With online distribution continuing to grow, now is the time to ensure your business is ready for the future and able to drive bookings online. However, large hotels and small independent properties alike are facing the same challenge: Without a serious online presence, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to fill your property and earn a healthy income.
But not all is doom and gloom. By following a few simple rules for building a strong online presence, even small independent properties can create a brand that resonates with their audience, wins them bookings, and helps secure their future success.
Rule #1: Identify your property’s unique selling proposition and core audience
You can’t build a brand without knowing who your audience is and what you have to offer them. Read your reviews and find the common thread weaving your fabric. What sticks out? What’s repeated? Is it your product, or your location, service, or style? That fabric is the making of your brand. Have a fresh pair of eyes look over your property and services; they might see the little touches you no longer notice. Understanding your unique selling proposition will help you reach your guests with information that’s most relevant to them, which will make researching your property more enjoyable.
Check out what makes these properties unique — perhaps you recognize something similar in yours?
Rule #2: Have the right images to tell your property’s story
Guests should feel immersed in your property from the moment they first discover your online presence. Aim to entice, excite, and inspire with each image. A photo of a bed is not simply a picture of a bed — you’re not selling the bed. You’re selling the idea of staying in that bed. Each picture should tell a story and capture your unique identity. A professional photographer will have their own ideas but should take some direction from what you want to portray.
Are your images capturing these searched-for items?
Need inspiration? Check out “5 Affordable Ways to Improve the Look of Your Hotel Rooms“
Rule #3: Make metadata work for you
Guests need to be able to find your property’s online presence; metadata makes their search a lot easier. Each profile you have online contains metadata — or information about your property including location, amenities, etc. — that’s usually found in your property details section. Correctly updating your property’s information (metadata) — especially on metasearch sites such as trivago — will enable the right type of guest to find you when they search online for properties that fit your description. Is your profile on trivago up to date?
Update your trivago profile to make metadata work for you today
For more information on a property’s online metadata, check out this article: “The Importance of Property Details to a Hotel’s Online Performance“
Rule #4: Work strategically with your OTA partners
Strike a balance of direct and indirect distribution that works for your business. Give your guests a chance to book direct by making future bookable dates for selected room types only available on your direct channels. If you don’t manage to sell the rooms directly in time, work with your booking partners to catch last-minute guests. There are a multitude of different OTAs — figure out which best attract your target audience. Help keep your commission costs down by working with a handful of selected partners. The more active the marketplace is, the fairer the commission costs will be. Advertise added value for guests booking direct (think special offers such as complimentary gifts) instead of focusing solely on room rates.
Find information on the best direct booking distribution channels for independent properties here.
Rule #5: Have an optimized website
A good performing website needs to lead potential guests through its pages with ease. This is the heart of your brand. Use your own website and book a room. Was it easy? Did you receive enough information? Are you inspired and excited about your future stay? Was the experience just as good on your mobile device? Improve the booking experience wherever you can. Website designers are everywhere, as are canvas websites you can use for free. Some free websites can be effective but don’t forget about registering your own domain and enabling search engines to find you.
Find hotel website inspiration here.
Rule #6: Find the right booking engine
It’ll enhance your brand and streamline your guest’s experience, whilst increasing your conversion rate.
There are more than enough booking engines on the market. Don’t let yours limit your potential income. A good booking engine should capture your guests’ full attention, be easy to navigate, supply all the relevant information, and be accessible on every page of your website.
Tips on finding the right booking engine for your property.
Rule #7: Monitor traffic on your property’s website
Is there a page that turns a potential booker into a bouncer? Are your marketing campaigns bringing interested visitors, or just clicks? You won’t know unless you track what your visitors are doing. Monitoring your website is your chance to learn how to optimize it using data from real experiences, which can lead to a better ROI.
Some website creators will give you their own statistics, but here are some tips on using Google Analytics to monitor the performance of your property’s website.
Rule #8: Be active on social media
Social media is effective and free to use. It’s your way to connect with guests, gather feedback, and strengthen your brand and online presence. Think of it as an extra room for your guests to relax in before they stay with you. Encourage your guests to post images and start a discourse online — it only costs a little time and creativity.
Check out these five must-have tips for social media.
Rule #9: Treat your guests to a great experience, starting before they’ve even booked
Welcome them, inspire them, make them feel at home (or on holiday) before they’ve decided where to stay. After all, a holiday or a weekend away is enjoyed from the moment your guest decides to get away. The extra effort on your part could very well generate ancillary revenue from their stay, create an upselling opportunity, or earn you extra points in a review.
Here are 10 simple ways to improve the guest experience.
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Bonus tip: Invest in a Property Management System specifically designed for your property type
Just as you want to make your guests’ lives easier, by using the right tools for you, you can make your own life easier too. Which will then have a positive impact on your service and enable you to keep track of all your customer data, securely and efficiently. Research your options; there are enough out there.
Consider using a cloud-based system. Here’s why.
Once you have a good grasp on your brand, repeat it everywhere…
…starting with your presence on a leading global metasearch: trivago
All your profiles, no matter where they are, should back up your brand until your brand can be recognized in your images, your texts, and your product. By following these nine rules, you’ll be able to build your brand and compete more effectively online.
Featured image credit: Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.