How can a Small Hotel Market on The Internet?

How can a Small Hotel Market on the Internet? If your hotel, resort or B & B has less than 100 rooms and an ADR of less than $70 it is unlikely you can afford to contract a full service Internet marketing program. The fees for a truly managed search engine optimization or pay per click program will make it difficult to generate the level of ROI that you want. This does not eliminate you from doing Internet marketing it just means you need to familiarize yourself with to online tools that are available to you to make the most of your website. Use these tools and invest in services where you really need expertise. Of course your investment in time and money for Internet marketing depends on many factors, you have to consider;

1. Average daily rate

2. Your market size: number of competitors and seasonality

3. average length of stay

4. Source of your guests; local, regional, national and international

5. What percent of your guests book online today?

6. Guest types; business, leisure, family, couples, military or seniors

7. Guest preferences; local recreation, local attractions, business meetings, attend conferences

8. Guest amenities; wifi, hi speed Internet, ocean view, dining, spa, privacy, room service

9. Potential for repeat visits

10. Guest language preferences

All of these factors should be considered (a) when developing your website design, highlights and navigation (b) when choosing keywords for optimization or pay per click (c) developing reciprocal or inbound links to your site. Once you have answered how each of these factors affects your business you are ready to build an Internet plan. Internet sales are rapidly approaching 50% of the average hotel’s sales, for every online sale you can expect one and a half phone sale. Your first year ROI target should be a minimum of 6 or 7 to 1 ratio with an annual growth of 2 to 3 percent.

This gives you a range to consider for your level of investment and ROI. As you set your plan and goals, you need to look at first your potential revenue and second your maximum cost. If you already have a marketing plan, the share for Internet marketing should be around 50%. Look at which of your top three markets can be targeted online through online advertising, proactive search optimization, 3rd party merchant sites, regional portals and convention bureaus and seasonal pay per click.

Please reply and tell me how you do your planning or your experience with Internet marketing.

Converting Third Party Bookers Into YOUR Customers

I’m often asked by sales & marketing directors and General Managers how they can "win back" guests who have decided to make their travel plans via a third party site like Expedia, Travelocity or Hotels.com.  The intent of course is how to increase online revenues and to build guest loyalty via direct marketing through the hotel’s own website, versus the third party sites.

One of the strategies I always recommend hoteliers deploy is what I call the "e-conversion program".  Simply stated the e-conversion program offers "third party website guests" with a reason to book directly online with the hotel’s website…that reason being a preferred rate discount and/or upgrade upon check in.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Set up a special rate code (an SRP code in most hotels) that floats a 10%-15% discount off your lowest published rate.  Call this code your "e-conversion code" in your Property Management System (PMS).
  2. Have your General Manager draft a welcome letter offering your "third party website guests" the ability to use this discount code on future reservations by booking directly on your website.
  3. Run your daily arrivals list and identify your "third party website guests".
  4. Upon checking in a "third party website guest" hand them the General Manager’s welcome letter.
  5. Emphasis that they should book through your website in the future and to use the special "e-conversion code". 
  6. Based on your availability, offer them a room upgrade for their current stay so they feel special on their current visit.

I deployed this program in over 250 hotels when I was Vice President of E-Commerce for Prime Hospitality (AmeriSuites, Wellesley Inns and Suites and Prime Hotels & Resorts) and it worked very well.  We were able to increase each property’s ADR while winning back our clients.  And best of all, the third party website DIDN’T have an issue with this!

Your Website is Your Point of Sale

Your website is your point of sale so no matter how much you invest in Internet marketing and advertising don’t pay to bring shoppers to a website that does not present the right look and feel.  If you are investing in search engine optimization or pay per click make sure the pages that are attracting shoppers present the right message.

Offer professional pictures, minimize your text with bullet points and short powerful descriptive phrases.  Keep your reservation links obvious on every page!  Make sure the name of your links convey what the visitor will find there.  Highlight important points in your text with bolding or italicized letters.

Never have more than 300 words on a page.  Keep your message fresh and relevant, change your copy frequently.  When a visitor sees the last update was 3 years ago, you have lost their interest. 

Let me know what works best for you?

Allocating Your Marketing Budget

Marketing will always be a gamble!  When you win, your ROI is great.  When you lose, your ROI is a loser.  How do you decide what to put into printed collateral, brand services, promotions, conferences, premiums, local events, Internet and so much more?

Think of your marketing in terms of short term and long term returns.  Some of your marketing efforts are intended to keep your local audience aware of your location and services.  On a broader basis you need to reach out to a more global market.  To reach the global market at their point of sale decision, there is no better way than the Internet search engines.

Internet shoppers use search engines for 85% of all online purchases, so what percent of your marketing budget is committed to search engine marketing?  Think about it.