Welcome to the third in our series of strategies to help hoteliers ‘channel shift’ – we hope you enjoy the read
1 – Learn from the Big Boys!
So we all look to what the Big Hitters are doing don’t we? So can’t we come together as an industry (wherever you are located) and mirror some of their ideas… So for example, we have all seen the Hilton ‘Stop Clicking Around’ campaign. Marriott’s ‘It Pays to Book Direct’ campaign – not to mention Choice and Intercontinental Hotels as well. So why can’t we come together as a consortia of local hoteliers, supported perhaps by our industry bodies and make our own TV Ad? Perhaps not as costly or ridiculous as it seems. Don’t forget for many of us, we still get a large percentage of local guests staying that book on third parties, so perhaps coming together as one body and working together could work for us all.
2 – Rewards & Loyalty Programmes
So all of these advertising campaigns were aimed at getting people to register for the hotels own loyalty programmes, so that they could segment and communicate specific and unique offers to their database as well as offer rewards and incentives. So can’t we do that as well?
With Choice Hotels publicly stating that membership to their Choice Privilege Club is up by 63% since running the campaign, isn’t it time we considered as independent hotels what we could do to encourage guest loyalty
3 – Customer Communication
So with all of this talk about encouraging guests to register with us directly and to tease them away from the expensive OTA’s, what do we do with all this data when we have it? Well the first thing is to segment it. Ask on registering what your guest is interested in – corporate / short breaks / romantic offers / family friendly etc etc – whatever suits your business mix. There is no point in communicating family friendly offers to a business man who only stays in your hotel on a Tuesday night, so don’t bombard people.
The easiest way to reward your customer is to offer Exclusive Rates. So why not start with building hidden rate groups on your website that are only accessible through a link that you send out via email to that closed user group.
Then come up with a plan and strategy behind that. When do you need business? Which segment are you targeting? Why? What is the normal lead time to book for that segment and therefore the best time to promote offers? Make sure you have a clear strategy before you start and measure everything!
4 – Competitions – we can get more back than we give away…
So we talked about adding those messages to our website – Best Rates Guaranteed / No Booking Fee / Access to Exclusive Packages / Flexible Cancellation / Free Parking etc but why not go one step further and offer a reward such as ‘Book Direct for the Chance to Win’. Everyone loves a competition and the chance of receiving a reward so why not reward our direct guests.
This could be something as simple as offering someone who books direct an upgrade once per week. Allocate this task to one person on your team and once per week decide who the winner will be. This could be an upgrade to a Suite on a quiet night or perhaps dinner for two in the restaurant or even breakfast in bed and a late check-out. You decide. Keep it flexible and whatever you do, promote it! Splash it all over social media. This is a great way to keep that Book Direct message up-front-and-centre
5 – Availability – Be as flexible as you can online
We all know that if we have a customer on the phone and we have a request for a room type that we don’t have available or perhaps a length of stay that we can’t quite accommodate in their preferred ‘standard’ room, that we would rarely turn that business away. We would perhaps take a 3 night stay in a standard room when actually we don’t have a standard available on the second night, so would end up up-grading someone instead of losing that multi-night booking. Still with me? Well your booking engine should do the same. Having Dynamic Room Substitution where a booking engine helps move your room types to allow flexible availability and booking patterns can make a huge difference to business. But even taking a step back from that. Are you managing your own availability correctly? If all your standard rooms are sold and you are left with superior rooms or suites on nights when you know these room types don’t fill then for goodness sake add more standards back into the mix and over-sell on line. Know your customers price point, know when you have real demand for higher room types and know when you can oversell online. Give yourself and your customer the optimum chance of booking.
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