How can I increase my direct bookings?
This question is one that comes up again and again, and my answer is always the same.
There is (unfortunately) not just one solitary action you can take that will do the job.
Generating more direct bookings for your hotel is a process that happens over time when you put into place a strategic plan.
When you begin to continuously take specific actions that are all designed to engage potential customers wherever they are on their buying journey, then you will see an increase in direct email reservations and online bookings.
I recently introduced my unique Increase Direct Bookings with Persuasive Marketing framework in an online workshop, and it was a hit. Here are some of the great comments I received.
"THANK YOU Sarah!!! This is so helpful, very informative!" "Thank you so much for a super session! Really appreciate your input and knowledge." "Thank you so much. I found this so interesting." "Thank you, that was very insightful."
I know that life is busy and sometimes you just want to read a summary, so here we go with the workshop highlights:
1. Follow a plan!
I didn’t achieve a 27% increase in direct bookings for a property I managed by making it up on the spot. I put together a plan, executed it to the letter, and refined it where necessary. This plan later became the basis for the Purpose-Driven Marketing Compass framework that I teach in my most popular coaching programme which you will hear more about later on.
2. Change your mindset about what you want to achieve.
If you see generating more direct bookings as being inextricably linked to securing a consistent place on the first page of Google’s search results for your hotel, you are going stay disappointed.
Take it one step at a time. Focus on one area first. Changing the way you do things takes time. Confucius had it right when he said:
"Tell me and I’ll forget,
Show me and I’ll remember,
Let me do it and I’ll understand."
That is why you need to commit to this strategy and to doing the work. If you don’t, you won’t see results, and your competitor down the road who has that bit more sticking power will convert your potential customers to their direct booking guests.
3. Define your brand personality and get bold with your messaging
Who are you, what do you stand for, and how does that connect to your offer are all simple questions that we often cannot answer because we have not spent the time to think about them? Without people hospitality doesn't exist, and so creating connection through resonating with people through your brand personality is the key to engaging more direct bookings. That might sound simple, but it is the crux of the challenge.
If you cannot explain what you do, who you serve, and why you do it in a sentence that lasts no longer than 30 seconds, how can you ever expect your customers to “get” you?
We are all busy, we want to use as few brain calories as possible when we are making decisions. Therein lies your job. Using fewer, more succinct words is harder than using a lot of irrelevant babble, which is why those who do the work and get stuck into clarifying their messaging first start seeing results the fastest.
To jump start this work, take my Hotel Brand Personality quiz here to find out your main archetype that will define your voice and messaging from herein.
4. Understand how customers make decisions, and what they want
Yes, I know, you have heard a thousand times that you really must work out who your target customer is. And the traditional way of doing this is a little bit boring. I have been there, thinking “Great, I have my 3 customer profile personas here… I kind of think they are right, but I´m not sure. Now I have no clue what to do with them”. Then I leave the paper on my desk, go get a drink, get waylaid with something else, and never come back to make that invested time ever pay back for me.
My framework presents a fresh perspective on how to define your customer profiles in a way that makes sense to your brand personality.
5. Baseline your current hotel distribution
This one is simple. If you don’t know where your bookings are currently coming from, how can you measure any improvement? This action will also throw up some interesting insights into where else you could be promoting your property.
6. Understand how Google ranks your website
I never said there would not be any techy stuff during this process! The good thing about playing the Google game and optimising your online presence is that parts of this job are actually finite! Unlike most of the work that comes next in the framework, there are some super concrete actions you can do that helps you get on the right side of Google right off the bat.
7. Get your content hat on
Oh boy, this is a biggie! Creating consistent content that stops the scroll is the bane of most hotel owners´ lives. You are not in hospitality to be sitting at a computer writing blogs and working out what you should be posting on social, right? But, creating awesome content that your target customers want to interact with is the key to getting Google to rank your website higher and to convert potential OTA bookers into direct ones, among many other cool things that great content can do for your business.
8. Do as the OTAs do
They are marketing machines! Follow their lead and take ideas and inspiration from what they do online, but tailor it to your business and your brand personality. You will be surprised what you learn from them when you know what you are looking for!
9. Understand the power of "the Billboard effect"
A recent Siteminder report stated that "Up to 35% of hotel bookings are a result of a traveller discovering the hotel on a third-party site and then visiting the hotel to book direct".
This is huge, and up from 22% in 2019. I do this all the time. I use the OTAs as a research tool and then Google the name of the property. What happens then is out of the hands of the customer and 100% in the hands of you, the property owner.
What they find online will dictate whether they engage, connect, and book direct, or whether they drift back to the OTA and book there. Or worse, maybe they think, “wow, that property is not too bothered about how they look online”, and they click onto your competitor’s booking engine instead.
10. Use sustainability as a way to engage, connect, and stand out from the crowd
This is an element of my framework that makes it super unique. We are all beating around the bush when it comes to trying to save our world from impending disaster. I will never tire of talking about how we can be kinder to the planet and to the communities where we live.
There is no choice.
Inaction means our children and grandchildren will be faced with a much more uncertain future than we have now, and they will be the ones asking us “Why did you not do something sooner?”.
Yes, our actions cannot change the whole world in a day, but they can make a difference, and we can have impact that way. The hospitality industry is in the unique position that people come to “live” in our properties. They consume our resources the way they would at home. What an opportunity this is to teach people how to do things differently!
But it is not just an educational opportunity, it is an inherent responsibility as a business owner to do the best we can for our immediate environments and for the people around us.
I know that by doing my bit now I will not feel shame when my grandchildren question why we didn’t take action sooner. Will you?
11. Get bold and confident
There is a pattern here, right? You need boldness to take action, and you grow confidence as you start to see results. My framework provides guidance and structure. This unique framework - Purpose-Driven Marketing Compass - is the plan you need.
Getting bold and confident run throughout the framework as consistent themes. Find out more here: https://www.sarahhabsburg.com/purpose-driven-hotel-marketing
Meanwhile, don't forget to check out my FREE Direct Bookings Master Guide too!
We are all busy, but life is short.
Let’s get the job done using a plan that makes sense and eliminate all those moments of doubt and second guessing. Here’s to getting bold and confident!
If you have any questions, just drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or scroll right down to the bottom of the page to leave a comment.
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