By Rachel Bryan
Director, Demand Generation
Happy Direct Hotel Bookings Month! All month we will be focusing on direct hotel bookings – the challenges with winning them, strategies to get them, and ways to truly measure their value. Today, we focus on 5 Direct Booking Myths as told by memes.
1. “Is the font too small, or is my marketing budget too small?”
While Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are walking around with briefcases full of money for advertising, that doesn’t mean you are entirely out of the game. One of my favorite pieces of advice for marketing is “Win where you can win.” To know where you can win, you have to have data to tell you where you are winning, right?
So digital hotel reporting is great. You can see what campaigns are impacting traffic, putting heads in bed, etc. BUT do you have the capability to see how these campaigns, packages, and offers are converting through phone reservations? Well, if not, you don’t have an accurate view of what’s working and what’s not. So how do you optimize your messaging and channels? You sort of can. With half-data, I guess. But why do something half-right when you can do it all right? All right, All right, All right. (Sorry, I had to do it).
2. Just because the rates and dates rhyme, that doesn’t make them cute.
“We are here. We have rooms. They are available on your timeline. Here’s how much they cost.” Not super appealing nowadays. I want to know if you have a hot tub, when it’s open, how far the closest cheesesteak shop is, and if you will let me eat said cheesesteak in said hot tub. Okay – that’s extreme.
The point is that consumers want more from the sale. Details about the property that make it unique, insights on the surrounding area, and a feel for the on-site experience. So Expedia knows all that, right? NO! You do. Your website should reflect experiences and expertise that only you and your staff know. Your agents should be ready to paint a picture of what makes your place for their stay – based on conversational selling.
3. OTAs and Roombas – doing the work for me.
Sit back, relax, and watch the bookings flow in – with up to a 30% revenue loss. Look, no one is saying that OTAs are bad for your channel mix. They can be an absolute key at certain times of the year. No one expects you to be at 100% direct bookings. But making smart decisions with your rates, data collection, and retargeting strategies is imperative when you get bookings via OTAs.
And because of this, you must make the investments needed to drive second stay direct bookings. Invest in reservation sales technology and training for your staff. Invest in automated marketing systems and a slick website. Make sure when you get their attention, you keep and you make your case for why they should stay with you.
4. “Thank you for calling. Please try the website. Have a nice day!”
I can speak from experience that there is nothing more frustrating than calling a company or property in the hopes of speaking to a human being and being told to book on the website to book. I called you for a reason, Jan!
“Well, the website is still direct, so what’s the problem?”
Well, I’m glad you asked. You have now lost control of your prospective guest. Okay – you had them. On the phone. And they were interested. Well, by pushing them to your website, you have not only under-delivered on customer service, but you have told them to look at rates online. What do you think they’ll do? Look and book? No. They will check out your site, sure. But they are now in rate comparison mode. And you just – let them go. *Shakes head in disappointment*
5. “I love all my direct channels the same.”
“Digital is the most productive way to get direct bookings.”
“This is the year of mobile.”
“No one calls anymore.”
Pour that money into the ol’ digital budget and call it done.
Hotels, Vacation Rentals, and Casinos have all taken a digital forward approach with the marketing budgets. I get it. I worked on digital strategy with big boy budgets at a massive, flagged hotel company. As a digital marketer – what a dream! But it can be short-sided. Not only is the voice channel still in play – but it typically has higher conversion and higher RevPAR (revenue per available room) than the digital channel. From our clients, we see that for every dollar of revenue earned through digital, the voice channel brings in $3. Not too shabby.
By not loving all your direct channels the same way, you could be losing out on some significant incremental revenue. So, buy your voice channel an ice cream cone and take it to the park.
Thanks for sticking with us. Be on the lookout for more great direct booking content or reach out to the ELMNTL team.