The phrase “word of mouth” may sound old and outdated, but it’s still one of the most important marketing tactics for independent hoteliers.  In the past, word of mouth meant that a guest would tell 10 people about his or her experience andWOM then, based on this recommendation, those 10 people would each tell 10 additional people and the cycle would continue on with the hotel benefiting from the first-hand publicity.  This tactic allowed countless hotels to grow and sustain success over a long period of time.  Today, with the advantages of technology, word of mouth is executed differently, but the concept of guests sharing their experiences with others is stronger than ever.  Having a strong and positive reputation is critical for longevity in the independent hotel business, so operators must learn how to participate in and navigate today’s world of word of mouth marketing.

Today, by the time guests have checked-out of their hotel room, it’s likely they’ve already begun spreading the word about their experience.  Social media allows them to share stories, photos and videos about every moment of their trip with anyone who is interested.  Social media is a powerful tool, but there is one particular area where hoteliers must pay even closer attention – guest reviews.

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Day in and day out, independent hoteliers are consumed with making sure their property is operating efficiently, meeting guest expectations and, most importantly, generating revenue.  improve hotel OTA performanceThe downside of this occupational “tunnel vision” is that it becomes difficult to look beyond their in-house operations and keep a pulse on their local market competitors.  So, unfortunately, sometimes it requires hitting an unexpected bump in the road, like a drop in occupancy, to realize their competitors are capturing a larger share of the market.

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One of great benefits of being an independent hotelier is the flexibility to tinker and test ways to market and promote your property.  Local market advertising and strategic partnerships are some of the tried and true methods of marketing to consumers, but email still reigns as one of the most efficient and effective tactics.  With dozens of companies providing easy-to-use software, hotel operators are able to manage and measure the success of their email campaigns, and most importantly, remain connected with past and potential guests.DIY

One of the great features of innRoad’s web-based hotel property management system (PMS) is the ability to “slice and dice” historical guest data and export campaign-specific email lists for deploying targeted email marketing campaigns.  Using a bit of creativity, operators can create campaigns that are designed to generate increased exposure and, of course, capture direct bookings.  To help maximize independent hotel email marketing campaigns, here are a few tips:

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The question in the headline above may sound silly but research shows that the majority of Americans have curiously searched for themselves online, so if you’ve ever typed your name into Google, you’re definitely not alone.  Now, on a much more serious note, when is the last time your Googled your hotel?  Searching for yourself can be fun, but the results that show for your hotel can impact its financial future.NYC(1)

In your hotel’s online results, you’ll likely see your website, social media pages, consumer review sites and online travel agents (OTA), like Expedia, Orbitz and Booking.com – well, that’s if you’re connected to a global distribution system (GDS) and use OTAs to market your property.  The benefits of a GDS and OTAs are always some of the most highly debated topics among independent hoteliers.  Some operators argue that their fees are too high and cut too deeply into profits and others have nothing but praise for the online booking channels that drive revenue and reservations for their properties.  With these greatly varying opinions, it begs the question, “Who has the best argument?”  Rather than sorting through dozens of varying, but legitimate, opinions of hoteliers, let’s look at this from the perspective of those who have the greatest influence on your hotel

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In our whitepaper, “Why travelers abandon the hotel booking process – and what you can do about it,” we take a look at various reasons why so many travelers begin the online booking process, but fail to complete it.  It’s an all too common issue that hoteliers deal with daily, so we provided a few tips for capturing more of these reservations that are literally just a click away.  BOOK NOW

Continuing this conversation about converting traveler curiosity into bookings, below are additional tips and tactics for positioning independent hotels online to capture the attention of travelers and secure those highly desired, revenue-driving reservations:

Provide travelers with experience-driven photography and information
As we’ve discussed previously, traveler expectations have evolved well beyond casual sightseeing and snapping a few pictures for the family photo album.  Today, consumers are taking destination-driven vacations with the purpose of immersing themselves into local communities and receiving truly unique (and shareable) experiences.  To achieve this, travelers are utilizing multiple devices, visiting countless online sites and gathering information from friends and family in an effort to put together the perfect itinerary.  With so many tools and resources at their disposal, independent hoteliers must figure out how “cut through the clutter” and appeal to their experience-driven tastes.

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Attracting new guests is a daily goal for every hotelier.  Booking new visitors is essential for increasing revenue, reputation building and driving the business forward.  However, even after successfully putting iKeep in touch with past guestsn the hard work needed to get them onto the property, it’s critical that operators also have a plan to convince them to return in the future.

Returning guests should be viewed as “low hanging fruit” for hotel operators.  They’re familiar with the area and, hopefully, had a great on-property experience.  While some guests will not return simply because they want to explore new destinations, there are still plenty of travelers who will gladly make return visits to the places they love.  However, it’s the hotel’s responsibility to ensure they stay top of mind with these travelers.  To do this, hotels must develop and deliver a compelling message that will encourage these travelers to return. It’s also crucial that hoteliers keep guest contact information on file and up to date using a property management system.

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“Innovation” is a buzz word that is spun countless times in the daily media cycle.  Tech companies, such as Google, Apple and Facebook, usually generate the biggest and boldest headlines, but innovating for the future has become a priority across every industry, especially the travel sector.  Travel news outlet, Skift, recently published their annual Megatrends Defining Travel yearbook and the lead story outlines the role hotels are playing in driving innovation within the Untitled design(3)industry:

The global hospitality industry – comprised of the organized hotels sector, the vacation rentals sector, and the still-nascent sharing economy sector – is driving all innovation in travel now.

For the first time since online booking of travel became mainstream, hotels are being rewired and rethought from top to bottom, and every obvious part of hospitality is being turned over, questioned and retooled.

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Here’s a quick quiz that independent hoteliers should complete with their teams:  First, write down ten to twenty phrases, such as “upscale, urban hotel” “guest-focused hospitality,” “great for business travelers” and “service-oriented,” thatHow do guests see my property_ you believe accurately describes your hotel.  Next, have the rest of your staff complete the same exercise.   Ask them to provide answers independently, honestly and, if needed, anonymously.  The goal is to get accurate opinions, not identify the individuals who provided a specific set of answers.  After each person has participated, carefully analyze how your thoughts align with those of your team and work to understand how and why they came to their conclusions.

The reason for this exercise is to identify how well your team understands the vision you hold for your hotel.  The descriptions supplied by team members won’t match across the board, but the overall sentiment about your hotel should be consistent.  If your team members’ thoughts do not mirror yours, then you know there is an issue that needs to be addressed.  There are countless reasons why your entire team needs to be on the same page, but one of the most important reasons is so they can communicate the correct message to your guests.  Sending mixed or incorrect messages, whether verbally or through actions, is a mistake that can have long-lasting, negative effects on a hotel’s success.

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Working to hit a moving target is a task hoteliers know all too well.  Each day, room rates fluctuate, guests come and go, and, at the worst possible time, unexpected surprises seem to materialize out of thin air – it’s jNYCust the nature of the beast within the hotel business.  While operators will always have enough day-to-day responsibilities to stay busy, it’s important that they also keep an eye on the trends that are shaping the hotel industry as a whole.  It’s these developments that will eventually affect the high-level relationships between hotels and guests.  And operators don’t have to look any further than mobile technology to see advancements that are permanently redefining their industry.

Mobile technology has already changed how we live, work and play.  Its importance, as well as consumer dependence, is growing by the day, so hoteliers must decide how they will support and incorporate mobile technology into their operations to ensure their guests remain happy and loyal.  Mobile technology is a very broad topic, so for discussion purposes, let’s examine just a few ways it is impacting hotels and some of the decisions operators may need to make in the near future.

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