How Successful Hospitality Business Owners Improve Their Direct Books For Higher Profits
As a hospitality business owner myself, I know how absolutely crucial bookings are. Without occupants staying in our rooms, we don’t have a business at all! It is therefore very important to boost your hospitality bookings using a wide range of techniques.
I spent years finding out how to make sure my business was profitable, mainly by increasing the direct bookings for The Grainary. I've put together this 30-point guide to help you build your business based on my tried and tested experience of what works – and what doesn't. If you implement just one or two out of the 30 options I share with you, you’ll have more heads on beds in no time!”
30 Ways to Boost Your Bookings at a glance
Bid on brand
Trademark business name
Facebook business page
Get on the right listing websites for your property
Outsource the work you don’t want to do
Network with local businesses
Check out Metasearch
Invest in a property management system
Have a booking engine on your website
Invest in a decent website
Work with influencers
Be everywhere with automation
Be proactive about getting reviews
The power of a QR code
Why text is best
Invest in training
The power of Facebook Groups
Making friends with the PAs of the big companies in your area
Thank you gifts
Spread the message about the #BookDirect Campaign
The right sign at the front of your property
Google Hotel Campaigns
Invest in your property and decent photography
Here are 30 easy ways to get more heads on beds, turn lookers into bookers and boost your direct bookings for your hospitality business:
Regardless of what the new age gurus preach email is here to stay. It’s tried and tested – and is very effective when done right.
It’s much cheaper for you to get returning guests than to go chasing new ones. At check-in, include an email address on your registration form.
You now have a direct line to every guest who passes through your door. In this email marketing podcast, I’ve covered some great tactics for contacting previous guests to get those all-important return visits.
Everyone and their Nan is on Facebook, which is especially handy if your guests tend to be grandparents.
It can be hard to get your posts seen these days without paying, but that doesn’t mean Facebook Ads have to cost you the earth. These are an important addition to your marketing efforts in the modern marketing space.
By creating eye-catching posts, along with a great offer to bring potential guests to your site, you can have droves flocking to make a booking. You can even target those with a birthday coming up – perfect if you have an offer for a birthday getaway.
This article was written at the end of last year, but the data in there is even more relevant now with more and more users logging into Facebook daily.
“I’ll Google it.”
You know it’s a big deal when a company name becomes a verb. How do you please the Google gods and appear in that sacred top spot?
I've covered Google rankings in a previous post, but there’s also the paid option, which can have a huge ROI. As with Facebook posts, you want to ensure you test the water before diving in. However, these top three tips will ensure your guests are seeing you first.
Google is constantly updating its ads platform, so make sure you are keeping informed on the latest ways to use it. Here's some info on the latest improvements.
Still on the Google theme here. This one is huge!
Seeing return guests coming back via online booking agents again and again? Nobody’s complaining about the bookings, but what if you could increase revenue and bypass these agents?
I’ll show you how to claim your top spot back from these digital giants.
Power to the people!
You might wonder why on earth you’d trademark your name. There could be 100s of similar names in the hospitality industry.
What if it means more bookings? Interested now?
Thought so, have a read at how a simple trademark can ward off your booking competition.
Not entirely familiar with the Facebook machine? It’s time to get your feet wet.
I’ve put together an easy guide to starting your Facebook business page. If you aren’t entirely confident with computers, I’d suggest giving this a go before some of the more technical guides.
Instagram is now one of the most popular platforms with over 800 million monthly users – twice that of Twitter.
It’s all about the visuals on Instagram. Other than fitness models and pictures of food, there’s great opportunity to get some bookings through this image-based app.
Not only that, I’ve even written up a piece explaining how you can beat the Instagram algorithm.
We typically frown on OTAs for obvious reasons, but some can be more helpful than others.
This video will show you how to make sure you are listed on the right websites for your hospitality business.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it will save you valuable time.
For me, it's accounting. It’s something I put off until the last minute and then half-heartedly drag myself through. This is why I now outsource it, and I’ve explained why you should too.
Outsourcing work you struggle with will free up time for you to focus on the aspects of the business you are good at, expanding the potential of your hospitality business.
It is also now easier than ever with online tools such as UpWork and Fiverr giving you access to an international market of freelancers in a number of specialisms. If you are looking to work locally, Google searches will also show up some great results for local businesses. Even the Yellow Pages are now online.
This is a great way to boost yourself whilst giving back to the local community. By referring each other to customers, one of the most valuable advertising tools in history comes into place – word of mouth.
In the digital sense, other websites linking to yours (backlinks) are a valuable tool when it comes to Google ranking, so consider speaking with other businesses and creating a “local partners” page on your website.
You should always go into networking opportunities with the simple goal of building contacts and professional relationships. The benefits of these will come naturally later.
Metasearch is a word that you may or may not have heard of. Have you ever used comparethemarket.com or Gocompare.com for insurance or utility bills in the past? Well, that is metasearch.
These websites are set up so they get the consumer the best deal possible. It was only a matter of time before we got one for the world of hospitality.
If you haven't claimed your listing on there yet, then you need to do so. Otherwise, your property might have prices on there that you didn't know about! Here's my guide on how to get started on Metasearch.
I guarantee this will be the future of hospitality bookings.
A Facebook chatbot is a messenger service that automatically talks to potential customers. They are designed to guide your potential customer to the right solution for their needs. You can design chatbots so they can answer queries about bookings, facilities and even give tips on visiting the local area. There is even the possibility of allowing the chatbot to make most of the booking for your customer.
If you are interested in getting ahead of the curve, this is a post you need to read.
FreetoBook, Supercontrol, Bookalet, Eviivo, The Booking Factory, High-Level Software, Queensborough Group. These are just a handful of property management systems (PMS) that are out there. It amazes me that there are hospitality owners who still do everything by pen and paper or don't have a central booking platform. This wastes them hours updating the websites they are listed on when a booking comes in.
You might be asking yourself, “which is the right PMS for me?” Here is a short guide to some of the best PMS currently on the market.
It can be challenging to know which booking engine is going to give you the most value for money. You need a cost-effective technology that streamlines your processes.
We also put together a short guide to the things you should look out for when choosing a good booking manager.
Your website needs to direct visitors exactly where you want them – quickly and easily.
It’s a hard balance between aesthetics and functionality. Get it right and you can double your direct bookings overnight.
If you are designing a website, it is important to user-test it to make sure it is as useful and easy as possible for the customer. You can also consider making a one-page website to maximise how efficient the guest experience is.
Simply put, an influencer is somebody with an audience. The type of audience can vary as much as the influencer themselves. Finding an influencer with the right audience – be they bloggers, YouTubers or Instagrammers – can help you tap into an otherwise unreachable demographic.
Some can be a huge asset, whilst others are a total waste of money. You need to know how to spot an influencer and how best to use them.
You also need to make sure you keep a solid relationship with your influencers – this is not only important for you, but for them too.
It's overwhelming just thinking about having to be all over social media all of the time. We are told on a daily basis the importance of having an online presence for your business, but no one ever explains how you can be everywhere with a very simple automation tool called IFTTT.
You’re looking for somewhere to eat in a new town. You hit Google and two restaurants come up. One has a 4.7 rating and 120 reviews, the other has a 4.7 rating and 2 reviews. Which is it going to be?
You need to make sure you are bringing in some great reviews to allow you to rank higher on search sites and have a better overall reputation.
It is also important you engage with these reviews when they come in. We wrote a little bit about what kind of responses you should avoid when interacting with online reviews.
Feedback is golden! Use it to improve and impress repeat guests. Oh, whilst you’re at it…
A QR code is a bit like a barcode. Scanning it with a phone takes you directly to a webpage of your choice. An easy way to get a review on checkout? You betcha! The link can take the guest directly to your Tripadvisor page and encourage them to leave the review as soon as they are able to – possibly even in the taxi to the airport!
In the competitive world of hospitality, you want to stand out with those personal touches.
Paper-free and in the hand of your guests, sending a text could be the low-cost solution to your woes. You can even take bookings via SMS.
You’re learning something new every day in the hospitality business, sometimes through trial and error. That is an essential part of being a business owner, but sometimes, someone else has already been there and has worked out the best way for you.
Investing in some training can help save you time and money whilst increasing your bookings. Knowledge is power.
The hard thing is to find the right person to learn from ? Click here to find out more about how I can help you.
The home of your tribe, your loyal fan base – your reliable, paying guests.
Facebook groups create a sense of community and the number of people who see your posts is much higher than that of an (unpaid) Facebook page.
Aside from creating your own Facebook Groups, you can also participate in already established Facebook Groups targetted to certain communities. From backpackers and LGBT travellers to Australians living in London, there is a niche for you to tap into. Just make sure that you are contributing to the groups first before you start plugging your business. It is better to be seen as a trusted community member rather than a spammer.
The Facebook for professionals. Whether it’s networking with other businesses or appealing to business travellers, LinkedIn is a great platform for connecting with guests.
LinkedIn is a great platform for getting your property in front of those with a need for overnight accommodation.
I’ve included it in this post about 52 ways to increase your website traffic. You should also look into putting some content on LinkedIn to show off your expertise. Here are some tips on creating that content.
Make friends with the PAs of the big companies in your area
If you live in an area where there are a lot of companies that you know bring in workers from out of town, these are fantastic opportunities to fill your property during the week.
A tactic I used was to do a bit of research and find out who the decision makers were at these companies for where to send/recommend the people they hire in (contractors) to stay whilst in town.
90% of the time, it was the personal assistant, or PA. I would make contact via Linkedin, email, call, and even drop in to have a chat. It's often the case that the person doesn't know any local properties and goes off a list that was passed down when they got the role or just goes on to Google to find a place.
By introducing my business and letting them know about your special rate for contractors and guest benefits, (i.e early breakfast, late check-in, free Wi-Fi), we gained a steady flow of weeknight bookings from contractors throughout the year.
The most important thing when a booking comes in from these companies is to send a thank you gift to the PA. Even if it is just a bunch of flowers, this goes a long way to establishing a relationship in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Want to stand out as a property that cares for their guests? Thank you gifts for repeat visitors can ensure you maintain that level of loyalty.
I explained how “surprise and delight” can boost your direct bookings in a recent post.
If you were to go onto Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and search for #Bookdirect, you will see properties from all over the world trying to spread the message.
What I recommend you do is go and visit this image I created (link here), print it off, and place it in an area of your property where your guests can see it. Get them talking about the campaign and encourage them to share the image of the poster on their social media accounts.
It's important that you explain why they should spread the message, whether that is a price cut or more incentives when they book directly with you and not the online travel agents.
Of course, this does not mean you should avoid the OTAs altogether. Some of them can help you boost your direct bookings.
We’ve already looked into gathering guest information whilst checking them in, and here’s one reason why getting their address can ensure a return booking.
Sending out little perks, like an annual Christmas card, can give your guest a nice memory of their stay and remind them of your property if they are thinking about visiting the area again in the new year.
This is a simple one that many hospitality owners don't do. You should all have a sign out on the front of your property. It will (of course) have your business name on it. However, aim to go one step further and include your phone number, email address and the #bookdirect message.
Make sure, once this is done, to get a good photo of the sign with your property in the background. Then make this your profile photo on Facebook, as well as your main image on Expedia, Booking.com, and the other third parties.
What does this achieve? Well, when a potential guest is searching the websites to look for a place to stay and they settle on yours, they will see your website address, phone number, email address and a #BookDirect message on the main image. If they were thinking about booking, it might encourage them to pick up the phone and give you a call. (Remember, the third parties will never include your info on the listing because they want a guest to book via them.) This is an excellent way to boost direct hospitality bookings.
When you run a search on Google for your property and you see your Google Business Listing come up, you will see a big blue button that says “Book a Room” or “Book Your Stay“.
Up until August 2018, we were not allowed to have a link to our website in this section. Instead, it had to go to an online travel agent. Now we can. This change is very powerful and will be a big draw to increase your direct bookings. I have written more about it here.
The saying goes like this: “you can't polish a turd”. You can have all the best marketing and do all the tricks to get people through the door. However, at the end of the day, if your property is not up to scratch then you will never get repeat guests and your online reviews will stink. ?
My advice is to take note of what your guests are saying about you. If 8 out of 10 reviews are talking about a specific issue, fix it! Don't sugar-coat it. In the long run, it will be beneficial to you and your business. The more attention you pay to reviews, the more hospitality bookings you will get.
Once you have made the upgrades, invest in a new photo shoot. The general rule is that you need new photos of your property every 12 to 18 months. Why? The photography of your property is the first thing a potential guest sees.
It's so vital that this is done right. If not, you are going to lose bookings. I have written more about it here.
Phew! Quite the list isn’t it?
It can seem daunting, especially if this is all new to you. Even implementing these tips one step at a time can have a huge impact on hospitality bookings.
If you’re ready to up your game, take a look at my training packages to get you to that next level.