What’s the Right OTA Play for Inns & Hotels?

OTAplaySmaller properties of 6-20 rooms can be reluctant to maintain a presence and room inventory on OTAs like Expedia and TripAdvisor.  But are they shooting themselves in the foot?  Both the “Billboard Effect” and the “Pay to Play Effect” do indicate that you’re leaving money at the table.

The Billboard Effect:  Did you know that industry studies show using OTAs increases room reservations — at your own site?  According to an article on Hotel Business Review, “…Cornell Professor Chris Anderson found that a hotel’s direct bookings increased from 7.5 to 26% when listed on Expedia, perfectly illustrating the impact that the billboard effect has on a property’s direct bookings.”

It works like this… a prospective guest sees the generic site they create for you on Expedia or Hotels.com or TripAdvisor (your “billboard” on that platform), then leaves the OTA site to book at your own site, assuming you are set up for smart on-site booking and mobile ready.  Sure, you’ll pay some commissions to OTAs for guests that do book there, but doesn’t the billboard effect make it worth it?  In other words, instead of only thinking about the 15% you lost on those reserving on the OTA, calculate the added bookings you also get without paying commissions.  We like the simply myallocator system that is integrated into Checkfront online booking for managing OTA room inventory so you don’t double-book (while Checkfront is our preferred cloud booking solution for a lot of reason and we have a marketing agreement with them, we can and do work with other systems).

Let’s run some numbers, for this scenario:  say you’re a small boutique hotel with 18 rooms that average $120 per night.

  • Billboard Effect:  Let’s say you enjoy an 18% Billboard effect increase for occupancy for the year = 18 rooms x 30 x 12 x .18 = around 1100 more nights booked at $120 (no fees paid)  = $132,000.
  • Pay to Play Effect (see below):  In addition, another 30% book on the OTA site itself = 18 rooms x 30 x 12 x .30 = around 1900 more nights booked at $102 (less 15% OTA fee) = $193,800.

These are rough numbers.  But since both effects will increase your annual gross revenues, it seems like a win-win — right?  Do leave some comments below if you have a different take on this.

Hotels and OTAs.

On the one hand, this hotel can get a boost from the “billboard effect”… but on the other it could lose up to 30% in potential bookings.

The Pay to Play Effect:  I think most innkeepers and hoteliers are familiar with this one, and it irritates some of you.  Successful online travel search sites like Trip Advisor, may list your property even if you are not “paying to play” — dialed into their commission or pay per click fees.  That is ok for the “billboard effect”, but what about the 30% or so that DO book at online travel sites (Trip Advisor reported in 2013 that “28 percent prefer to book via Web-based travel agencies,” and we expect that number to rise)?  Well… in the case of Trip Advisor, if you don’t pay (sign up for their Instant Booking or Cost Per Click programs) they instantly recommend other competitors who do allow booking on their site.  No pay = no play, and no bookings from those that prefer to book while they are at the OTA.

I think you’ve seen that using both of these “effects” can be a powerful revenue generator for your property.  One last word of advice — get professional photography in place on your OTA pages that not only shows the property itself, but any events (ie. weddings), and people pictures (guests enjoying a tasty breakfast, etc.).  Smiles that express feelings of relaxation, happiness and satisfaction work very well.  Sell with emotion.  When you get an “emotional handshake” with smart pictures and content you will increase your business.

10 Marketing Tips to Boost Profitability at Your Inn

Innkeepers and hoteliers wear so many hats, that it can be hard to concentrate on lifting your marketing game. Fortunately we live in an era with a wealth of online marketing resources and technologies plus research for boosting results.  But the the best solutions go beyond tactics and technology to the core of persuasion psychology. I’ve learned a lot about all this in close to 35 years in the trenches, so I’m pleased to share my own top 10 list to help you win the quest for heads in beds:

1) Tri-Leverage your blog content:  Make your blog do triple duty.  First, write each blog post with highly relevant content to increase your rankings.  Second, use an automation tool (we like Hootsuite, or Delvr.it) to automatically push posts to social media — set it and forget it.  Third, set your blog RSS feed to go out monthly with excerpts from your posts and a special or two using a smart email service like MailChimp (great pricing — send to 2,000 subscribers monthly for free).

Use of photos showing human emotions is essential in hotel marketing

Which of the three images are essential to engage prospective guests? Answer:  The people shot (bottom right) — folks buy on emotion. But which pictures do innkeepers show more of on their websites?

2) Sell the sizzle, not the steak:  Should a sailboard manufacturer sell the composition of the board, or the experience of sailing across the water?  Should a restaurant show it’s store front and food only, or sell the social experience the venue affords?  Should an Inn show only its rooms (the steak); or show guests enjoying breakfasts and heading off to local adventures (the sizzle)?  You get it.  Sure, it’s easier to settle just for room and building photos, but you’ll sell more when you present the sizzle of the vacation. (more…)

What Channels for Hotel Room Inventory?

Online Hotel Reservations

When it comes to online reservations at various OTAs — which should you get more heads in beds?

There are a lot of OTAs — Online Travel Agencies (like Hotels.com) — out there for Innkeepers and Hoteliers to consider in their marketing mix.  There are also GDS’s — Global Distribution Systems — that give you access to the Google Hotel Booking network among other things.  How best to make an informed choice, and should you use these channels at all?

Our Webdirexion Hotel Marketing Solutions philosophy is that while you should seek to maximize bookings at your own website, the OTAs and  GDS’s are the devils you must deal with — and pay the 15% (or higher) commissions.  Why?  Industry statistics show that most hotel searches begin at the search engine (usually Google, of course), and then about 20% of searches continue at an OTA with about 20% at your own site.   (more…)

Choosing Cloud-based Hotel Management Software

Cloud-based hotel management software: a primer for hoteliers & innkeepers

Facilitating online bookings is getting easier with smart cloud based systems.

Facilitating online bookings is getting easier with smart cloud based systems.

Increasingly, hoteliers and inn-keepers are turning towards cloud-based software solutions to manage bookings and inventory, set rates and parameters, and integrate with third-party applications and online travel agencies (OTAs). Here are a few things to know about cloud-based hotel management software and systems.

What is cloud-based hotel management software?  Cloud-based hotel booking software refers to software used by hoteliers primarily to facilitate room bookings and manage rates and inventory — often across channels. Data is stored and backed up in the cloud (as opposed to a static server or a virtual private network), allowing users easy access to data and systems without the need to invest in hardware.  Larger properties may need to consider a PMS (Property Management System) or POS (Point of Service Software) for integration and management of gift shops, coffeeshops, and other departments in a Hotel. (more…)

Webdirexion Announces New Hotel Marketing Solutions

Webdirexion Hotel Marketing SolutionsWebdirexion LLC, an online marketing agency with clients across the US and overseas, has announced a new focus on Hotel and Inn Marketing Solutions, now with cloud based, mobile-ready booking integrations. The package includes components that facilitate automated room inventory allocations to OTAs, plus integrations with point of service software for coffee shops and gift shops, accounting software, analytics and marketing software.

“We have an experienced team for marketing hotels and inns, and saw a growing need for smart room booking and online marketing in the hospitality industry, so we’ve put together some great packages for all hotels of all sizes,” explains Scott Frangos, President and “chief optimizer” for Webdirexion.  “For the past two years, we’ve helped a Hotel and Resort client in Costa Rica grow with smart lead gathering landing campaigns, attractive slideshows, and compelling mini-sites focusing on the different business aspects of the property.” (more…)

SEO Without CRO is a Plane Without an Engine

Are you practicing SEO... without the "engines" of CRO?

Are you practicing SEO… without the “engines” of CRO?

What is it that you want to achieve with your company website? Is the end goal the sheer glory of seeing your web appear high in the search engine pages for random keyword phrases? Or perhaps the c-suite execs push for numbers – the more people that arrive at the site each month, the better?

Of course not.

Search engine rankings and number of visitors are meaningless unless they convert into leads or clients. Even if the only goal of the website is to provide information,  it is still desirable that the visitors that land on the site have an interest in the topic and their path through the site to find the information they seek should be productive.

The point of the website is  to have visitors interact with it in one or more of  any number of pre-determined conversion goals. SEO gets the visitors to the site but CRO gets them to interact with it and hit those conversion goals. (more…)

Increasing Your eMail Conversion Rates

Smart email marketing at Webdirexion

Smart eMail marketing campaigns still rock… and A/B testing improves results.

Everyone is looking for ways to keep their prospects engaged and move them closer to a sale. One way is creating an email campaign, for inquiring minds that want to know! A/B Testing and Conversion Rate Optimizing your emails that are sent out to your prospects go hand in hand to increase your conversion rates. .

How do you know if your email is grabbing your prospects attention? A/B testing is best way to go, and guess who offers an easy solution? (more…)

How to Increase Your Conversion Rates

C.R.O. is an Art and a Science in which you are always testing to create more leads.

C.R.O. is an Art and a Science in which you are always testing to create more leads.

What are you key conversion rates (a conversion happens when a visitor moves one step closer to becoming a customer)?  How do you increase conversion rates?  Answers to both questions are vital to your business, but a good number of marketers don’t know their conversion numbers and aren’t taking the right steps to increase results.

…you need to test at each key point in your funnel for optimal results, from headlines in PPC ads to calls to action on landing pages to open rates in followup drip marketing.  Then you’ll win a higher percentage of qualified leads.”

First, let me tell you a couple of things that CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization — is not about.  It’s not about traffic volume.  You could have a low volume of visitors in a very small niche, for example, but be converting a good number of those visitors into prospects that become customers.  C.R.O is not primarily about content marketing… because content is not king.   (more…)

Smart Thinking Behind Smart Forms to Boost Conversions

When you work on CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization — at your website there are a number of steps in the process where you can impact how many site visitors will convert to a lead for you.  Developing and testing your forms is one tactic marketers often overlook.  One approach is to create a ”smart form” for your business that delivers specific information tailored to the individual that is completing the form. Forms that automatically show or hide fields based on the user’s response are known as ”smart forms” and FormStack refers to this capability as “conditional logic.”

Using this feature offers many advantages, including the following:

  • Enables the form to look less intimidating than it really is
  • Creates the unique, individualized experience all internet users are looking for
  • Hides information that you don’t want all users to see

FormStack released an extensive report that evaluated trends, conversions and analytics of more than 40,000 forms for 2014 – it may come as no surprise that smart forms ranked supreme with the most engagement and conversions.  This only makes sense when you consider the content is tailored to the individual and relevant. (more…)

What is Everyone CROing About?

“Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” – David Ogilvy

A/B testing often results in better CRO.

A/B testing often results in better CRO.

If increasing sales is the holy grail for marketers, why don’t more pay attention to CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization?  Let’s say your typical B2B sales campaign looks something like this when it comes to Online Marketing:  Set up a landing page; run a PPC campaign; send out a promotional email to your list, drive warm prospects back to your landing page; look for visitors to convert via a form on the page which puts them into your CRM? Done?  Not by a long shot. You need to find ways to improve results.

There’s a chain of “C” focus points on the way to a sale which all may be optimized: Content; Conversion; Connection; Close. You need to test each step of that process for better performance. That’s when you start CROing.  Only then can you maximize ROI — Return on Investment. Only then will your boss understand how valuable you are to the organization.

Learn more in BLIP Magazine — this week’s edition is dedicated to CRO

If you are not writing at least three (more…)