Are you an owner/innkeeper who would like to increase occupancy rates, conversion rates and profit margins? Read on and you’ll learn how to convert lookers into bookers!
1) Design and performance – First, you simply must have a website that uses the latest design and programming technologies. I would recommend developing a site using a content management system such as WordPress so that you can easily add and change content to keep the website up-to-date. Lookers are very savvy today and you only have a few seconds to make an impactful impression, therefore it’s worth the investment to have your site built by a professional. Your website is your single most important marketing asset. It’s simply not worth skimping.
2) Image is everything – To catch the viewer’s attention, use big, bold, high quality and captivating images. The expense of having professional, signature photographs taken will be worth ever penny you invest. You want images that will lure people into the rest of your site. Make sure to stage the shots. For example, have flowers in the rooms, people enjoying breakfast, swimming in the pool, etc. You want shots that will evoke a sense of what it’s like to stay at your inn. When lookers can relate to what they are seeing, their propensity to become bookers increases.
3) Make it easy - To convert lookers into bookers, you need to make the booking process as simple as possible. The fewer steps the better. Make sure you have enticing room descriptions, clear pricing, stunning photos and answers to the frequently asked questions. And, if you are going to use a 3rd party booking engine, make sure it’s one that can be fully integrated into your website and POS (point of sale) and/or CRM (customer relationship management) system, so that the booker is not taken away from your site.
4) Be a showoff - If you have good reviews from previous guests on rating websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, consider using their API to showcase those reviews on your own site. Your webmaster should be able to easily integrate this into your website. If you don’t do this, there is a strong likelihood that the looker will go to one of these review/rating websites on their own to look you up—when they leave your website, you’ve just reduced the chances that your looker becomes a booker. This scenario is similar to the car shopping experience…salesman know that if you leave the dealership, the likelihood you’ll return is slim to none. Do everything you can to keep the looker on your website.
5) Brag – In addition to sharing your consumer reviews, you also want to showcase press/media write-ups from travel journalists/writers/bloggers. Having articles from travel media folks provides a seemingly unbiased look at your inn that lookers trust. Developing trust with lookers will convert them into bookers. If the last time a travel writer visited your property was a decade ago, reach out to folks in the travel industry to get your name out there. See who has written about other inns in your area. Hosting a writer for (typically) 2-4 nights is a small price for the marketing return. You can then re-purpose those write-ups by engaging your own audience, i.e. telling our Facebook or Twitter followers that you had a travel writer review the property and this is what they had to say. It’s newsworthy, so you could mention it in your monthly email newsletter. The write-up provides you with an excuse to engage your own audience as well as your local media outlets.
6) Let the numbers be your guide – There is an array of simple tools out there to track everything! And, those numbers provide valuable insight that will help you make educated decisions rather than ones in a vacuum. Lookers have a short attention span—so, you want to make sure that you’re providing the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. Before adding or redesigning your website, look at your Analytics to see what pages of your site are being visited most often…then, make sure those are most visible/accessible. Make sure you monitor your reservation system from time-to-time to make sure lookers are being converted into bookers. If your current reservation system doesn’t integrate with your website traffic to see how many people are converting, you should look at a new system. Metrics are your friend and it’s amazing what small things you can often do to increase the conversion rates of lookers and make them into bookers. Increasing your conversion rate just 5% could make all the difference to the bottom line.
7) Can you hear me now? - Mobile is only going to get more popular and more important to your business—therefore, make sure your website renders well on the various mobile platforms. You may also want to consider having a dedicated mobile website for information that a mobile viewer might need quickly and easily, i.e. contact info, directions, availability and ability to book accommodations. Make sure the mobile experience is easy; for example…have your address hypertexted so that when the users click, it takes them directly to their mobile map app. Before you invest into mobile development, refer back to #6 on this list. Check your website stats to see how many people are accessing your site from mobile devices…if it’s less than 10%, perhaps you can wait a while before investing. However, the number is 30, 40%+, those are significant numbers that cannot be ignored.
8. Ready…action! – Video is no longer an option…it’s a must. And, just because you have one, you’re not done. Video content should be part of a long-term content marketing strategy. Consider having an overview video on your home page, and, individual videos for each room and/or accommodations level. You’ll also want to consider a video of your area/attractions, as well as on-site activities, amenities, breakfast/restaurant, etc. In additional to promotional videos for each aspect of your inn, you also want experiential videos (editorial style) from local media/news stations, video bloggers/vloggers and network shows. Having videos on your website can increase your conversion rates from 40-200%. Today, people research their buying decision more than ever; having videos available for the lookers will allow them to get a better sense of what they’re about to book. For three years now YouTube has been the second most popular search engine; not having videos means you could be loosing out on a swath of folks looking for lodging in your area.
9) Be helpful – “YOUtility” is the latest marketing buzzword, and, I think there’s a lot of merit to the concept. The book YOUtility was published by a long-time friend and social-media marketing guru, Jay Baer. The premise is that when you sell something, you gain a customer. However, when you help someone, you make a customer for life. The book is full of real-world corporate examples; however I think this concept is something that innkeepers already do, and is why the B&B/Inn experience is so appealing to many of us. For example, the innkeeper is a built-in concierge for restaurant and local activities. Of course, there is nothing like the personalized service of staying at an Inn. I do, however, think that staying with the concept of this post, innkeepers could do a better job of conveying their “YOUtility” online by providing a list of recommended restaurants, activities, sights, etc. Take this a step farther; having reviews with photos of the recommended restaurants, activities and sights will serve two purposes. First, it will be helpful to your lookers and bookers, and, it adds content to your website, which search engines love.
10) Re-target to increase conversions - Conversions are directly related to the quality of the visitors coming to your website. If you have a business providing one thing, and someone ends up on your website looking for something else– chances are he will leave straight away. However, if you have qualified traffic, visitors become engaged and lookers become bookers. One way to achieve qualified traffic is by social sharing. Your booking system should make it easy for people to tell their friends how excited they will be to visit your inn. Chances are, those friends will consider your inn the next time they are looking to book a trip. If you participate in online advertising, you have to look at a retargeting service. Retargeting works by placing a cookie on a users’ computer when they visit your website. If the looker doesn’t book, but rather they visit a site like Mike’s Road Trip, Travel and Escape, or Bedandbreakfast.com, your ad will show up while they are browsing…thus reminding the looker that they were indeed interested in your inn at one point, but perhaps didn’t book due to a distraction.
I realize that some of the items listed in this post may seem overwhelming, especially if you have only a modest understanding of online marketing. Additionally, many of these items are not inexpensive to implement, whether from a financial perspective, or, from a human resources point of view. However, if you’re in business for the long term and want to build an asset that will continue to grow in value…you simply cannot ignore these ten items that can help add to your bottom line. If you’re in an area with a lot of lodging competition, some of these areas will propel you ahead of the pack.
I hope you found this post to be helpful, if so, please share it with others. If you have questions, I’m more than happy to help. Send me an email with your questions, or, we can set up a time to chat on the phone. Thanks so much for reading.
About Mike Shubic: I’m a seasoned marketer who has worked the client, agency and media sides of the business, in nearly every capacity. For more than three years now I have been road tripping around North America helping, consulting, writing and filming content for innkeepers.