|By: Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA Ė January 2005
Itís really interesting to read some of the articles written about the Internet and, in particular, marketing on the Internet.
The content of many of these articles is interesting, but many of the authors seem to be doing their best to add to the persistent confusion about Internet marketing by using new and confusing techno-babble.
Their principles are sound; the problem is the way they communicate it.
Of course, every industry tends to create its own language to better identify its functions. After all, what does rev par and room nights mean to the average hotel consumer? But, hoteliers are Internet marketing consumers, too. Why not speak in plain talk.
We see new terms like Interactive relationships, Direct-to-Consumer Online Distribution, Direct Online Channels, and many others, sneaking their way into an already confusing arena.
Why should we be concerned about this language? Primarily because it gives the impression to many hoteliers that an Internet solution is too complicated, too technical, and too costly to consider for the average hotel. And, this simply isnít true. Itís not necessarily complicated or too costly.
Myth #1 Companies promoting this new terminology are more productive than those companies which communicate in more easy-to-understand hotel terms.
Now, I am not saying that these companies are any less capable, but they are not necessarily any more proficient, either. I only wish that they would speak to us in our language.
The fact is that most hotels are owned and operated by people, working hard on controlling expenses and increasing revenues, in order to make the profit margins published to their investors. Thatís a big job. We donít need to further complicate their world.
Most hoteliers I talk to simply want their fair share of reservations from the Internet. But there are still many misconceptions to overcome. The return-on-investment from Internet marketing is still very high, when done right.
I believe that there is still too much mystery surrounding the Internet; what makes a good web site; how search engines work; and many different and subjective views on exactly how to get more business from it. There are no textbook answers which are completely right or completely wrong. They are as individual as your hotel. What works for one, might not be sufficient for another.
I believe that good communication begins with good understanding. Letís reduce the mystery by increasing understanding; its not rocket-science. Letís keep it simple.
Myth #2 Marketing on the Internet is new science and only Internet marketing companies have the answers and know how to do it successfully.
Marketing on the Internet is not science; as with all marketing, itís an art. The fact is there are many ways to get more business from the Internet.
There are many companies out there, which will devote individual attention to your hotelís web sales at very reasonable fees. The key is the communicating process. Do they communicate in easy to understand terminology, do they know the hotel industry, and do their suggestions make good business-sense to you. This is not rocket-science.
Myth #3 Internet marketing is different from hotel marketing so it doesnít make any difference if the Internet marketing company has little or no experience with marketing hotels through traditional means.
The fact is that marketing on the Internet requires the same basic sales principles as traditional hotel marketing.
There are still only three hotel sales basics; location, facilities, and entertainment (things to see and do). Itís amazing how many hotel sites contain little or nothing at all about their location, some donít even list their address, and yet they flash, blink, and morph photography.
Myth #4 The only way hotels can get reservations on the Internet is to promote their lowest rates.
The only people who truly believe this myth are those who have never had hotel P&L responsibility.
This myth was born as a means for the franchisors to re-gain control from third-party suppliers who simply outsmarted everyone. The only way they could outplay third-party sites was to offer a lowest rate guarantee. This was good strategy for them, but it created an additional rate obstacle for individual hotels.
In order to comply, we were all relegated to exposing our lowest rates to the traveling public. It reduced hotels into selling-by-rate; poor strategy for hotels. We can overcome this by being creative with packaging, minimum stays, etc but, only if, we return to selling our hotels by creating value for higher rates. This rate game is hopefully a temporary one, but itís up to us.
Why are we competing with third-party suppliers instead of being good marketing partners with them? Do you honestly believe that every person searching for a hotel room on the Internet is searching all available sites for the lowest rate? ÖEveryone? If you believe that, Iíd like to talk to you about a bridge I have for sale.
Have we all forgotten that people donít buy rates; they buy value. Have we all become too rate conscious and much too lazy about selling our hotels?
Third-party suppliers are doing much more good for your hotel than harm. First, they are doing a better marketing job on the Internet than most hotels or hotel companies. Most hotel searches result in at least 2, 3, or more third-party suppliers. Remember, your hotel is most likely listed with them. Many hotels would never get that much exposure without them.
True, the largest suppliers promote low rates, but it just doesnít make sense to battle them for the lowest rates at your hotel. They canít sell your hotel without permission from you; and only the number of rooms you allow to them. If you donít want their low-rated business, donít work with them.
True, rate parity among third-party supplier is vital. But, be clever with packages and amenities and make upgrades a true value.
I have read some silly talk about third-party profit margins of $50 to $75 versus profit margins of only $5 to $10 from other travel sectors like car rentals or airlines. When a hotel is sitting with empty rooms and has already cut expenses to the max, do you think it matters how high their supplierís profit margin is? If they can sell your empty rooms, even at a discount rate, who cares how much they profit from it? We only wish car rentals and airlines could produce that kind of volume.
Plain and simple; if your hotel doesnít need more occupancy, then maybe you donít need third-party suppliers. If, however, you need more rooms sold, work with them. Itís not a matter of who needs whom more, we need each other. But donít plan on competing with them on your own site. You can manage third-party sites, if you work at it.
Myth # 5 Hotel web sites with an overwhelming amount of information, interactive features, and intricate navigation schemes book more rooms than simpler sites.
Well, I guess thatís an easy one. This is probably more of a practice than it is a myth. Itís my favorite, though, because itís becoming more and more prevalent. The techies are taking over to see who can out-design whom.
What ever happened to fun? Itís amazing how many hotel sites look more like institutional retail sites than fun exciting places to visit. Have we forgotten why people stay with us? Why do so many sites have page-after-page of hotel information and only a line or two (hopefully) describing the destination and location?
Have we forgotten that we are selling an ďexperienceĒ not just brick and mortar? Many sites list amenities like they are there to fill space. We need less steak and much more sizzle.
Many years ago, when I was a very young Marketing VP for Frenchmanís Reef in St. Thomas, I remember my boss held up a full page ad from Liberty Travel (Go-Go Tours) and asked me why our section of Libertyís ad was so, well plain and basic. I canít use his words; they were much more graphic..
The answer was that Liberty knows how to market to their audience. Sure, it was very basic and not-at-all slick, but that year Liberty produced more than $3M in room revenue for our hotel; and that was in the 1970ís folks. He never again questioned their ad design.
The language, design, and photography you use all communicate the experience you offer your guests. Itís very easy to recognize copy and design developed by people not familiar with hotel sales. Let your web site reflect the end-user experience you offer. A simple fun design, with welcoming copy, and simple navigation should be your goal.
Neil L. Salerno, CHME, CHA
The Hotel Marketing Coach
|Also See:||How Does Your Hotel Web Site Measure-Up? 2005 Will Be the Internetís Most Productive Year so Far / Neil Salerno / January 2005|
|Are You Being Out-Hustled By Your Competition? How to Dominate Your Hotel's Market Set / Neil Salerno / December 2004|
|Why Are Some Hotel Companies Plagued By Management Turnover? Is This Systematic of Poor Performance? / Neil Salerno / December 2004|
|Basic Components of a Hotel Website: Current Weather, Flash Animation, and Virtual Tours?? Plain Talk About Internet Sales / Neil Salerno / February 2004|
|Donít Compromise Your Goals In 2004; Five New Yearís Resolutions You Will Want To Keep / Neil Salerno / January 2004|
|No More Whining About Third-Party Suppliers; You Control Your Own Fate On The Net / Neil Salerno / December 2003|
|Six 'Maxiís' Guaranteed To Boost Hotel Sales / Neil Salerno / November 2003|
|Itís Time To Take Back Control Of Rates & Rooms - But Is The Enemy...Us? / Neil Salerno / November 2003|
|Booking Engines Are Like A Box of Chocolates...You Never Know What Youíre Gonna Get! / Neil Salerno / October 2003|
|Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization; Always A Work In Progress / Neil L. Salerno / October 2003|
|Hotel Budgets and Marketing Plans; Oh No, Is It That Time Again? / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003|
|Increasing Hotel Internet Sales Is Not Rocket Science...And It Doesnít Have To Be Costly Either / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003|
|Are You Treating Third Party eWholesalers As Competititon Or a Valuable Marketing Partner? / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003|
|How Often Have You Heard, 'I could have gotten a better rate but the client saw our rates on the Internet' ? Itís Time To Get Back To Selling Location, Facilities, and Services / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003|
|Before You Begin that Marketing Plan Challenge Your Sales Team; Expect More and Get More / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003|
|Jump Up and Shout Yes - Delivering Best Online Customer Experience, Nice Job Vividence! / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003|
|Is The Internet Delivering On Its Promise? Well, It Depends on How you Look at It / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003|
|Coaching and Mentoring, Sometimes A New Paradigm Can Go A Long Way / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003|
|Sales Training Works Well, But Sales Mentoring Makes It More Effective; Mentoring Lasts a Lifetime / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003|
|Is It Time For A Sales Tune-up? How Healthy Was Your Last Forecast? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003|
|Hotel Web Sites; Want it Creative or Effective? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003|
|If You Always Do What You Have Always Done.... Youíll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelierís Mantra... Thinking Outside The Box / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003|
|Good Sales Planning - The Basics Still Work / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003|