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All Marketers Are Liars -

Web 2.0 Strategies for Hotel Sales
and Marketing
 

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April 2008 - Seth Godin gets your attention in the first part of the title of his 2005 book, “All Marketers are Liars – The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low Trust World”.   While he goes on to state “… marketers aren't really liars... they're just really good at telling stories that customers want to believe”.   In the hospitality industry, the customer is less likely to blindly believe the ‘marketer’s’ story as there are so many ways to access stories written by people like them about the experience they had or want to have.

The customer is control and in Web 2.0 is "Seeking information and looking for perspective--like-minded experience and judgments--are currently trumping the straightforward hunt for the best price.” (Douglas Quinby, Senior Director of Research PhocusWright, Quoted in Forbes 03/28/08).  The good news is that price isn’t the only driver the bad news is that our customers don’t believe hotel marketers anymore – they don’t trust our pictures or our adjectives.  They believe each other!

At the annual Travel Com Conference, produced by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), it became apparent that the economy is having a significant impact – critical for forecasting this summer’s upcoming busy season.  At the conference it became clear that “The poison pill in the online travel environment is the slumping economy. If you’re not concerned that $4-a-gallon gas will affect your customers’ travel intentions, then focus on the fact that incomes are barely keeping up with inflation. Uncertainty in the economy puts stress on the travel industry - the cracks are already being felt as boomers expect to spend less on travel this coming year, and 62% of survey participants feel the economy will worsen in the next year.” (GroupTravelBlogComments, April 11, 2008)

The hotel’s online presence is it’s ‘story’.   This is the story that presents to the potential online customer  and they are all online in every market segment to one degree or another! The hotel’s online presence is not ‘one size fits all’ -- the ‘story’ must appeal to multiple niches or customers with specific interests in a way that appeals to them.  Hold the adjectives, rolls out authentic images and post testimonials from satisfied guests!

In a slowing or recessionary economy, it is imperative that hotel marketers and sales professionals ‘get it’ – the consumer is under stress to spend their dollars as wisely as possible and this includes travel.   I recently gave a keynote on this subject at the Newmarket/Delphi Annual Users conference in Las Vegas.  The keynote was followed by a Drill Down session focusing on implementation strategies that flow from this seismic shift (sorry, I can’t think of another adjective to describe how profound it is). A few of the strategies that came out of this session are shared below:

  • Engineer the Hotel’s Online Presence.   Don’t just monitor it – take proactive steps to make it appealing to as many customer types as possible.  Change it often and incorporate pictures of people enjoying various amenities of the hotel – this speaks to the ‘experience’.  Ask the web master to insert a piece of code on the site so that the hotel can make changes to parts of the web site and not have to wait for them. If there is any part of the hotel that is not worthy to be seen in a picture or video on Trip Advisor or YouTube – fix it now!
  • Create your own review site and/or blog.  Draw the customer to you with a blog about the hotel -- not a blatant advertisement or a rant about your dog!  Write blog posts that give customers information about events in the area or things going on at the hotel.  For example, a client has discovered that fishermen are attracted to the property in the off season.  They are fishing for a certain kind of fish, in this case steelheads (?).  On the blog, are posts about other fisherman’s success, conditions on the river, etc..  This is stimulates that market with information that ‘attracts’ them to the hotel.  Create a review site where customers can speak directly about their experiences at the property -- good, bad or indifferent.  Respond to those reviews as you would to those on Trip Advisor.
  • Converting Online RFPs into Revenue.   This is Web 2.0 in action – exposing the hotel to new customers and markets.  Don’t just wait for RFPs to arrive in the Inbox, be present on those platforms that deliver those RFPs.  Make sure that the hotel profile is constantly updated and consider ads on the RFP platform’s web site so that you are at the top of a planners mind when they select hotels to include in their RFP requests.  Respond within hours – even if you are declining the RFP. 
  • The ‘shift’ in Social Groups to Online Sourcing.  Social groups represent a huge opportunity – and despite the economy, ‘affinity’ groups will still travel although they will become more and more value conscious. Make it easy for them to find and book the hotel – if the franchise doesn’t provide an interface for these groups to locate and book a hotel, provide an easy way for them to locate the hotel and initiate a booking inquiry especially for them on the hotel web site.  Provide a community page that the group can use to communicate to other members of the group with a link so that reservations can be made directly with the hotel.
  • The Changing Nature of Relationships.  Recall the Lending Tree commercial where the customer goes into the bank and the bank manager, obviously glad to see the long term customer, asks if he is there about his mortgage.  The customer replies that he is using Lending Tree so that a number of banks can compete for his business.  The manager is dismayed and states “… but we have been your bank for years!”  The customer responds that this bank is in the running to compete for his business and that he is ‘pulling’ for them.  Web 2.0 in action! Do not count on a relationship with a planner to assume that you will get their next meeting – they are under increasing pressure to assure their stakeholders that they have bid the business and are getting the best value. Just think how much money you will save on site inspections and taking them to lunch!
Think for moment about how your buying process has changed – the research that you do and the product reviews that you look at before ever making contact with the retailer.  How do individual retailers reach out to you online – what are the factors that ‘tip’ your decisions? Apply those same principals to the hotel’s sales and marketing strategies.

Don’t cringe – have fun!  Web 2.0 opens up numerous possibilities for creativity in the hotel sales and marketing process! 
 

Sign up for I Hate Cold Calls hotel sales seminar in LA May 16. Click here for details.  Watch for the book Hotel Sales and Revenue Management 2.0 coming this summer! 

Carol Verret And Associates Consulting and Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service primarily but not exclusively to the hospitality industry. To find out more about the company click on www.carolverret.com. To contact Carol send her an email at carol@carolverret.com or she can be reached by cell phone (303) 618-4065.  Visit www.hotelsalesblog.com.

copyright © Carol Verret, 2002-2003 -2004 -2005 - 2006 - 2007 - 2008


 
Contact:
Carol Verret, Consulting and Training
Carol Verret
5910 S. University #C-18, PMB 374
Greenwood Village, CO 80121
Telephone: (303) 618-4065
carol@carolverret.com
Web Site: http://www.carolverret.com/
Email: carol@carolverret.com
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Also See: Contingency Hotel Revenue Management Strategies 'I Will not Cut Prices'/ Carol Verret / March 2008
The Contingency Hotel Sales and Marketing Plan - Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst / Carol Verret / February 2008
Change is the Buzz – Rebooting Hotel Sales Activity at the Property Level / Carol Verret / January 2008
Habits of Highly Successful Revenue Managers Ramped Up for 2008 / Carol Verret / November 2007
Five Tips to Improving Hotel Customer Service with User Generated Reviews / Carol Verret / October 2007
Habits of Highly Successful Hotel Sales People – A Seismic Shift in 2008! / Carol Verret / September 2007
GMs – How User Generated Review Sites Can Make you a Better Manager! / Carol Verret / September 2007
Web 2.0 and Hotel Sales Strategies for '08; What Are Your Clients Saying About You? / Carol Verret / August 2007
“It’s not the big that eat the small, it’s the fast that eat the slow” -- Five Revenue Management Tactics for Independent Hotels / Carol Verett / June 2007
Developing New Hotel Business Using Client DNA / Carol Verret / May 2007
The Jigsaw Puzzle – The Fit of the Revenue Management and Internet Group Sales Pieces / Carol Verret / April 2007
Client DNA - The Gold Standard for New Business Development / Carol Verret / March 2007
The 'I Hate Cold Calls' Web Cast - The New Paradigm of Sales! / Carol Verret / February 2007
Hate Cold Calls? - Discover the New Paradigm of Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / January 2007
Issues in Hotel Sales Training - Metics for Success / Carol Verret / December 2006
Is the Party Over?; The Challenge of Decreasing Hotel Room Demand / Carol Verret / October 2006
The Habits of Highly Successful Hotel Sales People Ramp Up for 2006! / Carol Verret / September 2006
Identifying the WIIFM Factor – The Essential of Hotel Sales Success / Carol Verret / August 2006
Revenue Management for Hotel GMs – What You Don’t Know Can Jump Up and Bite You! / Carol Verret / July 2006
Feeding the Revenue Elephant; Hotel Revenue Management / Summer 2006
The "Tipping Point" - Identifying the Touch Points in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / May 2006
The "Tipping Point" - Touch Points Make a Difference in Customer Service Training / Carol Verret / April 2006
Selling Up! Taking Group Room Revenue to a New Level / Carol Verret / February 2006
Revenue Management 2006; The Risks and Rewards / Carol Verret /January 2006 
Revenue Management and Group Sales - The Partnership Not the Disconnect / Carol Verret / November 2005
Habits of Highly Successful Hotel Sales People / Carol Verret / September 2005
Triple Witching Hour - The Marketing Plan, Revenue Management Strategy and RFPs for '06 / Carol Verret / August 2005
"Smile" is a Learned Behavior - Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret / July 2005
Revenue Management Systems -- Considerations for Evaluation / Carol Verret / June 2005
Disconnect -- Aligning the Revenue Management and Sales Strategies / Carol Verret / May 2005
Independent Hotels & Resorts; Ride the Wave or Float with the Tide? / Carol Verret / March 2005
Hospitality Sales Training Companies Reach Across the Competitive Playing Field to Combine Live Seminar Expertise with  the Convenience of the Internet / Carol Verret / January 2005
Revenue Management - The Challenge for Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / January 2005
Hotel Sales Departments -- Issues in Processes and Functionality / Carol Verret / November 2004
The GM'S Role in Revenue Management / Carol Verret / October 2004
Transforming the Hotel Sales Organization; Alignment with the New Realities of Sales / Carol Verret / August 2004
The Revenue Management Strategy - The Pre-Plan Marketing Plan / Carol Verret / July 2004
Hotel Revenue Management this Summer - a Game of Skill, Art and Most of All Nerves / Carol Verett / May 2004
What Do Meeting Planners Want? Hotel Sales Managers Want to Know! / Carol Verret / May 2004
Revenue Management -- The Integration of Revenue Drivers / Carol Verret / March 2004
CYBER SALES -- Hotel Sales in an Internet World is the New Reality / Carol Verret / February 2004
The New Realities of Hotel Sales - Focus on Revenue Generation / Carol Verret / January 2004
Hotel Sales -- Innovation in the Face of Limitations / Carol Verret / November 2003
The Good News & the Bad News; Improving Economy = New Hotel Development / Carol Verret / October 2003
Leadership - General Managers Managing the Sales Process / Carol Verret  / October 2003
When the Crystal Ball is Cloudy; Marketing Plans for 2004 / Carol Verret / July 2003
Partnership of Sales and Technology; Using Tech Tools to "Sell" the Hotels / Carol Verret  / July 2003
Back to the Basics? The Basics of Hotel Sales Have Changed! / May 2003
Creating Sales "HUNTERS": The Skill Sets Required in the New Hotel Sales Environment / April 2003
Heightened Security Requires New Strategies in Hotels Sales / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Mar 2003
Revenue Recovery - Building The ‘A’ Team in Sales / Carol Verret / January 2003
Contingency Marketing Plan – War In Iraq! / Carol Verret / November 2002
Playing the Rate Game - Positioning -- Positioning -- Positioning! / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Rate Game - Playing to Win / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Challenge of Marketing Independent Boutique Hotels / Carol Verett / August 2002
Hotel Sales in a Limited Service Environment - The Rules Have Changed / Carol Verett / August 2002
The General Manager’s Role in Sales -Chief Marketing Officer of the Hotel / Carol Verret / April 2002
100% Market Share Penetration is Not Good Enough / Carol Verett / January 2002
The Key to REVPAR Recovery –  New Business Development / Carol Verett / December  2001
Trash the 2002 Marketing Plan - And Just Start Over / Carol Verett / September 2001
How to Use Consultants Effectively –  A View From the Other Side  / Carol Verret / August 2001
How Soft Is Your Hotel's Economic Landing?  / Carol Verret / Aprl 2001
The ‘Value Proposition’: Marketing Yourself to Prospective Employees / Carol Verret / January 2001
Generation Y:  Motivating and Training a New Generation of Employees / Carol Verret / November  2000
Why Customer Service Seminars Don't Work / Carol Verret / October 2000
Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Sept 2000 
FAT, DUMB AND HAPPY – The Seasonal Boom and  Bust Cycle / Carol Verret / August 2000
Surf's Up - Ride the Wave or Miss the Boat -The Effective Use of Technology in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / July 2000 
Measuring Effectiveness of  Hotel Sales Departments / Carol Verret / June 2000
Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results / Carol Verret/ May 2000



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