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It’s Valentine’s Day: What Are Hotel Marketers Loving?

February 13, 2018

Hotel marketing folks are infatuated with these 7 things…

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Each year around Valentine’s Day, we ask clients, partners and industry insiders what they are feeling warm and fuzzy about… here are the 7 things they’re smitten with right now:

1. A Strong Economy and Positive Industry Forecasts 

The smart folks at STR, CBRE and PWC all generally agree that 2018 will be another year of steady growth for the hotel industry. (You can download STR’s detailed breakdown by market here.) Fueled by a strong global economy, relatively low gas prices and limited supply growth, the US hotel industry is once again expected to enjoy positive RevPAR and ADR growth. And since all boats rise with the tide… hotel marketers are riding the wave to happiness and career growth.

image22. Robust Career Opportunities

Speaking of career growth… hotel marketers are seeing more opportunities than ever. Industry results have expanded budgets and created new roles. While the allure of the hotel industry and the fast-tracked promotional opportunities make hotel marketing and hotel social media jobs some of the most coveted in the country.

3. Elevated Consumer Awareness of Direct Booking Benefits

Thanks to the massive media outreach by Hilton and Marriott’s direct booking campaigns, we’re seeing heightened public recognition of the benefits of booking direct. The idea is to educate travelers and chip away at the myth that OTAs save guests money. With the stage set, more and more hotels are following in Hilton and Marriott’s footsteps with their own hotel marketing campaigns enticing audiences to book direct.

Plus, hotel marketers at properties of all sizes are now armed with new digital hotel marketing tools and previously unaffordable technology that can help them drive direct room revenue, instead of settling for costly OTA bookings. The momentum of the “book direct movement” is growing and hotel marketing folks are excited to see where it’s headed.

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4. Owners’ Investment in a Remarkable Product

New hotels with bold concepts and fresh guest experiences are springing up in all directions, so hotel owners need to invest in their properties to keep up with modern expectations.

Thankfully, more and more hotel owners are realizing that the best hotel marketing investment they can make is in enhancing their property, the experience and the service.

If your property is providing a lackluster experience with frayed edges, outdated décor, and musty smells, no amount of brilliant marketing can save you from the downward spiral of lost revenue.

5. Social Evangelism

Hotel social media managers are feeling blessed to have guests who gush and brag about their stay on Facebook and post foodie pics to Instagram. Not only have they made marketing travel engagingly personal and authentic, they come at no cost to the hotelier.

Over the last few years, storytelling and “user-generated content (UGC)” has become one of the most popular (and cost-effective) ways for hotel marketers to win guests’ hearts and wallets.

Why?

Because consumers no longer trust advertising… they trust each other. As this article in AdAge so aptly put it: “Your brand is defined by the interactions people have with it.”

User-generated content, especially photos, videos and posts about on-property experiences are more authentic, less sales focused… and let’s face it, usually more creative than anything hotel social media folks could ever dream up.

6. Metasearch: An Attractive and Less Expensive Option

It’s easy to see why travelers love metasearch, such as Google and TripAdvisor: They receive all the key details needed to research and book their stays all in one place, like real-time pricing, availability, hotel information, guest reviews and location.

But, hotel marketers are loving metasearch too.

They are using these sites to boost direct bookings instead of relying on OTAs and paying high commissions. You can pay-per-click or pay booking commissions (still less expensive than traditional OTA fees) – all while getting brand exposure and access to travelers who are just entering the consideration and booking funnel.

7. Digital Personalization

Every year, new hotel website and booking engine technology allows hotels to know more about who’s looking, booking and bouncing. With this robust analytics and demographic data, hotel offers are now personalized and optimized to reap the biggest ROI.

And hotel marketers are smarter than ever about crafting hotel marketing campaigns that are tailored to the right travelers and delivered to the right place, at the right time. And, best of all – everything is measurable, which provides tremendous power to hotel marketers when it comes time for annual performance and budget reviews.


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: When Guests Want to Pay… Get out of the Way

February 9, 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 blocking bookings – be flexible and allow as many payment methods as possible. 

A booking in progress is a fragile and fickle thing. So many factors could derail the process and cause people to abandon their reservation and head over to another hotel or OTA. In fact, often it’s a complicated hotel booking engine process that pushes people to walk away from their reservation.

This is especially true at the moment of truth… at checkout!

Most hotels are smart about giving their guests options – from room types to upgrades. However, many hotels don’t extend their flexibility when it comes to paying. Instead, they offer a rigid set of payment options.

Solution: Provide speedy, simple payment experiences. Offer multiple ways to pay beyond the typical Visa, AMEX and Mastercard transactions. Accept as many other forms of payment as possible (like PayPal). Some hotels even accept Bitcoin these days!

And some go even further – Couples Resorts offers the Love Away payment plan which allows guests to place a $100 deposit, then enter into a layaway plan for their getaway.

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.

Get more: Mobile Bookings are up. Why Aren’t Yours?


About Tambourine

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

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: Stop Giving Money Away, Kill the Promo Code Box Today

January 26, 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 giving away money in your booking engine… kill the promo code box!

Modern travelers are savvy, deal-seekers.

If a hotel deal exists, they’ll find it, use it, then expect it every time.

Such is the case with that prominent ‘promo code’ field found on practically every hotel’s booking engine. That prominent discount or promo code field makes online visitors doubt their purchase decision and will convince them that if they start trolling coupon sites, they can get money off of the room rate.

If they’ve made it far in the booking process that means they were likely dead set on completing the reservation before the irresistible appeal of a promo code field sent them off on a search for elusive promo codes!

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There IS a place for promo codes in smart hotel marketing.

Here’s How to Use Them Instead:

1. To Lure Back Unfinished Reservations

When travelers don’t complete their reservations, which can happen for several reasons, lure them back by offering a promo code through your reservation abandonment system and retargeting ads. This way, promo codes will only be shown to a highly engaged audience and will not show up in search results across the web. Use the principle of scarcity to make this even more appealing by adding a deadline to use the promo code before it expires. For example, “Come back and complete your booking within 24 hours and we’ll take 15% off.”

2. Create Your Own Page of Current Promos and Link Back to It

Macy’s has a brilliant solution to keeping shoppers on their hotel website while they’re looking for promo codes. Next to their Promo Code box, they invite shoppers to take a look at all of their current promotions and provide a convenient link to the list of codes. In your hotel’s case, include a direct link back to your special offers page where travelers can look at all of the promos you have available at the moment. By offering an internal link to your own promotions, you’ll reduce the number of visitors who would have abandoned their reservation to search for a discount or promo code on another site. Plus, you’re also showing transparency to the guest by letting them know you are willing to help them find travel savings.

SEE MORE: The Perils of Promo Codes

3. Track and Measure Advertising ROI

You can use coupon and promo codes to track and measure the success of your advertising. The concept is easy – just publish a different code for your different ad buys. For example, use a different code in your email marketing versus Facebook versus pay-per-click. This way you can track how many sales are generated from your various media placements.

Get Rid of the Promo Code Box All Together and Replace with Auto-Fill

Customize your advertising links so that if there is a promo code available, the inbound ad link into your website will take prospects directly to your booking engine where the promo code will automatically be plugged in. This way, you don’t have to have the promo code box on your hotel website at all. Which means, shoppers won’t leave your site to go find a discount somewhere else on the web.


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

Turnover: The Hidden Killer of Hotel Marketing (and What to Do about It)

January 23, 2018

Hotel marketing is hard enough without constant turnover.

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Sometimes, one of the greatest obstacles to successful hotel marketing lurks within your own office…

Staff turnover, especially when it’s excessively high, can be an absolute killer for most businesses, and your hotel marketing team is no exception. So learning to attract, cultivate and retain marketing staff—instead of churning through them—may have a wider impact than even the smartest of ad campaigns.

At hotels, specifically, there are a number of reasons why turnover of marketing staff makes it hard to achieve ownership’s revenue targets:

1. Consistency Is Vital to Success

In the hotel business—which is built largely upon brands and properties delivering on a standardized promise to meet guest expectations—few things are as important as consistency. Beyond just a flag’s amenities or service experience, that consistency clearly extends to marketing, particularly the frequency and content of consistent product messaging. It’s difficult to achieve that desired consistency if there is a revolving door of staffers creating those messages.

2. Familiarity with Guest Personas, Seasonality and Periods of Weakness

See #3. Learning the nuances of your hotel’s demand patterns requires time and experience, which won’t be the case if turnover is high. By keeping marketing staff long-term, those same patterns will become a cyclical strategy, where marketers know exactly how to fine-tune efforts.

3. New staff Is Hard to Find

There’s a dearth of quality marketing talent in the hotel business, especially digital talent, for a number of reasons. For starters, many top-notch digital marketers have gravitated to other industries or start-ups with a higher “cool factor” or earning potential. Corporate hotel cultures, often viewed as overly traditional, can dissuade younger marketing pros seeking more of a Silicon Valley workplace vibe.

4. New Staff Don’t Understand the Hotel’s Product or Message

It takes time to educate new hotel marketing staff on your property’s unique history, message and product experience. If your marketing staff is perpetually changing, you’re constantly putting new employees through the same learning curve, without reaping the benefits.

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How does a bad hire hurt your organization? Here are the responses, according to a Career Builder study.

5. They Have to Build Relationships with Team Members in Other Departments (I.E. Revenue Management)

No team is an island, and for marketing staff, it is increasingly important to foster and maintain strong relationships and communication with other departments, especially with revenue/yield management personnel. Again, that’s tough to achieve in a high-turnover environment.

6. They Often Have to Pick up (on the Fly) Existing Campaigns, Vendors and Marketing Programs That They Did Not Create

The learning curve for a new marketing staffer is multiplied when they are asked to shoulder—often rapidly—campaigns, agreements and initiatives that were formulated by previous employees. That can lead to a huge difference in vision and background on these projects once the new staffer is in charge. Especially if their predecessor had a jumbled mix of disparate vendors in place.

7. They Inherit Someone Else’s Goals

Marketing objectives can be highly personal (and stressful) to the marketer who set them. When a new employee inherits those goals, it may not be the best fit for that marketer’s skill set and vision for what they hope to achieve at their new post.

8. Departing Staff Take Lots of Proprietary Knowledge and Investment with Them

Sure, you can ask departing staffers to turn over all materials, notes and other information they have before they leave for good, but there will still be untold amounts of knowledge and experience they will invariably take with them when they leave. Sometimes the best solution to this problem is convincing them to stay, or at a bare minimum, asking them to be available to brief their replacement.

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A Study from Paychex revealing why employees leave.

Thankfully, there are ways to combat the turnover dragon. Successful strategies include:

1. Hire Wisely

One of the most effective means of reducing turnover on your hotel marketing team is to make smart hiring decisions in the first place. That means thoroughly interviewing and vetting candidates before extending offers, factoring in the candidate’s compatibility with your office culture, management and fellow staffers.

SEE: The Seven Traits of Great Hotel Digital Marketers

2. Pay Generously

Offering candidates a fair and market-competitive salary and benefits package is another important means of ensuring staff retention. Take some time to research prevailing wages, while brainstorming benefits, perks and incentives to sweeten the deal, if necessary. That may include concessions like flexible work schedules and various bonuses.

3. Revisit Annually

It’s a good idea to review staff salaries and benefits annually, in order to ensure you are keeping up with the marketplace. If possible, tap your HR team as your news pipeline to this end.

4. Get Flexible

Devise methods of offering greater flexibility to your hotel marketing team in order to foster a healthy work/life balance. That may include flexible and/or compressed schedules, telecommuting and on-site daycare. Embrace communications tools like Skype and chat applications such as Slack to keep remote teams/staffers in touch throughout the day.

5. Maintain Interest Levels

An engaged employee is a happy one.

Foster a challenging and rewarding work environment, filled with learning opportunities and potential for advancement, and your employees will thank you. Nurture healthy levels of social action among the staff, as well as proper praise and recognition from management, when deserved. Sometimes little compliments and courtesies go a very long way.

6. Praise Excellence

It’s extremely important to properly recognize employees who are performing well, whether the praise comes in the form of verbal recognition, emails, awards and/or special perks. Monthly company-wide emails detailing team/staff achievements are great, as are peer-recognition programs. Don’t hesitate to report those achievements up the chain to superiors, either; even when emailing a thank you note to a subordinate, consider CCing higher-ups for a added recognition. If you need to get a handle on what to praise, ask staffers for regular updates on their accomplishments, including some data and figures when and where possible.

7. Stress the Big Picture

Help your staffers visualize a future direction for them beyond just their current day-to-day responsibilities. Outline the wider career track they are headed down, spotlighting goals and achievements those staffers should target along the way. Use annual reviews and mid-year check-ins as a means of opening these discussions, as well as spontaneous chats. Always encourage everyone on your hotel marketing team to speak with you regarding any questions or concerns they may have.


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

Friday Freebie: Recognize Your Hotel’s Expensive Marketing Channel

January 12, 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: Start smart in 2018. Examine and document how much your hotel pays for each OTA booking versus other marketing channels. 

Even if you were to scour each line of your P&L statement, it’s unlikely you’ll find your biggest marketing cost – OTA commissions. With fees of 15-30%, the cost of working with third-party websites surpasses all other marketing channels. But most hoteliers don’t acknowledge this expense, simply because it doesn’t show up as an expense!

OTA commissions are opaque. Hotels generally receive a net rate, only AFTER the OTA collects their commission.

Here’s the Danger:

Because these high marketing costs are invisible, they remain undetected. Even when they cost your hotel significantly more than direct bookings. They’re a threat to your other marketing expenses, too. When owners cut back on your marketing budget, they’ll start chipping away at the legit marketing costs (that do show up on the P&L) even when they are responsible for driving more lucrative direct bookings.

This includes hotel social media, SEO, PPC campaigns and your hotel website.

This year, pull these OTA commissions out of their hiding place and get clear on exactly how much you’re spending on those lower value OTA bookings. Calculate the marketing cost per booking (MCPB) for all of your marketing channels and stack these costs up to actual conversions.

Start tracking and documenting these costs now. By turning the tide on what marketing channels your hotel invests in, you’ll considerably increase profitability. Plus, come budget time, hotel owners will see how much more lucrative it is to invest in channels other than third parties.

Get more: The Big Squeeze: Why Hotel Owners are So Concerned About Marketing Costs


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

SSL: The Latest Threat to Your Hotel Website

December 12, 2017

Hotel digital marketers have yet another headache to deal with…. 

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Here we go again….

In hopes of fostering a safer internet, Google has moved toward new security standards for its Chrome browser, which requires a significant update to hotel websites in order to achieve compliance.

Under the new specifications, Google now requires all websites that collect any type of personal data (i.e. forms, email addresses, credit card info, etc.) to migrate websites to HTTPS and upgrade their security technology in the form of “SSL Certificates,” or suffer the consequences.

Right now, that consequence is primarily a security alert, which Chrome users see when they reach a web page that Google has deemed a “Non-Secure environment” when the mandated SSL certificate isn’t present. Considering roughly 60% of web surfers currently use Chrome, this is no matter to take lightly; it’s best to make the required changes as soon as possible, to ensure your site traffic isn’t at risk and/or potential guests being scared away.

Can Someone Please Explain Why This is Happening?

The new Google security standards are intended to safeguard sensitive personal information exchanged over the internet, making it harder for hackers to steal this data.

The data lockdown is achieved by migrating websites from the unsecure HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) platform to the safer HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure) format. In order to make the switch to HTTPS, websites need an SSL/TSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security) in place.

An SSL connection offers enhanced security because it encrypts data to hinder eavesdropping, protects data integrity to prevent corruption during transfer and enables authentication, ensuring users only communicate with the intended website. Some of the security risks that the HTTPS/SSL standard hopes to mitigate include:

  • Intruders attempting to exploit unprotected communications to trick your users into providing sensitive information or installing malware (“phishing”).
  • Hackers and/or legitimate companies attempting to insert their own advertisements into your website.
  • Intruders who passively listen to communications between your website and your users.
  • Hackers who look at the aggregate browsing activities of your website’s users, in order to make inferences about their behaviors and intentions, and to thereby de-anonymize their identities.

The new security standard is also becoming a prerequisite for a number of leading-edge technologies, which are increasingly requiring permissions obtained in a secure setting. SSL/HTTPS is considered the future for all web communication, so it pays to get on board now.

The Penalties

At the moment, Google is “motivating” hotel website owners to comply with the new standard by placing an information icon in the Chrome address bar that warns “Your connection is not secure” when site visitors arrive at a page not using HTTPS.

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This may seem like a small detail, but it may have a huge impact on hotel website conversion rates. You don’t want to scare away customers with an unsecure website. Google has indicated that warnings may become even more pronounced in future browser updates.

You also don’t want your customers’ data being compromised because you failed to provide a secure setting. As recent data breaches among numerous major hotel companies have proven, hacks can cause extensive damage to brands and they erode consumer trust, which can be disastrous to the bottom line. Given those risks, taking the steps to comply with the SSL/HTTPS standard is a no-brainer.

The Solution

The first step in meeting the standard is for hotel digital marketers to obtain an SSL Certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA). The certificate permits your website to communicate using encrypted, non-corruptible data, while also acting as a stamp of approval.

Many providers offer free SSL/TSL certificates; (Shameless plug: Tambourine provides SSL certificates for all clients included in our monthly service package).

With an approved certificate in place, the next steps are to conduct a full backup of your hotel website, change all your internal links, check code libraries, update external links and create a 301 redirect. It’s also important to claim all four versions of your site URLs (HTTPS, HTTP, www. and non-www.) on Google Search Console Analytics, AdWords and other paid ads, plus social profiles and business citations. Since there are multiple complex steps, you definitely want your digital marketing team or external hotel digital marketing firm to handle this.


About Tambourine

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

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