Tamie asks that you complete a simple exercise to find out if booking your own property through the OTA website is easier than booking direct on your website, if the answer is yes you need to up your game!
Up your game with Electronic Direct Marketing (EDMs)
Otherwise known as newsletters, special offers, email blasts or, at its worst, spam. A way of communicating directly with your previous guests to entice them back to your property with an amazing offer. A way of funnelling more guests through to your website and away from the OTAs:
- Ensure you collect personal email addresses for all customers
- Segment your databases according to purpose of travel. Leisure, corporate, special event
- Use a site such as Mailerlite or Mailchimp to send. They have free options which offer analytics for reviewing the success of each campaign
- Use free sites such as Canva to create professional looking emails
- Send no more than once a month but target a minimum of quarterly
- Be aware of the regulations in your state and country, ensure you have permission to contact previous guests and respect unsubscribes
- Provide a reason to travel not just a special offer
Emails are a great way of creating a steady stream of customers to your website. The more people that visit your website, the better it will rank. Any offers on an email should only be loaded on your direct website and the offer must be enticing. Your previous customer may not return but they may share the offer with their friends and family. The email will also remind them that you exist and ensure that your name is kept front and centre in their mind for when they begin to plan their next trip.
Corporate Clients and Travel Management Companies
Creating loyalty is about building a relationship. 2020 was a very stressful year for everyone and 2021 is going to be just as hard so start the year by picking up the phone and contacting your 2019 database. You want to identify the following:
- Who books accommodation? A lot of people were made redundant in 2020 and the person you dealt with in 2019 may have changed so reach out and form a relationship with the new person and let them know about you and your property
- Become fast friends with the booker. You want to ensure they want to call you
- Agree a rate for 2021 in writing
- Mystery shop your competitors, are your agreed rates competitive
- Understand the changing demands of your clients and their head offices
- Understand how your clients like to book and make that easy for them
- Have your Covid safe statements to hand to share with all potential bookers
- Loyalty – how will you say thank you?
Travel patterns will continue to change in 2021 and we need to be reaching out regularly to our loyal clients to discuss what is happening at their end and working this into our sales strategy. Remember that for a lot of large corporate clients, decisions on travel are being made at the head office level and that could be in America, London or Milan.
One of the most positive things to come out of Covid is the increase in direct bookings. On average, my clients are seeing a rate of 60 percent of business coming to the hotel directly. That is via phone or booking engine.
If potential clients are now picking up the phone and calling, then your responsibility as an owner operator is to ensure that the phone is answered well.
- Answer within 3 rings and greet the caller with a smile
- Take the booking straight away. If you want to close the office during the middle of the day and take a few hours off, redirect the phones and carry a cheap tablet. You can always book your own hotel on your own website as per any customer. A customer who is asked to leave a message and promised a call back will move on and source another property.
- Mystery call your own hotel to check the quality of selling happening on your phone
- Mystery call your competitor hotels to check how they sell over the phone
- Train your staff to sell
- Train your staff about the costs and benefits of taking a direct booking
- Train your staff how to overcome objections without dropping rate
Phone bookings can and should be the largest source of bookings for any hotel. Check your statistics and ensure you know where your bookings are coming from and have a plan in action to redress the balance.
Taking back control from the OTAs involves hard work. It will not be easy, but it can be done. As I mentioned above, our hotels average 60 percent of their business coming direct and we target increasing that monthly.
Direct bookings are not and never will be free, it takes work.