Hotel PPC: “Vacancy” to “Sold Out” Is a Click Away, Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

Invest in the Best

Once you’ve honed a branded, targeted hotel PPC or pay-per-click campaign that has shown positive results, don’t be afraid to invest more money up front to enhance your chances for good/more frequent placement. PPC is one of the best ways for smaller hotel operations to get on a level advertising field with “the big cheeses” of the hospitality industry.

How do you create a branded PPC campaign? It takes some time, patience, and persistence. Studies have shown that a name must appear in front of a potential customer’s eyes an average of seven times before it begins to “stick.” Here are some tips that may prove helpful:

  • Always bid on your hotel’s brand name. Without fail. Thus, when emergencies like a rash of cancellations pop up, you’re ready at a moment’s notice for the next step.
  • Once you’ve put that brand name solidly in the game, you can begin to branch out into slightly more generic (and more expensive) keywords based on location, such as “hotels near Wrightsville beach.” Or, as in our cancellation scenario, you can drop in those flash sale keywords to generate interest.
  • Keep it hands-on. Letting an automated software program do all the work is a sure path to failure. And if you’re using an agency to manage your hotel PPC campaign, make sure they offer the individualized attention your company needs. The payoff in increased revenue should more than cover their cost.

Prepare Your Landing Page

Don’t forget to update your hotel’s web site to coordinate with the PPC ad. Nothing frustrates a potential customer more than clicking on a link for a fantastic deal and then having to hunt around on the hotel’s web site to find it.

Empty rooms? No need to panic. Let us help you develop a hotel PPC strategy that works. Contact us today!

Hotel PPC: “Vacancy” to “Sold Out” Is a Click Away, Part 1

Wouldn’t it be great to have a marketing contingency plan ready to go at a moment’s notice? You can with hotel PPC or pay-per-click.

Cancellation? No Problem

Say it’s wedding season, and at the last possible minute, one of those weddings is cancelled, suddenly freeing up a huge block of rooms. Or a major rock concert is called off due to the lead singer’s bad throat, and room cancellations start pouring in. Either way, you’re left scrambling instead of hanging out the “no vacancy” sign.

Now’s the time to deploy a good PPC campaign. What kind of campaign is most likely to fill those empty rooms on short notice?

  • Tried and True

It’s good to have a thoroughly tested PPC campaign in your back pocket, one that you’ve tested before and found to turn over a good number of reservations. Hopefully it’s one that promotes your hotel brand as well as an attractive deal.

  • Aim for a Moving (Mobile) Target

A PPC campaign can be perfect to catch the attention of travelers who are just passing through and looking at the last minute for a place to lay their heads. People on the move aren’t typically going to take the time to dig out their laptops, but what’s the first thing travelers do when they step off the plane or pull over for gas or a meal? Check their mobile phones. Adjusting your PPC budget toward mobile devices can catch more of this type of potential business.

  • Take it One Night at a Time

Combined with a mobile-targeted campaign, one-night-only deals on room rates can attract a lot of attention. Further narrowing the campaign’s focus by location (nearby) and time of day (last minute) can spark that get-it-now-or-miss-out sense of urgency.

  • Become Geo-Smart

“Hotels in Cleveland” may sound like a good PPC keyword selection—until you’re wasting your budget with customers who are looking in Cleveland, Tennessee instead of Cleveland, Ohio. Limiting your potential audience to those looking in your specific area will save you money.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series! In the meantime, contact us today for more expert advice on how to develop your hotel PPC strategy.

eDistribution: Your Time Is Important—And So Is Your Customer’s

When developing your hotel edistribution strategy, keep one eye on the clock, and one on your target customer. Here’s why.

Use Your Valuable Time Wisely

While it’s important to spend at least some of your time interacting with your target customers where they hang out online, such as in travel forums and on glorified bulletin boards like Pinterest and Tumblr, it can be far too easy to get lost in sites like these.

A better use of your time is to concentrate your edistribution efforts on sites that not only put your hotel in front of potential customers’ eyes, but provide a direct link to your hotel web site’s booking page. Social media sites like Facebook have caught on to this need, and now let you put a “book now” button right on your hotel’s Facebook page.

Value the Customer’s Time Even More

With the advent of social media sites and mobile apps, the net result is that customers are even less inclined to wait or be diverted from their goal—booking a room—either by a slow web page load time, or being asked to set up a user account before being allowed to book.

It’s now possible to set up your booking page to let a customer use an existing social media account as a login, often with one click. Two goals met with one click—you get a room filled, and the customer gets instant gratification. Wins all around!

Never Forget Your Target Customer

Remember the first law of hotel room pricing: never undervalue your product. There’s a difference between the value-conscious traveler and the budget-conscious one. There’s nothing wrong with going for the price-first market, if that’s the hospitality niche you want to fill. But if you wish to attract business travelers or more wedding or conference bookings—which all tend to expect a higher level of service and amenities for their dollars—then pricing yourself too low will only hurt your bottom line in the long run.

Keep your eye on the target, and you’ll never go wrong with hotel edistribution. We can help. Contact us today.

Conversion Rate Optimization: The “Other” Hotel CRO

You’ve been studying your hotel web site analytics, and you’ve discovered a disturbing trend. Visitors are up, thanks to your SEO and edistribution efforts. Some visitors are even starting to book a room—only to abandon the process halfway through. Even more visitors never start booking a room at all.

What gives?

You’re looking at an opportunity for hotel CRO or conversion rate optimization.

Why No Bookings?

If you’re looking for reasons why an uptick in web site visits are not translating into increased bookings, the first area to scrutinize is the site’s landing page. This could be the home page or any page visitors tend to land on first when coming from other places on the web—search engine results, social media, or travel-oriented web sites.

Take a hard look at that landing page, trying to see it from a customer’s perspective. Better yet, ask a few people whose opinions you trust to look at it and pass along their impressions.

Chances are, all your hard work making it easy for customers to find your hotel web site is going to waste. Why? Once they land on the page, you aren’t making it equally easy to book a room. Ask yourself:

  • Where is your “book now” link or button? It should be in a place of honor at or near the top of the page—big and easy to see, not a wimpy text link or worse, located so far down the page the customer has to scroll to find it.
  • How quickly can customers go from web site lookers to room bookers? Are you requiring them to click through several account creation screens first before they can even look at available dates? That right there is a big bottleneck you can eliminate by allowing visitors to one-click register with an existing Facebook or other social media account.
  • How simple is your pricing structure, and how easy is it to find and apply a special rate that a customer might have originally spotted via a pay-per-click ad elsewhere on the web?

Test Different Alternatives

Once you think you’ve pinpointed the issues, develop two or three alternative page layouts to test. Watch the looker-to-booker conversion rate carefully to see which layout resonates best with customers. Bring your “beta lookers” back for another round of viewings and critiques.

Another useful tool to consider is a survey that pops up before a visitor leaves the site. Though many will skip it, enough will take the time to offer some valuable insights.

Finally, don’t be surprised if what you feared might require a major web site overhaul turns out to only require a few minor changes. Little tweaks can have a big impact.

Want to convert more lookers to bookers? We can help with hotel CRO. Contact us today!

Hotel Marketing: When to Consider Hiring a Consultant

You’ve tried every hotel marketing tool you can think of to target a specific set of customers, and the results are still falling short of your goals. What now?

Maybe you’ve got all the right pieces—the staff, the online presence, the connections to online travel agents (OTAs), even a software package touted to “do it all”—but they’re not fitting together like they should.

There’s such a thing as being too close to a situation or problem to see clear solutions. A consultant has the experience and objectivity to help your hotel marketing program get back on track.

FAQs

“What can a consultant do for me?”

  • Consultants can help you develop an overall marketing plan or share expertise in one or two specific areas, such as social media, email marketing, or budgeting.
  • A consultant can be an extra set of hands to get an important marketing campaign developed and implemented on time. Even temporarily, the fresh perspective a consultant provides can rejuvenate the entire sales and marketing team.
  • A well-trained, experienced consultant can give you the professional, polished edge your hotel marketing campaign has been lacking. Not, perhaps, because you lack ideas or enthusiasm; you may simply lack the resources to make the campaign resemble in real life how you picture it in your head.
  • Whereas you are juggling several roles and responsibilities at once, a consultant can focus on one or a few important projects. While this may sound like an unnecessary indulgence, a well-executed marketing campaign can lift up every other aspect of hotel operations.
  • A consultant can enhance efficiency by upgrading employee training, making sure you’re using software packages to their fullest potential, and even improving how your marketing and sales team works together.

“How do I pick a good consultant?”

When was the last time you had a really great conversation? A good conversationalist doesn’t do most of the talking—he or she gets you to talk. Interviewing a consultant should feel a lot like that. He or she will want to know what your needs are, how your team generally works together, and information about past marketing campaigns and how you think they succeeded or failed.

He or she will offer examples of successes with other clients (while honoring confidentiality agreements), show you testimonials, outline his or her experience and training, and define what can be brought to your specific marketing table.

Most importantly, be wary of a consultant who seems to want to fit your marketing strategy into a “pre-loaded” program rather than customizing solutions to fit your hotel’s specific needs.

Need advice? We’ve got the experts to launch your online hotel marketing campaign into the success zone. Contact us today!

Hotel SEO: It Doesn’t Stand Alone, Part 2

Think Outside the Box

City or neighborhood identification isn’t the only way to work hotel SEO. Look at ways your customers use their time when they’re in your area. Are they attending trade conferences? Touring a popular museum or park? Enjoying unique regional wines and foods? Attending ball games?

If changing your hotel’s name isn’t feasible or turns it into something too unwieldy, make sure the hotel’s location is sprinkled liberally throughout its online presence.

Making an Impression

Solid hotel SEO might help bring customers to your door, but if the other two components—service and amenities—are shaky, repeat business is as unlikely as word-of-mouth referrals.

A big part of hotel branding is consistency. When customers book a stay at a hotel with a certain name, that name implies the experience they’re going to have when they arrive—no matter where that stay may be. They know, for example, that their room is going to look (or at least be equipped) a certain way, that breakfast is included, and at 7 p.m. there will be freshly baked cookies available in the warm, inviting lobby.

There’s no law that says you must provide branded items like mints, pens, notepads, custom-made toiletries, and monogrammed bath robes. These are nice extras, but again, if the service and quality of the stay are lacking, you may find customers leaving these items behind rather than taking home mementos of a less-than-perfect experience.

Every Staff Member Counts

In a very real sense, every member of your hotel staff is a member of the marketing team. One unpleasant encounter can ruin all your brand-building efforts in one fell swoop. Employees who are made to feel as if they’re an integral part of the operation—that their ideas, experiences, and opinions count—are more motivated to go the extra mile for each and every guest.

Hotel SEO doesn’t have to carry the weight of your marketing campaign. Let us show you how. Contact us today!

Hotel SEO: It Doesn’t Stand Alone, Part 1

For a long time, the big buzzwords of online hotel marketing have been “search engine optimization” (SEO). And it doesn’t look like anything is going to knock SEO off its throne—or at least off the top five list—anytime soon.

Hotel SEO can’t carry the marketing load all by itself, though, and it’s a mistake to think simply SEO-ing your way to top search engine results will automatically boost profits. Online visibility is only the first of many steps needed to build a hotel brand that will stick with customers long after their stay is over.

The Better to Market With, My Dear

SEO and the name of your hotel are natural partners. However, if you’ve done everything right with your SEO efforts and aren’t getting the results you’d hoped for, it might be time to take a hard look at your hotel’s name.

If there’s nothing about your Downtown Inn’s name to distinguish it from a few dozen other Downtown Inns fighting for visibility, consider changing or adding words that not only differentiate, but make your hotel stand out.

Even large, international chain hotels have shrewdly added to or changed an individual facility’s name so it lands at the top of search engine result pages. For example, let’s take a fictional small chain of three hotels in New York City, all under the umbrella “New York City Suites,” distinguished only by their street addresses. A potential customer who’s searching “hotels in Manhattan” will never know one of your facilities is in Manhattan.

By adding a location to each facility’s generic name—New York City Suites Manhattan, New York City Suites Park Slope, and New York City Suites Bronx—you enhance your brand while raising your SEO visibility.

Hotel SEO doesn’t have to carry the weight of your marketing campaign. Let us show you how. Contact us today!

What’s Hot in Hotel Sales Marketing Software

Managing hotel sales marketing efforts is no walk on the beach. Behind a hotel’s seamless customer experience—from information gathering to booking a stay to the stay itself—lies a staff paddling furiously to keep it all running smoothly.

The right sales and marketing software can make the difference between everyone pulling together or dealing with a tangle of oars. Here’s what’s new on the horizon right now.

Salesforce

Customizable across a broad range of industries, Salesforce offers software that can be used to manage marketing campaigns, among its many other functions. Its Chatter application is specifically designed for mobile phones first, allowing for quick and easy team collaboration and increased productivity on the go. In addition, its Force.com and Heroku software can be used to design custom apps for your hotel. Click here for information.

Infusionsoft

This package is built specifically for small businesses, making it ideal for managers of small, independent hotels. Its toolbox can assist with marketing, communication, social media, and e-commerce. The interface is user-friendly, but help and training are readily available if needed. Click here for more information and a demo.

Marketo

Few marketing sales software packages are as tightly focused on marketing as Marketo. Its many automation capabilities allow users to spend more time engaging customers and less time micromanaging. Marketo’s tools help with social media effectiveness, growing sales leads, budgeting and analytics, and even web site customization. Marketo can be integrated with other packages like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Click here to learn what all the buzz is about.

Silverpop

Among its other tools, Silverpop helps you deliver finely targeted marketing campaigns to your customers’ inboxes. It also gives customers more control over the relationship, with options that allow them to determine how much email interaction they would like at any given time. Customers have the option of logging in through their existing Facebook accounts rather than going through the tedious process of creating yet another sign-in and password they’ll have to remember. For more information on Silverpop’s full suite of hotel marketing sales tools, click here.

Smart eHotels™ can help you select a hotel sales marketing software package that’s a perfect fit for your hotel. Contact us today!

Hotel Marketing: Build an Audience With Guest Blogging (Part 2)

Last time, we talked about how to choose the right hotel marketing blog for a guest appearance. Now let’s look at how to be the kind of guest who will get invited back.

 

  • Subject Matter Matters

Don’t just write a blog that’s a glorified ad for your hotel. Tell the audience something they don’t know. Solve a problem many of them encounter when traveling in general, or to your region in particular. Need ideas? Check the blog’s most popular posts and look for an information gap you can fill.

  • Be a Good Guest

Words are fluid. Submit your blog post well ahead of deadline, and be willing to work with the blog owner to shape the content to better suit the blog’s audience. No content is so perfect that it can’t be improved. Also, make sure your content and images are properly vetted. The last thing you want is to get yourself and your host into copyright infringement.

  • Be Accessible

Remember, you’re not dealing with industry insiders. Stuffing your blog post with industry jargon and “Huh?”-inducing, alphabet-soup acronyms isn’t going to endear you to your audience. Write as if you’re talking face-to-face with someone who’s a blank slate. That doesn’t mean talking down to your audience; it means putting yourself in their traveling shoes.

  • Easy on the Hard Sell

Chances are you won’t be allowed to include a direct link to any discounts or offers tied in with your guest blog post. For example, you most likely can’t end the post with a blatant call to action, like “Click here, mention this post, and get a 20% discount.” This is skating too close to ad copy. A more subtle way to handle it is to invite readers to sign up for your email list, and offer something as a reward once they do—a stay discount, a free service, or a room upgrade.

  • Prepare for Visitors

Your blog post is going to hopefully generate interest in your hotel, so make sure every site the reader lands on, from web site to social media pages, is polished and functioning properly.

  • Reciprocate!

After you’ve posted your guest blog and engaged with those who comment on it, don’t forget to invite your host to post content on your hotel’s blog. The resulting exchange could build a long-term relationship that’s mutually beneficial to both sites’ audiences.

 

Smart eHotels can take your hotel marketing campaign to the next level. Contact us today!

Hotel Marketing: Build an Audience With Guest Blogging (Part 1)

There’s a lot more to hotel marketing than buying ad space and hoping your target customer will see it. Successful campaigns have one thing in common—interaction. Guest blogging is one great way to interact with your target customers, first by giving them useful information, and then by engaging in constructive follow-up discussions.

 

Enter the Blogosphere

One perfect venue for engaging customers is the blogosphere, and one of the easiest ways to get the word out about your own hotel’s online presence is to post as a guest on other travel-related blogs.

 

The following are a few tips to make the most of your guest blogging efforts:

  • Pick the right site. Bigger isn’t always better. On a large, popular travel site that attracts all kinds of customers, how likely is your message to reach that small slice of target audience? You’re better off choosing a smaller blog that already has a larger percentage of readers whose demographics match up with your criteria for potential customers.
  • Read lots of blogs. Simply knowing a certain blog is popular isn’t enough. Take the time to read through a number of entries to decide if this blog is a good fit for your style, tone, and goals. Is there something valuable you can add to the blog? If reading the blog generates a number of exciting topic ideas, the answer is probably yes.
  • Share information. Just offering to exchange guest blogs won’t necessarily result in an open-armed welcome. Be prepared to show why it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Provide your professional background to show you’re the best person to share information on a specific topic. Provide statistics from your own blog to assure the other blogger you have something to bring to the table—a pool of new visitors who may become subscribers.

 

Next time: In part two, learn the finer points of guest blogging etiquette.

 

Smart eHotels can take your hotel marketing campaign to the next level. Contact us today!