Tuesday 5 January 2010

Guaranteed Best Rate - Shout it out Loud

The need to use Online Travel Agents over the past year has been for many a necessarily evil rather than a strategic plan. They undoubtedly have their uses and when used in conjunction with an online sales strategy to promote your own direct sales they can achieve very positive and complementary results. But OTAs should not be left to become your online strategy
To rely on third parties for your online reservations is a very dangerous policy indeed. Accommodation providers know that they should be providing their direct (potentially regular) customers with the very best service before, during and after their stay and one means of doing this is ensuring that they are your customers booking directly with you and not through an intermediary. Ask any accommdoation provider whether they would prefer a directly booked customer to a third party one and the answer will always be the same.
So what can you do about it? Well over the coming weeks we'll look at a number of areas but how about starting with Guaranted Best Rates?
It has always seemed fundamentally flawed that your customer can purchase better rates with the OTA's than if they book directly with the property. Not only on a customer service level but also on a cost basis. From our own experiences we all know that we will shop around - price comparison sites have built their selling proposition on it.

However even in insurance markets the direct supplier is asserting their independance. Increasingly the adverts will now send with the statement that the offer is not available on comparison websites.
Carry the logic forward to a hotel website. If a site visitor finds your site and finds an availability checker which states Guaranteed Best Rate are they more or less likely to book with you?
So there's the beginning make sure you have Best Availabale Rate promoted on your site heavily.
But what else can you do? Well look at your on and off line communications from top to bottom, start to finish and ensure the message is sent lod and clear.
Here's a little list to start things off:
  • Outgoing emails and enewsletters - Guaranteed Best Rate label like above
  • Correspondence - add to all your letters and confirmations. Why not print up labels and stick them on all your envelopes?
  • Room keys - if reprinting or producing nerw key rings make sure they promote Guranteed Best Rate on your website - Ramada Jarvis do it!
  • Tent cards in your public areas? 
  • On all your leaflets and brochures? 
  • Facebook, Twitter and Blogs? Reinforce on all your online communications.
  • Invoices on departure - ensure it's clear they can't book cheaper anywhere else the next time
  • Data Gathering - collect those email addresses and set yourself a collection target every week and ensure it again says Guaranteed Best Rate.
Overkill? No we don't think so. A website needs to increase traffic to ensure it can sell more online. Price sensitivity is prevalant and anything that can drive traffic to your website in the future must be done. Guaranteed Best Rate is just one of the tools to achieve it but an important starting point.
After all what chance of conversion from your own site if the room is available cheaper on ten other websites?
For more information on developing your online marketing strategy contact The Edge by email call 01292 521404 or visit The Edge Online

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