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social media marketing

How Guests Decide Whether to Buy on Your Hotel Website

February 20, 2018 • By

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Psychology plays a deeper role in online hotel booking decisions than you may think, particularly when it comes to building trust among hotel consumers. And creating that trust, experts say, is not as simple as just touting your brand affiliation or Trip Advisor rating.

Ultimately, your sales will suffer if you fail to foster trust with your hotel website visitors and give them psychological motivation to buy. According to a recent Western University study recently discussed in the Harvard Business Review, that begins with understanding the two methods of reasoning customers use when making online purchases, depending on the level of risk involved with that decision.

Parallel Processing

There are two different, yet complementary “parallel” means in which humans decide to buy. On the one hand, potential customers use logical, rules-based “deliberative” system of reasoning when making small, low-risk purchases.

That means that when buying lower-priced items online, shoppers are mostly looking for the standard signs of business legitimacy, like a secure checkout, a strong search-engine presence, online reviews, etc. Buying in this situation is a deliberate, informed choice that satisfies a very basic customer need.

But for more expensive, complicated transactions where personal comforts are associated (ie hotel stays), humans tend to rely on what is called “associative” reasoning, which is far less structured and rules-based than the deliberative process. Associative reasoning relies more on the individual’s own intuition and personal experience, and here is where building virtual trust becomes so important. Instead of creating a bond in person through your sales charisma and the reassuring experience of meeting your client in person at your office or storefront, you need to find the online aesthetics instead that trigger the same associative customer trust.

But how?

Here are three proven ways to build trust and increase your hotel website conversion rate:

1. Actually be authentic

You’ll never connect with consumers with a generic, cookie-cutter hotel website that fails to convey a truthful story. But there are also a number of subtle visual cues, as well as content features, that can go a long way toward enhancing a sense of authenticity that eases suspicion and fosters trust. Some useful tips include:

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The great ad man David Ogilvy reminds about the importance of being truthful in our marketing

  • Be truthful

Travelers are no longer drawn to sterile facts, puffy 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. Telling a meaningful, TRUTHFUL story is what can truly attract travelers. 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 you can convey it poignantly across all marketing channels. Also, be truthful in how you tailor your messaging, language and imagery. Avoid using models in photos who don’t look anything like your typical visitors. And write your copy with language that speaks to your intended audience.

  • Avoid stock photography

Those dull, lifeless stock images that are used all too often on the web do little to motivate buyers or convince them they should do business with you. Instead, try and use your own unique photos. If that means hiring a professional photographer in order to create quality images, then go ahead and budget for that. And most importantly, every hotel should be capturing guest-generated content and repurpose it across every marketing channel

  • Get hyper-local

Give visitors the most authentic personalized content and recommendations you can. Offer “Staff picks” on great places to eat, “in-the-know” events and other local suggestions that go beyond the typical tips already available online for your area. Position your hotel website as the epicenter of the destination!

2. Provide social proof

Social proof can have a huge effect on building trust, because it taps into that fuzzy human logic that drives associative reasoning, including the fear of missing out (FOMO). Some core methods of providing social proof include:

  • Celebrate Past Guest Experiences on Social Media

Travel consumers are heavily influenced by “social proof” (this is why TripAdvisor is so popular). By sharing past guest stories, reviews (and best of all videos) on their hotel’s social media channels, you can turn your past guests into a perpetual army of experience evangelists.

Harvest their good times!

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An example of capturing guest-generated social proof from The St. Regis in San Francisco

  • User Testimonials

Post glowing past guest reviews directly on your website (especially for meeting planners). If possible, include a photo of the person leaving the review, which enhances the perceived legitimacy of the testimonial

  • Media Labels

Showcase awards on your hotel website from the reputable news or travel industry organizations who’ve recognized your property. The equity of these organizations creates buyer confidence at a quick glance

  • Partner Logos

Also display the logos of the businesses and organizations you partner with, even if they are smaller, less easily recognized brands. This bolsters credibility and draws other partners and customers to you

3. Create helpful content

Research has shown that people are more likely to do you a favor if you do something for them first. In marketing, this is called reciprocity, the principle of give and take. If you offer something of value upfront, travelers will have an innate desire and obligation to return the favor.

So when planning and executing content strategies for your site, create content purely for the sake of being useful to your customers. Don’t make content a thinly-veiled sales pitch. That’s a surefire recipe for a rapid bounce rate (how quickly someone clicks on a link and then leaves) and is a general turn-off for viewers, who see right through this tactic.

Design content to help solve problems and address customer pain points. Local area guides, FAQ pages, area events calendars etc are all examples of selfless content that conveys helpfulness and generates trust

For more on the psychology of buying as it pertains to the hotel booking process, check out our in-depth series on “The Surprising Psychology Behind Successful Hotel Websites,” Part One and Part Two.

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

February 13, 2018 • By

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: Do This Instead, Tap into Consumer Fears about OTAs

January 19, 2018 • By

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

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

This Week’s Freebie: 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 • By

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 • By

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Welcome to the Friday Freebie!

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

This Week’s Freebie: 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

4 Things Every Branded Hotel Should Be Doing on Facebook Right Now

January 9, 2018 • By

New hotel social media tools can help differentiate flagged properties….

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As a property flying under a global brand flag, you enjoy several key benefits:

Worldwide name recognition and consumer trust.

Access to millions of loyalty members.

Exposure on the Brand.com global website.

But unfortunately, due to scale and volume, remote, corporate brand marketing teams are often unable to tell your property’s unique story and differentiate you from sister properties in your region.

New advancements in hotel social media can help.

No longer just a means for ‘liking’ and holding goofy contests to attract more “followers,” Facebook is now an advertising powerhouse that allows you to target anyone in their global database with laser-sharp precision – even users who are not following your hotel!

But Facebook’s advertising platform can be overwhelming and complicated… so we spoke to Tambourine’s social media directors Thomas McDermott and Elle Andress to break down 4 key tactics for flagged properties to tap into the power of Facebook’s juggernaut advertising platform:

1. Targeting Loyalty Program Members

Facebook’s paid advertising platform enables hotel marketers to emplace unique content, inspirational images, promos and offers in the newsfeeds of highly targeted consumers with pinpoint precision. Ads can target by demographics, geography, interests, hobbies, and behaviors. For branded properties, this means you can target your social ads to folks who are interested in (or members of) your flag’s loyalty program (see screenshot below). This enables you to create awareness and preference for your property vs other similarly branded properties in the area.

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Elle Andress: Director of Social Media at Tambourine

 2. The 28-Day Pixel

Until recently, hotel marketers were unable to track the success of their paid Facebook campaigns unless a guest booked directly from Facebook in the same session.

But the relatively new 28-day pixel feature now allows flagged hotel marketers to track a user’s path for 28 days after they have either viewed or clicked on your hotel’s Facebook ad. This tracking tool gives you insight into how well your Facebook investments are moving potential guests down the sales funnel. “Most importantly, it allows for more revenue attribution to your Facebook ads,” said Elle. “You can gauge if your ad campaigns are contributing to conversions or not.”

3. Reach & Frequency

Facebook’s new Reach & Frequency tool allows branded properties to pre-purchase larger audiences at a lower cost and ensures those users see the ad a fixed amount of times. You can customize a message, pre-purchase a minimum of 200K users within your chosen market and ensure those Facebook users see your marketing message however many times you like… typically 5-6 times.

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Thomas McDermott: Director of Content Marketing at Tambourine

“This is also particularly useful for properties that are new to the market and want to introduce their product or have a very particular feeder market,” Tom explains.

“Most recently, we’ve leveraged this tool for one of our Caribbean clients. We conducted a winter campaign to saturate northern markets. Plus, we’re currently working on a campaign to introduce a new property to the Florida market.”

Cost per thousand impressions (CPM) drops significantly compared to traditional performance ads, and ads achieve higher impact through repetition.

4. Canvas Ads

While not entirely a new marketing tool, Facebook’s Canvas Ad is a great way for flagged properties to differentiate themselves in the absence of a custom-designed experiential “vanity” website.

Canvas allows you to create a custom mobile web experience that lives inside of Facebook, doesn’t require IT or coding, but still delivers a custom experience that’s in line with brand standards.

“This is an ideal avenue to really go in depth and highlight the unique attributions of the property,” Tom explained. “From there, you can send them to the brand channel to book.”

Bonus: What Facebook tactics should you stay away from? 

Tom and Elle also suggested which tired practices to avoid:

“I think a lot of properties are still using too much hard sales language for their organic posts on Facebook, which is a big turnoff to the consumer. The place to do the sales style pitch is in the paid ads platform. For organic content, hotels should keep the copy light and relatable and show a human voice to the brand.”

– Elle

“I think there is still too much hype on fan growth. Yes, it is still worthwhile to build a network of relevant users. However, the audience builder tools really help you identify users who have expressed an interest in the property or who show relevant or valuable behaviors. You have access to those users whether they are fans or not.”

– Tom


About Tambourine

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

5 Things Hotel Marketers Are Thankful for This Thanksgiving

November 21, 2017 • By

Hotel marketing pros are counting their blessings…
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For most, Thanksgiving is a time for football, traveling to see relatives and diet-busting feasts.

It’s also the time of year we ask clients, colleagues and industry experts what they are feeling good about. And once again, we heard that the economy, industry dynamics and hotel consumer behavior are working in our favor like never before.

Based on our informal survey, here are 5 things hoteliers are feeling thankful for this Thanksgiving:

1. Evidence That Direct Booking Campaigns Are Working 

In 2016, major hotel brands and smaller hotels went after OTAs with a fervor and pushed aggressive campaigns to convince travelers that booking direct was best. Now, we finally have proof that the preaching paid off. Kalibri Labs compiled data from more than 12,000 U.S. hotels and 52 million transactions during the run of these highly publicized campaigns.

In their recent report “Book Direct Campaigns: The Cost & Benefits of Loyalty,” Kalibri measured a significant net revenue benefit due to a shift in bookings from OTAs to Brand.com. While this certainly calls for a massive celebration, the momentum shouldn’t stop here. Experts agree that discounting to create loyalty can’t be the end-all, be-all of your book direct strategy; creating online and on-property experiences that the OTAs cannot must be the neverending quest for hotel marketers seeking to reduce OTA dependence and improve bottom line profitability.

2. Owners’ Willingness to Invest in the Product

Hotel marketers know this best: No amount of brilliant marketing, guest data, or up-to-the-minute technology can compensate for an aging and run-down hotel property. Now, with property values on the rise and an overall healthy real estate market, hotel owners have the renewed confidence in investing in upgrades, redesigns and renovations that will help hotel sales and marketing teams compete with the new supply entrants in their market.

And with so many major hotel brands launching new or re-imagined brands, it’s more vital than ever to keep up and hold onto your market share by offering compelling amenities, aesthetics and experiences. 

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3. Demand and RevPar Still Going Strong

Despite the threat of Airbnb’s climbing success (especially with their new focus on offering a complete travel experience, both in and outside of their hosts’ homes) and a ballooning hotel supply, RevPAR and demand are still holding steady.

Based on a strong economy, hotel occupancies are still at an all-time high and the hotel industry is still experiencing an unprecedented string of record results. To date, RevPAR has increased year-over-year consecutively for 92 months, according to STR.

4. Social Evangelism

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

Why?

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

User-generated content (UGC), especially photos, videos and posts about on-property experiences are more authentic, less sales focused… and let’s face it, more creative than anything you could ever dream up yourself.

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

5. Metasearch: An Attractive and Less Expensive Option

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

But, hotel marketers are loving metasearch too.

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


About Tambourine

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

Why Hotel Sales Teams Need to Up Their Digital Game

November 7, 2017 • By

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

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

October 17, 2017 • By

Hotel digital marketing requires an increasingly hard-to-find skillset.

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If you want to be successful in the hotel business, it’s now mandatory that you outperform your compset in the digital world.

So these days it’s more important than ever for hotel companies to attract and retain world-class digital talent. In most cases, the first place guests now interact with your hotel is not inside your lobby—it’s within the digital world—yet all too frequently, we aren’t fully prepared to greet that guest accordingly. Hotel websites, CRM systems, data analytics, email, social media and search marketing all require deep expertise to deliver real ROI.

Sure… digital talent is in high demand everywhere, but beyond that, there are other reasons why skilled digital professionals are sorely needed in the hospitality industry.

Here Are the Five Hiring Challenges We See… and What to Do about Them:

1. Many Digital Experts Have Gravitated to Other Industries And/Or Start-Ups

There are seemingly endless opportunities right now in the digital space, and the required core skills are adaptable to various industries, so digital pros can literally work anywhere that a business has a digital presence. That may be a huge Silicon Valley mega-corporation or a basement startup and everything in between. And in many cases, the Googles and Facebooks of the world are offering the hip, informal vibe of a startup that millennials crave, with the stability of a steady paycheck and job security and the cool factor of working at the digital avant-garde.

2. Hotels Are (Unfairly) Viewed As Stagnant and Non-Innovative

Like other components of the traditional business sector, hotel companies are frequently perceived as stalwart, non-evolving dinosaurs, dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age. Brands, which have to carefully explore changes due to the sheer size of their operation, are perceived as being especially sterile places to work. While there are advantages to being dependable and maintaining steady growth, winning over top digital talent sadly isn’t one of them.

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3. OTAs Are Killing Innovation

The online power of the OTAs—driven in part by their massive marketing budgets—has severely hampered most hotels companies’ ability to innovate and try new things, since the cost to compete against everything the OTAs do is just too high. With the price tag associated with competitive digital marketing efforts like pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns becoming simply too expensive, too few industry players are doing anything extraordinary, aside from just trying to keep up.

4.  Compensation and Turnover 

True, there are perks from working in the travel industry, but the pay isn’t always one of them. Averages for industry compensation are not among the highest, because profit margins are increasingly compressed (those darn OTAs again!), causing hoteliers to focus on cutting expenses and controlling costs. That means the best hotel digital pros are often leaving to take higher paying jobs elsewhere, because they can.

5. Digital Skills Vs Business Skills 

The millennial digital natives who are now in high demand by recruiters often have little to no experience yet delivering on the intense ROI expectations of an agency or corporate hotel marketing setting. This is especially true for recent graduates: Universities tend to focus on theory, and for many marketing majors, the specific skills used in online marketing are mostly learned on the job, through experience. So, for the young talent you do end up courting and successfully hiring, there will be a significant learning curve, provided they decide to stay.

Look for These Three Things:

For the hotel companies that can work through the issues listed above, the struggle isn’t over just yet. Once your company is successfully generating employment interest from digital mavens, it’s important to ensure those professionals have adapted their talents to the many nuances of the hotel industry.

Therefore, it’s critical to find smart, capable digital pros who understand the following three essential things:

1. The Hotel Experience

It is exceedingly difficult to understand how to market travel unless the marketer has traveled significantly themselves. This applies to digital marketing, too. The best professionals in digital travel marketing have personal travel miles to draw from, particularly when it pertains to the hotel experience and the digital booking process.

2. The Hotel/Travel Purchasing Funnel

On the surface, it may appear as though there are only two stages of the hotel/travel purchasing funnel—researching and booking—but there are actually five distinct phases: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. Properly targeting your audience with the right media and message during each of the five stages is an integral part of extending your company’s digital reach.

3. How to Turn the Funnel into Tangible Digital Action

Lastly, and most importantly, digital professionals need to understand which digital media are relevant for each stage of the hotel/travel journey, and how to gauge the ROI for each. Wherever possible, seek to eliminate guesswork: quality hotel digital marketers need to fully embrace data reporting and analytics, in order to properly track results and develop actionable strategies for the future.


About Tambourine

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

We’re Using the Wrong Message to Fight OTAs

October 10, 2017 • By

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

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

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

So, what does this mean for you?

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

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

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

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

Trust Issues: Many Consumers Don’t Like OTAs

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

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

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

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

How to Take Advantage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottomline: 

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

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

 


About Tambourine

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