Why Developing Your Distribution Strategy Matters for your Hotel

What's happening to your conversion rate?Hey, hotel folks. Do you hate your channel “partners?” Do you feel like they “force” you to sign agreements you don’t want to?

If so, you’re not alone.

And, that’s a shame.

Because most channel partners (OTA’s, traditional travel agents, group and meeting planners, etc.) are actually good folks trying to help place business in your hotel.

No, seriously.

Now, it’s not to say that every market manager from every OTA treats every hotel like they treat their best friends. But, usually, these folks’ success depends upon having enough inventory in their market to meet a wide array of guest needs.

And that need represents your opportunity to negotiate favorable terms. The challenge, of course, is that many hotels lack a cohesive distribution strategy. Instead of understanding their best customers and taking the steps to diversify the sources of those best customers — in particular, placing an emphasis on those guests delivered via direct channels — hotels often sign myriad agreements and pay the most attention to the channels delivering the most business. Some channel partners recognize this dependence and push for terms that both increase their profit (and, to be fair, what business wouldn’t?), while simultaneously increasing their hotel partners’ dependence on the channel.

So don’t do that.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. But there are ways to break the cycle. And that’s the point of my latest Travel Tuesday post over on Tim Peter Thinks: “How to Take Charge of Your Distribution Strategy.” Give it a read if get a minute.

If you need help developing your hotel’s distribution strategy (or some other part of your digital marketing), give me a call at 201-305-0055.

And if you’re interested in learning more about travel marketing and where it’s going—as well as lessons that apply to a host of other industries—register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” You can get your free copy of the report here.

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of these changes in the marketplace, including:

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How to Get in Your Customers’ Pocket

Mobile commerce grows upYour customers increasingly browse, shop, and buy their travel via mobile devices. Unfortunately, getting your product in front of customers seems harder than ever. The diversity of choices available means you have to continually find new ways to attract and engage customers. Travel, in particular, faces the additional challenge of representing a “sometimes” purchase for your customers, that is, one that they typically make just a few times a year—if that.

But… it ain’t all bad news. The key word in the paragraph above is “seems.” The diversity of options mobile provides your customers also offers you creative, innovative ways to engage your customers not just once a year, but every day. And that’s the subject of this week’s Travel Tuesday post How to Get in Your Customers’ Pants… Pocket over on Tim Peter Thinks. Check it out if you get the chance.

Interested in more? Register to receive a free copy of my new special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of mobile, including:

Why Mobile Matters for Travel Marketers

App use on iphoneAnyone who’s read this blog (or the main blog), knows that I think mobile’s going to be huge. All signs point to that fact.

Not “forecast.” Or “prediction.” Or “guess.”

Fact.

Whether it’s Booking.com tripling its mobile business last year or (according to Business Travel News), Choice getting 10% of its bookings from mobile or La Quinta getting 23% of its traffic from mobile, mobile is beginning to represent some meaningful numbers.

And as the Business Travel News article linked above highlights, the growth these players shared “…does not take into account the growing volume of bookings from third-party mobile sites and apps, available not only from the legacy online travel agencies but the ever-expanding list of startups targeting the hotel sector.”

Guests and passengers and travelers in general use mobile because it helps them accomplish their goals. Both research and my experience suggest that consumers no longer care about “channels” or, for that matter, devices. They’ll use whatever’s handy — desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone — to meet their needs. In fact, Pew notes that a growing number of people use their mobile phone as their primary means of accessing the Internet, bypassing the desktop altogether (while some of Pew’s research in this area refers primarily to teens, A. it’s also true many older demographics use “cell-mostly” internet, and B. Gen Y and Millennial demographic cohorts represent your customers in just a few years).

Why do travelers use mobile so much?

Because it’s always at hand.

Literally.

So, the fact remains, your guests and passengers increasingly rely on mobile to research, shop, browse, and buy travel and related services. The question is: Are you helping them?

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter to get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of mobile, including:

The Key to Social Media Success

Social media successFew businesses have faced as much competitive pressure over the last decade as travel agents. Those who’ve survived have done so by connecting effectively with their customers, addressing real needs, and providing excellent service.

But the growth of social media has introduced a new variable to travel agents’ relationships with their clients, one that many struggle to navigate. The latest issue of Travel Agent Magazine features a cover story, “Social Media Tips From the Experts,” all about how travel agents — and anyone in the travel space, really — can use social media to connect with their clients in ever more effective ways. The piece features tips from a number of leading social media marketing experts, including our own Tim Peter.

Among the tips Tim shared with the magazine was this advice:

“Think about what’s of value to your customers,” Peter says. “Travel agents should be better at this than a lot of other people because you talk to customers every day. What are the things your clients ask you all the time? That’s great info to share.”

Content marketing — itself core to any social media marketing efforts — challenges marketers to continually generate new content. But any business person, travel agent or otherwise, who talks to customers regularly knows what really matters to those customers. Or should.

Creating deep relationships with customers depends on first listening to what your customers say and working to understand what customers actually need. Of course, the understanding is as important as the listening. Henry Ford famously said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford translated “faster horses” into serving a real need: providing reliable, inexpensive, and, yes, faster transportation.

Your social media efforts should aim for the same goal. First, listen to what your customers and clients say, on social channels as well as offline. Then understand what those customers need. Then, finally, engage with customers to address those needs.

By the way, the article as a whole is filled with a ton of tips you can use, regardless of your industry or occupation. Check it out if you get the chance.

And, if you’re interested in more, sign up for our free newsletter to get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of social, including: