Do you believe in voodoo? Unless you’re managing a hotel in Haiti, you probably don’t. Voodoo isn’t exactly a dominant religion in America, much less among hotel managers. Still, despite not openly practicing it; some hotel GM’s nonetheless appear to believe in voodoo. Their belief is apparent when it comes to bookings. Here, GM’s often liken the process of getting bookings to supernatural voodoo. That is, customers come to their property as a result of hidden, “magical” forces, seemingly outside their control.
The reality, however, is that magic voodoo – whether it exists or not – doesn’t cause bookings. There are no spirits or hidden energies pulling bookings toward you. Instead, the bookings your hotel receives are a result of clear, often predictable causes.
In the post ahead, we’re going to explain each of those causes for you, in depth. Our goal is to dispel the mystery of why people book at your hotel, eliminating the sense that any of it has to do with luck, chance, or even voodoo. Read on to learn five of the primary forces causing people to book hotels and how you can maximize each.
#1 – Past Bookings
Do some of your guests look familiar? They should. If your hotel delivers a quality experience, you’re bound to get these “repeat customers”. These are the guests who enjoyed their stay so much that they’ve booked with you again.
Hopefully your hotel gets a high number of repeat guests. These kind of guests are really a dream come true. That’s because you don’t have to advertise to attract them and they’re already sold on your property.
We say, “hopefully”, but you can do more than just hope. If you’re looking to get more repeat guests, there are definite steps you can take. The first, as we’ve said, is to deliver a quality experience. Treat your guests so well that they’ll be raving for weeks, months, or even years about their amazing stay. We won’t tell you how to run your particular property. But you probably have a good idea of what an amazing stay entails.
Don’t stop there. An amazing stay will definitely help you secure repeat guests. Yet you can, and should, do more. The second step is to get feedback from your guests, and then maintain strong contact with those who gave the most positive feedback. Here, the way in which you get feedback is up to you. There’s no shortage of tools for collecting feedback. Web-based surveys, mail-in forms, or just a good old-fashioned sheet of paper. Any of them will do the trick.
Pick a tool, collect feedback and then double-down on the guests who were most satisfied. Separate them from the overall outreach you do with all previous guests. Those in your “most satisfied club” deserve to be contacted more frequently. That way you’ll stay top-of-mind with them. Frequent, unobtrusive contact will help these past guests to remember the fun they had at your property. And with that memory, they’ll be more likely to either book with you again, or refer others to do so.
In addition, you can motivate these past guests even further with discounts and special offers. These sort of promotions will already benefit your business. But with past guests such promotions become even more significant. A past guest is already open to staying with you. Some are probably looking for an “excuse” to book again too. Give them a promotion and it may just be the push these former guests need.
#2 – Personal Referrals
In the point above (#1), we briefly mentioned satisfied guests referring others to book with you. Referrals are so important that they deserve more than a passing reference. The reason is that referrals, like former guests, are a group who comes to you with little or no marketing required. In the case of referrals, the “selling” has already been done by others. Those familiar with your hotel have pre-sold it for you.
That’s pre-selling in the mental sense, as opposed to collecting actual bookings. The pre-selling happens, for example, when a past guest recommends your hotel to a coworker. Given that trust is an underlying factor in most sales, the recommendation here will go a long way. The coworker in our example may browse hotels. But they’re bound to give the recommendation some consideration, whether briefly Googling your hotel or making an inquiry on available dates.
As with past guests, referrals don’t have to be something you passively hope for. You can take active control, working to stimulate referrals. One way to do so is with incentives for those who refer guests to your hotel. Offer a free night, for example, to any guest who refers another. An incentive like this will appeal to both the basic, satisfied guests and the ecstatic ones who want an excuse to stay with you again.
Another way to directly stimulate referrals is to “pay it forward” with the referred guest. You’d do this by asking your guests if they were referred by anyone. Then, for those guests who had been referred, you’d add a personal touch. Examples of the personal touch include providing a complimentary bottle of wine, leaving chocolates in the guest’s room, or simply sending a handwritten “thank you” note. Any of these personal touches would strengthen your relationship with the referred guest. That guest would then become a referrer themselves. They would also thank the person who referred them, thereby stimulating more referrals from that first person too.
#3 – TripAdvisor
It’s the elephant in the room. A site that’s as beloved by travelers as it is despised by hotels.
Whatever your feelings are about the site, you can’t ignore its power. TripAdvisor has millions of reviews and a devoted fan base in the millions too. These vast figures make TripAdvisor an undeniable force in generating bookings for hotels. Woe to the hotel who ignores TripAdvisor or discounts the value of a good review on the site. The site and its reviews do matter, especially as web-based content further influences people’s buying decisions.
If your hotel is looking to succeed on TripAdvisor, you’re in luck. We’ve written an entire article on just that subject. Check out our article on “Taming TripAdvisor” to learn how you can get more, positive TripAdvisor reviews for your hotel. Here’s a link. [**Include link to article].
In discussing TripAdvisor, it’s also worth pointing out the circular nature of the site. In other words, those who find your hotel through TripAdvisor are probably going to leave their own review on TripAdvisor afterward. Understand this and you can intercept these guests before they leave that review.
An easy way to do that would be to have a “how did you hear about us?” question on your booking form. Include TripAdvisor as one of the options on the form. Then, for any guests who list TripAdvisor, be sure to give them a personal touch. Go that extra mile with these guests. Your efforts will give these guests every reason to write a positive TripAdvisor review. Their reviews in turn, will lead to more bookings, making TripAdvisor a valuable asset to your hotel.
#4 – OTAs
Another elephant in the room, when it comes to bookings, is OTAs. OTAs, or online travel agents, are sites like Booking.com and Expedia.com. These sites provide a channel through which hotels can market themselves and secure bookings.
On the marketing side, OTAs promote a hotel by running paid online ads. The ads usually list a hotel’s name, along with a few features, and possibly a picture too. Anyone who clicks an ad will then be directed to the OTA website, where they can complete the booking. If all goes well (and that’s a BIG “if”), the person who clicked will then book the given hotel through the OTA.
OTAs are widely used throughout the travel industry – perhaps by your hotel too. These platforms merit consideration because of their size and scope. Like TripAdvisor, OTAs are really too large to ignore. In the case of the OTAs, this is apparent with Booking.com, where over one million room nights are booked each day. Whether any of those nights are booked at your hotel is another matter. Having seen the reality of OTAs, we believe the sites are more interested in getting traffic for themselves than helping any particular hotels secure bookings. Nonetheless, booking sites are so large that it wouldn’t be right to exclude them from our overall discussion. Helpful or not, these sites do cause some bookings.
#5 – Google
Google. Now there’s some definite “voodoo”. The search giant seems to have a mind of its own, working in downright mysterious ways. Occasionally, Google’s movements online may even cause pain to your hotel offline – as though the two were linked by some kind of voodoo doll. Rest assured, though, there’s no magic in play. Google becomes far less mystical once you see how it actually works.
The exact mechanics of Google are the stuff of lengthy books. No need for you to read those, however. We’ll keep it nice and brief for you here. All you need to know is that you can market your hotel on Google in two possible ways.
The first is through unpaid, organic search. This is when your hotel shows up naturally in Google’s results. Google displays your hotel for results tied to specific keywords that people are searching for. The more relevant your hotel appears in respect to the given keywords, the higher you’ll appear in search results. The process of making your hotel more relevant for various keywords is a complex process known as search engine optimization (SEO). Like the mechanics of Google, SEO has also been written about to a vast extent. If you have any questions on this unpaid form of Google marketing, send us an email and we’ll explain it to you further.
In addition to unpaid, organic search; you can also market your hotel on Google with paid ads. Paid ads are run through Google’s AdWords program. When you use AdWords, you pay for ads to appear whenever people search for various keywords. With a search, your ads will display in the top of the search results, above the unpaid, organic results. The result is that your hotel’s ad will be the first thing people see when searching on Google for a particular term. This increases the likelihood of getting traffic to your hotel’s website and of bookings.
It works too.
We can honestly say that from our own experiences with BookingBoost. Having run AdWords campaigns for numerous hotels, we’ve seen first-hand the success that comes with it. When using a professionally-designed AdWords campaign, a hotel can indeed see vastly more bookings while saving on advertising. If you’d like to see evidence of this for yourself, check out these case studies here.
That does it for our look at five of the primary forces behind bookings. As we’ve seen here, your hotel’s bookings are the result of real world forces and not magic or superstition. You can still believe in voodoo of course, just not at your hotel.