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Coronavirus: Survival of the Fittest for Hotels

by
Jordan Hollander
1 month ago

In the face of a global pandemic and hotel industry meltdown we are sailing deep into uncharted waters.  No hotel (or any business for that matter) can stay alive without revenue. The U.S. hotel industry (and airline) came back strong after 9/11 when travelers were afraid of terrorism.  Regions affected by the SARS and MERS outbreaks were followed by similar bounce-backs.  But somehow this time feels different. “Without government intervention, there will be no service industry whatsoever. There’s so many people that work for me whom I am incredibly concerned about. Where are they going to get their next meal? Do they have health care coverage? How are they going to pay their bills? It’s as if aliens came from outer space and decided to totally destroy restaurants,” said famed restaurateur David Chang. The good news is that this pandemic may be over sooner than you anticipate and the mortality rate may actually be much lower than we initially thought (due to undocumented cases).  The tricky part about virality is that the models have wild swings based on even miniscule changes to the assumptions of those models (which are changing dramatically each day).  The same scientist whose very report jolted the US and UK into action has since changed his model assumptions which massively changed the forecasts. “It will recede in a converging exponential; in other words, the coronavirus can be expected to disappear from this region with the same dizzying speed with which it entered our lives,” Dr. Dan Yamin. It’s not only virologists suffering from inaccurate and quickly outdated predictions, hotel industry forecasters like Jan Freitag are facing the same dilemma.     There’s more good news.  The world is uniting against a common enemy and we’re collaborating as a species like never before.  While the media likes to portray drama and political posturing, the reality is that this crisis has helped humanity put aside our cultural differences because a virus doesn’t care where you’re from. On a Facebook live with TED, Bill Gates mentioned some of the collaboration that’s happening in the scientific community.     Even ordinary people are collaborating, as evidenced by Google Sheet of volunteer opportunities created by thousands of individuals from around the world. We’re also seeing collaboration like never before in the hotel community.  Competitive walls were broken down when major hotel chain CEOs addressed U.S. President Donald Trump in their pleas for an industry bailout.  Similarly, major hotel tech companies have banded together in an initiative spearheaded by Cloudbeds to convert excess hotel capacity into lodging for those in need like healthcare workers.  Hotel owners are listing their beds in droves at HospitalityHelps.org. It’s not all good news though.  Never before in our lifetimes has business come to a screeching halt like this...and hopefully it won’t happen again. Most hotel businesses maintain around 2x payroll as working capital (cash to run their day to day operations).  As hotels get closer to the 60-day mark we’ll see more and more layoffs because they simply can’t foot the staffing bills.  The only way to help these hotels is through government bailouts and improved payment terms on mortgages. Here in the U.S., the government has put together an incredible program to offer fully forgiven SBA loans of 2.5x monthly payroll to any hotel business under 500 employees. Here at Hotel Tech Report, we are always looking to understand how technology can help improve hotel business performance but sadly there isn’t a ton that you as a hotelier can do with new technology right now.  Revenue management systems don’t add much value when you’re at 2% occupancy, upsell software can only do so much with a couple of heads in beds and so on. We’d be lying if we said “we’re all going to get through this together.”  We’re not all going to get through this. Poorly capitalized hotels like those described in this great article by The Real Deal will go under even with government intervention.  Overextended technology companies will face the unfortunate same truths.  Even the previously untouchable venture funded alternatives like Sonder and Lyric have faced hard truths faster than we anticipated. We are a strong and resilient industry like many have pointed out.  The Darwinian reality is that these crises make all industries more antifragile.  The bad actors die out (along with many good ones) and only the fittest survive.  Ask your finance friends what major bank balance sheets look like today in comparison to 2008/2009.  The companies that come out of times like these are the leanest and smartest - and they get even leaner and smarter through the pain. We don’t say the above in a good or a bad way - it’s just the truth.  Many hotels have or will cancel software contracts while others will go out of business.  This is really unfortunate and painful for their suppliers in the short term but new owners will purchase those properties and those owners will understand more than anyone the power of running an efficient organization. They’ll be more entrepreneurial in aggregate and eager to surround themselves with the best technology partners around.  For software companies this means there will be more whitespace than ever before in history to pick up new market share - in the 12-18 months after this crisis fades we will see the defining hotel technology companies of the future separate from the pack.  COVID has been a great equalizer and while painful we believe that it will accelerate digital transformation in hospitality (like many industries) by 10-15 years.   As we said before, technology can’t save you RIGHT NOW but great software is the key to running an efficient and consistent business.  Market intelligence software helps you stay ahead of trends, revenue management software can help you price rooms automatically without relying on a revenue manager who’s basing forecasts on last year’s irrelevant results, operations tools can keep consistency of SOPs and so on. TCV’s David Yuan shared an awesome initiative from Toast POS to get consumers buying restaurant gift cards to support their favorite local businesses.  The same way that a restaurant can’t serve you when they’re shut down, tech companies can’t do all that much for hotels that aren’t open. Software is key to how you anticipate, react and recover from a recession.  It makes you better at acquiring guests, running an efficient operation and maximizing every dollar. During the Bill Gates interview with TED he was asked what he would do if he was President right now and his answer was basically “It’s too late, the time to act was 3 years ago.  All we can do now is ramp up testing, pray for a cure and promote social distancing”. Similarly, the only thing hoteliers can really do now is negotiate with lenders, stay current on local bailout opportunities, make prudent layoffs, focus on helping their employees as much as they can and pray that this ends soon.  Once we’ve sorted out all of those issues and have some downtime while our businesses are closed, the best thing we can do is prepare for the next downturn and improve our operational capabilities. Never again will you have this much time to try different technologies and lots of vendors are even offering concessions and free tools that we encourage every hotelier to take advantage of for this limited and unprecedented period before we get back to the new normal. Do everything you can afford to support the technology companies pushing our industry forward because when this is all over you’re going to need them more than ever.     The biggest barriers to adopting technology are broken down right now in ways they will never be again - take advantage of that to optimize your business before it's too late. #1 Contract Lock-in: Most can be broken with force majeure.  If you don't like a vendor, now is an opportune time to upgrade your stack. #2 Switching Risk: Especially when it comes to mission critical systems it can be scary trying to migrate while your hotel is at full occupancy.  This is the perfect time to make the move while your hotel is closed. #3 Time: Learning new software takes time no matter how easy to use the system is.  You'll never have this much time to try and learn once the market picks back up. #4 Cost: Lots of vendors are extending free trials during closures from 30-days to 90-days.  You'll never have an opportunity like this to try software and see if you like it over extended periods of time.  Having said that, your vendors are hurting as much as you are - support them don't strain their businesses unless you absolutely need payment delays etc. Use the golden rule and treat them as you hope guests treat you. #5 Integrations: This barrier is already broken down.  Simply avoid vendors who charge high integration fees or don't integrate with your critical systems.  There are plenty of great vendors who have open APIs...it's 2020 after all. Focus on ensuring your hotel business survives this crisis financially then get proactive, get creative and learn how to optimize your business to accelerate the recovery and you'll be outperforming the compset in no time.  Remember that the best defense is a good offense.  Everybody looks like a genius in a bull market, it's times of crisis that separate the average hotel businesses from the truly great ones. -- Put the proverbial oxygen mask on yourself first.  Once you've got your finances sorted out - here are some ways that you can optimize your hotel business and support the technology vendors working hard to keep the industry running smoothly.   WHISTLE GUEST MESSAGING. Extended free messaging (guest and team) for new signups. A few reasons how Whistle will help your hotel during the crisis: - Social Distancing: No need for in-person interactions between gueststaff and staffstaff - Efficiency: Hotels can manage more inquiries and help more guests, now that they are operating with even more limited staff - Remote Operations: Respond to guest inquiries remotely. Unlock offer → Offer terms: Extended free trial available until June 1, 2020 for new clients.  No CC required unless hotel is continuing after trial and cancel at any time, even after trial period, no penalties   LIFE HOUSE (HOTEL MANAGEMENT):  Life House is an VC-backed institutional management company that uses software & process innovation to increase low cost direct bookings & materially reduce the operating costs of a hotel, which is ever-more relevant with depressed revenues. To support owners who need help navigating these difficult times, Life House is offering waived management fees until 2021 and a complimentary management transition for independent hotel owners. Whether a 200-room luxury boutique hotel or a 25 room bed & breakfast, Life House's white-labeled management platform can help. Learn more about the offer →   ATOMIZE: You can now get Atomize Revenue Management Software, free of charge, up until you have realized 50% of your average occupancy. This offer comes with no setup fee, free training, and including support. This limited offer is valid until April 30. Learn more about Atomize →   TRUSTYOU'S TRAVEL HEALTH INDEX. Due to widespread limitations on travel, there is currently an unprecedented drop in hotel stays. To help hoteliers from all over the world to assess the global and regional situation, we are now introducing the Travel Health Index! This exclusive KPI is only available from the world's largest guest review database and it benchmarks current #review activity with the normal levels of 2019. Access it here and keep an eye on the Index for weekly updates.  Learn more about the Travel Health Index →   ALICE PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST. Hoteliers know how to run a property, but shutting one down is a different story.  That’s why ALICE created a free checklist tool within their software that hotels can use to keep their property safe and clean with a skeleton crew that is available for free to any and all hotels looking for help. A few reasons how ALICE will help your hotel during the crisis: - Preventative Maintenance: Understand what needs to be done to keep your property safe and clean with a skeleton crew to avoid property damage and maintenance issues during downtime. - Crisis mgmt: Hotels are not meant to operate at low occupancy, or with a lean staff, yet that is the trend for so many hotels right now. ALICE Checklist helps hotels take rooms, floor and whole buildings out of service, while maintaining a record of tasks to bring a hotel back up to full occupancy quickly and easily. Get the free toolkit → Offer terms: ALICE Checklist is available to any and all hotels that are using (or not using) the ALICE platform with no strings attached. It is a free product, there are no obligations, and it can be cancelled at any time.   REVINATE'S COVID RESOURCE CENTER. Revinate ran a survey and found that 70% of hotel professionals are looking for projections on how this unfolds, and 71% are looking for planning ideas. That’s exactly what this new site aims to provide.  This resource center will aim to be a centralized source of info and resources to help hoteliers in these uncertain times. Browse the resource center →   JONAS CHORUM PMS. Save on your PMS with 90-days free of Jonas Chorum for new clients. A few reasons how Jonas will help your hotel during the crisis: - Remote work: Cloud functionality, allowing hotels to remain connected and conduct business remotely, while also specializing in remote training to avoid any face-to-face contact. - Financial relief: Provide hotels with financial relief to help them ride out the storm. Learn more about Jonas Chorum → Offer terms: This particular offer is only for new clients and is only being offered for a limited time as we are essentially getting companies up and running on our software free of charge. We would also be willing to honor this offer for a period of time whenever the impact of the pandemic starts to lessen.    ALLIANTS GUEST MESSAGING. A few ways Alliants can help your hotel during the crisis: - Easily outbound message with impacted guests across all the key channels, including, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, LINE, etc - Allow your teams to stay connected with guests, staff, and vendors while helping keep social distance. - No setup fees/onboarding costs - All training & installation can be done remotely. -Get your property up and running in less than 2 days. See Alliants in action → Offer terms: We are offering our Alliants Messaging platform at no charge till the end of 2020. You can cancel at any time. No credit card is required and we can have your property live in less than 2 days. Oaky Pre-Arrival Templates. Pre-arrival communication + translations templates to ensure effective communication so your guests feel safe. Get the templates →   RATEGAIN FREE STRATEGY SESSIONS. Complimentary, one-to-one session with RateGain experts. A few reasons how RateGain can help your hotel during the crisis: - access 200+ years of combined experience across all fields - Revenue Management, Distribution, Social Media and even HR - RateGain has its own data, both current and historical. As such we possess the knowledge and insights to guide our prospects in a way that no other can. Schedule a free session → Offer terms: We are running it for three weeks starting coming Monday. We are only doing it for our prospects i.e. companies which are not a customer of RateGain. We are doing it for our customers anyhow. This is a 100% free service. Basis the request we receive we can extend it for a longer duration as well.   Want to list your company's offer? Reach out to our editorial team via live chat   BEEKEEPER INTERNAL TEAM COMMUNICATION. How are you keeping your employees up-to-date on the coronavirus? Reach every employee across shifts, locations, and languages with one easy-to-use mobile-first communication app.  A few ways Beekeeper can help your hotel: - provide instant communication between all employees - allow for real-time updates on Coronavirus as it affects your company - Allow for shift schedules to be accessed away from the hotel Learn more about Beekeeper → Offer terms: This offer is available until June 2020 and is for new clients. Cancel anytime.   UMI DIGITAL’S FREE EXPERIENCE PRE-PAYMENTS TOOL. Simple pop-up website overlay to showcase closure messages while selling future experiences. Works with existing voucher systems via outbound links. Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: FREE set up for hotels on Wordpress and FREE license for 3 months during the pandemic. We have a simple proposal that requires acceptance but do not require payment details.   HELLOSHIFT MESSAGING & WEBSITE LIVECHAT. Hotels can use Guest Messaging and Website Chat to keep the line of communication open and accessible to all guests (and future guests.) With Staff Collaboration, hotels can keep running with smaller operational footprints and more staff working remotely. Use Covid-19 specific checklists, populate a knowledge base with Covid-19 specific information, and keep in communication with laid-off employees. Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: To help hotels deal with Covid-19, HelloShift is offering free service to all sign ups till July 1, 2020.   HOTELCHAMP DEMAND TRACKER. Demand Tracker shows you real time demand based on your website date searches. Conversion Rate (CVR) helps you to contextualise performance of different dates. Change of search behaviour keeps you informed of shifting demand. A few reasons how HotelChamp will help your hotel during the crisis: - understand demand in the current market is key to steer pricing decisions - see real time demand from your website for up to 365 days in the future - create alerts for changes in demand so you can proactively act on what is changing in the market Learn more about HotelChamp → Offer terms: New and existing clients. Completely free, no subscription to be set up. Automatically ends after 90 days.   BOOKBOOST UNIFIED INBOX & WEB MESSENGER. During this difficult time, we want to stand with the hotel industry. Our Unified Inbox and Web Messenger are now available for FREE to all hotels worldwide. Bookboost Unified Inbox enables you to manage all guest inquiries from your website, email, Facebook Messenger, in one inbox. Give clear and consistent COVID-19 communications and Save your team answering repetitive questions, improve efficiency and provide service day and night with chat automation. Learn more about Bookboost   ASKSUITE HOTEL CHATBOT: We are offering our award-winning AI chatbot for free to hotels located in North America and Europe. The bot can answer questions about hotel operations during the pandemic (as we included in the AI) and has all the other functionalities like integration with booking engines. Asksuite believes that helping each other is the way to overcome this crisis. Even if the hotel is temporarily closed, it can keep providing customer assistance to future guests, answering their queries, and facilitating the booking process. - helps decrease the workload, especially now when many hotels needed to downsize; - with the addition of the COVID-19 topic in the chatbot, it helps answer all queries about the COVID-19 and its impacts on the hotel's operations, the local status, and so on.  Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: Only available to hotels in North America and Europe; - only for new clients - valid until December 2020 - if pandemic ends it will continue for free cause hotels will need help with their cash flow - no credit required   ROOMPRICEGENIE AUTOMATED REVENUE MANAGEMENT: Fully automated dynamic pricing solution in place helps you know when business is coming back and help you react immediately. Continuously track how your market behaves and understand when business is coming back. Learn more about RoomPriceGenie → Offer terms: The offer is for new clients and it is valid until further notice (as long as the tough times last). After the regular trial period, clients need to sign up and will receive a 100% discount until they see business coming back. Our monthly cancellation policy stays the same - so they can cancel at any time.   AVVIO DIGITAL ACADEMY: With so many amazing hoteliers out of work Avvio is turning their time and resources to helping out with important skills development to help out during this period of downtime. Their Hotel Digital Academy is available for free registration and the first hotel digital marketing course will be starting next week. Hospitality will have to “do more with less” as the industry recovers and we think upskilling will be more important than ever as training budgets will inevitably suffer. If you know of anyone in our industry that you feel might benefit from this can I ask you to consider please sharing. Learn more about Avvio →   EXPERIENCE HOTEL EMAIL MARKETING. Hotels can get their Free access to our CRM's Emailing tool and send up to 3 custom Email campaigns to all their customers, valid for 3 months to keep guests informed as the situation evolves via email. Learn more about Experience Hotel → Offer terms: No cost, no commitment. In order to access this free service, they must register with a professional email corresponding to their hotel; a manual check of each account is made to avoid abuse.   SAVETHEHOTELS.COM BY BOOK VISIT. Last Friday we started a marketplace called savethehotels.com which is completely free of charge. The idea is to make it easy for consumers to see all the great deals the hotels are offering right now in order to survive.  Set up unique promotions that are easy for guests to book. Learn more about Book Visit → Offer terms: Right now we have the page as long as there is a need. We have no plans for this to be an OTA in the future. Right now we just want the hotels to survive otherwise we will also go down.   HOTEL RUNNER PULSE UPDATES CENTER. With HotelRunner Pulse, our goal is to support the travel industry using the ‘big data’ from the HotelRunner platform, which performs tens of millions of transactions per day, and to give our partners a snapshot of what is happening in the industry during these extremely challenging times. HotelRunner Pulse will be updated weekly, and you will be able to access detailed data from the previous week, data-points include travel agencies that bring the most bookings, confirmed and canceled booking volumes, average stay durations! Learn more about HotelRunner → Offer terms: Starting this week, through the special panel we developed, we are providing free access to real data based on bookings made through HotelRunner in the previous week.   MYSTAY EMAIL TEMPLATES. MyStay Freemium automates the way properties can inform guests about the situation in the region and hotel's health and safety protocol using pre-defined email templates and semi-automated rebooking. It also allows automating selling extra services to the fewer guests to come in the next months through pre-arrival communication, email templates covering COVID-19 related health and safety protocols, flexible rebooking or loyalty points policy.  Special guest web as a WiFi landing page with stay-related information focusing on COVID-19 related aspects. Learn more about MyStay → Offer terms: The offer and MyStay Freemium package is and will remain available forever unless canceled by the hotel. It is available to new clients, no contract or credit card required. The product is not going to disappear once the pandemic is over, hotels will be free to continue using it for free or choose to upgrade to any of the paid profiles.   HOTEL DIRECT BOOSTER WEBSITE LIVE CHAT. Livechat software for 1 month to keep contact and convert its visitors into direct bookings on the hotel's website.  Many hoteliers closed their hotels but they shouldn't close their direct bookings. Keep contact with website visitors during the pandemic on the hotel website and helps hoteliers prepare the resumption of bookings and support travelers. Learn more about HDB → Offer terms: 1 month free offer only for new clients.  Available until April 30th 2020. Non-binding offer.  No credit card required   GO MOMENT WEBSITE LIVE CHAT. Use Go Moment’s website live chat tool to inform potential hotel guests of the steps your hotel is taking to keep guests and staff safe, suggest rescheduling instead of canceling  and collect leads for future groups.  Learn more about Go Moment → Offer terms: Offer available through June 30th, 2020. After June 30th, rate will change to $250 per month.   QUORE AID PROGRAM. The Quore Aid Program was designed to help any hotel converting its property into a COVID-19 isolation ward or temporary medical facility.  The Quore platform enables hotel management and staff to limit face-to-face interactions, implement mobile communications with guests and access modifiable templates that guide staff through recommended and/or mandated procedures that are updated in real time. These include isolation room set-up and turnover, hand and hygiene protocol, trash collection, sanitation requirements, signage placement and other actions to ensure the highest level of health and safety compliance throughout the property. Learn more about Quore

3 Examples of SMART Goals in the Hospitality Industry

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

Some goals are so squishy and ill-defined that they are effectively meaningless -- and often raise more questions than answers. SMART Goals are the cure to these unfocused strategies.  We’ve all had bosses setup goals that are impossible to reach because they’re so vague: ‘do right by the guest.’ (How? What’s “right?”). Be the best hotel in Miami (How? For which guest segment? Compared to whom?). Drive more revenue. (How? How much?) Ill-defined goals are also hard to measure, making them perfect shields for laziness, incompetence, and/or a general lack of accountability. Vague and general ideas can be powerful when applied to your company’s mission statement as guiding rules but when it comes to goal setting - they can kill your business. One strategy to build actionable goals that successfully motivate staff to make measurable progress is with SMART goals. Here's what you need to know about using SMART goals in hospitality, from creating the goals to some SMART goals examples in hospitality that illustrate how effective they can be. Once you experience the impact that planning SMART can have on your hotel’s productivity and success, you’ll wonder how you ever did without!   What are SMART Goals? The concept of SMART goals was introduced in 1981 by George T. Doran, a consultant and former corporate planner, in a paper called “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” Doran’s thesis was that achieving success requires goals to be clear and attainable, with enough specificity and measurement to actually track progress. A SMART goal is: Specific. Goals must be as specific and focused; never vague or derivative. To get precise, follow a Six Sigma principle and answer the “6 Ws:” Who needs to be involved in this goal? What are you trying to accomplish?  When does this goal need to be accomplished? Where does this goal apply? Especially useful if this is related to a time-bound event or a particular department/promotion/campaign/season. Which are the essential skills needed to achieve this goal as well as any obstacles to overcome? Why is this goal important?  Measurable. You've got to be able to accurately measure performance so you know unequivocally whether or not you’ve completed the goal. Achievable. Goals should be challenging but never out of reach. If a goal isn’t realistically attainable, then it may be discouraging and bad for morale. You should have enough levers/tactics to take action and realistically achieve the goal Relevant. Goals should never be a distraction from your property’s overarching objectives. If a particular goal is irrelevant to current priorities, it will not only fail to influence outcomes but it will struggle with ownership and adoption team-wide. Time-bound. For the greatest chance of success, goals must be bound by a specific timeframe. Otherwise, goals can limp on forever, without a defined end -- and thus no way to evaluate performance. SMART goals have a magical way of focusing your efforts by eliminating distractions and unproductive tangents. With a SMART goal, it's much easier to know what's working in service of your business and what's not.   How to Write SMART (Goals) Now that you know all about SMART goals, let’s talk about execution. Taking the SMART approach to goal planning requires a new way of thinking about how to write goals. The defining feature of writing SMART is in the preparation: it all starts with questions. The answers will shape your goals, so you want to ask yourself and your team members as many questions as it takes to get to specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely goals. These questions should be approached with a positive attitude; there are no right answers and the point is simply to get closer to actionable goals that unite teams and deliver results. For each goal, start by writing down your initial goal. Then, methodically go through each part of the S.M.A.R.T acronym to further refine your goal. Finally, review your initial goal and adjust based on the results of each section to come up with your final SMART goal. Specific: What specifically do you want to achieve? Who needs to be included to make this happen? Who is ultimately responsible for achieving the goal? What steps will you take to achieve it? Measurable: How will you know when you have successfully accomplished the goal? Achievable: Given current budget and staffing, can your team realistically achieve this goal? Which tactics will you use to achieve the goal?  Relevant: Why now? How does this go help us achieve our broader business objectives? Time-bound: What's the timeframe and is it realistic to accomplish this goal in that time?   A few other guidelines to write SMART: Align individual, departmental and property goals. If goals are at odds with each other, there will be conflict between competing priorities. Be sure that goals align across the entire operation to keep everyone moving together in the same direction towards the same overarching business objectives. Stay focused. Distractions are the enemy of SMART. The point is to focus your energy around achievable goals, so if you find focus drifting from your core objectives then your goals are still too broad.  Begin with the end in mind. Popularized by Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this mindset is a critical part of writing SMART. Before diving into the writing phase, look ahead at your outcomes and work backwards. Clarity around what you want to achieve will focus your attention on only what matters most.  Decision driver. Each goal should provide clarity and focus by helping staff decide whether or not to pursue a project. All they have to do is ask themselves whether or not a potential project, tool, initiative or campaign contributes to a relevant SMART goal. If it does, then it should be considered and if it doesn't then there's no reason to continue consideration. Set regular check-ins. Don’t just write your goals down and return to them at the end of each quarter. To track progress, set regular check-ins with relevant stakeholders and adjust your approach on the fly as needed. Then you can celebrate wins and keep everything on track. You also may want to consider creating team and individual goals. That way, individual team members understand the larger goals and their role in achieving them. This increases ownership and engagement by motivating staff towards a common purpose -- and keeps everyone moving in the same direction.    SMART Goals: Examples in the Hotel Industry Before we look at a few SMART goals examples in hospitality, let’s define what’s not SMART. Avoid goals that are: Too general: “Surprise and delight guests” doesn’t give staff clarity. Immeasurable: “Streamline operations” doesn’t provide a means of measurement. Not actionable: “Improve the guest experience” doesn’t provide   Irrelevant: “Be better stewards in the community” is not necessarily directly relevant to your core business. Not time bound: “Be the best hotel in our market” doesn’t set a timeframe for measuring progress towards the goal. The pitfalls of murky, ill-defined goals are many: they confuse employees; they can cause tension because team members working against each other; lack of accountability; too broad that people don’t know where to start and become paralyzed, which ultimately leads to doing nothing; dilute your brand proposition in the eyes of employees; makes management look “out of touch” and thus reduces trust. In these ways, poor planning can actually be more detrimental to a hotel’s operations than no planning at all! SMART GOAL EXAMPLE #1: Increase % of direct bookings by 10% in Q2 Instead of “be less reliant on OTAs,” a SMART goal would specify a measurable outcome that achieves the overarching goal of becoming less reliant on OTAs. Specific: In addition to the specific goal, you want to further refine the goal by defining the specific tactics required to achieve the goal, as well as who will need to be involved to implement those tactics. Answer questions like: What needs to be accomplished?  Who is responsible for it?  What steps will you take to achieve it? Measurable: There's a clear target of a 10% increase in direct bookings. Achievable: The goal is attainable because there are many ways to influence success:  Improve rate parity with OTAs with a rate shopping tool. Adjust availability on OTAs through your channel manager. Renegotiate contracts with OTAs to get better terms. Optimize your hotel’s booking engine for conversion with a leading provider like Bookassist Spend more on digital marketing (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Google, Tripadvisor, Kayak) to acquire direct traffic. Use CRM and email marketing to capture business from loyal guests. Implement direct booking tools that allow you to personalize the booking experience for stronger conversions.  Relevant: This goal could align with an overall objective to reduce commission costs and improve profitability. It could also be relevant in the broader context of rising commissions from third parties. Time-bound: It's limited to a single quarter so performance can be measured by comparing direct booking  percentage at the start of the quarter to the end of the quarter.   SMART GOAL EXAMPLE #2: Grow average non-rooms revenue per guest by $37 by end of Q4 Rather than an ill-defined objective of “increase guests’ on-property spending,” this goal specifies an exact amount of guest spending increase. Specific: In addition to the specific goal, you want to further refine by answering key questions like: What needs to be accomplished? Who is responsible for it? What steps will you take to achieve it? Measurable: There's a target of increasing guest revenue of $37 per guest. Achievable: The goal is attainable, with clear tactics to drive success: Add guest messaging software or upsell tool Sell more room packages and bundled offers Improve the F&B offerings on property Retrain staff at on-property outlets to upsell verbally. Incentivize front desk staff to sell more packages at check-in Relevant: The goal may align with broader objectives to increase overall revenues, to better leverage on site amenities, and/or to improve profitability per guest. Time-bound: The goal is set to be achieved by the end of Q4, giving everyone a target time frame to achieve the goal.   SMART GOAL EXAMPLE #3: Increase website conversion rate by 25% in Q2 Specific: You want to further refine the goal by defining the specific tactics required to achieve the goal, as well as who will need to be involved to implement those tactics. Be clear about: What needs to be accomplished Who is responsible for the goal What steps will you take to achieve the goal Measurable: Success measured by increase in website conversion rate Achievable: The goal can be achieved by trying different tactics: Build a new website for your hotel Add a chatbot to your website Get a faster and more mobile-friendly hotel booking engine Build conversion-optimized direct booking campaigns with a digital marketing agency such as Bookassist Relevant: The goal aligns with broader property objectives to increase direct bookings, provide a better guest experience, and/or upsell more packages and room upgrades on the website. Time-bound: Progress will be measured over a single quarter.   Here are a few more examples of SMART goals for hotels to get your creative juices flowing: Grow mobile revenue by 60% (Chateau Golf & SPA d’Augerville) Increase direct bookings by 150% (Ambassador Hotel) Increase average order value by 43% (Hotel Teatro Pace) Increase metasearch reservations by 40% (The K Boutique Hotel) As you fine-tune your goals, maintain a positive attitude, motivate staff with specific goals oriented toward 1-2 property-wide objectives, and share progress so everyone can have visibility into performance and ownership of results. With SMART goals, your team can move more quickly and be much more successful at achieving desired outcomes.  

5 Hotel Marketing Ideas You Should Try Right Now

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 weeks ago

Whether your hotel is a local landmark or a new kid on the block, it’s always a good idea to add fresh, new strategies to your hotel marketing plan. You may think that innovative ideas for hotels need months of planning and a budget that’s out of your reach, so let us assure you that you can implement creative marketing strategies in a short time frame and with little or no financial resources. In this article, we’ll share five marketing strategies for hotels and resorts that will attract new guests, drive direct bookings, and even strengthen guest loyalty. Best of all, these strategies are low cost and don’t require much planning. In fact, we recommend that you try one today! Which of our hotel marketing ideas will you try right now?   Target repeat guests with personalized offers With so much attention given to acquiring new guests, it can be easy to forget about a valuable segment of traveler: your repeat guests. Why are repeat guests so valuable, you ask? Studies show that the acquisition cost for new guests can be between 5 and 7 times that of existing guests. Furthermore, “the probability of selling to a new customer hovers around a mere 5 to 20 percent. Meanwhile, the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is between 60 to 70 percent.” Essentially, guests who have stayed at your hotel are more likely than new guests to book, and a repeat guest’s booking costs less than that of a new guest. Give your loyal guests a little TLC with a personalized email that recognizes their loyalty. In the email, you want to make the guest feel special, so craft the message for your VIPs in a tone that sounds exclusive and appreciative. As the cherry on top, offer a special promo code or freebie that rewards the guest for their loyalty. Besides, your loyal guests can be your best salespeople, so treat them to a special offer that they’ll want to tell all their friends about.   Give your employees a shout-out on social media Social media is a great way for hotels to stay connected with repeat guests and build brand awareness. But in addition to flattering shots of your pool, restaurant, and bathrooms, social media is also a fantastic channel for bragging about your hotel’s most valuable asset: your employees. After all, a memorable interaction with your staff is more likely to inspire a guest to return than your furniture is. For example, Hilton recently shared a video on Instagram about an employee’s journey from a refugee to an apprentice at Hilton Frankfurt City Centre. Besides just celebrating the employee’s story, the post received more views than any of Hilton’s other video content and over 28 times the average comment volume. Video content is certainly engaging, but you don’t need to produce a film like Hilton’s to get similar results. Grab your smartphone, walk into the lobby, and snap a photo of your front desk agents in action. Or start an “employee of the week (or month)” campaign that publicly recognizes team members for their hard work and dedication to your guests. Once potential guests learn about the exceptional service your staff provides, they’ll want to stay at your hotel.   Partner with local businesses Google's algorithm spits out completely different recommendations for local searches.  If you search for a global term like "red shoes" you'll likely see ecommerce results to buy online but if you search for a local term like "hospitality jobs" you'll see results like "Los Angeles Hospitality Jobs" because Google knows that you are looking for something local. No, we're not going to jump into SEO in this article.  The point is that Google is the best marketer in the world and they deeply understand the power of local.  Connecting with a local ecosystem of hospitality industry and retail businesses can have powerful effects on your business. Wondering how to promote hotel sales among new segments of guests? Thinking outside of the box (in this case, your hotel is the box) can lead to some exciting and creative marketing ideas. If your hotel marketing plan seems stale, consider partnering with local businesses to host events, offer unique amenities, or collaborate on promotional offers that can reach new audiences. Joining forces with nearby businesses can allow your hotel to offer unique amenities that aren’t in-house. Do guests wish your hotel had a restaurant, a gym, or a spa? Rather than investing thousands of dollars in renovations, try investing a few hours in building a partnership with a restaurant, gym, or spa next door. For instance, the historic Lenox Hotel in Boston didn’t have the space for an on-site spa, so the property partnered with G20 Spa + Salon across the street. With the ability to offer spa services to its guests, the hotel is now a stronger competitor among luxury hotels in the area. Though the partnership might not materialize immediately, you can start brainstorming potentially local business partners and start the conversation today. Start by mapping out your current customer personas as well as your target audience of potential customers.  If you are targeting millennial influencers you'd likely want "Instagrammable" spots and if you're targeting business travelers you will likely want to introduce great happy hour spots and business lunch experiences. Next, gather a list of all your favorite local businesses using sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp.  You'll want to make sure that they all have stellar online reviews because if you recommend somewhere or sell an experience that has bad reviews your guests may lose trust in you.  Start with a light partnership like a guest blog post (content marketing) on their website or a mutual social media marketing campaign where you use each other's hashtags on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to cross promote each business.  Once you've got trust that your guests will love the experience consider bringing them more into the fold on your hotel marketing strategies like email marketing and loyalty.  Figure out ways to package their offers into your room promotions or even integrate them into your loyalty program.  Starwood (now Marriott) was famous for doing this with SPG Moments where their hotel industry loyalty members could redeem points for experiences like concerts and fine dining. Whether you're a boutique hotel, major brand or even an AirBnB host you need to connect your guests to the local environment and make them feel at home - that's what hospitality is all about.   Answer guest questions or comments with a personal touch Responding to guest reviews and social media comments can sometimes feel like a chore, but it’s important to remember that these responses provide an excellent opportunity to market your hotel. Rather than using canned responses or templates, answer each one individually, speaking to any specific questions or situations the guest mentioned - both positive and negative. Did a guest mention they loved the shampoo in the shower? Great! You can talk up your organic eucalyptus-scented toiletries that are thoughtfully presented in eco-friendly dispensers. Or was the guest disappointed in the food at your restaurant? Then you have the perfect opportunity to mention that your hotel has just hired a new chef who will be completely revamping the menu options (only if that’s true, of course). In addition to reviews, social media comments deserve personal treatment. RIU Hotels and Resort does an excellent job of responding to each and every comment personally. Even if the comment doesn’t have a question, the RIU team will say something like “thanks for your comment” or “we’d love to have you.” Their responses come across as genuine and thoughtful, which is probably exactly the impression that the brand wants to make. Another example of going above and beyond to respond to guest inquiries is when a child forgot their stuffed animal at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. The hotel found the lost toy, but instead of simply mailing it back to its rightful owner, the hotel took photos of the stuffed animal receiving the royal treatment at the hotel and included some Ritz-branded souvenirs in the box. The hotel also posted about the situation on social media, and the post went viral. As these examples show, innovative ideas for hotels to build online marketing power doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. Try taking a few extra minutes to respond to guest comments today.   Ask real people to test your website When was the last time you asked to watch someone book a room on your own website? If you answered, “never,” then today is a great day to perform an impromptu website audit. Ensuring your website is user-friendly and glitch-free is one of the most important pieces of your hotel marketing plan, because if your website has errors and guests can’t book easily, then all of your great marketing ideas are for nothing. To conduct these mini usability tests, go into your local coffee shop (or even ask your friends or family at home) and kindly ask patrons to book a room while you watch over their shoulders. As a hotelier, you might think the booking process is simple, but to someone who might only book a hotel room once per year, your website could be confusing. To get the most out of these tests, take detailed notes about your findings so you can make improvements to your site later. As your testers navigate through your site, you might notice their body language - do they tense up or show stress during any part of the booking process? - and whether they ask any questions. These are important observations that reveal pain points on your website. If you have some computer programming experience, perhaps you can resolve the issues on your own, but if not, then you’ll want to turn to an expert. Partnering with a digital marketing agency like D-Edge ensures your website is always in perfect working order. A digital marketing agency can help you not only maintain an intuitive, seamless website, but also source content and optimize your site for search engines. With a strong website, you can make progress toward your direct booking goals. -- With these five hotel marketing ideas, you don’t need to wait for budget season or hire a marketing department to make an impact. These simple, low-cost hotel marketing ideas are ready for you to implement today so you can reach new guests, keep loyal guests coming back, and book more rooms.

The Hoteliers’ Guide to On-Page SEO

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Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

Every hotel wants guests to book direct, but without search engine optimization (SEO), potential guests will have a difficult time finding your website. If you’ve ever wondered how you can drive more traffic to your website, then SEO is a tool you need to add to your toolkit. By learning about SEO and discovering how it can help your hotel’s website, you can drive more traffic to your site by maximizing your visibility among potential guests. SEO might sound complicated at first, but in this article, we’ll help you develop an understanding of on-page SEO so that you can implement strategies yourself or work with a marketing partner to further develop your online presence.   SEO is Constantly Changing so Find Expert Help For many hoteliers, managing their hotel’s online presence requires a lot of time and effort, and the hotel may choose to work with an expert who knows the ins and outs of digital marketing rather than hire someone to do it in-house. Besides, the hotel marketing landscape is changing so quickly, that just keeping up-to-date with trends can feel like a full-time job! Collaborating with a marketing partner like Net Affinity can be a great solution if your hotel wants a cutting-edge marketing strategy, but working with an agency doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook. Remember that partnering with a digital marketing agency is exactly that: partnering. Instead of sitting back and doing nothing, you should have a basic understanding of the tasks your marketing agency does so that you can ask the right questions and keep them on track.   What is On-Page SEO?  Search engine optimization (SEO) helps search engines like Google and Bing understand what your website offers so that it shows up in relevant search results. For example, if you search for “hotels in New York City,” it wouldn’t be very helpful if Las Vegas hotels and Seattle hotels popped up in your search results. Search engines analyze the content on each webpage, meaning they look for keywords in the content, so that they can serve up the most relevant websites when you click “search.” Therefore, it’s important that your website includes keywords that your potential guests might be searching for. On-page SEO includes strategies that you can implement on your own website to help web crawlers and search engines better find and understand the content on your website that’s relevant to searchers. Some other SEO strategies, like creating backlinks, are categorized as “off-page” since they are not actually located on your own page.   How to Improve Your On-Page SEO Now that you know what on-page SEO is, how can you optimize your own website? These tips and tricks will help search engines point potential guests to your website, which can increase your direct bookings and enhance the guest experience. Optimize your titles, headings, and tags They may seem small, but they’re important! The small snippets of text in your titles, headings, and URLs can make a big difference in your SEO. Make sure to include your most crucial keywords, like your hotel name, in any titles on your site and in your URL. For subheadings and titles of sub-pages, you can also include keywords, like the name of your restaurant or neighborhood. For example, Andras House manages several hotels in the UK. On each individual hotel’s web page, the name of the hotel is included in the title and in the URL, like on the page for the Crowne Plaza Belfast, which uses the URL “https://www.andrashouse.co.uk/crowne-plaza-belfast.html.” For bonus points, make sure your website uses H1 tags for all titles and H2 tags for subheadings! Incorporate your keywords, but not too often Search engines look for keywords in your content to determine how relevant it is for certain searches. For instance, if your hotel is in Chicago, and your website never actually includes the word “Chicago,” the search engines likely won’t serve up your website to a potential guest who searches for “Chicago hotels.” At the same time, you don’t want to mention “Chicago hotels” in every single sentence; that would make your content painful to read. Strike a good balance between keywords and natural-sounding sentences so that potential guests can glean the information they need and have a pleasant experience. The Maryborough Hotel does a great job incorporating important keywords like “Maryborough Hotel” and the city, “Cork,” while maintaining easy-to-read text. Add internal and external links When a potential guest visits your website, they will probably visit more than one website throughout the course of the booking process. In fact, they will probably visit dozens of sites - booking airfare, scouting out restaurants, planning tours and activities, emailing friends or family - before finally clicking “book.” When you include links, both to other pages on your own website or to external websites (like a trusted tour provider, for example), you can give guests a better online experience. Just remember to only include links that are relevant for your guests, otherwise it can detract from the experience. Publish interesting, high-quality content Though some aspects of SEO might seem nit-picky, the most important thing you can do to improve your website is to simply publish great content. If your website visitors spend a lot of time on your site, reading every word - and maybe even sharing it with their friends or family - that means the search engine delivered a good result to the person who was searching. One way to share your content is through a blog, like Historic Hotels of Europe does. On their blog, readers can learn about their member hotels, their destinations, and events that potential guests might want to attend. Ensure your site is speedy and glitch-free Search engines want to give searchers the best results, and that doesn’t just mean high-quality content. If a website loads slowly, contains links that don’t work, or has some other type of error, the visitor will probably click the “back” button and choose a different website from the search results. This behavior sends a signal to the search engine that the website probably isn’t the best one to include in the search results. To make sure your site loads quickly and doesn’t have any errors, just like the website for Hotel Westport, visit it regularly - both on a desktop and a smartphone.  -- Now that wasn’t so bad, was it! SEO might sound intimidating, but any hotel can incorporate the most essential SEO strategies. Above all, creating interesting, readable content and formatting your site so that it’s easy to navigate around will help you maintain a strong presence in the search results. And when the ins and outs of SEO get to be too much to handle as your website grows, consider partnering with a hotel-specific digital marketing agency like Net Affinity. By paying close attention to your SEO, you can drive direct bookings and provide a wonderful guest experience.    

How to Attract Generation Z to Your Hotel

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Hotel Tech Report
3 months ago

Most hoteliers don’t use Snapchat or know what TikTok is. Generation Z’s, however, are flocking to the platform in record numbers – making it the world’s second most downloaded app of 2019. TikTok is the epitome of what it means to be a Gen Zer. It’s also a perfect symbol for how few hotel marketing managers really understand this demographic. Few hotels are making any effort to capture the attention of this younger generation – and this attitude is catching up.  Those who understand this new generation of post-millennials leverage marketing influencers and tap into passion points like climate change to drive business. Generation Z is already one of the largest consumer groups, despite the fact that some members of this demographic are younger than age 10. They “control $200 billion in direct spending. In the meantime, they influence more than $600 billion in spending by their parents,” according to one research report. Members of generation Z are expected to account for 40% of all consumer purchases by the end of this year. It’s tempting to apply the same approach you take marketing to millennials to Gen Zers, but this strategy won’t win you any younger guests. Don’t underestimate this group: yes, they’re tech savvy, but they’re also budget-conscious, globally-minded guests who wish to be taken seriously. It’s not all about the next hottest social network. These travelers require an additional level of personalization, authentic messaging, and plenty of digital touchpoints to streamline the journey.   Generation Z: Who are They?  Generation Z is generally regarded as those with birth years between 1995 and 2015. They are the youngest generation and many of these young people are still in high school and below.  It would be a mistake to conflate Gen Z with Gen Y, also known as Millennials. While these groups may share some characteristics, they have very different perspectives, habits, and attitudes that impact their purchase decisions. Generation Z is the first generation of “digital natives,” a buzz phrase that means this group has grown up completely immersed in the internet through platforms like Google at a very young age. Smartphones, touch screens, and apps have been the norm since birth, unlike Gen Y, who can remember a time before wireless internet. Gen Z has strong tech skills, the ability to multitask, and the desire for personalized, custom-built experiences. At a high-level, here’s what this generation is all about:  They’re discerning. Cynics say that Gen Z members have “an eight-second attention span.” More to the point, having grown up in the age of the internet, this group is able to quickly sort through and assess huge amounts of information. They can quickly tell when they’re being sold to and what’s worthy of their attention.  They define personal interaction differently. Despite their reputation for constantly spending too much time on their phones, Gen Z takes face time seriously. “74% of Gen Z would rather connect with colleagues face-to-face than via other formats. But here’s the catch: Gen Z doesn’t equate face-to-face with in-person,” one CEO told Fast Company. For Gen Z, conversations happening on social media or over text are just as real as in-person conversations.  They’re the “sober generation”. Gen Z has grown up in the post-9/11, post-recession world. They’re pragmatic savers who seek value, rather than luxury. They look to be defined differently than Millennials and work hard to avoid the “lazy” stereotype. This is a group that believes strongly in “diversity, equality, nondiscrimination and the alleviation of poverty.”  When it comes to travel, Gen Z may share similar values to Gen Y – but how this group goes about booking a hotel, engaging with a property, and enjoying their stay differs dramatically.    Generation Z vs. Generation Y and Baby Boomers Older generations like Gen Y and the Baby Boomers are the two other largest consumer groups hoteliers need to know. Gen Y, known as Millennials, were born between 1980 - 1994; Boomers were born between 1944 - 1964. Boomers came of age during a time of post-WWII optimism. This generation turns to traditional media like Facebook and TV advertising, and seek travel experiences by deciding on the destination first. Millennials, Gen Y, are much closer to Gen Z in their spending habits. They rely on social media platforms more than traditional media to get information about brands: Gen Y uses their mobile device for most things, but 32% still use a computer to complete a purchase. “As is well documented, many of the millennial generation's life choices, future earnings and entrance to adulthood have been shaped by this recession in a way that may not be the case for their younger counterparts,” reports Pew Research Center. Technology that Baby Boomers and Millennials have had to adopt has been part-and-parcel for Gen Z. The iPhone debuted in 2007 when the oldest Gen Zers were 10; since then, social media, constant connectivity, and on-demand content have become the norm. As a result, Gen Zers are thought to be better at multi-tasking, more knowledgeable about politics and the world, and have more diverse tastes – the internet has made the world their oyster. Gen Z and Boomers share a love for discounts; Gen Z and Gen Y share a level of comfort with interacting with brands on social media.    Gen Z Travel Preferences This technologically-savvy group expects next generation digital experiences and wants your hotel to provide genuine, ethical experiences that can be booked through a smartphone. Gen Z takes “mobile-first” to the next level. “As with all other things, Gen Z expect to be able to handle all advance transactions on their phone or tablet: from selecting their destination to booking all the details, including flights, ground transportation, lodging and restaurant reservations. They want to be able to ask questions online and get immediate answers as they make their decisions,” writes VisionCritical. For this group of travelers, that they can book experiences, rooms, ancillary services, and text with your property is should be a given, rather than an exception. This generation also grew up traveling: travel company Contiki reports that 79% of Gen Z have traveled overseas by age 15. Their travel experience, combined with their values of diversity and inclusion, mean this generation sees themselves as part of a “global village.” Gen Z plan trips that prioritize experience ahead of price and these travelers have an open mind when it comes to what that experience could be. When they decide to take a trip, they’re undecided about where they want to go; Gen Z turns to social media to find both inspirational content and travel deals. And, finally, this group travels with a conscience. Gen Z is drawn to hotels and travel companies that show a commitment to sustainability and socially-conscious travel. This group is much more ethical than previous generations; conscious consumerism is more than just a buzzword to Gen Z. McKinsey research found that:  70% of Gen Z survey respondents try to purchase from companies they consider ethical 80% remember at least one scandal or controversy that involves a company 65% try to learn the origins of the products they buy 80% refuse to buy from companies that are involved in a scandal Gen Z will do their research and stay at properties that pay fair wages, commit to sustainability, and give back to the local community. These are important aspects of their travel experience, not just checkmarks in a corporate sustainability report.    Tips for Attracting Gen Z to Your Hotel What does all this mean for your hotel? The good news is that you don’t need to amass a following on TikTok to try to recruit younger guests. That said, you must have a strong digital presence. One way to build a digital footprint is by marketing local experiences through display ads and social media. Approximately 1 in 3 Gen Z travelers reports that they want their next vacation to be an adventure. Display ads attractively showcase destinations, experiences, and sustainable travel in a way that still allows Gen Zers to “discover” something authentic. Unique, Instagrammable – yes, even TikTok-able – experiences will draw in the Gen Z crowd. The importance of foodie experiences has increased significantly: McCrindle’s market research for Contiki found that 35% of Gen Z prioritize food experiences. More than 90% of Gen Z research where to eat before they travel. A firm like D-Edge that can target Gen Zers seeking foodie experience by managing and optimizing display ads on major platforms, like AdRoll, Criteo and Sojern. Expedia reports that appealing deals and images are impactful for more than 60% of Gen Zers who say advertising is influential. Capitalize on the fact that Gen Z prefer spontaneity by highlighting some of the local tours and highlights of the area throughout your hotel website. A hotel website design partner like D-Edge can help you build a website that isn’t just mobile responsive, but totally mobile-optimized; this means guests can quickly find what they need without having to navigate complicated dropdown menus and slow-loading images. D-Edge even has an in-house media production team that can support your brand with great content – content that will hold a Gen Zer’s attention for more than eight seconds. -- Bottom line: it’s time to find a marketing partner who understands how to target the Gen Z guest on their customer journey. Start marketing to this consumer group now to get ahead of the competition as their buying power continues to increase over the next decade.

4 Unconventional Content Marketing Strategy Ideas for Hotels

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Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

If you’re reading this article, you probably want to increase the traffic coming to your hotel website and having a smart content marketing strategy is one of the best ways to win more bookings online. You also probably know by now that attracting more potential guests isn’t something that happens overnight. Perhaps your competitors have hired expensive website designers or you get a big share of bookings from OTAs. What can you do to get more direct bookings than last year - and more than the hotel down the street? Our best advice is to create high-quality, compelling content that grabs a potential guest’s attention and keeps them engaged all the way until they click “book now.” But you don’t need to be a professional writer or photographer to make your website content shine; with these four unique content marketing strategy ideas, you can start driving hotel website traffic today.   Strategy #1: Location Jacking We pay a lot of attention to competitive hotels, but we can’t forget that many guests can be shopping around for destinations too. Think about what attracts people to your area - is it the restaurant scene, some famous museums, or outdoor highlights like beaches or mountains? Once you’ve determined some big drivers, then you can figure out which other destinations your guests might be looking at. To help sell your destination (and hotel) to these guests, you can create an article that “jacks” the location highlights of these other areas. For instance, the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas is a fabulous place for a yoga retreat. However, search trends show that only 40 people per month search for “yoga retreat in Cabo.” In comparison, yoga retreat-related searches for other destinations get a lot more traffic: Yoga retreat California: 2,400 monthly searches Yoga retreat Costa Rica: 6,600 monthly searches Yoga retreat Bali: 14,800 monthly searches The Waldorf’s marketing team could write an article such as the “10 Best Yoga Retreat Destinations in the World” and create rich content around each of the high volume destinations above.  Within that article they could talk about all of the reasons why Cabo might be a more desirable yoga retreat destination than Bali, and more people would see it when they’re searching for “yoga retreat Bali” than “yoga retreat Cabo.” For U.S. based travellers, Cabo is a much shorter commute and less expensive. The Waldorf could alternatively create an informative article about top yoga retreats around the world, potentially including other hotels in yoga retreat destinations who could share or link to the Waldorf’s post. When researching these search terms, you may be wondering how to find the search volume and competitive keywords. Marketing professionals can use one of the many keyword research tools, like Google Keyword Planner, or for more support and resources, consider partnering with a hospitality-specific marketing company like Cendyn who’s digital marketing agency arm can do all of the heavy lifting for you.   Strategy #2: The Restaurant Megalist Chances are, your hotel guests will be dining out at some point during their stay. They’re probably scouring the web for restaurant recommendations while you’re reading this article. Give your guests a valuable trip planning resource by compiling a meaty “Restaurant Megalist” blog post or page with dozens (maybe even 100) of restaurant recommendations. Add a short blurb about each, or just organize it intuitively with price ranges, cuisine types, rich imagery and the distance from your hotel with a Google Maps link. For example, you could title your guide “45 Restaurant Recommendations in Sausalito.” A restaurant blurb might look like this: Scoma's of Sausalito: Waterfront restaurant known for fresh fish, crab, scallops, and more with stunning views of the bay. 3-minute walk (0.2 miles away) ← Include a Google Maps link here to make it easy for guests to find their way. While a comprehensive restaurant guide is an excellent resource for guests on its own, that’s not where the value in this content marketing strategy ends. Those restaurants that you included in your guide are also competing for website traffic, so they’ll be thrilled to hear you included them in your list. Once your restaurant list has been posted, we recommend reaching out to each restaurant and gently asking them to add a link to your post on their website in the press section - or at least share the article on their social media accounts. Even if only a handful of restaurants share your post, it will still lead to incremental (and free!) website traffic, which is a nice skill to add to your online marketing toolkit.   Strategy #3: Event Tag-Along Along the same lines of destination-related content, hotels can snag website traffic by writing articles related to popular local events. Guests coming into town for an event usually have a lot of questions about the area and the event itself. What’s the event schedule? Where do attendees register? Who are the speakers? What are some nearby restaurant recommendations? As an example, a San Francisco hotel could create a guide to the annual Salesforce conference, Dreamforce. The keyword “dreamforce 2019” received 33,100 monthly searches and scored .06 for competition, so it would be relatively easy to appear high in the search results. A Dreamforce article could include information about registration, fees, concerts, background on the speakers, and the event agenda.   Strategy #4: The OTA Effect Why do guests use OTAs? Sure, some guests are loyalists who stick with one particular OTA for their loyalty points, but many guests use OTAs as research tools. They want to compare hotels quickly and easily. While one hotel can’t really compete with an OTA in terms of marketing dollars, a hotel can “out-OTA” the big guys by creating better content that ranks higher in the search results (it’s not easy but with creativity it can be done). Similar to the “restaurant megalist” we mentioned earlier, a guide to area hotels can be a great resource for potential guests - and an informative exercise to get to know your competitive set. Start this article by compiling a list of nearby hotels or hotels within a particular niche, like “independent hotels in New York” or “new hotels in Miami.” General “hotels in…” searches get a lot of traffic, so you have a nice opportunity to gain significant traffic. “Hotels in New York” generates 70,000 monthly searches, for instance. What gives your article a leg up compared to the OTAs is your local market knowledge. You’ve been inside these hotels and know what makes them unique, so you can write strong content that really speaks to what travelers are looking for when it comes to your local area. Once you’ve published the post, don’t forget to reach out to the hotels you mentioned and ask for some social media shares! -- While any of these content marketing strategy ideas can be a good starting point for improving your hotel’s online marketing, some hotels may be ready for more a sophisticated marketing plan. Hotel marketing experts like Cendyn offer additional reporting and analytics, website design, and automation tools that go beyond what you can find online for free. If your hotel is ready for the next step, consider partnering with a specialized digital marketing agency that can provide tailored expertise. After all, any investment in driving hotel website traffic can pay off quickly as your rate of direct bookings increases.  

9 Hotel Marketing Habits You Need to Develop Right Now

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Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

Do you know how many customers your hotel marketing campaign converted today? This question causes many hotel marketers to break out in a cold sweat. Hotel marketers have many competing priorities to address throughout the day. From meeting with their team to running ads across multiple platforms and planning for the next marketing campaign, few hotel marketers have the time to get granular and learn how their campaigns are actually performing on a day-to-day basis. Carving out time for a daily routine can mitigate some of the anxiety of not knowing whether the work you’re doing is, well, working. Daily rituals, especially for marketers, reduce friction stemming from decision making, eliminate distractions, and help individuals get into that “deep work” mindset faster. Designing a thoughtful routine can give you a clear vision of how your overall marketing budget is performing, eliminating wasted resources or and letting you identify what’s working sooner, rather than later. A hotel marketing manager can develop a daily routine that involves regular collaboration, staying attuned to market trends, and monitoring your competitors to stay ahead. By doing these nine things every day, a marketing manager will establish discipline and industry knowledge to drive revenue with smart marketing campaigns that connect with guests.    Review your hotel marketing plan & track goal progress Start off every day reiterating your goals and prioritizing your tasks based on the impact you think they’ll have on achieving those goals. While most leaders review their goals weekly, a marketing manager has the benefit of getting more instant feedback from Google Ads, blog views and click-through rate, and social media analytics. Reviewing your hotel marketing plan daily can help make sure your day-to-day tasks continuously ladder up to delivering on big-picture goals, like more direct bookings. Make sure your marketing goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. In practice, that means your hotel marketing plan is:  Specific: well-defined and focused.  Measureable: include concrete targets against which you will measure success.  Attainable: aim high, but not so high that you set your marketing up to fail.  Relevant: tied to being attainable, how are your goals relevant to the competitive landscape and macro-economic trends?  Time-based: give yourself a deadline or series of deadlines. SMART goals are actionable; they can help you know which skillset to pull from and which resources to use as you plan your day. Make it part of your routine to revisit these goals to avoid distractions throughout the day.    Collaborate with your team cross-functionally Specifically, a marketing manager should dedicate some time to syncing with their revenue and sales teams. Sales, revenue, and marketing functions must work in lockstep to decide on rates and availability and then create promotional offers and campaigns based on those data points. As one revenue manager explains, “The hotel is an ecosystem, everything connects and affects one another. It’s critical to be aware of what Marketing is trying to promote and communicate because that could affect our decisions the next day.” Assist sales with key accounts and deliver promotions that meet the rate strategy set by revenue management. Set aside face-to-face time each day with sales and revenue to make sure you’re squeezing as much revenue as possible out of your campaigns.   Check-in with your digital marketing agency Even if you perform your routine every day, it’s unlikely that you’ll have enough time to devote to every marketing opportunity available to your property. Delegating to a digital agency like Cendyn is the only way to realistically do everything. A specialized agency will provide digital marketing and web design that brings more traffic to your website, and then ensures you have the graphics, layout, and right on-page SEO settings to capture direct bookings. Improve your SEO and SEM results on Google, Bing and industry specific sites like TripAdvisor & Kayak, and use smart CRM re-targeting to follow up with those at the beginning of the consumer journey. Great agencies can also help deploy social media marketing campaigns and influencer campaigns, driving more viewers to your website. A professional hotel website design team can improve your page’s conversion rate with mobile optimization, personalization, content management and great graphic design. Monitor Google search trends, along with Bing, metasearch, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and more to constantly improve your conversion rates. It’s crucial to make monitoring your digital marketing central to your routine. Check-in with Cendyn to make sure your marketing budget is reaching and converting guests at the best rate possible.    Browse new technologies and research market trends The hospitality industry is changing faster than ever before. Our team has identified more than 100 trends impacting hotels that range from renewable energy to new hotel designs, alternative lodging and everything in between. It took us dozens of hours to compile this list, and it’s likely there are many more trends that we missed. Hotel marketing managers need to incorporate some research into their daily routine to stay on top of current trends as they develop. Learning about current market trends in technology, sustainability, hotel design, smart rooms and the guest experience can help marketing managers generate new blog topics that consumers care about, as well as use social media marketing to highlight specific on-site amenities. For instance, if your hotel uses recycled water to maintain a green rooftop, that’s great content for PR placement on a site like Fast Company. As you monitor new technologies and trends, follow the three key areas that must collaborate for maximum growth: sales, marketing and revenue management. These teams must work in lock-step with each other to generate revenue – meaning it must be part of your routine to collaborate cross-functionally. Cendyn’s acquisition of Rainmaker is an easy way to build an integrated workflow. The Revenue Cloud brings together past, current, and predicted demand data into a single view. As a result, your revenue, sales and marketing managers can alight easily around optimal pricing recommendations.    Study other industries for great marketing ideas Marketing is largely agnostic, meaning what works well in one industry can be replicated in other markets. Read sites like Adweek and Ad Age to take cues from consumer brands and the entertainment industry. Look at how movies are being launched, new beverage brands introduced, or creative ways that restaurants are drawing a crowd for marketing ideas you can incorporate on-site. Case-in-point: traditional Hollywood studios are in fierce competition with streaming sites, just as established hotel chains vye with Airbnb and other alternative accommodation for guests. In Los Angeles, at the epicenter of both these battlefields, “blockbuster hotels” mimic the experience of big-budget movies. Just as The Avengers is designed to blow revenue figures out of the water, hotels are offering premium, unique experiences that small shops can’t replicate. For instance, Petite Hermitage features a Soho House style members only club (only more exclusive) with weekend tarot card readings and jazzy burlesque shows. The Magic Castle features an invite only black tie magic show and the Hollywood Roosevelt famously hosted Beecher’s Madhouse (now shuttered), a debaucherous nightclub and variety show frequented by the likes of Miley Cyrus and The Kardashians. What does this mean for your hotel? Find ways to make waves where other properties can’t. Study how other brands facing disruptive market entrants are adapting to the increased competition.    Get outside your office and speak to guests Guest surveys are a great way to encourage feedback because it’s scalable and easy to access. Another great way to gather customer intelligence and insights is to speak to guests in person. Talk to guests so you can develop a better understanding not just customer personas –  critical to any effective marketing – but also to understand your hotel through their eyes. Often, times the things you learn can be taken and leveraged to market in the authentic voice of your customers. We recommend that marketers do at least 6-8 random guest interviews per quarter to make sure they’ve got a pulse on who’s coming through their doors.  This helps create better offers and content so that your marketing resonates with what guests want. Ask them questions like “why did you choose us versus another property?”, “how did you first hear about our hotel?” and “if you didn’t book with us, where would you have booked and why?”. If you find it hard to get valuable feedback from your guests, at least advertise your guest survey tool and encourage people to leave you private reviews that you can mine for insight.   Browse the latest local events, restaurant openings, etc. Capitalize on local happenings to make your marketing campaigns stick. An event-based promotion can capture a lot of traffic when you pair the right offer with the right keywords. For instance, if your property is near New York City, run a post-NYC marathon spa service special using Google Ads to target “nyc marathon+hotels.” Make paying attention to the calendar part of your daily routine to know when to expect start running a promo for maximum impact. “Around 90% of consumers book within 70 days of their trip, however about 80% of this same group book within just 30 days. Keeping this booking window in mind will help you plan the run-time of your overall strategy,” reports one hotel marketing expert. Events like the marathon will have people booking well in advance; concerts or theater openings will have a shorter lead time. Another option is to use social media to target a specific audience that’s RSVP’d to an event. For instance, use Facebook’s audience tool to reach those attending Salesforce Dreamforce with a “hangover package” you can use to fill rooms after the conference – free late checkout included.    Monitor your compset Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing by reading their blog, signing up for their email newsletter, and setting up a Google Alert to let you know when there’s some news you need to know. Follow them on social media or use a tool like SPYFU and SEMRush to see what words your competitors are using for SEO and SEM. Leverage that keyword research by sharing it with your digital agency to get a leg up on similar properties. Try to ascertain not only what your competitors are doing, but how well they’re doing it: how are your competitor’s campaigns working?    Read non-hospitality marketing blogs Ultimately, digital marketing is similar no matter what vertical you are in. Search algorithms and ad platforms change rapidly; make sure that you are up to date with the latest developments. A few experts we recommend hotel marketers follow include:  Ahrefs: SEO tools and resources to help you grow your search traffic. Their blog offers hands-on tactical advice you can take to improve your website visibility.  Moz: Moz compiles SEO advice, research and how-tos to help you improve your digital marketing, tapping different experts to keep their content fresh. Neil Patel: Neil Patel is a consultant and best-selling author who specializes in digital marketing and SEO.  HubSpot: HubSpot make inbound marketing software, and in the process they gather data and insights around lead generation, email marketing, sales, and social media management.  Seth Godin: Like Neil Patel, Seth is a bestselling author on the subject of digital marketing and content. He focuses on the psychology of marketing and how to make your brand stand out. Regularly following this routine can make a hotel marketer more prepared, more flexible, and more agile when it comes to planning and executing timely marketing campaigns.  

8 Ways to Increase Website Traffic Free

by
Hotel Tech Report
5 months ago

Is your hotel trying to get more direct bookings? Or trying to reach specific types of travelers? Maybe just wanting to share updates about a recent renovation? There are a myriad of reasons to want more traffic on your hotel website, but there’s not always a clear answer on how to get it.  Furthermore, acquisition channels like Facebook and Google Ads continue to rise year after year. Many marketers are guilty of trying to throw money at problems they don’t understand. The good news is that there are a ton of ways to increase website traffic free with a little creativity. Where do you start, especially if you don’t have a marketing budget? In this article, we’ll outline 8 ways to increase website traffic free of charge. You don’t need to be a computer guru or professional writer to implement these ideas either; our simple yet impact solutions will help you drive website traffic while keeping costs low. But if your hotel does have some marketing spend available, we’ll also share some ideas for marketing investment that will give you a big bang for your buck.   Search Marketing Many potential guests find hotel websites on search engines. They type in a search term, then they click on a result that looks attractive. How does your hotel stack up to the competition? Does your hotel come up when you search Try searching for some common, relevant keywords on your favorite search engine and see how your website looks in the search results. Does the headline look attractive and engaging? Is all of the text accurate? Optimizing your website’s content in the search results is an easy way to increase website traffic free of charge! Pretend that you’re a hotel guest trying to book a room in your city.  What are the things you’d search for? Create a list of 20-30 terms and analyze the types of content that come up when you search for those.  Identify areas of your website that can meet searcher intent for those queries and if you don’t have any, consider creating technical SEO pages to pick up search traffic for those terms.  For example, if your hotel is in San Francisco you may want to create a page for “restaurants near the Golden Gate Bridge” or “hotels closest to Napa Valley and Wine Country”. You want to target high volume, low competition terms with rich content.  Google is getting better and better at determining the best content for searchers so make sure that you are writing for people and not robots.  Create valuable content that really solves the pain points of consumers and bookers will come. If your hotel has some marketing budget available, you can take your search results game to the next level by purchasing pay-per-click ads through platforms like Google AdWords.   Online Reputation Management & Reviews It’s no secret that good guest reviews are crucial to a hotel’s success. But asking guests to write reviews isn’t the only important part of managing your hotel’s online reputation. Nobody wants to receive a negative review, but those are the most important reviews for a hotelier to respond to. A negative review offers the opportunity for the hotelier to explain their side of the situation, use the problem as a training opportunity, and reiterate the hotel’s goal of providing excellent service. Responding to these reviews with care allows the hotelier to turn a negative review into a positive impression for anybody reading the review. And when a positive review has been posted, be sure to respond to those too, maybe with a note of gratitude for the good feedback and that you hope to welcome the guest for another stay soon. While many general managers or other hotel leaders like to handle their property’s guest reviews, hotels that want to elevate their reputation management can partner with a company like D-Edge that provides reputation management software, which provides review response services and insightful analytics.   Compelling Website and Blog Content Even if you have top-notch SEO and amazing guest reviews, people aren’t going to spend much time on your website if it doesn’t have engaging content. Whether you have a simple website or an established hotel blog, you can incorporate new and interesting content without spending any money. Consider doing a bit of SEO research to determine what keywords people are searching for in your area, then write an article about that topic. Perhaps start an “employee spotlight” interview program or publish a collection of guest photos. You could also write an article about an area event or celebration and ask the event organizers to share the post on their social media channels to receive additional traffic. The possibilities are endless for engaging hotel blog content! Interested in taking your website or blog content further? Consider hiring a professional writer or content agency to create content that really shines. Content agencies can also help you develop a strategic direction for your blog or dive deeper into SEO.   Website SEO We’ve already established that potential guests often use search engines to find hotel websites, so spending some time on your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) can allow guests to find it more easily. It doesn’t take an SEO expert to make impactful changes; a few SEO tips that you can implement today include adding H1 and H2 formatting to headings, compressing large images to improve site speed, and adding internal links. If you edit your website with Wordpress, add free plug-ins like Yoast to see specific SEO guidance for every page. Ready to take your SEO to the next level? Partner with a professional SEO agency for more advanced expertise. An agency can help you determine which keywords to target, discover who your competitors are, and provide ideas for blog posts or content.   Social Media Posts Your hotel likely has social media accounts, but are you using them to their fullest potential? Up your social media game by organizing a giveaway for a free room night, in which people can enter the contest by following the hotel’s account, liking a post, or tagging a friend in a comment. A giveaway helps you build brand awareness without any marketing spend. Some more social media ideas include creating a catchy hotel hashtag that travelers can use or reposting guest photos. Maybe even post about fun things happening in your area, like holiday celebrations or sports events. If marketing funds are available, you can increase your social media presence by running paid ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. These advertising platforms allow you to target very specific guest profiles, like families, foodies, or business travelers. The marketing spend is flexible; you can set daily budgets starting at just $5 or $10.   Email Marketing Hotels naturally build a database of guest email addresses by sending booking confirmation and receipts, but the communication shouldn’t stop after a guest checks out. Leverage that list of email addresses with email marketing, which will encourage recipients to visit your hotel website and book direct. Rather than sending an email from Outlook with your whole database in the BCC field, try using a free email tool like Mailchimp to gain analytics such as open rate and link clicks. Larger hotels or properties with more sophisticated marketing strategies should consider upgrading their email marketing technology to a hotel CRM (customer relationship management). Although these systems aren’t free, they offer even more advanced options and analytics to take guest communication to the next level.   Learn from Analytics and Optimize for CRO You may be thinking, “enough with the acronyms already!” Even though you may not have heard of CRO, or conversion rate optimization, you’re probably aware that it’s important to convert someone who’s browsing your website into someone who books a reservation. Hoteliers can determine their conversion rate by enrolling in the free Google Analytics suite, which will show how many people viewed their website and how many clicked on certain links, like the “Book Now” button. If your website gets a lot of traffic but not many bookings, perhaps the “Book Now” button is difficult to find or a link is broken. A few improvements to your website can make big changes to your conversation rate. Need help making sense of all the analytics out there? Partner with experts from a company like D-Edge who can help with cutting edge website design services.   Competitor Knowledge Your revenue management team looks at your competitive set’s rates on a daily basis, but have you ever checked out their hotel websites? Scope out the competition to get ideas for content, keywords, social media posts, and more. Maybe even sign up for their email newsletter to get the inside scoop on their email marketing strategies. Best of all, gaining this type of competitor knowledge is completely free! Once you’ve mastered our 8 ways to increase website traffic free of charge, it may be time to consider allocating a budget specifically for online marketing. Paid strategies can bring even more guests to your website, leading to more direct bookings, and proving that an investment in your hotel website can pay off. When your hotel reaches that stage, consider partnering with a digital solutions provider like D-Edge that can share expertise beyond what the free tools can offer.  

10 Mandatory Marketer Skills in the Hotel Industry & Beyond

by
Hotel Tech Report
5 months ago

Social media marketing and digital marketing made LinkedIn’s list of most in-demand skills in 2019. Research by Marketing Hiring Trends predicts that 44% of companies will want to hire more digital marketers in the coming years. From Google Adwords to content marketing, learning the marketer skills is a critical step to future-proofing your career and keeping you in constant demand. Digital marketing is a wide-ranging and diverse area where a marketer can develop different skill sets, from analytics to visual design to creative writing. Because more than 90% of online activity starts with a search engine, SEO and paid search marketing are critical tools for any marketer or entrepreneur. Content creation, email marketing, and social media strategy are needed at virtually every B2C company and deliver high ROI to businesses seeking to build 1:1 relationships with customers. Glassdoor’s data shows that the average salary for a digital marketer is around $61,000 per year. Digital marketers can get hired at agencies, directly by companies, or as consultants and freelancers. In the hotel industry, on-property marketers have the benefit of working with agencies who already possess these digital marketer skills.  Hotel marketing agencies like Net Affinity tend to become more than just service providers, they act like members of your team.  Top marketing agencies not only help you tactically execute on the skills we outline below but the best ones actually teach these skills to their clients.  If you aren't learning from your agency, it may be time for a new marketing partner. Hotels are best suited working with a firm that specializes in hotel marketing because they understand industry specific nuances such as Google Hotel Ads, lodging benchmarks & best practices, booking engine conversion rates and the latest hotel trends.  Net Affinity, for example, has built it's own booking engine which integrates closely with your hotel website to control the full purchase funnel.  Outside of these nuances, the marketer skills required to succeed in a digital world are relatively similar no matter what industry you’re in. These ten areas will help grow your marketing career more effectively, sharpening your skills and boosting your client’s marketing efforts in the process. On-site SEO Off-site SEO Conversion Rate Optimization Content Marketing Social Media Google PPC Metasearch Graphic Design Email Marketing Promotion Psychology   On-Site SEO A study by SEO experts Ahrefs found that 91% of online content receives no traffic from Google. That means the majority of websites out there aren’t getting any views from people searching on Google. On-site SEO prevents your hotel’s website from falling into that dark void of no views. On-site SEO refers to those factors on your website that impact the ranking of your page on Google. There are five main on-page SEO components that matter most when building your strategy:  User engagement: how do people interact with your website? Metrics for measuring your user engagement include click-through rate, bounce rate, pages per session, and return vs. new visitors.  Site structure: the way your website is built combines with your keywords and content strategy by preparing your website for indexing and crawlability. How easily can a search engine access, crawl, interpret and index your website? Is your site secure? Are your URLs clean and easy to understand? Content: keyword optimization plays a role in making sure your site is getting the traffic you need. To find keywords, use a tool like Google Keyword Planner, Moz, or Ahrefs. Then, add focused keywords into title tags and page titles. Create header sections that use header tags. Interlinking: Interlinking is when you add links in your copy to other parts of your hotel’s website. It enables customers to move with ease between content, increasing session time and decreasing bounce rate.   Mobile responsiveness: mobile is taking over the hospitality industry. And, Google has taken notice: starting July 2019, Google officially rolled out mobile-first indexing. Sites that aren’t mobile-optimized will receive a lower ranking than their competitors. Your site must be able to be read on any device. On-page SEO can get technical, but a basic understanding of the factors impacting your organic ranking can start you off on the right foot. Find a partner like Net Affinity – they’re a Premier Google Partner, meaning their experts are in the top 5% of agencies worldwide with deep expertise in on-site SEO. Work with their team to reach your organic traffic goals and gain bookings from Google and other search platforms.   Off-Site SEO & Link Building On-page SEO is dependent on the activity and structure happening on your hotel’s page. Off-page SEO, conversely, applies to elements occurring outside of your website. These elements include social media, your online marketing activities, and most importantly, links to your web pages from other websites. There are a number of ways to impact your off-site SEO. Google's algorithm uses “ranking factors” to improve your site’s visibility, and one of those factors is relevance. Does your page contain relevant information to a user’s search query? To meet the relevance metric, Google looks for “backlinks” or inbound links. These links remain the single most important factor in improving your off-page SEO ranking. When other websites recognize your page’s value, your domain authority goes up and your search engine page ranking will follow. Previously, Google’s algorithm would look to the number of backlinks to verify relevance. Now, it’s quality that matters: and the quality of the link incorporates a number of different factors, including: How often are you acquiring backlinks  How old is the link The text used to link back to you (does the anchor incorporate a keyword or phrase?) The domain authority of the linking site Number of visitors the link garners There are numerous ways to earn backlinks, including working with a PR agency, launching an influencer campaign, or pitching your hotel to bloggers and the press. Actively using your social media channels can also impact your off-page SEO.    Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Conversion rate optimization, CRO, is the process of increasing the percentage of your website visitors who convert to guests. To build a CRO strategy, investigate how a customer moves through your site, what actions they take, and what barriers are preventing them from clicking the “book now” button and completing their reservation. For a clear picture of what’s going on, start with your website analytics. Google Analytics can tell you:  Which webpage does a person land on to enter your site? What parts of your site does a person engage with? What channel or referrer brought them to your page? What device or browser are they using? Who are your customers (by geography, demographics, and interest)? Where do users abandon your site? A heatmap tool like HotJar can show you where users are scrolling, clicking, and leaving your site. Visualize areas of weakness on your page to optimize your site and capture more bookings. Net Affinity can also dive into your analytics to discover the true value and impact of your marketing channels, using that data to focus your marketing efforts toward higher conversion rates. Continuous optimization informed by your analytics means that your hotel can refine messaging, site speed, and other factors to improve CRO.      Content Marketing Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves generating valuable, relevant, and consistent content – blog posts, videos, social media posts, or podcasts, for example – to attract customers and drive conversions. By some estimates, “content marketing provides conversion rates about six times higher than other digital marketing methods.” Many hotel owners see stats like that and assume they must immediately start a blog. But, as we’ve argued in the past, hotel blogs and other forms of content work only when they’re relevant. No benefit comes from blogging for blogging’s sake: your content must work for your property and be interesting to your prospective customer. To get started with content marketing, determine who your ideal guest is, forming guest personas based on rich, actionably psychographic and behavioral traits. A persona should read as if you’re describing a single person, digging into their motivations and mindset to understand their mission when they visit your hotel site. Once you’ve defined your blog audience, develop a content calendar that offers stories, videos, or recommendations that help them achieve their mission. Don’t be shy about getting granular in your topics. The more specific you can be, the more likely your content is going to be relevant. Over time, content marketing can positively impact your SEO ranking as well as boost your CRO score. When done properly, content marketing costs about 62% less than traditional marketing tactics. Clearly, there’s a big payoff to be gained in building a thoughtful content strategy.    Social Media Management There are mixed opinions over what a hotel’s social media strategy should look like. Some hotels have benefitted from 6% of direct reservations coming from Facebook; others have discerned no notable difference from investing resources in social media platforms. The key takeaway to social media management is recognizing its value as a) an SEO and content marketing tool and b) a place for sharing. Social media profiles can boost your SEO when you share quality, relevant posts. You must offer your audience value to see the benefits of social media. This can be in the form of promoting a travel deal, highlighting a new spa service, or posting a travel guide to some top attractions near your property. The second reason to actively manage your social media profiles is that guests frequently share reviews and experiences on your pages. Net Affinity predicts that user-generated content is going to rise in 2020; your hotel can be proactive about sharing and responding to great reviews, as well as managing negative feedback. It takes a solid social media management strategy to know how to address both instances.    Pay-per-click and Google Hotel Ads Paid search has an immediate impact on your direct booking strategy. Net Affinity uses paid search to deliver insight on where your traffic is coming from and to help hotels connect with the right guests at the right price. This involves utilizing Google Ads and pay-per-click campaigns. Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) is an advertising channel that promises to put your ad in front of a user at the moment they’re ready to book. It utilizes a pay-per-click model, meaning that you only pay when a user takes a specific action, like clicking your ad to visit your site or make a booking. Google Hotel Ads and PPC campaigns offer a way to earn back more direct bookings and counter OTAs. A smart keyword strategy involves a deep understanding of the services and queries for which your target guests are searching. Then, make your ad text “specific and unique to your hotel, mentioning benefits and descriptions which are clearly about your hotel,” recommends one expert. By doing so, “you can often appear more relevant to the user and earn the click over the OTA. The high level of specific relevance might also help increase your Click Through Rate, Quality Score and Ad Rank, the result of which can be a reduction in Cost Per Click.” Pay-per-click is a smart way to stretch your marketing budget, but to see real results, you need to dive into your website analytics and learn about your guests. Lean on Net Affinity’s expertise as a Premier Google Partner to ensure your bid strategy gets you results.    Metasearch Bid Management Metasearch engines like Google Hotel Ad, Trivago, and Trip Advisor have opened a new channel for independent hotels who wish to compete with large third parties, elevating their listing through smart bid management. Net Affinity leverages their relationships with several metasearch channels to bring new guests to your hotel website and convert clicks to bookings at a lower cost than OTAs. There are four key reasons why metasearch must be part of your marketing mix.  Gain exposure: metasearch immediately shows guests what they’re seeking – the price of a room. It allows them to quickly make a purchase decision and gives you a way to make more direct bookings outside of OTAs.  Take control from OTAs: metasearch gives your hotel a way to set a rate for specific stay dates and room type.  Competitive bidding: managing your metasearch gives you deeper insight into your market position to make sure OTAs aren’t undercutting your prices.  Diversification: position your listing as the more favorable option and open a new channel through which to gain bookings. Google, TripAdvisor, Kayak, and Trivago are the biggest metasearch channels you must understand. A digital marketing agency can help you test different metasearch channels to come up with the right strategy that delivers bang for your buck.    Graphic Design Lessons from Amazon, Zappos, and Expedia have proven that simple copy updates and changes in color theme on your website can increase revenue by double and triple percentage points. Graphic design is an element of your website experience that can’t be ignored.  The design of your site is the digital equivalent to the lobby of your hotel. It sends certain signals to your guests that can either entice them to book, or turn them away. Use high-quality images that are optimized for page speed and views on mobile devices. Adding video to your site can increase revenue per visitor by 27%. Show your rooms in a grid layout to enable site visitors to quickly scan to find what they’re looking for. Remove any distractions that prevent a user from completing their booking. Look to Sorrento’s Grand Hotel Royal for an example of a clean, straightforward home page that uses great graphic design elements. Unless you have a graphic designer in-house, it’s likely that you’ll need an agency to help design a website that is both functional and appealing. Find a website builder that gives you the flexibility to edit pages easily and add landing pages for your marketing campaigns. Your graphic design is only as good as the user experience, and it’s imperative that your agency partner recognize that.    Email Marketing According to research by Campaign Monitor, every dollar spent on email marketing led to a $38 return. That makes email marketing the most effective marketing channel out there in terms of ROI. Redirect spend from your social media marketing to email to capture higher ROI and develop higher brand affinity with targeted messaging and personalized offers. Email marketing requires four elements for success:  Customer segmentation: divide target customers into groups based on factors such as loyalty, lifetime spend, frequency and recency of stay. Valuable content: what does your email campaign deliver in value to the reader? Send content that is relevant as measured by an increase in conversions or a decrease in the unsubscribe rate.  Timing: 98% of all upsell revenue came from pre-arrival emails; your email must be timed for key moments in the guest journey.  Benchmarking: learn how your emails perform based on geography, segment, and email type to constantly improve. Setting up your email campaigns takes the right tools. What action do you wish your email recipient to take as a result of your message? Net Affinity’s booking engine incorporates automatic pre and post-stay emails to constantly help your property improve their reputation and services. Design landing pages that convert from your email campaigns, and send targeted upsell offers that capture additional revenue per guest.    Purchase Psychology & Creative Promotions Upselling, when done well, increases revenue and guest satisfaction simultaneously. Guests are expecting personalization; Google Traveler found that 36% of travelers are willing to pay more for tailored information and experiences. Understand why people click “buy” on an ancillary product to master your upselling technique. According to Psychology Today, “a buying decision is the result of a consumer learning pathway where the consumer must learn about a product or service and relate it to their specific situation to make a favorable buying decision.” Drive profit by creating promotions that utilize compelling marketing copy, vibrant and high-quality images, and strategic pricing. Show the guest that you understand their needs, delivering the promotion in a way that connects with the guest. A creative promotion can be anything from a cooking class from your on-site chef, a welcome package with local treats, or a partnership with a luggage transfer company to bring a guest’s suitcase door-to-door. Mine your website data to learn more about what will excite your guests and use those insights to improve the guest experience and drive revenue.   Where to start: Consumer Insights All of the skills above are tactical. Without understanding your consumers (guests and prospective ones) you can’t execute any of the digital marketing strategies outlined here with any precision. Hotels must be good at analyzing guest surveys and reviewing data to build customer personas; then, shape your tactics around these insights and personas.  

Hotel Blogging: Simple Strategies for Marketing Success

by
Hotel Tech Report
6 months ago

Are you tired of having a boring hotel blog that gets no traffic? You know there are opportunities to increase traffic to your hotel website, but probably don't know where to start. Is hotel blogging the best way to grow organic traffic? Do you even need a hotel blog? In this article, we're going to answer these questions and give you hands on hotel blogging ideas to kickstart your growth.  We'll then review 2 case studies and show you what these hotels do well, then give exact tips to get even more traffic that you can use for your own hotel blog. Let’s dive right in. The guest experience doesn’t begin at check-in anymore; with engaging blog content, hotels can start offering value to guests before they even start thinking about booking a room.  By the time these guests start considering which property to book at, you’ve already got a leg up on the competition. By leveraging local expertise and relevant recommendations, hotel blogs can reach thousands of potential guests in ways that OTAs simply cannot. However, a blog might not be necessary for every hotel right now. Perform a SWOT analysis of your hotel’s overall marketing strategy. If blogging fits within your hotel’s overall needs and objectives, then it may be time to invest in the following best practices and content ideas to create an exceptional hotel blog. But creating a blog is only half of the journey; partnering with a digital marketing agency like NextGuest Digital will provide the expertise and exposure necessary to put your blog in front of the right readers.  A hotel digital marketing agency like NextGuest will even help develop content for your website that is purpose built to bring in prospective guests.   Does your hotel even need a blog?   A 21st-century hotel must have a website, social media profiles, and a blog - right? Not so fast. Though a blog might seem like a necessary part of a hotel’s online presence, no benefit comes from blogging for blogging’s sake. In fact, cranking out a multitude of posts may do more harm than good without carefully choosing topics and producing high-quality content. When it comes to hotel blogs, choose quality over quantity - or choose not to have a blog at all, such as the Maven Hotel in Denver, which dedicates resources to other marketing channels, like Instagram. Compelling hotel blog content shouldn’t be robotic and needs a personal tone.  Great hotel blogs showcase unique characteristics of their hotels, offer tips about the area and highlight influencers that resonate with the hotel’s brand. After creating a great blog post, the next step is to share it with the hotel’s target audience, whether by social media, an email newsletter, or in other publications. If a hotel’s marketing team is confident that they can uphold a high standard of content and distribute it to an audience of readers who are likely to book rooms, then the hotel might enjoy benefits like increased website traffic and conversion, better performance in the search results, broader brand awareness, and greater guest loyalty.   The Maven's website was designed by NextGuest Digital   What makes a great hotel blog?   Just as revenue management seeks to sell the right room to the right guest for the right price, a hotel’s blog content should also try to deliver the right content to the right guest at the right stage of the booking process. The first step in building a great hotel blog is to determine who your ideal guests are and create guest personas unique to your property. Guest personas start with high level naming conventions like families, business travelers, or bachelorette parties - but that’s only the start.  Great personas contain rich actionable psychographic and behavioral traits. They should read as describing a single person and deeply encapsulate their motivations and mindset. Once you’ve nailed down your blog’s audience, then you can provide specific recommendations and or stories that would be most relevant to them.  Many marketers have trouble with this because they may be in a back office or even in corporate. Don’t stress though, use this as an excuse to get out from behind your desk and go mingle with guests in the lobby.  Have open ended conversations with them for a couple hours just casually talking about their trips and you’ll come up with dozens of hotel blogging ideas. Hotel 48LEX in New York City, a NextGuest Digital client, publishes blog articles like “How to Ride the NYC Ferry Like a New Yorker” and “What to See at the Bryant Park Winter Village” that are hyper-relevant to their target audience.   48Lex's blog has rich content for LGBT, Sports Fans, Families and more   Specificity is key to a great hotel blog. Rather than speaking in general terms about the hotel and the market, a blog gives you the opportunity to showcase exactly what makes your hotel or market special. Using concrete details and descriptive words, you can illustrate unique decor features, recommend things to do in the neighborhood, or even tell about a fascinating bit of history from the hotel’s past. These specifics help your post become engaging and memorable.   Mix up your content with these unique hotel blogging ideas   Set your blog apart from the rest with one-of-a-kind articles that readers will remember. The blogosphere is full of “10 Things to do in [insert city name here]” posts, so take a different approach and you’ll be rewarded for being unique.   Film video blogs of area attractions and activities One of the best ways to develop engaging content for potential guests is to collaborate with existing ones, and one of the best ways to generate traffic is to post articles about popular area attractions. People search for “Golden Gate Bridge,” for example, around 360,000 times per month, which shows that potential guests want to know about your market’s top attractions and activities. What better way to help them picture a future trip than using video from a real guest’s visit! Encourage guests to film their experiences by offering free tickets to major attractions if they submit their footage, then you can incorporate the footage into rich, fresh, and authentic content about the area. Furthermore, blog pages with more informative content tend to perform better on the search engines than thinner articles do. If you develop a highly useful and comprehensive page about an area attraction, it will generate better traffic than a simple paragraph about the attraction. Complement the footage with descriptive text that answers questions or addresses apprehensions travellers might have.   Compile statistics or create infographics about the local area Hotels have access to a pool of guest data via post-stay surveys, and this data can be quite interesting to local destination marketing organizations or travel publications. Turn your standard guest satisfaction survey into a dynamic research tool by adding survey questions that you can incorporate into a compelling blog post. Perhaps ask guests about which attractions they visited or what the purpose of their trip was. Using this data, you can create infographics or charts that other industry publications might want to link to, which will generate additional readers, build brand awareness, and add to your blog’s backlink profile.   Interview Instagram influencers Just getting started on social media? No problem! Rather than waiting for your follower count to grow, get your hotel in front of thousands of social media users immediately by partnering with Instagram influencers. Search through the profiles of popular restaurants or trendsetting hotels in town to find out which influencers resonate with your hotel, then reach out to them and collaborate on a feature for your hotel blog. Perhaps they can provide curated restaurant recommendations or uncover some local hidden gems. Once you’ve posted the article, be sure to share it with them so they can then share it on their social media channels.   Looking for more content inspiration? Add these creative ideas to your hotel blog’s pipeline:  Employee spotlights or interviews Recipes from your hotel’s restaurant or bar Packing guide for each season Special promotions for your hotel’s social media followers Updates about new amenities, services, or staff members Calendar of upcoming area events or festivals Sneak peek of renovations Dictionary of local lingo and abbreviations   Make sure your hotel blog’s technical aspects are up to par   Even if your content is the best in the world, readers will have trouble finding your blog or staying engaged until the end of the article if the website’s technical aspects fall short. From website design to search engine optimization, make sure to build a solid technical foundation so your content can really shine. Follow these tips to ensure your blog is easy to find and read:   Target local keywords: Many travelers begin to research destinations and hotels on search engines, so it’s crucial that your blog performs well in the search results. A great way to become more visible in search results is to write blog posts using topics or keywords that a large number of people search for - even if the topic might include competitor hotels! For instance, a blog post like “The 17 Best Hotels in LA” is a nice way to target the high-performing keywords “hotels in LA.” Use intriguing and shareable headlines: A blog’s title is only a few words long, but those few words are the most important ones in the entire post. Why? Because in the couple of seconds while a potential reader to reads the headline, they’ll decide whether or not to click on the post. Try including lists, questions, or “how to” guides in your headlines and maintaining a balance of easy-to-understand, powerful, and emotional words. Build a network of backlinks: Besides targeting specific keywords, another strategy to increase search results placement and traffic to your blog is to develop backlinks. A backlink is a link to your blog which is placed on another website, for example, an influencer’s travel blog or a news site. If securing backlinks is a challenge, consider partnering with a digital marketing agency to help promote your content.   Real life hotel blog case studies & analysis   Eager to see how these strategies work in the wild? Check out these fantastic hotel blog articles, learn why they work and learn what can be done by hotel marketers to get improved results:   NextGuest Client Apex Hotels’ post Seven Facts You Didn’t Know About Bath: In this article, Apex Hotels does a great job targeting the keyword “facts about Bath” (the article ranks at #4 in the search results), but this keyword doesn’t get many searches, only about 40 per month. In order to gain more visibility, we may want to create a new article that targets more popular keywords like “population of Bath,” which receives 3,600 monthly searches, and “history of Bath,” which gets 1,300 hits per month. While historical content might not seem like something that the hotel’s guests would be interested in booking this is a great way to bring in cultural tourists, school groups and history buffs.     How to Plan the Perfect Cabo San Lucas Wellness Retreat by NextGuest Digital client Resort at Pedregal: This post is  just informative and well-written, but its target keyword, “yoga retreat in Cabo San Lucas” keyword, only receives about 40 searches per month. Resort at Pedregal may want to write a similar article that targets what might seem to be competitive keywords like “yoga retreat Costa Rica,” which receives 6,600 monthly searches, in order to gain visibility to travelers who are looking for warm-weather yoga retreats. Resort at Pedregal could provide a list of yoga retreats in Costa Rica, along with helpful information for readers, and then explain why a yoga retreat in Cabo San Lucas is comparable or even preferable, which could sway the reader’s travel plans and turn into a booking at the resort. Resort at Pedregal’s marketing team could then reach out to the retreats mentioned in the article and ask for a backlink or social share in order to boost visibility even more and building the article’s authority on Costa Rica yoga retreats. Before long, traffic will be rolling in!   Remember these keys to hotel blogging success   As with any big project, building a great hotel blog takes time, but investing in your online presence can yield impressive results. Focus on quality content rather than quantity, and ensure that your content is unique, engaging, and relevant to your ideal guest - starting with a headline that just begs them to click. A blog is an excellent opportunity to show off your hotel’s personality and value proposition, so working with a digital agency that understands content and search patterns is crucial to securing the readers you want. Let the experts at a firm like NextGuest Digital handle email marketing, SEO, blog post distribution, and more while you focus on creating hospitality experiences that guests will want to write about!   Are you a hotel marketer who's too busy to blog? Browse our list of top rated hotel digital marketing agencies to find a partner who can grow your web traffic today.