Sending out a press release is still a good trick of the trade

I often find that hoteliers overlook the local and national ‘traditional’ press in place of new marketing opportunities such as SEO and social media. Press releases are still an excellent way to get the word out about new developments, seasonal packages, and exciting hotel news such as staff changes and quirky events.

According to The Guardian, a top-selling newspaper in the UK, a well-crafted press release needs to:

  • Have a killer headline that gets straight to the point
  • Get the most important part of your story right at the beginning
  • Be concise – approximately an A4 page with a maximum of 300-400 words
  • and use quotes to provide insight into, rather than facts

You can write a press release for any reason, but personally, I would recommend writing a press release with a view of increasing sales and awareness, especially if you’re launching a package, promotion or initiative to boost your quiet periods.

Say, for example, you’re looking to boost your bookings in the Winter and you’re launching an amazing new winter short break package that you’re convinced will sell, and you’re including entry to a few local attractions as part of the package price. A good headline for this would be something like ‘Local hotel looking to make winter dreams come true’ with the first sentence reading something like ‘A local hotel has collaborated with local attractions to offer an enchanting winter experience right here in Townsville’.

I’m not a press release expert, but the headline is attractive and stands out, and from a local press point of view, the journalist will be interested that you’re working with local attractions and including entry into the package.

Of course, once you’ve written an eye-catching and informative press release, you need to get it in front of journalists. For local press such as your town or regional newspaper, read through their website to find out which reporters typically cover your area. They’ll often have their email address in their byline now, and if not, you should be able to piece together their email format using something like firstname.surname@localpress.co.uk or use their website contact form.

If you’re wanting to attract national press, there’s a couple of options available for you. Firstly, think about your target market and who you’re trying to reach. If you’re looking to attract weddings, there’s not much point in sending your press release to a small business magazine. Take the time to carefully plan which publications you’d like to feature in, and get in touch with them with a personalised email.

There’s plenty of articles available online to help you to expertly craft your press release, and then to get it in front of the people who matter. You can also use press release distribution services, but these often charge a hefty fee and I’ve tended to find I have more success if I take an individual, personalised approach to writing and distributing a hotel press release.

Have you had much success with press releases? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

To get more bookings, make sure your site is mobile friendly

Having a mobile-friendly website is vitally important. According to Google:

Mobile is changing the world. Today, everyone has smartphones with them, constantly communicating and looking for information. In many countries, the number of smartphones has surpassed the number of personal computers; having a mobile-friendly website has become a critical part of having an online presence.

In one of my previous blog posts I underscored how OTAs are not your enemy, but none the less they’ll always win out on mobile if you don’t have a first-class mobile friendly website and booking system.

We’ve all visited a website on our phones that wasn’t mobile optimised, meaning that we have to pinch and zoom, drag left and right, and try to complete a basic task with no luck, and we all know how frustrating that is!

If you’re unsure of whether your website mobile friendly or not, there are two things that you need to do.

Firstly, you need to try and make a booking from the point of view of your customers, and see if it’s a painless experience. Things to look out for include whether it’s easy or not to fill in contact details, choose a room type and enter a credit/debit card number.

Secondly, does Google think your website is mobile friendly? You can take their Mobile-Friendly Test today and in a few seconds, you’ll see how mobile friendly your website actually is. If the results aren’t what you were expecting, pass your results onto your website designer who should be able to help. If they can’t, time to consider a new website designer!

People often say that ‘PCs are dead’ and that mobile is the only thing that matters. I don’t believe this is true, but as a profitable hotelier, you should be catering to everyone, regardless of which device they’re using.

Modern technology affords you the luxury of doing that, and there are some excellent and innovative examples of mobile-friendly hotel sites that I’ll be featuring on my blog shortly.

In the meantime, let me know in the comments if you have a mobile-friendly hotel website, I’d love to check it out!

Selling rooms via Facebook Messenger

Most businesses today have a Facebook page, and if yours doesn’t, why not! Facebook is used by over 2 billion people, and a free Facebook page can be an invaluable marketing tool.

For those of you who already have a Facebook page, you’re likely to be using the Message button where fans can get in touch with you to ask a question and learn more about your business.

Facebook Messenger is used by over 1 billion people every month, and for a lot of people, it can be their main way to communicate with friends, family, and now businesses.

Many large businesses encourage people to send them messages via Facebook, whether that be supermarkets, small boutiques or hotels. Customers who are on Facebook, and who discover your page, are likely to send you a message via Facebook Messenger if they have a question, and this is a growing segment of your potential customer base that you can’t afford to miss out on.

When it comes to selling rooms via Facebook Messenger, having a good sales strategy in place to capture bookings there and then can lead to excellent conversion rates and a goldmine of new bookings. If you’re planning to harness the power of Facebook Messenger to grow your sales, then I recommend the following:

  • Answer customer’s enquiries with personalisation, but maintain a loose script. If someone is enquiring about a room on a particular date, for example, reply personally but make sure you have something that you can copy and paste to seal the deal such as:¬†(this part is your organic response) Hi Chris, thanks for your message. We do indeed have rooms available on the 1st July. (this part is your stock response) If you’d like to go ahead and book, visit our website as our availability is limited and our rooms can sell out fast, so I wouldn’t want you to miss out.
  • Where you can, direct them to your online booking system with a direct link to the date, and room type, that they’re looking for. This will help with conversions and may help you to offer a specific room rate.
  • It can help to offer a discount/coupon code for Messenger enquiries. Offer something¬†such as ‘As a thank you for enquiring via our Facebook page, enter coupon code MESSENGER01 on our website to receive 10% off your next booking.

With Messenger enquiries, you can be as creative as you like. Customers will appreciate a bit of individuality, but at the end of the day, they’re looking to make a booking, so make sure you convert these free leads to drive your bookings.

What are your thoughts on using Facebook Messenger to take bookings? Have you already achieved success with Facebook Messenger? Let me know in the comments below!

OTAs are not your enemy

Booking.com

The main thing that I want you to take away from today is that Online Travel Agents, such as Booking.com, Expedia and Laterooms.com, are not your enemy. Of course, direct bookings are important, and reducing your dependency on OTAs is never a bad thing, but the fact of the matter is that, by default, the vast majority of potential customers, when looking for a hotel room, will turn to an OTA first.

As with any part of running a hotel, there are positives and negatives, but if you go in with a realistic view of how you can work with an OTA then I tend to find that the positives do outweigh the negatives in the end.

The positives of OTAs include:

  • Exposure in your market with the ability to reach new customers
  • Built-in customer base that you may be unable to reach otherwise
  • Ability to sell last-minute rooms or push quiet dates through promotions
  • No upfront investment – you only pay when they sell a room

The negatives of OTAs include:

  • Commission, often starting at 18% and going as high as 30%, can be a big hit to your bottom line
  • OTA customers are loyal to OTAs due to their loyalty schemes such as Booking.com’s Genius program and Hotels.com free night stays.
  • You have little to no control over when, or if, you appear in their listings, short of signing contracts and paying more.

The fact is that OTAs are an integral part of running a hotel and aren’t something that you can get away from. By embracing OTAs, with a pragmatic approach, you’ll be able to grow your business over the long term.

My top tips for working with OTAs include:

  • Keeping in regular contact with your account manager, and arrange meetings when they’re in your area. They have a wealth of information, and it’s their job to increase their area’s sales, which in turn means increasing your sales.
  • View OTA revenue as a segment of your business just like any other, and manage its performance – increase bookings, increase rate, and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Work to convert your OTA guests into direct bookers, but don’t go overboard. Organic coaching of them to book direct through little incentives such as free upgrades or a dinner discount goes down much better than saying they should book direct so you don’t pay commission.

How do you find your working relationship with OTAs, and do you have any hints and tips that you think I should add to this post? Let me know in the comments below!

More Heads in Beds – An Introduction

Hi, I’m Chris, and for the last 13+ years I’ve been working in the hotel industry, primarily in a sales and revenue management role with the key task of filling hotel rooms.

Based on my own personal experience, training, and tips that I have picked up along the way, I have decided to launch ‘More Heads in Beds’, a blog and service dedicated to helping hotel sales professionals, small hotel owners, and everyone who is tasked with filling the hotel, or hotels, that they work in.

Please follow along, and you’re more than welcome to get in touch if you’d like any hints or tips for your particular hotel or job role, or to ask further questions about any of the posts that I publish on here over the coming weeks and months.

Thanks for stopping by!

Chris