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October 3, 2012 / BSP Marketing

Returning to the Basics to Increase Bookings at Your Hotel

As the economy continues to be slow evidencing a more sluggish recovery than was predicted, every sector has been affected, including the hotel industry. It is therefore more important than ever for hotel owners and management to ensure they are focusing on key strategies to not just maintain their current client base but to increase it in order to remain competitive in an unpredictable market. Some of the main techniques that are important for attracting new customers are discussed here.


The Importance of Research

Before considering anything else, it’s critical for you to do your research into the specifics of reservation characteristics for your hotel. A million people could visit your website but if none of them book a room, while it may give you a warm fuzzy feeling, it won’t create revenue. Start analyzing the realities behind your conversion rate now and continue to do it regularly.

Qualitative and quantitative marketing research will provide you with a detailed account of how consumers view the reservation process. You will also be able to learn how they evaluate reservation possibilities for hotels in general, reservations for hotels similar to yours, and making reservations for your establishment in particular. Each level can add new information that may provide insights as to how you can increase the number of booking generated for your hotel.

Using focus groups and conducting interviews with individuals who possess the same characteristics as your target population in addition to a more general subsection of the population to gain a comprehensive understanding of general reservations preferences and patterns are primary methods for accomplishing this goal. Marketing research can provide you with the answers to questions such as:

When do consumers call a travel agent? When do they call your reservation line or your establishment directly? When do they make reservations online? What factors affect these choices? How can you take advantage of this data to use your marketing dollars more effectively?

When consumers make reservations online, what is the percentage of those who make them through your website reservation page? What is the percentage of those who use third-party sites which provide the ability to compare hotels and have discounts available? What is the percentage of consumers who use ‘other’ methods of making reservations and what are they? What influences consumer decisions to use one over another? How does this affect your bottom line? How can you attract more consumers to your reservations page to book a room which will result in a higher booking rate than when customers use other sites which provide information on alternative lodging options?

This information will let you determine preferences among established customers as well as potential customers that may be going unmet. You will also be able to discern whether you are using the most effective online platforms and other media channels to reach your target population. Once you have this information you can design a more streamlined and effective marketing campaign aimed with laser precision exactly where you intend, cutting out costs for unnecessary advertising which isn’t helping you increase revenue.

Build the Best Hotel Booking Page Possible

With over 45% of hotel reservations now being booked online, you’re booking page must function properly or else you’re bound to lose sales. Using the information gleaned from your indepth research can help you focus on primary areas including:

Search Engine Optimization Out – Rankings In – No one will make reservations if they are unaware of your existence and if you can’t be found on the internet you might as well not exist. While Hotel owners and managers have spent countless hours training on SEO strategies to ensure their hotel appears on the first page of results to a query, after Google’s restructuring struggles, new practices have been instituted.

Unfortunately for internet savvy business entrepreneurs, these have little to do with standard SEO techniques. Instead, rankings are now king in terms of search engines assigning ratings to sites.

Newly implemented standards involve live rates reviewing a site and rating it on numerous items including trustworthiness of information, credibility, overall site quality, and the degree to which rates would like to see the site show up on the first page of search results to a related query. Instead of manipulating keywords and content as was common in the SEO days, now ratings are intended express a user’s entire experience with your site.

So if your website and linked sites (e.g. blogs, social media pages, local search page) don’t work as a whole including how user-friendly they’re perceived to be, whether the links work to redirect effectively, how quickly every page loads, design features, content related issues, frequency of updates, ease and degree of interaction possible between consumers and establishment personnel among numerous other aspects, your unlikely to receive a high search engine ranking.

Conversion Rates – Even if your site shows up on the first page of query results and countless consumers click on it, success is not about click – through but engaging and impressing the consumer enough to convince them to book a room. This means you need to carefully plan every aspect of your website based on who your primary clientele are and any other groups you’d like to add to your customer base.

If you primarily serve a business clientele, Wi-Fi capabilities in rooms and public areas, a full service business center, business hospitality room, nearness to major thoroughfares and highways, conference rooms with multimedia equipment, special business rates or any other amenities and features that customer feedback has indicated are important to business travelers should be a main focus of your marketing campaign.

If you’ve added banquet facilities and catering to encourage bookings for weddings and other celebratory gatherings, clearly indicate this with associated features such as package deals, specialty catering menus, availability of planners and/or organizers along with any others that your research indicates are important to your intended customers.

Manage Your Online Reputation

It’s not news to anyone that Social Media Platforms are a main advertising medium for businesses. Yet they also can help establish a positive online reputation for your hotel if managed properly. If not well-managed, they can effectively ruin your reputation and cost you customers potentially resulting in the inability to recover your competitive edge.

Online Reputation Management is the process of monitoring online conversations about your hotel and accentuating the positive comments while doing damage control in regards to the negative remarks. If a potential customer reviews the comments about your hotel and they are predominantly negative it is unlikely they will make a reservation.

Additionally, search engines now take these types of comments into consideration in the most recent equations that are used to calculate rankings. If your hotel appears on page 17 of query results for hotels in your area you might as well not exist, as the likelihood consumers will work their way through 16 pages to arrive at your link is slim. There are three primary techniques that are crucial to Online Reputation Management:

Monitor– Monitoring online conversations and forums are critical to being aware of what’s being said about your hotel. Eighty percent of travelers engage in research about hotels before booking a room and 84% of consumers rely heavily on online reviews when making booking decisions.

Learn from Comments – Online platforms including websites, blogs and social media platforms are today’s equivalent of comment cards. Hotel owners and management need to be aware of what is being shared about their hotel and understand to what the comments received are referring.

In that way they can learn why the hotel’s reputation has developed into its current state and discover what customers find important or in need of improvement so these factors can be corrected or upgraded.

Manage and Respond – Reply directly to as many customers who have commented as possible, especially those who have made negative comments. Potential customers want to see not just how many positive comments have been made about a particular establishment but how management has responded to negative comments.

Responding to constructive criticism in a manner that displays that the staff takes the customer’s point of view seriously, and provide detailed steps they will take to address whatever was pointed out is more likely to help establish and maintain a positive reputation than just deleting such comments.

Additionally, if one customer left your establishment with a negative impression, it is likely others have left with similar impressions. Stating that you will take corrective action, carrying this out, and providing a follow – up post detailing what was done to address the purpose of the comment will further improve your reputation and establish an open dialogue with consumers. This will lead to further increases in your bookings as consumers feel you want to interact with them and make them partners in the mission to better your hotel.

You may even convince those who made negative comments to give your hotel a second chance which could potentially result in comments that have been converted from negative to positive – the best possible recommendation a hotel can receive.

Take Advantage of Social Media

Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter now provide you with the powerful ability to present select content and allow for real-time interactions on sites that your potential clients are most likely to visit. Maintaining contact with previous and potential customers is a strategy that garners valuable returns. There are several ways to use social media platforms to increase your clientele.

Brand Recognition – Determine who makes up your target population, learn what sites they most commonly visit and make sure your hotel has a highly visible presence on each.

Visit Review Sites Often – Tripadvisor and Yelp are the modern-day equivalent of comment cards. Hotel Owners and personnel can gain valuable information from keeping abreast of the reviews posted about their hotel on the various review sites.

Provide Real Time Customer Support – Platforms like Twitter and Facebook can allow you to interface with consumers in real-time. If you see a tweet from someone who reserved a room at a competitors hotel posting that they’ve been waiting to check-in for 45 minutes and haven’t even been greeted, you can respond with a simple comment such as “I’m sorry you’re having such a difficult experience and hope things will look up soon,” signed with your name, the name and address of your hotel. Often that’s all it takes to end up with a new customer if not that trip then the next one they make to your city.

Create Ambassadors to Spread the Word About Your Hotel – Happy customers who provide positive comments about what they enjoyed when staying at your hotel can be your best advertisers. Gain additional free advertising by asking customers to send you their best photos or videos of their stay with a brief description of each online with some sort of small incentive for each person who posts.

Establish Your Hotel as the Hub for Local Events – Mention local events, activities and attractions on you webpage as well as on social media platforms, especially upcoming major events. Offer a theme related small related incentive for staying with you. This can result in increased bookings from those with trips already planned and potentially encourage some who live relatively nearby to plan a spontaneous trip for a special event who decide to stay at your hotel since that was what triggered their desire to attend the activity.

Use a Top Rated Hotel Management Company to Ensure Comprehensive Services

While these strategies may seem overwhelming, especially in light of the many other daily responsibilities of hotel owners, managers and staff, you don’t have to take care of everything yourself. Hotel Management Companies specialize in making sure your establishment has the necessities and special extras that will increase customer satisfaction.

Services the best hotel management company will provide include arranging to have the facilities updated if desired; establishing the right atmosphere for your type of hotel (e.g. calm and relaxing for a resort, exciting and full of energy for a hotel near major casinos); creating effective inbound management campaigns; handling data analysis for information collected from customers online and offline. Additionally they will oversee your entire online presence including frequently updating content, embedding aspects to engage customers, altering website design features to reflect changes in seasons or holidays, and generating creative web solutions.

When managed effectively and creatively these management strategies will establish a solid reputation for your hotel and increase your rankings to the point that your establishment develops a reputation which places it at the pinnacle of your competitors.

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3 Comments

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