Thursday, May 29, 2008

Economic Downturn Got You Worried?

Are we in a recession or not? There are varying opinions on just what state our economy is in right now. I am not convinced it is a full blown recession. However, I do know that in the hospitality industry things are definitely slowing down, largely in leisure business. Why? The answer is simple. . . the rising cost of fuel translates in to increased costs for just about every consumer product we purchase, from food to clothing. What's left for most families isn't much. So everyone wants to stretch their dollar right now. Some are taking the wait and see approach.

Right now everyone from grocery stores to us in the travel industry have their hands out trying to get a piece of the "economic stimulus" checks that tax paying families are receiving, but this is short sighted. We need to think long term in the current economy. The immediate reaction for most operators is to start cutting costs to achieve budgeted flow through. This strategy is very shortsighted. Instead, I think we should be looking to invest more, smarter. This article from Guy Maser in iMedia connection gives 7 Strategies for Marketing in a Downturn.

Most of these things we should already be doing. That is why we have taken such a big move into online marketing. We get that are messages need to be targeted and we need measurable results. One item that Guy talks about is seeking assistance from our media partners. What can they do to help us achieve our goals? He suggests that we ask them some key questions:
  • Do they have your target audience's attention?
  • Can they keep your company visible to prospects and customers at all times?
  • Do they offer a variety of integrated marketing solutions aligned with your goals?
  • Can they provide both visibility and lead generation?
  • Do they deliver targeted, quality leads with full contact information?
  • Do they provide reports you can use to measure the performance of your marketing and justify your marketing investments?
This is smart business. It is important for us to understand the full offering that our media partners bring to the table. I think we should constantly be pushing them for improvements and results. We shouldn't be afraid to pull out of a partner that isn't giving us the results we need.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Travel.Google.Com is Closer to Becoming a Reality

I mentioned the potential for Google to get in the travel vertical of search previously in my blog. Here is a blog post from the Tech Beat blog at Business Week discussing more in depth Google's plans to get into the very lucrative travel search arena. That's a $90 billion market to quote numbers from the BW post.

The interview with Rob Torres, Google's Managing Director for Travel, exposes some of the search giants plans for travel. One item mentioned was the integration of destination videos from YouTube on their travel pages. This allows Google to monetize YouTube indirectly.

It is interesting to note that they are going to be staying out of the booking business all together.
It’s worth noting one thing that any future Google offering won’t have—airline fares or hotel bookings. Even Google is unwilling to try its hand at the part of the beleaguered industry’s business. The customer service investment is huge, explains Torres.
More likely is that they would sacrifice major ad revenue from some of the major online travel agencies who spend BIG TIME with them right now. I could see Google purchasing a travel meta search site like Kayak to get into this area down the road though.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

How Do You Keep Up - The AdAge Power 150 Media and Marketing Blogs

There could not be a better place to start your online marketing education than the blogs listed in the Power 150. Thanks to Jacob Morgan for sending this out via Twitter.

Not every blog is going to work for you, but the goal is to find the one or two that you regularly get information from. I was amazed to see how many of the top 150 I am already looking at regularly.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

HOT TOPIC: How to Measure the Success of Social Media Campaigns

If business getting into the social media conversation is hot, then determining how to measure the success of social media participation has to be one of the hot topics of the year.

Do you measure increased conversion? How about increased time spent on your web site? Or do you look at how often your hotel is mentioned in blogs, review sites, etc.

The trouble for most advertisers, and specifically hoteliers, is that we want to get some type of measurable ROI because in the end it is all about the revenue it has generated for us. I have to be honest and say that in the current environment, I don't think anyone has the perfect set of measurement tools. Depending on the level of integration you have with your site, your booking engine and your analytic tools you may or may not be able to get to an ROI calculation.

This post from m-Travel shows the discussion that Eye For Travel had with industry executives and what they look at in their social media campaigns.

What are you using to measure the success of your social media campaigns?

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gaining Consumer Trust - Search Engines Making Ground

In this post from m-Travel's blog, Porter Gale, from Virgin America, says that the work done by search engines to reduce spam and improve the quality of pay-per-click landing pages has gone a long way to improve consumer trust in paid search engine listings.

I have to agree here. Search engines are all about providing the correct relevant content to their users whether it be from the organic or paid listings. Obviously they have made big improvements reducing the search engine spam from organic listings. They constantly refine their "secret sauce" - algorithms - to eliminate elements for manipulation whether you are talking about metatags, cloaking, keyword stuffing or paid linking. They took on paid advertising spam, when they started giving ads quality scores and requiring relevant landing pages. All of this done to improve their search results and hopefully their share of those results and the money it brings in.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

WeGo Bezurk: What's in a Name? Confusion I Say

In the latest renaming game that's happening online,, a travel metasearch site, like, is changing it's name to

I guess it makes sense, but why do online companies insist on creating confusion. In all the rush to create "unique" names that stick, we forget that consumers have to remember them in the first place. Perhaps we need to spend more time on that part of the research process.

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Kayak Ad Network - Need Date Targeting, It's About Time


I love it! The Kayak Ad Network is coming. Currently, their network is composed of the following sites:
  • Kayak
  • Sidestep
  • TravelPost
  • AOL
  • USA Today
  • Comcast
  • Lonely Planet
That's not really what I love. I love that they are,
enabling travel marketers to target their advertising based on search parameters including city or city pairs, trip dates, length of stay, and specific airline or hotel brands.
Finally a company that get's the travel industry needs. The GDS's have had this capability for a long time. What' so great, you only display advertising when a customer shops over dates that you need help on. Less waste, better conversion, improved ROI. Ah ha ha ha, It's Alive!!!

Now back after that brief moment of madness, does anyone know of any other online advertising networks that have this functionality? If so, please share.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Email Subscriber Attrition Tactic - The Opt-in Email

Email marketing is one area that we as a company don't do enough with. The fault is not entirely our alone though. The brands make it difficult, if not impossible to access, the emails that they collect on their site - even though the guest made there reservation with us. They want to control the message and the frequency of the blasts to make sure that their guests aren't bombarded. While I get the importance of protecting the permission that these customers gave us when they signed up, I am sure that at least half of them expected to get some relevant offers from the hotel in which they made a reservation. I can almost guarantee you that this isn't happening.

This article from Media Post talks about how to reengage those customers by sending an opt-in email. Here are the best practices that they outline in their post:
  1. Be clear in the subject line
  2. Restate your value proposition
  3. Use YES and NO options
  4. Send a second request - where appropriate
For full details on the use of this tactic, click through to their article.
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Monday, May 5, 2008

Hotel Internet Marketing - A Squidoo Lens

I follow Seth Godin's blog. He frequently mentions a company that he is a part of called Squidoo. The idea behind the site is that individuals create lenses that shares their recommended resources for a specific topic (i.e., Elvis Presley movies, sports collectibles, etc.). So in short, everyone is an expert as Seth explains in his blog.

So I created my first lens for hotel ecommerce and internet marketing. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

Do you have a lens you'd like to share? Send me a link and I'll share it here.
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Did the Hotel Come First or the Web Site?

That's an easy one to answer? The hotel was there way before web sites were around.

However, it today's age of transparency and information surfing. The days of having an average hotel and a super flashy web site are out. We need to go to an integrated approach of marketing our hotel consistently across channels to the customers we are targeting. This post from Blizzard Internet Marketing, shows how one hotel, the Hotel So in Chrischurch, New Zealand got it right.

Brand identity commands a price premium.

Here are a few items I noticed while walking through the site:

  • You see the curved edge boxes on the site are repetition of the similar wall panels found in the public space of the hotel.
  • The repetition of the patterns on the guest room walls to the web site.
  • The color palletes are similar
  • The contiuation of the hip minimalist hotel to the site.
By properly branding the site and the marketing message with the hotel, you can get so much more.
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How to Recession Proof Your Hotel? Engage Your Customer

According to a new PeopleMetrics study, hotels that do a better job of engaging their guests also have better financial results that those with low engagement scores.

"At a time when business and personal travel budgets are being slashed, a focus on guest engagement is key to surviving the economic downturn."

Engagement doesn't necessarily happen only online, since we are on an eCommerce blog I needed to point that out. It is important for your front line employees to be engaging and interactive with your guests. Do they smile and say hello, do they take the time to talk with your customers or quickly answer and then go back to work? According to PeopleMetrics, customer engagement is the hotel industry is impacted by functional and emotional elements of the guest experience.

Of course, there is also a lot of recent talk about continuing the engagement process past the stay and to the sharing part of a person's trip. I think this is key because if you can create that wow experience, by following up to see how the trip was afterwards, you will get return customers. When was the last time you followed up with a customer?
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Where Do You STAND on hotel reviews?

Love 'em or leave'em online travel review sites are here to stay. In the hotel industry the current trend is using a report or monitoring system to track what travelers are saying about your hotel, staff and outlets.

Starwood Hotels have weighed in with their choice to provide this service. They are going to use ReviewAnalyst by Standing Dog Interactive. The selling points for this product is that it allows you to. . .

Track - you can look at your hotel in comparison to your top 3 competitors for the major travel review sites with a convenient dashboard.

Analyze - What trends are you seeing in customer reviews? Track both positive and negative comments. The great benefit of many services like this is that they can easily aggregate the data for you and usually provide a search function to look for specific phrases, like "housekeeping cleanliness".

- If you are not participating in the discussion, you are in trouble. Web 2.0 is all about the consumer taking control and suppliers participating in the discussion. Their report makes it easy for hoteliers to easily post a response to TripAdvisor (currently the only company that allows for this).

Once I get a chance to use the product, I will post a review about it.
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Friday, May 2, 2008

So, You Want To Know How To Respond - Management Response 101

I love it!

Someone finally boiled it all down in one place. Read this post on Marketing Pilgrim for a quick down and dirty "how to" for responding to guest reviews of your hotel online. It covers responding to both positive and negative comments online.

What? You say you aren't paying attention to guest reviews. And you're not about to respond. Before you say that consider that over 60% of people who purchase travel online refer to other consumer reviews prior to purchasing travel. Now, read this article and get over to TripAdvisor - in that order.
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Reputation Management is More Than. . .

When you think of online reputation management, you may think of what consumers are saying about your hotel or how your competition is using your hotel name or content to trick guests in ppc advertisements. While those are two good examples of what is important in online reputation management, there are many more. This post from Marketing Pilgrim outlines the 10 different areas of your hotel reputation that you should be paying attention to online.

They break the items down into categories:
  • Critical - Hotel Name
  • Important - Legacy Hotel Names, Restaurants, Hotel Management
  • Valuable - Concierge, Niche Travel Writers, Disgruntled Employees
  • Optional - Resort Area, Parent Chain, Competition
Several of these categories, I hadn't even thought of before. It can be difficult to keep up with just tracking what is being said about your hotel, let alone all of these other areas. Here are some tools I would suggest to assist in monitoring your online reputation:
  • Google Alerts - If you haven't already sign up for a Google account and have them send you daily alerts about the keywords related to the topics above. This can be very insightful and is FREE, a word every hotelier likes to hear.
  • Use Yahoo! to look at who is linking into your site. In the search box, type "link://http://web address". This will show you who Yahoo! shows is linking into your site. Again another free tool.
  • While we have tested a couple of different reporting services, we like TravelCLICK's SearchView product. Their review tracking portion of the report is very good. However, I would be remiss to say this report is right for everyone. You should find what works best for you. Here are some other report you should look into: Avalon Report, TIG Global's Hotel Protect, Lodging Interactive's Chatter Guard are several to look at.
Regardless of which methods you use, please don't think that this is going away. Web 2.0 is all about consumers taking control. You can either join the conversation and flourish, or ignore it at your own peril.
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