How to Make the Most of Competitive Research

competitive research

Whether you run a hotel, marketing company or any business for that matter, knowing your competitors has become an inherent part of marketing strategy. It is crucial to learning how to position your business and allows you to get – and stay – one step ahead. How well do you know your competitors and, more importantly, what can you learn from their ideas and ways of conducting business?

 

Competitive research is not just about analyzing data, but using the knowledge gained to make your business stronger and more prevalent than your competitors. This can be a daunting task if not approached properly and dismissing your competition can cost you drops in rankings and conversions, loss in revenue, a bad reputation, etc.

Benefits of Competitive Research

The potential benefits of your analysis would include:

  • Understanding the market: No matter the business field, understanding the market in which you conduct your business is vital to the survival of your business. You need to know who are your competitors as well as potential competitors so you know where you need to position yourself within the market.
  • Tracking competitor pricing: You know your expenses and the mark-ups needed to make a profit but keeping an eye on your competitor pricing is an important part to factor into establishing your own pricing as well. You always want to remain a viable player within your market.
  • Targeting and reaching customers: Your research could help you find new tools and practices to better serve your existing customers. It can also provide insightful information on potential customers and help you create clear marketing plans to reach out to those new customers.
  • Forecasting potential sales: Through your analysis you can discover new opportunities that could lead to potential future sales.
  • Identifying problems: You can get a clearer understanding of things like why other sites are ranking higher than your own or what content you should be producing or how to better leverage pricing.
  • Reducing business risks: Making sure you keep track of things your competitors have tried and failed at will help you learn what to do – or not to do – for your own business and could potentially spur new ideas and business ventures out of those failures.
  • Building relationships: Through alerts you could set up mentions of your company (as well as your competition) and these mentions can be used as a basis for building relationships.

 

Getting to Know Your Competition

How do you conduct your competitor assessment and how can you use the information to gain a competitive edge in your market? When looking at competitors, there are no undercover spy rings used to sabotage your business rivals. Instead the research is meant to gather data to help your business learn what is the best way to improve your site rankings, gain customers, build relationships, improve customer service, spot new opportunities etc.

 

Now-a-days there is an abundant amount of information we can simply collect through the internet. A good start is to create an outline of general information like name, location, website address, products/services offered including pricing, weaknesses, strengths etc. Such a manual  search would also include running website audits, conducting a competitive keyword search and keeping an open mind to filter in new ideas and strategies.

 

Also, your search should not only include your current competitors but there should also be a consideration for those up-and-coming who might become a future competitor. You need to think that, once you show you can be successful, who will want to come take that piece of the market away from you?

 

When all is said and done, it makes it hard to compete when you have an awesome customer service philosophy and enforce those principals in your customer service staff. Their enthusiasm will become contagious and spread to your customers. Just look at Apple. Not only is the staff knowledgable of Apple products but, you could be in a crowded Apple store and still feel like all the attention is on you – as if you were the only one being serviced in the store.

 

Competitive Research Tools

There are so many competitive research tools available so you will have to carefully weigh your needs to know whether or not they stack up to what you want to achieve, the amount of time you want to spend on the research and at what cost you’re willing to absorb. There are market research groups that can conduct audits that include the likes of audience research, brand analysis etc and run reports for you but this option can become very costly.

 

If you can make the time to do your own research, you can sign up for free services to gather the information you need for your analysis. You can set Google Alerts, monitor RSS feeds, monitor Twitter by subscribing to competitor feeds for any mentions of your competitor names including their executives. You can audit competitor websites by browsing through it as if you were a customer paying attention to graphics, ease of use, load time and special pricing for example. You can even access public records for real estate, legal files or even financial records through the SEC database for public companies and state filings for privately held companies.

 

Regular Competitor Assessment

You not only need to know all your competitors, you also need to regularly assess your performance and compare it with your competition. In the vast ocean of online marketing, this will help you remain aware of things like new product/service offerings, new team members, sales wins and losses, promotions as well as keep track of sudden drops or improvements in rankings, get new product ideas, learn from competitor mistakes and see how you stack up against them as well as what you need to do to react to any changes found.

 

Nothing in business remains stationary for too long as economic and/or social issues will always manifest themselves. Such broader changes inevitably cause changes in the market and you need to adapt your business model to these changes to help your business grow and evolve. This is when you can reap the benefits of competitive research and ensure the survival of your business.

3 Ways to Market Your Hotel Wedding Space on Pinterest

Are you looking for ways to increase RFP’s for your Hotel Wedding Space? Read on and learn how Pinterest can help your hotel.

Did you know that 81 percent of brides-to-be admit that they begin planning their wedding on Pinterest before the big question is even popped?  For brides and grooms-to-be, Pinterest is the number one source when looking for wedding inspiration.

The image-based platform is the perfect way to engage with brides, where you can position yourself not only as a prospective venue option but also as a resource for potential customers. Since brides-to-be and grooms-to-be begin pinning and creating wedding boards much earlier than you might expect, it is crucial that you are properly marketing yourself on Pinterest, so you can serve as wedding inspiration for brides and grooms to be from the very beginning.

3 Hotel Marketing Ideas for Wedding Space on Pinterest:

Pin inspiring images that link back to your site: There is no shortage of high quality images and creative content on Pinterest, especially when it comes to weddings. Find out what it is about your specific location that sets you apart and dedicate a board to it.

However, pinning high-quality photos and inspiring descriptions is just one piece of the pie, or in this case, only one piece of the wedding cake. Every image that you share on Pinterest should link back to your home page or wedding venue page. This simple step is sometimes overlooked. Just as it is easy to get carried away when pinning beautiful content, it is just as easy to forget adding links to each of your images.

Include your location in your pin descriptions: Optimizing your pins by including effective keywords into your description will help to get your images to show up in Pinterest’s search results. Take it one step further by adding your location into your pin descriptions. People may be searching as specific as your town or as broad as a region, so keep this in mind when incorporating your location into both your pin and board descriptions.

Reach out and engage with others: Search for local attractions in your area and begin interacting with them frequently. This will help build trusted relationships while also allowing others to notice you. Re pin, comment and like interesting content that is relevant to you and you will begin to see an increase of traffic to your page.

 

Promote Hotel Content Marketing by Choosing the Best Images

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  In today’s hotel content marketing no truer words have ever been spoken.  Images help to sell your hotel.  People will remember 80% of what they see versus 20% of what they read. The perfect image will resonate with the potential hotel guest who makes purchasing decisions based on the emotional connection to your hotel visuals. So how do you pick the best image to promote your content and relay your message?

choosing images hotel content marketing

When choosing an image, it’s clear that it needs to support your subject but it’s just as important to make sure the image captures the right feeling. For example, in trying to promote a hotel’s beachside activities, we can find a slew of beach photos but choosing the one that evokes the emotion ‘I want to soak in some rays on that beach at that hotel’ is what you want.

 

Creating images with an authentic feel allows the viewer to be there without physically being present. The best image choice comes when you entice the senses and provoke emotions. You want them to imagine experiencing that cozy bed, that pristine beach, that happening locale or that scrumptious looking dish at the hotel’s restaurant.

 

There are many online options for finding images to use in your hotel content marketing, and it’s all contingent on whether you have the budget to pay for it, the amount of time you have to invest in your search, whether or not you need a high resolution image and image sizing considerations.

 

What’s also important to remember is that images use a lot of data which can considerably slow down a page, not to mention wreak havoc on your site ranking. You will want to resize and optimize your images to avoid frustrating your hotel site visitors with a slow loading page.

 

Images are meant to support your hotel content marketing efforts and, if you’re looking to simply augment your hotel website, blog posts, social media content etc. then there might not be a need to look beyond your own hotel staff. With today’s smartphone technology, any one of your hotel staff can become an amateur photographer producing some solid photos of your property, activities or even local events and places.

 

The whole point is to capture the traveler in any stage of their travel journey through authentic, genuine images in your content. The emotional response you will get from your image choice is just as valuable to a hotel as the more traditional sales driven campaigns since it provides a spark that can fuel the discussion about your hotel’s values and culture. What type of images do you choose for your hotel content marketing? Choose wisely.

Hotel & Travel Inspirations via Instagram

Finding the next adventure through visual imagery on social media

 

The best travel stories are relayed through visuals. But where once it was common to look for travel inspirations through magazine photos and enticing advertisements, we now use social media to search out those new experiences and adventures.

 

In today’s social media driven world, interest in a location or hotel is fueled by visual assets shared through social networks. What started out as sharing experiences with peers created communities of people sharing the same interests.  Powerful visuals are incredibly engaging. They can help build an emotional bond between your hotel and your guest that are shared with people within your guest’s networks. And there is great potential for guests to make purchasing decisions based on the emotional connection they make with your hotel.

The Power of Instagram

One of the most powerful tools to tell your hotel story is through Instagram.  With now more than 800 million active users, 8 million Instagram Business profiles and 80% of users following at least one business on this platform, Instagram is satisfying viewer hunger for imagery and, with this, comes the growing influence on travel decisions.

 

Posts with a location get 79% more engagement and User-Generated Content has a 4.5% higher conversion rate. This gives credence as to why Instagram is such an effective marketing tool.

 

Lodging Interactive offers hotel twitter and instagram marketing.

 

 

Everyone is buried in day-to-day activities and look to the magnificent landscapes and far-away places for a release from the mundane. Photographers take extraordinary photos of beautiful places that leave us breathless. Travelers find a special little nook and hotel nearby that offers a unique experience.

 

Lodging Interactive offers resorts exceptional hotel internet marketing.

 

 

All of these images make us want to be there too. We want to experience and see what the photographer or traveler saw. It’s more genuine than just looking at a magazine, ad, brochure or pamphlet. The visual story shared will be authentic and being authentic is what today’s traveller expects. Going from seeing the visual on Instagram to making a hotel booking is a far cry from what it was a decade ago.

Instagram Influencers

But visuals on Instagram are not only a place to inspire travelers to be or do what others have done but also gives people the desire to create and share their own original adventures. This gives rise to influencers who can provide an incredible ROI.

 

Through these Instagram visual assets, hotel digital marketers have a great opportunity to tell a unique – impactful story, build guest loyalty, raise brand awareness and increase engagements. So be different than other hotels on Instagram. Leverage your place in this medium – use Instagram Stories or Live videos and tag places in your posts so that it allows people to easily discover your content when searching those places. Dare to be different!

Lodging Interactive Launches End of Summer Website Sale

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced its End of Summer website sale program. Through the program Lodging Interactive will credit full service customers for the cost of developing their new website, essentially providing customers with a free website.

 

“Hoteliers realize that ongoing budgeting and investment is required in order to keep their websites competitive and with End of Summer website sale program they can be assured they have a budget for future website enhancements and development,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President.  “Every new full-service customer will receive a credit for every dollar spent on their new website which can be used to further enhance and update their website in the future.”

 

To be eligible for the website credit, new hotel customers must enter into a full-service agreement with Lodging Interactive before November 1, 2017.  For example, if a hotel spends $15,000 on a new website, Lodging Interactive will provide a $15,000 credit to be used for future website enhancements or a website redesign.

 

For more information on Lodging Interactive’s End of Summer website sale program please visit LodgingInteractive.com or call 877-291-4411 Ext 701.

 

Contact
DJ Vallauri
President & Founder
Phone: 877-291-4411
Fax: 877-833-7375

What Motivates Travelers to Create and Share Content?

Summer is synonymous with vacation. What better way to create memories of that vacation than to document it with photos, videos and commentaries that are shared with friends and family? This begs the question: What gives the vacationer the motivation to go one step further and share their content online via social networks?

sharing content

Images and chatter are about sharing moments in time: Experiencing life and all it has to offer. To capitalize on these moments, hotels need to first understand the different motivators within each stage of the traveler’s journey so that they capture – and hold – the traveler’s attention in all steps of their decision-making process.

Social relationships can be complex but at the heart is the desire to gain information from peers who have previously experienced the resort, hotel, vacation spot, or activity.  People tend to associate more closely with others who they perceive to be similar to them. They’re perceived as more credible, influential and reliable. A sort of word-of-mouth solicitation that hotel’s can use to their advantage.

5 Stages of the Guest Journey 

There are five stages in the guest journey. Within all stages people will look to others who have already joined in on a unique activity or visited that location on an off-beaten path, that hotel with great service, that local restaurant with delicious food.

  1. Inspiration: This first stage is the desire for the traveler to fulfill wants and needs for fun, relaxation and/or adventure so your hotel should be searchable.
  2. Planning: This is the stage when the traveler begins searching out possible destinations, hotels, transportation etc. in consideration for a booking. Your hotel needs to tap into this stage by offering the most relevant information to capture the traveler’s attention.
  3. Booking: It’s in this third stage that the traveler finalizes plans based on the search for information including shared content from other travelers who have “been there, done that”.
  4. Experience: In this stage the traveler takes in the best of destination, hotel and local area offerings.
  5. Sharing: At this point the traveler is now the “expert” and shares their experiences and spreads the word about the location, hotel stay etc. with friends, family and through online social channels.

Travelers Motivation for Sharing Content Online Via Social

In the sharing stage of the guest journey, travel photos not only provide personal messages about experiences, but also show brand affinity and can influence others on the same social networks. So the next traveler looking for that unique spot or get-away will look to the shared content that can influence their booking decision.

Olapic , together with Kantar Added Value, analyzed more than 2, 000 social travel images in an effort to determine what motivates people to share travel content online. The data points to what makes the traveler want to share experiences. 38% showed they want to share what they believe to be a unique experience. 23% wanted to share their moments of how to unwind and relax. 21% are excellent quality images that are very engaging. 18% just like to share their entertaining, fun experiences.

The most shared images were famous landmarks, cities or big events (54%); urban, off the beaten path images (44%); parks, mountains or forests (40%); and ocean, pool or blue skies (34%).  These were followed by images of Mother Nature, posing with friends and dining-shopping-eating like a local.

Through images there is a social sharing of the emotion experienced. Hotels want to get travelers to convert in any one of the guest journey stages. So these shared moments in any one of the traveler’s journey becomes a hotel’s opportunity to drive engagement, gain loyalty and earn a stronger ROI. What is your strategy to engage guests from inspiration to post stay?

 

The Rise of Messaging Apps for Hotels

Messaging apps are changing the way people communicate and, as messaging companies like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat build out their services, there are greater opportunities to reach out to guests by connecting hotels with users.

messaging apps

Gartner recently conducted a mobile apps survey showing that the number of people using messaging apps is steadily growing. Some interesting finds from their survey include:

 

  • People are looking for an app that has many services without the user having to leave the app. The main reason is that people are searching for a more engaging experience.
  • Businesses and app providers need to enhance their services by developing more engaging strategies for messaging and personal assistant apps.
  • For personal assistant apps, marketers should be looking at what’s needed to create a more friendly search strategy.
  • Social media apps are still the most popular but usage fell behind messaging apps. Messaging, personal assistant and shopping app usage was on the rise because of features like user-generated videos, customer service chats and m-commerce capability.

 

Messaging apps, like social media channels, change as features change and these changes happen quickly. Messaging apps are no longer just on a peer-to-peer level. People are now also using messaging apps to connect with hotels, watch content and browse offers so their adoption into businesses is rapidly growing.

 

Facebook Messenger boasts 1.2 billion monthly active users and its integration with Uber and Lyft shows their plans to move toward broader partnerships. Then there’s WhatsApp with plans to introduce a new commercial messaging platform specifically for businesses. Caesars Entertainment Corporation became the first to use messaging apps in the hospitality industry when they recently debuted WeChat Pay at selected locations and plans to have it roll out to all outlets in Caesars Palace and resorts in 2018.

 

Social media and messaging apps have become an ingrained part of daily hotel business. They have features that are valued by guests and potential guests who are on-the-go for both internal or external communications. With increased messenger app usage, hotels need to consider changing their content marketing strategy to reach out and connect with their guests and potential guests.

 

The projected growth of messaging apps is expected to be 2 billion people using messaging apps by 2018.  Hotels are always looking to see how to reach out to guests in all phases of their travel journey, creating memorable guest experiences and turning satisfied guests into loyal customers. As these messaging apps are expanding their functionality to connect brands with users, it is well worth exploring how they could be incorporated into your hotel marketing plans.

Learn more about Lodging Interactive’s live chat service for hotels.

 

Lodging Interactive Launches Stay.Play.Explore Local Content

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the launch of its localized Stay.Play.Explore micro website services for hotels. Stay.Play.Explore provides hotels with fully curated local destination content and lifestyle activity based information for hotel guests.

“Hotel websites rarely provide deep localized content to inform and inspire guests when they’re in the travel planning phase,” said DJ Vallauri, Founder & President of Lodging Interactive. “Our Stay.Play.Explore micro websites provide curated local content tailored around things to do near the hotel and differentiates the property against its competitive set. This kind of localized, human curated content helps to drive direct bookings.”

 

Lodging Interactive Stay Play Explore Live Like a Local Marketing Micro Websites

 

Lodging Interactive marketing landing pages for hotels.

 

 

SIMILAR STORIES

 

Stay.Play.Explore adds value to any property seeking to drive more direct bookings and minimize its dependence on OTA’s. By providing deep, local information that is designed to complement the local destination, hotels are playing a more involved role in the guest’s travel planning process. Lodging Interactive copywriters curate and create unique content to appeal to all travel demographics.

“Stay.Play.Explore for branded properties, is the perfect content addition to brand.com property pages,” added Mr. Vallauri. “Providing potential guests with recommended weekend sightseeing itineraries and helpful local hints communicates to all demographics, business travelers, leisure travelers and family vacationers.”

Facebook integration of the Stay.Play.Explore micro website also extends the value to the hotel’s social media network.

 

Lodging Interactive Facebook marketing for hotels.

“Inspiring travelers throughout the travel journey is critical in closing more direct bookings. Anytime you can enable travelers to ‘Live Like a Local’ in a foreign destination, you win,” stated DJ Vallauri.

For more information on how to add Stay.Play.Explore localized content your hotel’s brand.com website pages, visit Lodging Interactive or call 877-291-4411 ext. 704.

Contact
DJ Vallauri
President & Founder
Phone: 877-291-4411
Fax: 877-833-7375

Lower Hotel Guest Satisfaction Associated with Bookings made through OTAs

The 21st annual J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study was just released. The study measures overall hotel guest satisfaction and this year’s study showed that guests are more likely to be less satisfied with their stay when booking through independent travel websites.

 

Here are some key findings of the JD Power 2017 study:

  • OTA vs. Direct Booking: Guests are more likely to experience issues that decrease their satisfaction with their stay when booking through an independent travel website instead of directly with the hotel.
  • Reward Membership: 75% of hotel reward members are more inclined to book directly with a hotel than the 47% that are not members, and guest satisfaction is higher.
  • Mobile Apps and Reservations: The number of online reservations made on mobile devices has risen to 25%, up from 14% in 2014. Of these users, most are in a younger age group or business travelers. 38% of guests who have a hotel’s app on their mobile device don’t use it during their stay. Only 4% use the mobile app at check-in and only 1% at checkout but guests that do use the app show they have a greater satisfaction with their stay.
  • Loyalty: Those guests who use a hotel’s mobile app have a greater satisfaction with their stay and greater loyalty to the hotel.
  • Social Media: 86% of people who experience a problem are very likely to post to social media. Despite this, those who share their experiences via social channels appear to be more satisfied overall.
  • Hotel Reviews: 52% of guests have read a hotel review in the past month and 46% of these guests wrote a review in the past six months. Also, people who read and write reviews are more likely to have higher guest satisfaction.

An increase in mobile usage has caused a growth in mobile app services in hotels. This presents both opportunities & challenges for hoteliers. Major chains like Marriott and Hilton have launched campaigns promoting direct bookings with promises of discounts and perks.  But Phocuswright estimated that OTA’s will have increased their share of online U.S. hotel bookings to 52% by 2020.  With this growth comes the likelihood that guests will finalize their booking through an OTA rather than book direct with a hotel.

 

Bookings through OTAs are notoriously associated with lower guest satisfaction. Over the last 10 years, the CoMMingle division of Lodging Interactive has seen this come to light through our own analytics in reputation management for hotels.

One way to influence your reputation is by incorporating mobile apps into a hotel stay because it is associated with higher guest satisfaction. It makes guests more willing to share their positive hotel experiences on social media.

 

The fact of the matter is that mobile apps have become central to the guest experience. The challenge for hotels to have guests book direct are many but hoteliers can help themselves by creating and strengthening guest relationships and providing great customer service. The best way to combat dissatisfied guests who booked via an online travel site is to be armed with a strong mobile and social media strategy that will provide quick action and resolve issues. To do this, hoteliers will need to seek resources to help them know their rankings on various online sites and social media channels. With these tools in hand a hotel can get enough control over distribution to entice those direct bookings and increase revenue.

Takeaways from Google’s Presentation at 2017 SMX Advanced Seattle

The mecca for search marketers are the SMX conferences where they find sessions and training workshops covering all things SEO and SEM related. At the June 2017 SMX Advanced conference held in Seattle, Google’s presentation did not disappoint search marketing gurus.

 

Google’s Mobile-first Indexgoogle's presentation smx advanced

 

The Google presentation included the latest goings-on regarding their Mobile-first Index. Here are a few important summary points:

  • The switch to Mobile-first Index could take as many as four to five years to completion but is expected to start rolling out in 2018.
  • A responsive website is preferred by Google within their Mobile-first Index. If your website content is only for the desktop, you would still get indexed but how well you get ranked after the Mobile-first complete launch is another story.
  • Google is reconfiguring all their page speed metrics to be Mobile-first so we can expect many updates are forthcoming.
  • Google said that anything longer than a 5 second load time for mobile is too long and you will need to improve site speed to have your website rank well within the new Mobile-first Index.
  • A new mobile testing tool is under consideration that would allow site owners to see what would change on their site once the Mobile-first Index is launched.
  • The Link Graph is not working well for mobile so Google said they continue to work on it to see what they can do to make PageRank effectively work on the Mobile Web.

 

Concentration on a Better User Experience

 

There were some other important takeaways but all of them, in the end, were to benefit the end user with a better experience:

  • At Google’s May 2017 keynote, AI-First was the theme but, at SMX Seattle, there were no plans mentioned for machine learning updates coming any time soon but Google Voice Search Analytics is underway.
  • While there is no exact word count qualifier, websites with word counts of 1536 words or more, rank no.1 and 2 on Google.
  • If you’re in Ecommerce, you need to optimize your conversion process to be 3 clicks or less for a better user experience
  • User engagement is still the measuring stick for Google to see how well their algorithms are performing.
  • Google made a whopping 1,623 algorithmic changes to their index in this past year alone.
  • Well known SEO consultant, David Mihm, said that when many people get the online conversation about you going, it is most favorable for establishing a strong Local Ranking Factor within Google’s local search algorithm.
  • Google has no plans to add a new meta tag (allowing publishers to control whether or not their content would be shown) to Featured Snippets and no plans for Featured Snippet Analytics.
  • Removing old, outdated content that has no traffic might give you a ranking boost. Disney gave a convincing case study to prove this.
  • Google still frowns upon buying links and is going after the big sites selling them such as Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine. They say not to purchase links as it considers the practice of buying links a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Google will not penalize you if you hide content for a better user experience (UX). Examples include the “read more” and “more” links on your site.
  • Google has a clear focus on Progressive Web Apps (PWA) for providing a better user experience.

 

Though Google’s process to Mobile-first Index completion is a complicated one, there is no time like the present to be prepared for the effects it will have on your website rankings.