Your new Hotel Sales & Marketing Operations Plan
The Sales Grind
It's frustrating for hoteliers to admit when they don't have all of the answers, especially once they have designed a multi-pronged marketing strategy. All they want is to attract attention to their hotel property. The initial buzz gives them a surge of visitors, but, over time, maintaining a steady stream of clientele requires more than well-placed tactical marketing bursts. Word-of-mouth and other marketing efforts just don't keep their occupancy rate where they would like it to be. And sales managers dig in hard, grinding out inch after inch of bookings, always in tension with their ADR and Net RevPAR. Sound familiar? The truth is that this sales scenario plays out over and over again amongst independent hotels and brands alike, around the world. So how do you elevate above this proverbial sales grind?
That's where advice from other experts in the hotel sales & marketing operations industry comes in handy. After networking with other hoteliers, newcomers quickly realize they are not alone and that there are options they have yet to explore. Sometimes, marketing includes leveraging a proven sales and marketing group to increase their occupancy rate.
Other times, marketing reduces itself to consciously giving up property inventory on Online Travel Agency (OTA) sites like Priceline.com and Expedia.com. Hoteliers must keep in mind that nothing in the industry is immediate (and every distribution medium has a cost), but consistent sales and marketing techniques do pay off over time. The question then becomes, what’s the best marketing mix and what strategies and tactics should I be paying close attention to?
The Current Trend Towards Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
As we all know, one way that chain hotels and independent hotels alike ensure occupancy is marketing rooms at lower prices (more pejorative margins) through Priceline and Expedia. Other web companies (usually little more than regional OTA platform clones or rate-and-data-scrape websites) boast similar services. In fact the proliferation of this kind of third-party provider who handles marketing to potential customers and negotiates the terms of the hotel room has exploded in the past five years. This, however, presents a bevy of operational concerns. For starters, when customers arrive at a hotel property, they may have expectations for what will be included in the sum they pay to that OTA provider.
To be honest, no one who purchases anything online ever reads the indecipherable fine print during check out (sized and located oh so prominently between a purchase review page’s footer and the hidden fjords of Norway,… in most cases, if you’re lucky). So ultimately, customers will have to address any billing concerns with their provider after the heart-sinking moment during their stay when they realize, “Oh. That’s extra”. And that's because the hotelier did not actually collect the funds in most case (at least by this time). Instead, the hotelier has the primary responsibility of making customers comfortable during their stay and now the onerous duty of addressing the reason for any extra charges collected on site. This psychological disconnect (although somewhat mitigated in recent months by OTA price guarantee attempts and various clever program tricks) continues to permeate the unseemly guest, OTA, hotel threesome relationship with a fair measure of discord.
Are Rewards Really that Rewarding?
At some point, most hoteliers will consider building their own rewards program or joining a hotel network with its own program. In a recent Skift.com article, Priceline Group CFO Daniel Finnegan noted that Booking.com can deliver a great user experience including "comprehensive content in 42 languages and no consumer booking fees, but it would be uncertain how many subsequent visits that loyalty program members would make.
" People who use these programs also get frustrated if they do not get the opportunity to stay and use their points before they expire, or (in the case of the burgeoning millennial market) with some sense of immediacy. This begs a different question: is the true currency of loyalty measured in points? Or is it measured in emotion? Many independent hotels today (even those with strong recognition programs attached to their brand) are finding that the real measure of repeatable business is how emotionally attached their guests are with some very specific aspects or values that their hotel ‘lives out’ in day-to-day service or operations.
From Rewards to Loyalty
While rewarding people is certainly the quickest route to make an internal headline in the mind of a waiting guest (while they stand in line at check in, browsing through nearby front desk collateral), most hoteliers are now taking a hard look at the type of loyalty they want to build in their customers. In the one, true sense of hospitality, a hotelier can build loyalty by providing a fabulous lodging experience. People who love the hotel will be sure to book it the next time they are in town. However, if you're the owner of a European property making a concerted marketing effort to attract American tourists, for example, it could be a long time before your satisfied guests decide to return, unless you can bridge the cultural gaps that exist in service delivery and even in atmosphere. But beyond these ‘ground-zero’ concepts of customized service and approach lays a deeper truth,… in order to make an impression, you must IMPRESS people. And the more choice a booker has at their fingertips in their immediate booking ecosystem, the harder it is to impress them. This means that true loyalty needs to live in the messaging that represents your hotel, every step of the way – the call answering script at the front desk, the usage of custom-themed prefixes such as email@example.com in your email addresses, the consistency and continuity of messaging both for online ads and offline signage, bridging the psychological gap between the pre-stay, actual-stay, and post-stay experiences for your guests. This is the secret sauce of loyalty, and it’s a tricky recipe to bring to the table, without burning yourself.
The Distinct Advantage of the Sales & Marketing Groups
Perhaps the best way to grow sales and increase customer loyalty is for an independent hotel to join a group of similar properties, and maximize revenue by leveraging a network of global partnerships and sales resources. Hotels who want to take advantage of a global sales footprint and collectively sourced expertise in marketing the independent hotel space to targeted demographics, can profit in both B2B and B2C markets by plugging into a larger group framework. Moreover, groups that both assist independent hotel experience creators in establishing a strong brand-story, and in the proper conveyance of this brand message periodic sales and marketing activities, enable an independent hotel to achieve two measures of success, with immediate short-term consequences in the delivery of more non-OTA business, and long-term results in consistently connecting hoteliers with their best, emotionally-connected guest,… all while providing a strong, experienced, revenue-optimized coaching system along the way.
The truth is that your hotel has never faced a more complex set of market variables, when presented with day-to-day strategic decisions. Making the right decisions ensures your success in the long run. But why go it alone? Join the world's most successful group of independent hotels to leverage the full marketing power of cutting edge, predictive OTA market analytics, and a true loyalty program that begins with your individual story, and rewards your guests in the loyalty currency of their choice. At Worldhotels, we inspire experience creators and tell the world their stories. To find out more about this and many more opportunities, contact us today and Defy Ordinary with Worldhotels. #DEFYORDINARY
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