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 Sales Marketing: What Makes a Good Marketing Manager?

Congratulations! Your hotel business has grown thanks to your hard work, careful planning, and targeted hotel sales marketing efforts. However, you find marketing is taking up a larger and larger chunk of each day. You decide to hand off this task to someone who can concentrate all their energy into this time-intensive task.

 

First Steps

You may be tempted to “hire from within”—simply assigning these duties to an existing staff member—but is this the best move? A good marketing manager needs a variety of skills, not least of which is multitasking. The following list of specialized skills for a good marketing manager will help you select the right person for this job, whether he or she is already on your staff, or you reach out to hire someone new.

  • Objectivity

Do you know why customers choose your hotel? Well, yes, of course you do. The combination of service, price point, and location, right? You provide these features and the customers come. But have you directly asked customers what factors went into their choice? This is valuable information you might be missing out on. A good marketing manager will ask hard questions like these—what you did right, what could be better, what was a turnoff—to not only bring customers back, but attract more of the ones you want.

  • An Eye for New Marketing Opportunities

In addition to keeping the hotel’s web site polished and up-to-the-minute, a marketing manager should be up on the latest trends in online and real-time marketing. That means maintaining a lively, interactive presence on a variety of social media and review sites. Plus, this marketing expert should develop new and creative ways to maintain an active role in the local community, like sponsoring a high school team or hosting “pop-up” venues for local crafters, designers, and food vendors to showcase their talents.

  • Networking Ability

All hotels have periods where occupancy rates traditionally dip. A good marketing manager will need to come up with innovative ways to boost occupancy without lowering standards for your target customer. This is where the ability to effectively network with other local businesses could make the difference. Is your hotel traditionally a busy mecca for summer tourists? Bring in new winter guests with a weekend of gourmet food and wine tastings provided by nearby restaurants and wineries. Are meeting rooms going empty during the business conference off-season? Open them for short-term use by local businesses, clubs, or charity organizations.

  • Humility

A good marketing manager doesn’t forget that every last member of the staff is the face of the hotel and can make or break a customer’s experience. Never overlook the fact that staff members can be an excellent source of ideas not only to improve service, but to make a customer’s stay one-of-a-kind. In a good way.

 

Hotel sales marketing doesn’t have to be a big mystery. Smart eHotels can help clear the way. Contact us today!

Hotel Marketing: 5 Time-Saving Software Packages

Website, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Yelp, TripAdvisor—the array of online hotel marketing venues to choose from are dizzying. Fortunately there are a number of project management software choices that can help you keep all your Internet balls in the air.

Buuteeq

The advantage of using Buuteeq is that it has been specifically designed for the hotel industry, so there’s less hassle in terms of customizing a generic software package to suit your needs. It allows you to create a high-performance website and reservations capability that can be used across several platforms – computers, smartphones, and tablets – and integrate with online social networking sites, specifically Facebook. Even better, Buuteeq lets you get acquainted with the software with a free trial version.

Producteev

This software may not have all the bells and whistles of some of the fancier project management packages, but what it lacks in toys it makes up for with flawless execution. It targets four specific platforms – iPhone, Android, OS X, and Windows – and its emphasis is simplicity and ease of use. Its non-intimidating user interface makes it perfect for a busy manager of a smaller hotel operation who appreciates efficiency and doesn’t have time for a long learning curve. It can also be integrated into a team environment. Best of all, it’s free.

Mavenlink

This is another project management/integration software package designed for web-based collaboration. If you’re lucky enough to have a multi-member marketing team, this can keep you all on the same page while on the go. For a one-person hotel online marketing operation, it may have more features than you need, but its freeware and subscription versions are reasonably priced.

Intuit QuickBase

QuickBase is designed to be easily customizable and accessible on the web, making it perfect for teams of any size to access tools and information anytime, anywhere. It’s web-based, so whatever device you’re using to access the web should work. It’s one of the pricier options, but depending on your needs, it could more than pay for itself in increased productivity. There’s a free trial version to help you figure out if it’s right for you.

Microsoft Project

This is the granddaddy of project management software, but it’s been around a long time for a reason: it’s a solid, functional workhorse that looks comfortably familiar to anyone who’s ever used a Microsoft product. The downside is that it’s PC-based – no online platform that you can use from anywhere, on any device. However, projects can be shared via a server that can potentially be accessed from somewhere other than the office, so it’s not completely immobile.

These are only a few of literally hundreds of project management options that can help you keep your hotel marketing efforts on track. One of them is sure to fit your needs – and your budget.

SmarteHotels.com has the tools to make your mark on the web. Contact us today!

Hotel Sales Marketing: Mistakes That Could Cost You, Part 4

In the last of our four-part series on avoiding common hotel sales marketing blunders, let’s look at a few loose ends that, left dangling, could trip you up on the way to success.

 

Sales Slip-Ups

Once you’ve executed your careful, step-by-step plan, don’t make the fatal mistake of failing to give your salespeople the tools to bring your goals to fruition. That means doing more than planting them in front of a phone or a computer screen and waiting for the customers to come.

The website is your primary sales tool, of course, but it’s not the only one you’ll need. As much as possible, conference and event planners like to experience the venue as their clients will.

  • Create a video channel on youtube.com or vimeo.com and post walk-throughs of the hotel from an event planner’s point of view. Include clips of successful events that have already taken place.
  • Hire a professional photographer to provide high quality images for the website and printed brochures.
  • Don’t forget to provide optimal electronic formats of videos and images for smart phones, tablets, and laptops.
  • Hold occasional tasting events to show potential customers the level of food quality they can expect from your own facility’s kitchens or from local caters, winemakers, and brewmasters.
  • Invest in the same kind of technology your customers are using. Does your typical customer use a smartphone or tablet? Your sales team should have them, too. Your reward will be a faster, nimbler process that requires less paper to keep everyone on the same page.

 

Ignoring the i-Everything Generation

Social media is pretty much the king of the cyber world—ignore it at your peril. Whatever happens at your hotel, whether good or bad, will be talked about online—sometimes while the success or the disaster is still happening.

Social media has the potential to expose glaring flaws in your hotel from top to bottom, from facilities to the faces behind the front desk. It’s important that maintenance staff responds promptly to service requests, or photos of a less-than-clean room or malfunctioning toilet can and will wind up on travelocity.com. Front desk staff must be “bomb proof” – that is, unfailingly patient, efficient, and polite. This is where constant attention to staff training will save your social media bacon.

Yes, that’s right – staff training can be considered a part of your overall hotel sales marketing plan.

 

Forgetting To Trust The Process

There are two big revenue management mistakes hotel managers are prone to make. One is forgetting to decrease discount offers when room bookings rise. The other is forgetting to trust your marketing efforts and historical data to hold true during economic downturns. The temptation is to slash prices when times get hard and reservations dip, but that’s when you most need to hold the line.

Room pricing is definitely not a set-it-and-forget-it task. It’s something you must keep an eye on constantly and tweak as a variety of market forces apply pressure. Just don’t forget where that fine line lies between attracting new customers and devaluing your product.

 

Sending Your Marketing Money Down a Black Hole

All your careful planning and budgeting will come to nothing if you don’t track your return on investment (ROI). It’s easy to detect an increase in web site visits and number of reservations, but these days there are ways to tease out more detailed data that will allow you to track customer response from, for example, an email click-through to the money that customer spent at your hotel. If the prospect of dealing with this level of detail gives you a headache, keep in mind that even high-level information – the kind that gives you data to compare month by month or from one quarter to the next – will tell you whether your marketing strategy is worth the time and money.

You’ve got bright ideas for your hotel sales marketing plan. SmarteHotels.com can help them shine. Contact us today!

Hotel Sales Marketing: Mistakes That Could Cost You, Part 3

In the third of our four-part series on avoiding common hotel sales marketing mistakes, we give you two more tips to smooth the sometimes-bumpy road to success.

 

Strategic Blunders

A goal is unreachable without a plan. Say you want to attract more business-oriented groups and events to your hotel. Look around your facility – or better yet, take a conference veteran with you – and ask yourself if it’s the kind of place that would attract that kind of customer. If not, it’s time to plan a series of steps to get you to that goal. For instance:

  • Refitting rooms
  • Adding or upgrading amenities and facilities
  • Studying the competition to fill a gap they aren’t filling, or take it a step further

Okay, so you’ve got the goal, and the steps to get there. Don’t forget to take another step back and plan a budget. If you have board members or shareholders to answer to, make sure they are included every step of the way. At the same time, don’t ask the team members who are responsible for the day-to-day running of your hotel to take on the task of marketing. Effective marketing requires a certain degree of chance-taking, creative brainstorming, and a vision of the long-range future – a different mindset from operations. That’s not to say revenue managers don’t have something to contribute; they simply have enough on their plate keeping your hotel on solid financial ground from which to launch your plans for the future.

 

Falling Off the Search Engine Map

Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t as simple as it used to be. These days you almost need the skills of a chess master to stay on top. The rules that determine who lands on the first page of a hotel search are increasingly complex, and are changing all the time. Can you afford to hire someone to keep your website SEO-friendly? A better question would be, can you afford not to?

SmarteHotels.com can help you save time, money, and aggravation with your hotel sales marketing plan. Contact us today!

Hotel Sales Marketing: Mistakes That Could Cost You, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1 , here are more tips to keep your hotel sales marketing plan from running off the rails.

 

Website Wars

A large and ever-growing number of customers are using online booking engines to quickly and easily compare hotels, amenities, and prices, but that doesn’t mean you can pay less attention to your own hotel’s booking functionality.

Web-savvy customers, after finding your hotel on a popular site like kayak.com or expedia.com, will still pop out to your site for more information. Ideally, you’d like customers to book directly through your site, so once you have them on your site, give them a reason to stay.

  • Greet home page visitors with a clear, concise, one-sentence reason to book with you. Pretend you’re on an elevator and you have precisely thirty seconds to describe what’s great about your hotel.
  • Offer deals they won’t find on a huge, impersonal, catchall booking site.
  • Make sure your web designers know how to optimize a version of your site for mobile devices.
  • Test, re-test, and test some more to ensure the web site’s booking process is easy and works flawlessly.
  • Remember your hotel isn’t an island unto itself. Potential customers want to know what’s nearby in terms of restaurants, entertainment, services, transportation, and attractions.
  • Regularly examine the website’s analytics (information that tracks how visitors get to your site, what they do while they’re there, and where they go when they leave), and adjust the site’s functionality and content accordingly.

 

Failing to Keep Testing Your Limits

Sticking to the same old routine just because it works is a good way to watch your valued repeat customers get lured away by competitor’s new-and-shiny. Stay on top of industry trends, but don’t just jump on every passing marketing and technology bandwagon. Consider carefully what will work for your hotel and incorporate changes logically into your ever-evolving business plan.

Stay tuned for more tips in the next installment of this four-part series!

Avoiding costly hotel sales marketing blunders is easy with SmarteHotels.com. Give us a shout – we’ll help you get the word out!

Hotel Sales Marketing: Costly Mistakes, Part 1

No hotel sales marketing plan ever rolls out smoothly, but there are a few things to remember to avoid making common mistakes that could cost you customers.

Show Customers What They’re Getting

Don’t just wax poetic in a wordy description of your hotel’s rooms. The web is a visual medium, so more pictures and fewer words, please.

  • Provide accurate pictures of the class of room in which the customer will be staying. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises to bring the customer storming to the front desk with complaints.
  • Prominently list the amenities included with each room, such as complimentary coffee/tea, Internet access (and indicate whether it’s free or not), environmental controls, bedding quality, hairdryers, window views, and security features.
  • Provide the ability for the customer to book directly from each room description, or quickly navigate to look at other types of rooms. The more clicks a customer must make to find what they want, the higher their frustration level rises—and the more likely they’ll simply leave your site to look elsewhere.
  • Make pricing levels clear and easy to understand. Don’t make them click through most of the booking process before learning what they’re going to be paying.

You Can’t Put Lipstick on a Pig

No amount of slick marketing copy and pretty pictures will make up for a customer’s first impression when they walk through your hotel’s doors. In other words, if your hotel isn’t located right on the beach, don’t show pictures of surf and sun. Don’t advertise a free full breakfast then provide only doughnuts and cold cereal. Staff members that don’t provide the level of service you’re aiming for should be shown the door. Work on raising the bar in terms of service and amenities, and focus your marketing efforts on what your hotel does have and what it does well.

Stay tuned for more avoidable hotel sales and marketing mistakes in future articles.

SmarteHotels.com can put your hotel sales marketing efforts on the right track. Contact us today!

Hotel Sales Marketing: No Niche Left Behind, Part 2

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we introduced you to the concept of niche hotel sales marketing and how to find out what special interest travelers look for in a hotel that caters to their needs. This time we’ll look at things you can do attract those customers.

Tweak Your Website

Create a unique website landing page for each of the niche market segments you’ve selected. Make sure you list all the reasons that segment will find your hotel’s facilities, amenities, and services attractive.

Offer Deals and Packages Just For Them

If your hotel is in an area with attractions that draw a specific type of visitor, a great way to build that niche market is to offer package deals such as room plus theater tickets, or a wine tasting weekend, or free parking with shutter to a sports stadium for a  big game. The possibilities are endless.

Get Listed

Search out online travel agent (OTA) websites that specialize in niche markets and get listed on them. Keeping track of them can be made easier by having them integrated into your channel management software, the same one you use to manage your listings on the more broad-based online reservation systems.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Finally, get involved! Find online travel discussion forums dedicated to the niches you interested in, and don’t just lurk. Without repeatedly shoving your hotel under members’ noses, post useful articles with tips they can use, perhaps on traveling with your pet or shepherding your bulky ski or golf equipment through airports. Then start asking for feedback about what those travelers want out of a hotel with their special interests and needs in mind. Most won’t be shy about giving it to you.

Conclusion

Careful hotel sales marketing research and the right upgrades to your facility will more than pay for themselves once you start tapping into those niche markets your competitors are ignoring.

Smart eHotels can help bring your facility to the attention of lucrative niche markets. Contact us today!

Hotel Sales Marketing: No Niche Left Behind, Part 1

Niche marketing for hotels is a hot topic, and it’s getting hotter as competition intensifies for traveler dollars. Customer loyalty is a lot easier to build when you not only figure out your target market, but go the extra mile to make them feel your hotel was built especially for them.

Here are some tips to get you started on the road to niche hotel sales marketing.

Find Out What Your Customers Like

Doing your homework to identify the customer you most want to come through your hotel doors is basic hotel sales marketing 101. Hotels big and small are taking it one or three steps further by breaking that group of customers into special interest segments, then tailoring their facilities, amenities, deals, and packages to attract that customer.

A few examples include:

  • Weekend travelers
  • Sport tourism
  • Eco-tourism
  • Culinary tourism
  • Groups of customers who have a culture in common (Chinese, Indian, etc.)
  • Pet lovers
  • Aging baby boomers
  • Pop culture tourism centered on the booming ComiCon and cosplay culture

How do you figure out what your customers’ special interests are? Start with a travel and tourism review site such as Tripadvisor.com. Read what customers are saying about your hotel, what they like and what didn’t work for them. Look at those reviewers’ profiles (it’s okay, it’s not considered stalking!) to get a look at their interests, hobbies, and travel preferences.

Define A Few Niches To Target

Select perhaps half a dozen customer niches on which to concentrate, and start making your hotel’s facilities, services, and amenities attractive to these customers. For example, providing grassy areas for dog walking, pet washing facilities, and pet sitting services for travelers who hate to leave their pets at home. Provide covered parking (or at least well-lit, secure parking at the front of the hotel) for motorcycle tourists. Visitors in town for a major sports event may appreciate upgraded fitness facilities.

Look Close To Home

What does your hotel’s location offer that attracts tourists? Professional sports teams? Natural beauty? Cultural significance? Ski slopes? A thriving theater, music, and arts community?

Stay tuned for the next part of this series on niche hotel sales marketing!