In a recent news report, it was stated that online hotel bookings have seen steep rises in recent months. Hotels have traditionally relied on their name, word of mouth or the fact that a potential customer just drives past their premises. It now seems, however, that they have to make a far bigger effort in getting their internet marketing right if they want to stay in the game.
Recent figures released by online distribution company SiteMinder highlight this trend, with its connectivity distribution platform Room Distribution Exchange (RDX), processing USD$4.2 billion in hotel booking revenue from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.
This is actually a doubling from the previous years, which truly demonstrates just how important it is for hotels to get their websites and internet marketing techniques up to scratch.
The Issue of Budget
Hotels have incredibly tight budgets. Although they generally run at a profit (particularly during peak seasons), this profit is minimal because they have so many overhead costs. Therefore, releasing money into a budget dedicated to internet marketing can be more than anybody is able to. However, it seems that getting a budget together need not be so expensive, particularly when considering the return on investment it actually offers.
Basing future marketing initiatives on your own data-historical performance and consumer behavior within channels-is a must. So basing your future budgets on those same data derived initiatives is logical. Your team, both on property and vendor level, should regularly analyze your performance and determine where your guests come from and where they don’t come from. Segment your guests by intent/behavior, distribution channel and marketing channel.
This means that you have to spend some time researching exactly where you have to make an effort to really push your marketing techniques through. One thing research has shown is that customers prefer booking through the website of a hotel directly, rather than through a generic booking website, even if they will check the generic site for hotel names first. Hence, try to find out what sways your customers to choose your hotel (rooms, service, amenities and so on), and poor more money into advertising that specific element. The problem with hotels, as well, is that their customers regularly come from geographical locations some distance away from the actual location of the hotel. Hence, advertising should be done elsewhere as well. However, once this research has been completed, you only need to update it once a year, rather than having to do it again each year.
Where to Start
If you haven’t yet got a fully functioning website, you are really missing out on a huge amount of money. There are various things you need to get right first, even if this means spending more money than you had envisaged initially. Remember that you will see a huge return on this money if you get your marketing techniques right.
If the prospect of developing an online strategy makes you consider running away to join the circus, take heart. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just take one small step at a time-and make sure each step is the right one.
Start by making a fantastic website, which has all the information that people want available at no more than one click of the button (things such as room rates, pictures and information). Secondly, make sure you have an excellent social media campaign as well (you will be happy to know this doesn’t need to cost much, if anything). If you get these two right, things will start to fall into place and you will see a huge difference in your bookings.