Engage Your Customers

The presence and growth of social media, on a daily basis, is often times an undervalued or overlooked element to the makeup of a hotel. Certainly hotels, resort, lodges, and B&B’s across the world hold a social presence on the major platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Marketing teams and social media managers curate and manage high quality content, intended to draw a consumer closer to their product.

As a hotel, motel, resort, or a lodge, it is often times not the curation of content that presents issues. The real problems arise when it is time to genuinely engage your customer base – create action out of content. After all, the overlying goal is to book availability. What good is content without engagement?

If you find yourself stuck on different ways to engage your customers through your content, consider these three helpful tips:

1. Know your Audience – Knowing your audience does not take a whole lot. As a resort or hotel manager, more often than not, you know your demographic. The power that information holds is immense. When you know who you are curating content for, it becomes simple to target specific emotions, trends, and other psychographics. All of this information combined, can produce a personalized content experience for the customer.

2. Tell Stories – Building on the personalization aspect of understanding your audience, great marketers and sales people alike, all know how to tell a story. Ben Straley, VP of Social Technologies at Rio SEO, put it best when he said, very simply, “stories are the content.” Not sure where to find the buried story behind your customers? You already have the answer right in front of you – your audience data and web analytics hold the ticket to creating great stories.

3. Reach your Audience Where they Are – It is critical to understand where your customer is consuming their information. Today, technology allows the same content and imagery to be displayed across multiple platforms – desktop computers, smart phones, tablets, etc. It is extremely important that the integrity and presentation of your content stays the same across all of these platforms.

The Value – So what does all of this mean for your hotel? Holding a strong presence when it comes to your site and social media content gives you credibility in the market place. Consistency and quality content are great tools to boost your customer roster, and create a loyal customer base. As a marketer, it is important to use all of the tools around you to create the best content and deliver the best message – social media, web analytics, customer polls, internal data, etc. are all extremely valuable tools to the curation of great content. Using these tools will boost your credibility as a property and business, and will also have an impact on your overall ROI.

To read the full article from Ben Straley, click here.

Sell More Rooms

The 2013 VRMA Eastern Seminar in Savannah Georgia, brought industry thought leadership and expertise to the forefront. What followed was a plethora of hotelier gold; knowledgable experts and industry leaders speaking on behalf of the travel industry as a whole.

Colin Morrison, Senior System Consultant at Navis, spoke on customer service and satisfaction. Colin presented 7 non-negotiable steps to selling more rooms. These practices are simple, yet extremely effective. In his discussion, Colin stressed the importance of these steps, specifically applying them to situations that hoteliers find themselves, and their front desk staff, in everyday.

Colin began the discussion by explaining a simple sales exercise – the pen test. Simple, yet eye-opening, the pen test involves sales team members taking their shot at pitching their manager on why they should purchase a pen. The point behind the exercise? Everyone does it a little bit differently. There is little consistency, and seemingly nobody begins the pitch with a question – “What are you going to be using this pen for?” An important question in qualifying a buyer, and certainly a high value question when talking with a potential hotel guest. This exercise led Colin into his discussion about front desk customer service and how execution of the correct practices can lead to a higher conversion percentage for a property. Here are the 7 steps:

1. Use Proper Greetings – Everyone enjoys a polite approach. Whether purchasing a product, or engaging in conversation, common courtesy goes a long way. Smile – it has been proven to lead to better tone over the phone.

2. Personalize the Conversation – Once you have someone on the line, chat with them a little bit. Tell them something about yourself. People are more likely to buy from a friend. Be sure to ask the customer how you can help them.

3. Interactively Listen to the Callers Request – Listening is not enough anymore. Interactively listening involves engaging the customer in conversation, and genuinely gathering an understanding of what they are looking for. It is not a bad idea to take notes – build on everything the customer is telling you so that you can sell them their perfect experience later.

4. Convey Confidence and Pride in Your Product – Passion goes a long way in sales. Approach customers with a passion and pride for your product that will blow them away. Dig a little bit deeper here, and make sure to customize the experience to each guest. Don’t just sell the beach, spa, golf course, etc. Sell them what they want – it is different for every traveler.

5. Use Professional, Courteous Language – It can be difficult to draw the line between friendly and professional with a customer. Even if you have established strong rapport in the past, remain courteous and professional at all times.

6. Ask the Customer if you can Make the Reservation – When it comes time to sell the booking, you have earned the right to ask the customer if they would like to book. What is the worst that they can say? No?

7. Always Thank the Caller – It is critical to end every phone conversation with a simple “thank you.” Another small practice that can have a major impact. As you thank them, remind them where they are calling. Something like, “Thank you for calling ResortsandLodges.com, have a great weekend,” will suffice.

These steps are simple, and can be implemented into any front desk staff, at any hotel. Practicing these simple steps in sales training and executing them in the field will leave you with a more satisfied customer base and a happy hotel staff.

This content was presented at the 2013 VRMA Eastern Seminar. Credit Colin Morrison with the thought leadership.

Gaining Customer Loyalty

In the hospitality industry, it’s the latest, greatest hotel features, lowest prices, and most eccentric travel packages that seemingly draw the largest followings. That is great for large hotels, with the budget and marketing dollars to execute high level plans and build a “loyal” customer following. But what about all of the other guys? Not every hotel or lodge has the financial wiggle room to head-up major loyalty program efforts. Not to worry, there is a strategy to building a loyal customer following – and it can work for anyone. A recent article written by Ted Wham, VP of Travel Industry Solutions at Responsy’s (a Marketing Solutions company), goes into extensive detail around a 10 step plan, designed to build long term customer relationships and loyalty. Let’s take a look at the basics of the plan:

1. Analyze Weakness - To best serve your customers, it is critical to assess your own weaknesses as a company. Once weaknesses are brought to the forefront, improvements can be made, making your product better, and your customer happier.

2. Listen to Your Customers - It is important to determine both what the traveler wants, and how they want “it” delivered to them. Listen to your customers, and take into account the things that spending trends, market shifts, etc. might have on your demographic.

3. Understand Your Data - In order to fully understand your customers, you must first have a firm handle on your data. Capturing and applying key data in the marketplace can be one of the most beneficial and effective tactics in your arsenal.

4. Give it to the Traveler Right Now - Integrating real time details into your marketing efforts is a key element in gaining a loyal customer following. Make sure deals, packages, or special offers are all current and detailed correctly.

5. Keep the Customer Informed – As we all know, travel plans can change at the drop of a hat. It is important to keep your customers informed on anything that may alter their travel itinerary.

6. Embrace the Times - Travelers are researching, planning and booking their trips across multiple web devices everyday. Keep with the times – Understand how to use social media to your advantage. Twitter and Facebook have incredible reach capabilities.

7. Tie-In More Benefits - Travelers love free things – promotions, extended stays, etc. However, travelers also appreciate the little things being included in the premium price they are paying for lodging – things like airport shuttle service, rental cars, complimentary beverages, etc. The more the merrier.

8. Keep Customer Service Spot-On - As holds true in any business, customer service is crucial to consumer satisfaction. Make sure that your customer service efforts are solid – from booking time all the way through the check out.

9. Stand Out - Too many loyalty programs look alike. Be creative – develop ideas that are going to blow your customer away and keep them coming back for more.

10. Encourage Feedback - When the trip is over, don’t stop there! Follow up with your customer – dig deep into their experience. This goes back to analyzing weaknesses. Understanding the customer experience can lead to improvements for your hotel.

Full article found on MarketingProfs. To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Rock Solid SEO

SEO – What it Means

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial,” or “natural” listings on search engines (Search Engine Land). Major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing all spit out results in an order based on what the engine deems as the most relevant to the searcher. Unlike paid advertising, SEO is free.

Meta Tags – What They Mean

Within the pages of your website lies the source, or the coded makeup of your multiple pages. Unique to each page, the source contains two critical elements: The Meta Title and the Meta Description. Let’s take a closer look at each one of these -

1. The Meta Title

The Meta Title is the most important element to the makeup of any page on your site, and generally contains no more than 70 characters total. Contained in the Meta Title are a select number of keywords, related to your property, site, and specific page. When Google indexes a search query, it looks for and deems words that it finds to be the most relevant to the search. For example: If you have a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, and you are writing the SEO specific to the Spa page of your site, your Meta Title might look something like this at its most basic form:

<title> Arizona Hotels – Phoenix – Spa </title>

“Arizona Hotels” is the most relevant search term in this Meta Title, so you want to put it first. Next, specify where exactly in Arizona your hotel is – in this case, Phoenix. Lastly, curate the Meta Title to the specifics of each page – in this case, the Spa page. If this Meta Title were for the “Golf Course” page, you would curate the title accordingly.

2. The Meta Description

The Meta Description is the snippet of information that is displayed on Google, directly below a search result (insert screenshot). Again, curated to specific pages across a site, the Meta Description is loaded with keywords, generally containing no more than 150 characters total, that search engines index as the most relevant. While the value of the Meta Description has declined in recent years, it is still important to tuck in as many keywords as possible when curating the content.

The Big “No No”

When writing the SEO for your site, it is important to keep in mind a number of factors – keyword relevance, page specification in the Meta Title (as mentioned above) and content curation specific to the page (the Meta Description).

What is often times overlooked, and what is a major mistake in SEO, is duplicate title tags. Duplicate title tags are Meta Titles that contain the same keyword more than once. For example:

<title> Arizona Hotels – Phoenix Hotels – Hotel Spa </title>

Notice the number of times that the words “Hotel or Hotels” were used. What is the problem here? Google, or any other search engine, reads that title as having duplicate content. When a duplicate is picked up, the search engine squashes it…disregards it, throws it out of consideration completely. Essentially, your page becomes non existent to a search engine result.

Recap

Whether you outsource your SEO to a web services company, or house your SEO internally, the points covered here are extremely important to take into consideration. It is important as a property owner or marketing team member to understand the value behind quality SEO. A solid SEO plan accompanied by a great website design is a golden ticket to success in the marketplace. An investment in your sites SEO lands a solid chance that you will see a positive ROI. For all of the latest and greatest SEO news, tips, and insights, check out the links below, and visit our business blog.

1. www.seomoz.com

2.www.searchenglineland.com

Low Time On Page? No Sweat…

If you have been checking your Google Analytics lately, and noticed an odd trend of seemingly low time spent on your pages, don’t panic just yet. The problem may in fact not have to do with the content of your pages. After all, people want to read what you have to say, right? The issue is actually the system in place for tracking average time on page of your website. Here is how it works -

1. Timestamps – Google calculates the time spent on each page of a site with what they call a timestamp – a sort of stopwatch, clocking the time from initial page load, until entry into another page, at which time a new stamp is created.

2. The Formula – Say you load page “A” – at which time Google stamps a time of 00:00. The content you are reading on page “A” is fascinating enough to leave you gazing and reading for 30 seconds. Now, you see a link to page “B” that you think looks even more interesting. When you click the link to that page, Google starts a new timestamp, at a starting time of 30 seconds – the time you spent on page “A.”

3. The Disconnect – Here is where Google leaves us wondering – and leaves you frustrated at low page times. Let’s say you remain on page “A” for 25 minutes, gazing and reading that amazing content you love so much. But now, instead of linking to page “B,” you exit the site. Google has no timestamp for this fairly common occurrence. It has no way of knowing how long you spent viewing page “A.” Remember, the timestamp on page “A” begins at 00:00 and the time spent on that page is the starting point for the timestamp on page “B.” If there is no page “B”…there is no timestamp available.

How Google Does It

Google does attempt to account for pages that have no secondary timestamp. The calculation Google applies subtracts the number of page exits. So, what you are left with to calculate average time on page is this – Average Time on Page = Total Time on Page ÷ (Pageviews – Exits)

Even accounting for exits does not completely resolve the issue. Sites that yield a high number of bounces (someone enters the site, reads something, and immediately leaves) still are missing a large piece of time on page statistics.

For help and answers all things Google Analytics, click here.

Hotel How To – Content

The importance of content in the hospitality industry cannot be stressed enough. “Content is king,” as the saying goes is holding truer everyday. With that in mind, it is important to remember that while the look and feel of a hotel website grabs a viewers attention, it is the body, the content that leads them to making a yes or no decision when deciding if they are going to stay at your property. Rich, original and engaging content is the key factor in getting that traveler to book at your hotel.

A hotel website is crucial for providing information to potential guests, and for search engine optimization (SEO). Because search engine bots crawl and index content to provide in results pages, your content becomes that much more important. You can manipulate your content to attract certain guests based on their searches.

There are a handful of major no-no’s and a laundry-list of do’s when it comes to hotel website content – here are a couple.

Dont’s

1. Duplicate Website Content – Simply put, search engines hate duplicate content. During scans for information, search engines pick their proverbial brains to produce content that is unique to a search. If a website contains one or more pages of duplicate content, the search engine removes those pages from the list of search results. Be mindful of what is on each page of your website to avoid this from happening.

2. Official and Unofficial Page Content – A common pitfall of hotel websites is the separation between official and unofficial content. Official content is content that has been approved (and often times internally created) by the property for use across multiple platforms. Unofficial content is content such as a review post, Facebook mention or anything else that has been composed by someone not affiliated with the property – user generated content. The bigger the gap between these two categories, the less credible a property looks. It is critical to be on the same page as your guests…monitor what they are saying about you at all times and be sure that your content is saying the same thing.

Do’s

1. Keyword Research – Keywords are where it all begins. Quality research about keywords that define your demographic and traveler audience is the jump-off point to creating quality content that will let your travelers easily discover you in their searches.

2. Maintain a Consistent Voice – One of the more common errors in producing quality website content is the habit of jumping between voices – Past, present and future tense. To create the highest quality content means to stick to one voice. That voice is up to you and your team, just be certain that it remains the same across all platforms – website content, social media content, press releases, etc.

To read the full article and to get more useful information about generating quality content, click here.

Delivery Status: Unopened

As you have probably noticed, and as your subscriber list continues to grow, your email engagement is decreasing. Not as many people are reading through your newsletters or special offers…or even opening the email in the first place for that matter. As the number of subscribers on your list grows, so to does the number of recipients who may become un-interested in reading what you have to say. This growing number of unengaged readers causes your overall email metrics to drop. So what can you do about it?

As the old adage goes, the best way to solve a problem is to not have one in the first place. We all know the likelihood of that. With that being said, it is time to strap on the thinking caps and plot out a re-engagement strategy. The least you can do is compose a win back campaign after clients have not clicked or opened your emails for a certain amount of time (that amount of time is up to you).

Re-engagement is a tricky task. Tricky, but feasible. Your focus should be on one primary element: The Open.

The Open – The open is the most crucial element to any win back campaign. Once the email is opened, you at least can say that the reader is no longer disengaged. Because engagement is the goal, the headline becomes critical. Capture the reader in a headline that is both personal and irresistible. Try something like this: “We have missed you! Book today only and save 25%!” – Make the reader feel wanted and offer them something they will be interested in.

Certainly the headline of an email is important in any campaign, especially a win back attempt. But once the reader opens the email, then what? One thing is for sure, you do not want to put the same content in the email that made the reader disengage in the first place. So change it up…don’t be afraid to explore other avenues when it comes to your content. If you find yourself stuck, keep these simple tips in mind:

1. Recall Previous Subscriber Behavior – If something did not work in the past 10 emails…note that behavior and adapt the content accordingly.

2. Put Fresh Eyes on the Content – Share your content with your team. See what other people in the company have to say about it. Team efforts on content creation generally produce the best ideas.

3. Commit to Sending More Relevant Content – Instead of sending the same old information every week, broaden your horizons. Gather your team for a 30 minute think tank session to bounce ideas off of one another. Make it a priority to send content that your reader finds to be relevant and important.

To read more, click here.

SEO Gold

As web based marketing becomes more and more critical to the business playing field, SEO fires up its massive engine right along side. We have all heard that the authoritative link is pure gold in the SEO game, and frankly, it is the truth. As web guru Ed Dale explained a number of years ago, “Become an authority, because that is the only way to dominate your niche.”

So how do you go about getting an authoritative link to your website? There are a number of ways, however, one of the most powerful can be to get your content into the hands of experts. Think about it…by putting your content into the hands of experts (or already established authorities), you are setting yourself up to be seen by massive numbers of people. Once these experts have a hold of your content, they link to it, share it, post it, blog it, tag it, the list goes on and on. Already established authorities have the power to pass their authority onto you.

There are other ways to get links to your website. Here are 3 of the most popular:

1. Create a Blog: If you create unique content and embed sharing widgets (facebook, twitter, google+, etc.) people will be able to share these links across social media.  This is an excellent way to get people with authority linking back to you.  This is important as search becomes more social.

2. List With Other Authoritative Websites: Such as: Vertical Search Engines, Directories, Answer Sites (think Yahoo Answers), Travel Review Sites, etc.

3. Be an Authority Yourself: Once your content is in the hands of your readers, they will share it, post it, link to it etc. Now you are an authority to that content. That is the goal. Become the authority to your niche.

To learn more about the impact of authoritative links, click here.