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Four Must-have Tech Strategies

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October 01, 2010
Sales | Technology
Carol Verret - carol@carolverret.com

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The opportunities that exist to push business to hotels through online strategies has never been more exciting or confusing for sales, marketing and revenue management professionals at the property level.  In this article we will explore four must-have strategies from the viewpoint of what individual hotels can do at the property level and why.

The year 2011 is expected to be a year of opportunity in the hotel industry, the first in four years.  PKF predicts that, “Unlike 2010, the composition of hotel revenue growth in 2011 should yield strong gains in hotel profits. The 4.6 forecast rise in ADR, combined with a 3.1 gain in occupied rooms, will help drive unit-level profits up 18.3 percent. … Hotel NOI (net operating income) growth is expected to accelerate dramatically in 2011. PKF-HR forecasts RevPAR to grow 7.8 percent in 2011.” (HotelMarketing.com, May 26, 2010) This may even be a conservative estimate given Q2 results as reported by STR. (HotelNewsNow, July 2010)

The large franchise and management companies may have the resources to enable these but the end game is to actually drive conversion to revenue for individual hotels. The purpose of this article is to focus on what strategies and tactics are working, how to catch them and convert them at the property level.

Social Media Strategy 
While social marketers of all stripes recognize the importance of a strategy, across all industries research suggests only about half of companies have a social media strategy. (HSMAI survey, eMarekter.com, 7/10)

Social Media Manager. “Across the country, companies like Petco are going through a two-step process. First, they scramble to hire social media officers. Second, they figure out what it is, exactly, that social media officers do.” (Bloomberg  Business Week, 7/15/10)

You may have a social media manager but do you have a social media strategy?  A good social media manager is critical to success of any hotel’s social media strategy but many come from outside the industry and all need clear guidelines that they will assist in formulating to be successful.

What is the goal of the social media pages?  Many hotels use Facebook as an electronic billboard pushing out promotions with great photos and basic information.  There is no CRM strategy here.  Every social media strategy should have an engagement strategy to post discussions and regular fun programs like a Facebook page scavenger hunt in which the fans receive something that is of value to them.    There should also be links to the key contact’s professional pages and profiles.  Make sure that those pages and profiles are professional and do not contain things that you may not want customers to see and read.  Don’t forget the direct link to the reservation page on the Website. 

Fan and Network Building Strategy.  This flows from the goals for social media pages.  Who do you want in your fan base and how are you going to attract them?  Who do want in your network on LinkedIn – hint, it isn’t your competitors. There are many customer segments from corporate and leisure transient to travel and meeting planners.  Which customer segments do you want to attract to different social media?

Posting Content and Privileges. Every social media strategy should contain a broad guideline of what is to be posted and when.  If there are multiple people that will be posting, give them strict guidelines and establish an approval process prior to posting.  Ensure that everyone involved is a part of and understands the social media strategy.

Blogs–The Neglected Social Medium. “Blog posts were more likely to be trusted completely than posts on Facebook, and trust dropped off sharply when it came to Twitter, even among friends.” (eMarketer Daily, 8/12/10)

A blog should be informational and not promotional.  It should have info of interest to specific customer groups. For example, a monthly chef’s recipe will have customers returning to the blog – there is a reason the Food Network is so popular.   Post info about events in your destination.  Allow a team member to post what is like working at the hotel (with review and approval required).  Keep it interesting to encourage repeat visits and push it out on LinkedIn as well as to your current accounts.

Note that in the B2B category, the blog outpaced customer conversions from all social media except LinkedIn and in aggregate, outpaced all other social media platforms in both B2B and B2C.

Mobile Marketing Strategy
So, do you have an app for that?  More and more travelers are using mobile phones to make travel arrangements.  Especially independent hotel need to develop strategies and goals for developing a mobile app and pushing it out to their clients. 

Movitas designs and hosts mobile apps for hotels and is priced beginning at $19.99 per month for hosting and offers a 30-day free trial. In addition to having a page that links to reservations, you can offer guests in-house services while they are in the hotel.

Again, if you are going to mobile, develop a strategy and train whoever is going to be updating on how to work with mobile.

Pay-Per-Click Marketing
It’s back and stronger than ever.  eMarketer reports that conversions to a Website from pay-per-click marketing were 43 percent in Q2 2010 up from 31 percent in the same quarter 2009. (eMarketer.com, July 29, 2010)  In addition, a Ypartnership poll indicated that among family leisure travelers …”practically all have gone online to get information about travel suppliers (89 percent) and make reservations (87 percent).” (TravelMole, July 29,2010). 
What is your strategy for pay-per-click marketing?  Are you targeting primarily leisure – then develop a calendar and compelling search words.   Be prepared to bid higher than in the past as more hotels are realizing the importance of sponsored results in viability, page placement and, hence, conversions.

Budget for pay per click.  If you are getting more traffic than you expected, track back to see the percentage of clicks that went directly to the Website.  If you are getting more of those than you anticipated, good for you – increase the budget.  If the conversion rate is low, tweak the verbiage in the sponsored results section an reevaluate your key words before increasing the budget.

Integrate All Online Strategies
The purpose of an integrated online strategy is to give the customer a 360-degree view of the hotel and the key contacts.  The point of that is so the customer never has to leave the hotel’s online presence --  every other hotel site, the Website,  social media site and mobile app  is a click away from another. Once the customer has to log off and onto another site the chances of their getting distracted by a competitor are huge.

The Umbrella Strategy.  This should include all of the above initiatives as well as email campaigns.  (Due to length, there was no space to go into the relationship between social and e-mail marketing strategies and how they synergize with each other.) Each strategy in the umbrella strategy should have goals for conversions that are measured by the analytics that are available for each and synthesized into a coherent format that everyone can understand.

Content Parity.  How many times has one department been blindsided by another over an online initiative they didn’t know about?   We have rate parity now we are looking at content parity.  With so many online channels in play at one time, it is important to ensure that the guest that clicks from one to the other is getting the same message with the same intent and look and feel across all channels.  Hence the need for an approval process for all content driven online engagement.
The Online Marketing Committee.  We have the revenue management committee but a monthly meeting of the online marketing committee pulls all of the competencies and the team member responsible for each together to see how each is doing to achieve the goal of the online strategy.  Many of the members of the online marketing committee are the same as those on the revenue management committee with the addition of accounting and the social media manager so that his meeting could be held prior to or following the RM meeting.   

While this sounds like a large undertaking, it isn’t if it is incorporated into current processes, replacing those that have become obsolete. It is important that each piece works together and there is a measurement of customer and revenue generation across all online initiatives.  

Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service. To contact Carol please e-mail carol@carolverret.com or phone (303) 618-4065.

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