about.

Consistently and creatively telling a meaningful, truthful story is what can truly attract travelers to you. However, it’s a common problem for many hoteliers to not know what their story is, much less how to convey it.

Correctly telling your story means knowing your audience, being honest about your assets and getting all stakeholders into consensus about your property’s unique identity so that you can convey it poignantly across all your marketing channels.

7. Get Closer to Your Revenue Manager

The most successful DOSMs confer with their revenue manager almost every day, not simply once per week. Just like your top sales opportunities, you need to stay on top of your hotel’s pace reports, upcoming low periods, performance vs. budget and the strategies to drive more revenue from ancillary products. The days of sales/marketing operating in separate silos from revenue management are firmly over. Check out this brief article on how to connect all the departments that affect your property’s revenue.

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8. Wrap Your Property in Local Color

The desire for unforgettable and authentic travel experiences isn’t going away anytime soon. Modern travelers want to experience a destination like a local would, and are replacing trips to cliched attractions with visits to mom-and-pop shops, farmers markets, art walks and hidden local spots. And, they’re looking to pick a hotel at the epicenter of all those things. Don’t sit back and simply rely on your concierge to stay abreast of all the local activities that are possible. Stay on top of it by skimming the publications that locals tend to read, such as weeklies like San Diego Reader or city magazines like Seattle Met. This will give you ideas for possible partnerships, room packages and unique off-site group options.

9. Study Your Compset

In the battle for bookings, never take your eyes off the competition. In addition to monitoring rate, checking in on your compset gives you insight into the smart moves they’re making to draw more direct bookings and more group business. One of the easiest ways to keep up with competition is to follow their social media accounts, not just for the property itself, but of each salesperson, too. (Each salesperson at your property should follow their counterparts at competing hotels.) What is getting the most engagement? What are they bragging about? Then, read their latest guest reviews and find out what their guests love and hate about their experience. Use this data to gauge what their customers and guests respond to and determine if you can use their successes to inspire change at your property as well.

10. Stress Balance and Reduce Stress

Smart DOSMs also find ways to reduce stress at work. They hire positive, high-achieving staff and fire negative, poor performers. They set expectations clearly with those below and above them. They eliminate vendor fatigue by consolidating their needs with as few vendors as possible. They surround themselves with people who can get things done with little to no hand-holding. And most importantly, they know that despite their non-stop, 24/7 job, work should never be their only source of pride and enjoyment. The most successful DOSMs have vibrant, fulfilling lives outside of work, balancing the demands of their work life with family, friends, exercise and travel.

11. Tech Enable Your Sales Team

Group planners/buyers are now using digital methods for some 80% of their pre-purchase research and planning, so hotel DOSMs need to scrap the traditional, relationship-based methods of the past and arm themselves with every digital tool available. This includes gathering customer data from social media, blogs and other aspects of their respective digital footprint, as well as tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Knowland Group’s market intelligence. It also means syncing sales efforts with the hotel’s marketing team, especially through marketing automation and a joint customer relationship management (CRM) system.

12. Stop Competing with OTAs on Price

Instead of making price parity your lead strategy for combatting the online travel agencies (OTAs), recent data suggests another tactic can be much more effective: targeting consumer fears regarding using OTAs.

It turns out that OTAs have built a lousy reputation for poor customer service, and many travelers worry about reservations, cancellations, changes, room selection and refunds when booking through OTAs. In response, you should harness the power of emotional messaging across all transient marketing touchpoints, reminding prospective guests at every opportunity that booking direct is the safer play, and you have a 100% commitment to customer service in the event something does go wrong.

13. Augment Your Brand’s Basic Marketing Program

Brand affiliation offers many potential sales and marketing advantages; however, these benefits aren’t often enough all on their own, as each brand’s national marketing team generally can’t reach specific target markets on a timely basis, convey unique property experiences or synthesize authentic local culture. Hotels need to augment their brand’s core program with timely campaigns and custom direct “vanity” websites that help fill periods of need, instead of solely relying on their brand’s standard marketing program, which is duplicated for every other sister hotel in the region. Take a proactive approach that focuses on differentiating your property, customizing your website, boosting your search engine optimization (SEO) and social media efforts and elevating the authenticity of your marketing message.

Also, if your property heavily depends on group revenue, consider adding technology, training and lead generation tools from outside vendors.

14. Consolidate Vendors

Working with multiple hotel marketing vendors means none are accountable. Meanwhile, hotel marketers waste a lot of time delivering messages from vendor to vendor, in a struggle to get everyone on the same page. Then further complicating things is the issue of vendor technology often not working well with others, blocking real-time data from being shared amongst the entire team.

The solution?

Pare-down your vendors to as few as possible, favoring hospitality marketing partners who have an expertise and proven success in several areas—not just one—so they can optimize multiple marketing functions. Most importantly, ask them the necessary questions to find out if they have the chops and systems in place to drive bookings and deliver ROI.

15. Know Your Cost-Per-Booking 

Today, hotel owners expect their hotel marketing departments to contribute to the hotel’s revenue targets in ways that can be measured. Without tracking and showing the numerical evaluation of your marketing efforts, you’re going to face a difficult time later in the year when you need to request next year’s marketing dollars.

To prove how your marketing efforts are adding to the hotel’s revenue, you’ll need to calculate your marketing cost per booking (MCPB) by segment. Use this number to show your marketing team’s value and to ensure you’re given the proper amount of marketing dollars to continue bringing in business for the hotel. Be especially vigilant to know your cost-per-booking from OTAs as well… avoiding the trap of viewing OTA bookings as purely revenue with no cost of acquisition.


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 Official Gift Guide for Hotel Marketers

December 20, 2017

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Forget the silly gadgets and fancy chocolates!

Listen up hotel owners and asset managers, we know what hotel marketers really want for the holidays…

Here’s our annual list of the things that hotel marketers tell us they crave the most:

1. They Want to Be Rewarded for Driving Measurable Revenue 

Hotel owners expect their marketing team to contribute to the hotel’s revenue targets in ways that can be tangibly measured.

And hotel marketers are responding!

By tracking their marketing cost-per-booking (MCPB) and return on ad spend, they are showcasing the marketing team’s direct ROI… this new breed of “revenue marketer” is moving away from the squishy, legacy metrics of hotel marketing into a new era of accountability (and hopefully increased compensation)!

2. They Want the Budget Correlated to Targets

Nothing would make hotel marketers happier this holiday season than a budget that was actually correlated to the targets being set for them (by segment)! Unfortunately, there are still many hotel owners who believe their sales and marketing teams can hit increasingly lofty revenue targets with less money and resources than the year before.

This year, hotel marketers are hoping to convince upper management that their ambitious revenue goals need to be supported with bigger budgets (and maybe even more staff). Let’s hope hotel owners realize that investing in marketing is one of the smartest moves they can make to boost revenue.

3. They Want Continued Investments for Direct Booking Campaigns

The launch of major campaigns by industry giants this year further reinforced the industry’s message on the benefits of purchasing directly through a hotel website rather than an OTA. But to rely solely on the AHLA, Marriott and Hilton to communicate these advantages to travelers is insufficient. Every property, regardless of size, affiliation or location, should be showcasing the benefits of booking direct and changing their message to expose the real weakness of OTAs.

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4. They Want Standardized Metrics That Really Matter

Instead of leaning on squishy metrics, most hotel marketers crave consensus on KPIs that will actually measure important things, including:

  1. MCPB (Marketing cost per booking): Tracks the cost of each sales and marketing channel versus actual conversions. (Try using this for OTA commissions as well… and see how that channel stacks up versus your other campaigns.)
  2. DRR (Direct revenue ratio): Measures percentage of online revenue from direct sources (your website) versus pricey third-party sources, like OTAs. If you’re not generating more than 60 percent of your transient revenue from direct reservations, you still have work to do!
  3. Website Conversion Rate (from unique visitor to entrances into the booking environment): Converting a higher percentage of visitors into booking searches (or phone calls) is critical to reducing your cost of revenue and MCPB.
  4. Variance from Revenue Target BY SEGMENT: This metric showcases revenue goals versus actual results.
  5. TripAdvisor Sentiment Score: Using a reputation/sentiment monitoring tool allows hotels to measure guest satisfaction. This reflects whether your guests are enjoying your product, along with alerting you to hotel deficiencies. A bad hotel experience will outweigh any of your clever sales and marketing tactics.

5. A Better Product… Please!

Successful hotel marketing depends on a great product.

Period. Full stop.

If you’re trying to sell a tired, flawed, aging or otherwise inferior hotel experience, no amount of marketing – no matter how innovative or brilliant – can avoid the inevitable downward spiral.

There are far too many hotels that continue to sink millions of marketing dollars to over-compensate for or to cover up an aging, lackluster, or grungy hotel product. Sadly, as long as owners delay investing in the appearance, service or amenities of the property, hotel marketers will continue to fight an uphill battle in attracting and retaining guests.

6. They Want to Celebrate Authentic Local Experiences

The vast majority of hotel marketers understand that today’s traveler cares as much or more about the EXPERIENCE than the thread count of the hotel’s sheets or the convenient parking. But not everyone is on board with converting the focus of a hotel’s marketing to focus on life-enriching experiences. Hotel marketers unanimously tell us they crave more time, resources and freedom to celebrate their properties’ connection to local experiences.

7. They Want Better Photography!

Like it or not, we’ve become a very visual society.

Just as important as a hotel’s service, extraordinary hotel digital marketing requires extraordinary photography because it plays such a strong role in consumers’ travel purchase process, from the inspiration phase to booking. Images define guest expectations and poor quality shots are the equivalent of telling potential guests that the hotel’s offerings are subpar, especially if the competitive set has better visual content on its website.

8. They Want to Decrease Their Dependence on OTAs

Yes, we know… statement of the obvious.

Everyone wants this, but rather than complaining, it’s time to change the overarching hotel industry strategy from emphasizing price parity to tapping into consumer fears of OTAs.

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

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

9.  Can We Get a Little Acknowledgment Please?

It’s not about ego.

It’s about progress… Marketers aren’t looking for a pat on the back!

What they want is for executives, owners, and hotel asset managers to understand all that falls on the shoulders of marketing. Because, when management truly understands the resources required, the marketing department usually gets the resources and the budget required to keep up with their compset and meet the revenue requirements of ownership.

10. They Want an End to the Rising Cost of Guest Acquisition!

Owners can’t control many of their rising costs, particularly debt service, brand fees and credit card fees. That’s why hotel owners and asset managers are looking more closely than ever at marketing costs—particularly the cost of guest acquisition—which are also rising fast.

According to experts, acquisition costs commonly in the range of 5% to 10% less than a decade ago have jumped to between 15% and 25%. If a hotel cannot acquire guests at a tolerable, sustainable rate, then the property is worthless as a long-term asset.

And one of the reasons that marketing costs are rising so quickly is because hotel marketers are often unable to create perceived value in their product, which ends up being treated like a commodity instead. Part of the problem lies with the brands, many of which have become redundant, overdone and difficult to distinguish from one another, prompting travelers to book solely based on price.

Happy holidays!

We hope all your wishes come true this holiday season too! 


About Tambourine

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

Why Hotel Sales Teams Need to Up Their Digital Game

November 7, 2017

Hotel group sales teams need better digital skills to capture more deals.

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Advances in digital have dramatically altered the ways group planners/buyers do business.

Today, B2B customers are doing 80% of their pre-purchase research in the digital world. Meeting planners/buyers are relying far less on hotel salespeople for information, instead choosing to educate themselves on potential venues via the web and peer referrals.

These clients no longer want cold calls, or even emails; 90% of C-level executives claim to never respond to these tactics, according to Salesforce.

Quite simply, hotel salespeople have to adapt… and quickly.

Traditionally, hotel sales teams use classic old-school textbook techniques, relying heavily on relationship selling and cold calls to book business. At branded hotels, sales teams often receive very little digital help or “air cover” from their corporate parents (other than lead flow). While Independents tend to be a bit more resourceful, since they’re wholly responsible for leads. But both hotel types need to enhance their digital skills, to keep up with the latest evolution of B2B buyers.

Here are the three most effective ways hotel salespeople can elevate their digital game:

1. Get Data

The first step of a digital sales effort starts with conducting digital research, to obtain key information about both your customers and competition. Discovering where to go on the web and various databases to research potential clients and do your homework on prospects’ needs should be done before you engage with those prospects. Take some time to read their blogs, LinkedIn pages, website and other “digital footprints.”

You can also employ affordable, easy-to-use tools to better understand prospects’ profiles and behavior. Helpful tools include:

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator LinkedIn’s subscription-based sales tool helps sales reps target buyers and companies, with features to save leads and create various contact lists. The system contains an algorithm that helps find the best potential leads for each user, while sales research and insight tools help reps study their prospective clients. Communication tools are also built into the software, and it seamlessly logs and imports sales activity to and from CRM systems.
  • Knowland Group DataKnowland Group’s market intelligence products help sales reps find targets that meet their group revenue maximization goals, understand trends in the market and tap into undiscovered opportunities. Their data includes planner buying behavior, group booking patterns and market benchmarking, as well as actionable leads, educational resources and an archive of lead contact data.

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2. Get in Sync with the Marketing Team

Hotel sales leaders need to work closely with their marketing and IT colleagues to create an ideal digital workflow and lead flow. A proven method is to implement a CRM system to track activity, append clean targeting data and track lead behavior. There’s a huge payoff from the approach: An App Data Room and Marketo study found that sales and marketing alignment can improve sales efforts at closing deals by 67%.

Both sales and marketing departments should also cooperate on marketing automation, which can send the right message, at the right time, to the right meeting planner or group lead, while keeping teams informed as target prospects engage with company websites and marketing materials. In addition, sales teams should provide marketing with guidance and feedback on which digital channels, social media, etc., that sales prospects are currently using.

3. Get Social

Embracing digital doesn’t mean the longstanding practice of relationship-based selling no longer applies; it’s just moved into a different medium. According to LinkedIn, three out of four B2B buyers now rely on social media to engage with peers about buying decisions. More than three-quarters (82%) of B2B buyers say vendor content shared on social channels (like LinkedIn) has a significant impact on their buying decision, while B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights about their business or industry, according to LinkedIn research.

With that in mind, today’s sales teams should be using digital to enable “social selling,” which essentially means building relationships and nudging leads along through the sales process via savvy, helpful, UNSELFISH social media interaction, rather than outdated and ineffective methods like phone calls and email.

This is primarily done by providing content that solves the problems and answers the questions of customers, as well as by interacting one-on-one with leads through social media. It’s different from wide-swath “shotgun marketing” on social, where branding-related content is shared everywhere in hopes of going viral and building awareness; social selling, rather, makes the customer the key dictator of the type of content shared, based on their specific wants and needs.

And remember, social interaction doesn’t end with that sale, either.

Social platforms are also employed post-sale to retain and upsell customers, especially by creating a channel for customers to share feedback and vent frustration. Referrals are now essential to lead generation, with 84% of B2B buyers beginning the buying process with a referral and more than 90% of purchase decisions influenced by peer recommendations, according to a 2016 Harvard Business Review article.

So now, more than ever, the time you spend on digital sales efforts—especially building and maintaining your social media network and reputation—will have a direct and meaningful impact on your sales pipeline. This is one game you want to be sure you’re playing to win.


About Tambourine

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

Friday Freebie: The First Thing DOSMs Should Do Every Morning

November 3, 2017

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

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

This Week’s Freebie: DOSMs need to stay focused on what really matters… we suggest doing these three critical things EVERY DAY. 

Hotel DOSMs run hectic, crazy schedules.

From managing sales teams, executing marketing campaigns and pulling endless reports from multiple systems.

With all of this riding on your shoulders, it’s easy to succumb to a day that pulls you in all different directions. That’s why we suggest DOSMs start each morning only focused on these three most significant tasks that impact the hotel’s and the department’s bottom line:

1. Review Your Top 20 Sales Opportunities

The most successful hotel DOSMs never take their eyes off projected room nights. The best way to accomplish this is to assess your top pieces of business each and every day. Most hotels rely on irregular meetings to review each sales manager’s goals and progress. Instead, we suggest you keep a handy list of your Top 20 most lucrative and important prospective group targets.

Ask for no BS updates from each salesperson about their top opportunities. Find out how they plan to assist the prospective meeting planner that day and move them closer to a decision. Which hotels are still in the running? How can you get an edge? What else could turn the tide in your favor?

2. Pow Wow With Your Revenue Manager

The days of keeping sales/marketing and revenue management separated in silos is over. Just as with your top sales opportunities, DOSMs must stay on top of upcoming low periods, pace reports and budget vs. performance by segment.

Plus, revenue managers should know about upcoming contract negotiations, rates the meeting planners are seeking and possible concessions to offset the room rates. Set a standing meeting with your revenue manager to discuss these updates and to brainstorm how to drive more revenue from ancillary means.

3. Obsess About the Metrics Hotel Owners Care About the Most

Today’s hotel marketers are drowning in metrics.

And, most are irrelevant to your hotel owners. Skip trying to impress owners with your website views and hotel social media likes. There are certain key performance indicators that hotel owners and asset managers truly care about, simply because they prove how well your marketing team is contributing to the property’s revenue targets.

You should ALWAYS know your DRR (direct revenue ratio), which compares the revenue from direct bookings versus third-party bookings;  MCPB (marketing cost per booking), which tracks the costs of each marketing channel and the variance of actual results versus revenue goals by segment.


About Tambourine

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

Friday Freebie: Win More Group Business by Being a Good Loser

October 27, 2017

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

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

This Week’s Freebie: Win more meeting and event business by conducting a loss analysis and figuring out what went wrong with your failed bids.

Winning is easy.

Get the deal, pop the champagne.

When you win, you think every move you made in the sales process was genius.

And then you replicate that winning formula on future deals.

But what happens when you lose deals?

A majority of hotel sales teams fail to ponder why certain groups chose another property.

Whenever one of your sales managers loses a piece of business, they need to ask the meeting planner, “Why did we not win this business? What went wrong? How are we not the best fit for your group? How could we have done better?”

This simple follow-up to all lost bids could dramatically empower, alter, and inform your future sales efforts, sending your sales skyrocketing in the future.

Get More: How a WWII Scientist Can Help Your Hotel Survive


About Tambourine

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

We’re Using the Wrong Message to Fight OTAs

October 10, 2017

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

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

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

So, what does this mean for you?

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

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

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

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

Trust Issues: Many Consumers Don’t Like OTAs

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

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

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

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

How to Take Advantage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottomline: 

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

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

 


About Tambourine

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

Friday Freebie: How Free Parking Can Reduce OTA Commissions

August 11, 2017

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

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

This week’s freebie: Capture more DIRECT Labor Day bookings from drive markets by showcasing free parking on your hotel website. 

Millions of travelers will be hitting the road this Labor Day weekend, looking to celebrate their last summer weekend. Your drive markets are your best audiences to promote a last-minute getaway for the holiday.

Travelers are already enjoying the lowest gas prices in years. Sweeten the deal by including free parking in your Labor Day packages and specials ACROSS ALL CHANNELS…. But emphasize it on your direct hotel website.

OTAs have hundreds of thousands of properties on their websites, they cannot keep up with the promotions at all of them! By prominently showcasing the free parking perk (“Book direct and get free parking!”) you will create the perception that free parking is a special, direct-only benefit, without jeopardizing your OTA relationships.

Get more: 5 Ways to Attract Last Minute Labor Day Bookings from Your Drive Markets


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

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