Welcome to Boostly Podcast Season 8 Episode 14. This is a recap of my Facebook interview with Henry Bennett of Your Welcome where we talked about how to get bookings in the future once the Coronavirus crisis ends.
Here’s the audio for this episode:
Here’s the video for this episode:
02:40 About Henry Bennett
04:00 Henry’s advice to get direct bookings
07:00 Best email software to use
10:00 How to encourage a guest to book direct
13:00 How to get bookings in the future
17:40 About Your Welcome
22:00 Quickfire questions
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Transcript from the Episode
Henry is the CEO of Your Welcome. Your Welcome started four years ago, and they’re probably the most used guest app globally now basically a subscription service. You sign up and they give you a free tablet which acts as a transaction or an informational portal during the stay for the guests where owners and managers can upsell their own services like late checkout or additional cleaning, then they have deals in place with a plethora of third party services such as food delivery and tours to enable owners and managers to make money as they go. They also offer the ability for you to market your own properties during stay so you can obviously put a banner on the tablets which can market your own portfolio to try and drive directly.
Henry’s advice to get direct bookings
Henry works with over one and a half thousand property management companies globally. One of the things that always strikes them is that up until probably six months ago, maybe a year ago, really direct bookings and aggregating guest emails was a very secondary thought process. Everyone’s very reliant to OTAs and one of the things that they often say to people is that really if you look at the guest cycle of how it goes like the booking is done initially on the OTA you’re like to acquire most of your customers there initially and the otas own that space we all know that you try your best to try and get a percentage but broadly most people come from an OTA.
Then what happens is they come into your property that is the point you own your own customer, but the problem is a lot of property managers have moved to keyless entry, and they don’t contact guests and they’ve seen it it’s almost like a positive the less contact you have the better. Henry thinks this is a huge mistake. If you don’t know your own customer you have no contact Can you turn them into a direct booking or if you don’t, at any point, contact them because we all know, at the end of the guest cycle, once they’ve left the property, the otas own that as well, because you want those reviews on there.
So the biggest thing that Henry would say is you’ve got to assume as you know, the world wakes up again, you’ve got to make sure you reconnect with the guests. And basically, you can do that whether you use our products or whether you phone them, text them turnout, meet and greet them.
Henry thinks a lot of people fall into this trap of obviously, there’s a money-saving value to having keyless entry, but you really lose a point of contact, which enables you to establish a connection and any brand or any company that wants to drive direct sales to have a solid connection. Henry thinks the biggest advice that he can say is you really got to look at the touchpoints you have with your customers that aren’t on the otas. And you really got to push the value at that point.
Best email software to use
There are two things that they’ll want to sort of add to this. First is that your brand equity with a guest is zero when they book through an OTA, the value that you drive during the stay enables you to then communicate thereafter.
Henry thinks in terms of building an email list, there are lots of software out there and the majority of people build their list in things like MailChimp, but the thing Henry thinks that’s most important that most people forget is that it’s the personalization. So that email that goes out if you just constantly bombard people with 10% off book directs, it’snot going to work.
You should know if you meet and greet these people. You can get a wealth of information this way better than any hotel. If you can find out why they’re staying and if you start getting that information when you’re sending out your emails, whether you’re using MailChimp or whichever service that you’re going to use, you can absolutely tailor what that email is on a personalized way rather than just doing a mass mail.
Henry thinks the biggest advice that he got for everyone is that whether or not you have got no emails at all, you’re going to literally send the manual email through your google account that doesn’t matter either right because a lot of people look at MailChimp, design emails coming straight delete, they get caught in spam filters. The biggest thing that you can do is to make sure that that email plays into something that you know about that guests that potentially no one else does because Airbnb we’re hitting them booking.com or hitting them always people hitting them but they’re all just plain vanilla emails of places.
Your ability is you can send an email with the actual value for them that’s personalized to them. You can do 2000 emails in MailChimp and Henry thinks the key thing is the content.
How to encourage a guest to book direct
Henry sees out of the one and a half thousand plus property manager where he sees an absolute plethora of ways that people market to their guests. So typically what happens is, with Your Welcome’s tablets, you’ve got a banner on there, then what then happens is our property management companies set up a landing page on their website that is tailored only to people that are in their property at that point, which is really interesting, right? So we don’t see as enough so your captive audience, you know, they’re in your property. They’re enjoying their stay because they’re interacting with the service. They come on to a web page only people are staying in and Henry sese some really interesting ways to people do this.
The most effective he has seen is gifting your friends’ presents, the best one they see is someone set a landing page up, say you enjoying your stay. Put in email addresses of three of your friends and will email them discounted stay at our property. Henry thinks that’s actually really good because you’re enjoying the stay. You’re loving it, you’re there with the kid, why wouldn’t you do that?
It grows your email list and also your friends are getting that and it basically that the email will be your friend insert their name, because obviously you’ve got that little bit of property manager got that as recommended. You might like this and here’s 10% off as soon as you personalize it to someone you know, that’s a completely different way. That’s one of the best things that henry had seen.
The second thing is really interesting is that Henry has always been surprised about since entering this industry is property managers Generally, the disregard for non paying guests contact details is so surprising. All the other people that are staying equal customers. So how you aggregate a market to those other people is really important if you don’t meet and greet them. If you don’t have something like you’re welcome or whatever you do in there, you’re missing out basically. So every customer that comes particularly got a big house, so couples stay there, all family, multiple families, you need to make sure that you aggregate their contact details. It is super important, because you basically can exponentially grow your email list very quickly.
If you look at the retail world, if you look at it now you go into a retail store, but they often say is, would you like a paper receipt? Or would you like it email? Or, for example, they try and get you to sign up to get a discount to their cards, all they’re doing is the same thing. You’re in their premises, they’ve got a very short window for a captive audience, and they’re doing exactly what you should be doing.
How to get bookings in the future
One of the things that Henry sees very regularly with Your Welcome is, so they have access to patterns of search data for guests using their tablets. And one of the things that strikes Henry a lot is when they share that with their customers, a lot of them are quite surprised.
They’ve got a client that has a quite a premium portfolio across Covent Garden and Soho in London. So for those people aren’t London, it’s super prime area in London. So there’s a famous street everyone knows called Oxford Street in London. One of the things they found really interesting about this was that on the OTA listings and their direct booking page, they make no mention of Oxford Street.
It talks about theatres, culture, everything that you see if you live in this town, of what you think a guest will come to stay, but actually, they’re all one Oxford Street, but they don’t want to put it on their OTA listing because they feel like it devalues property. But actually, the reality is that is what they’re looking for.
Henry thinks that’s one of the things that they see quite a lot is a disconnect between what gets searched for and property and what the listing is portraying, which is quite interesting. You’ve got to think really carefully about what is your audience and what actually do people come here for.
Talk about the transport links, don’t talk about how vibrant this area is. That is your value. When you come into the hype and the success of what they’ve seen with the short-stay market, it is going to boil down to brass tacks. What are the value points that you offer your guests? You have to be open about it. There’s no point being anything other than that.
Henry thinks that’s one of the things that they constantly see between deception and reality because they have the reality of what guests actually want.
About Your Welcome
Henry and his business partner didn’t work at all in an industry, and they just sold their previous business. Basically, they were just deciding what they’re going to do next. Henry convinced his wife despite having three young kids at the time that as Airbnb was really blowing up and they’ve got a house on the market.
They got a lot of guests actually from America, who loved the outside of the building, because it’s 250 years old, actually, when they got inside the property was an absolute nightmare. So basically how being an entrepreneur by nature rather than giving it to a property manager to deal with, what henry decided to do was he recorded seven videos of the seven key things of how to answer any questions.
So how do you make an open fire? How’s the heating system work and how to do it and he left it on pretty crappy. It was an iPod Touch, and what happened was they went away in the call sort of stops and he came back and looked at the iPod Touch. They hadn’t cleared the search data so he could see everything they searched. And they were looking for tourist tickets and stuff.
And it sparked an idea in Henry that he felt if they offered enough value to property owners to install physical hardware and they had access to search data, what would happen is they could match a highly spendy audience to guests, businesses locally that are looking to attract those customers that you can’t really mark it. And that’s where the idea came from. And actually, it’s evolved quite a lot.
One of the things really interesting coming out of this is that one of the things they’ve always thought is that when you look at the hotel industry, it doesn’t just change a lot, right? They’re no longer solely focused on occupancy revenue. Globally, it represents about 65% of hotel revenue. If you look across all the major hotel chains now and what they’ve done is they’re not looking for mass occupancy, they are looking for good occupancy and good occupancy means being able to sell services on top of it.
So hotels have a massive advantage because obviously have people on site they can push through the restaurants etc. One of the things that the short-stay industry is gonna see quite a lot is an emphasis on selling services. A couple of reasons why, first of all, you don’t share service revenue with the underlying property owner. So typically the contracts are you share so you sell occupancy revenue. And also you’re not sharing it with the OTA obviously and you’re also not sharing with the PMS is that increasingly charging percentages off.
If you generate one pound or dollar in service revenue, ie selling a late checkout or whatever it might be that is equivalent to about $1.60 in occupancy revenue. So actually your business should be looking at this going when we get a customer in our door again, how can we maximize the revenue that we generate from this guest.
From a buyer’s perspective, obviously, having a physical tablet which you can sell services obviously help us out and whether you use Your Welcome or something else, Henry thinks you’ve really got to focus on how can you upgrade the guests’ stay. That’s one of the biggest things that Your Welcome products enable people to drive additional revenue streams and Henry thinks it’s going to become a major part of the industry going forward.
If you could be on lockdown with one celebrity, who would it be?
What is one movie or series that you’ve had on your watch list?
What is the one thing that you have missed been since you’ve been on lockdown?
What has been your best purchase under 100 pounds in the past six months?
Do you have a favorite podcast or a YouTube channel?
80s football podcast
One bit of advice to hospitality owners
Any business that does not own their own customers ultimately is in a perilous position. You have to understand if you’re all the otas, or acquisition channels, that’s all they are, right? You get a booking, but that booking is an acquisition. And it’s up to you what you do after that acquisition, businesses, turn acquisition into multiple purchases by businesses, just let that go. And just continue to rely on that one-time otas acquisition channel, the biggest thing is looking at your business and just think, how can I turn this booking into either a future direct booking or an advocate? Those two things should be more important than the review think about a review on the site? Because once you’ve got 505 star reviews, at that point, you really start thinking past that people are going to burn after you see a volume of good reviews and start thinking about how do you turn that into a future direct booking.
You can find out more about Henry at their website www.yourwelcome.com