Hotel Marketing Coach
Neil L. Salerno, CHME, CHA
Internet Marketing Articles
Building Traffic (SEO)
The Next Best Thing in Hotel Marketing
…A New Tool To Harvest Referral Business
By: Neil Salerno – Hotel Marketing Coach
I think many hoteliers understand how strongly I feel about the ability of travel social media like TripAdvisor to boost business for hotels. Travel social media sites consist of user-generated comments from the traveling community, which act as a guide to other travelers to use in the hotel selection process.
Travelers want that "feel good" factor which comes from knowing how your past guests feel about your hotel. Experience has shown that they seek this information either before or after making a reservation. In turn, other travelers enjoy having an outlet to express their experiences after their hotel stay.
For some hoteliers, this poses the risk of receiving more negative comments than positive ones and, therefore, they are fearful of the power these sites have to shape travel. Demonizing or ignoring these sites will not make them go away; their traffic is growing exponentially.
It is important to note that there are several ways to shape the comments your hotel receives. One of the most effective methods is to engage guests before they leave your hotel and encourage them to post their comments after they leave or during their stay.
It is no secret that guests, who experience a problem, do not hesitate to share their experiences on these sites; in contrast, satisfied guests need to be encouraged to post their comments. The numbers prove that it is wise to encourage guests, with good visits, to post on TripAdvisor. In every hotel, there are more satisfied guests then those who were unsatisfied. TripAdvisor notes that positive comments about hotels far exceed negative ones by about 9 to 1.
Smart hoteliers are using their own websites to promote guest comments about their hotel. Progressive webmasters know exactly how to use the TripAdvisor widget to keep visitors on your site while taking advantage of the benefits of social media's third-party endorsement of your hotel.
The Huge Leap From Comments To Referrals
For years, I have received emails from many innovative companies with new systems and applications designed for Internet marketing and promotions. I investigate all of them. As a marketer of hotels on the Internet, I am constantly seeking ways to improve hotel sales via online marketing. Very few of these new ideas get my blood flowing with anticipation …until now.
Last week, I heard from a young company called URefer.com. Our phone conversation brought me back to my hotel sales days, when I first learned that obtaining business referrals was paramount to building future group business. Their new concept takes us from the passive position of simply receiving comments from past guests to the pro-active position of soliciting actual business referrals.
URefer gives hotels the ability to offer incentives, and the means, for past guests and groups, to refer business to hotels through via the hotel's website. Through their referral engine, hotel consumers will have the ability to post and read actual referrals online.
Their system, which acts very much like a website booking engine, gives your hotel the ability to offer incentives for referrals, which are only rewarded when they convert the referral to actual bookings. URefer manages and monitors the entire referral-to-booking process and provides the hotel with the marketing data needed to seal the deal.
I believe that URefer has the potential to accomplish something we have sought for years; the ability to pro-actively solicit referral business on the Internet. It gives us the potential to link hotel websites within a company's portfolio to exchange transient and group referrals from property to property.
Their program gives hotels the ability to add still another marketing function to their proprietary website. It can provide hotels will the ability to solicit referrals and display those referrals to influence the solicitation of new business right on their websites.
URefer is only now extending its application to the hospitality industry, so I'm sure they are still learning about our industry's variances and quirks. It's a good time to go-to-school with them to guide them in developing ways to best serve hotels. In any event, their program has tons of potential to provide us with an innovative way to harvest referral business.
It's important to understand that I never have, nor ever will, accept compensation to recommend or endorse products or ideas. My standard is simple; I make recommendations in my articles based solely upon the merits of the product or service to benefit our industry.