Imagine, you are tired and have just had a meeting with the hotel owner.
Bookings are down, and they want results. You sit at your desk and load up the Hotel website and wonder ‘what am I going to do, how am I going to increase the hotel’s direct revenue?’
Well, fear not.
In this article, we are going to show you not one but five ways you can increase your hotel occupancy by focusing on the right methods. We will dip our toes into scientifically proven psychological techniques that will ensure that people who are visiting your hotel website convert into customers and increase your direct bookings.
Ready? Let’s do this;
1. Show Social Proof To Increase Hotel Direct Bookings
When it comes to humans, we are creatures of habit and one habit is a major part of modern life. Put simply we like to do what others are doing. This is called social proof.
Think about it, have you ever been out and decided to get a bite to eat, you walk past several restaurants and see a lot of them empty, but then you see one where there is a queue to get in, maybe even a 30 minute wait for a table.
So what do you do?
Most people would wait because you think ‘hey everyone is eating here, the food must be great’. This is a classic example of social proof. But it actually goes far deeper into the human mind than this.
Jonah Berger is a marketing Professor and the author of several leading books on behaviour. In his latest book ‘Invisible Influence’ Berger states ‘ Using others as information sources saves us time and effort’.
Fortunately, for you there is an abundance of methods that will allow you to increase your levels of social proof and they are staring you in the face, each day. They are of course your customers.
So here is how to do it, and for this lesson we are going to learn from another industry, the fitness industry.
How To Jump Onto The Success Of The Fitness Industry To Boost Growth
Have you seen just how popular the fitness industry is right now?
If we head over to Google trends we can see just by searching for the term Crossfit (a type of fitness training) that there has been a huge growth in interest:
But why has this happened?
Well, this is almost exclusively down to social proof. If you go and study the fitness industry you will learn that one of their leading marketing services is called NPE or Net Profit Explosion.
NPE has taken the fitness world by storm and they offer a range of free advice well worth checking out (especially if your hotel has a gym).
Anyway among their core advice for gaining more customers they actually use a system called Social Media ‘criss cross’. This is where you take pictures of customers and post them to your social media page.
Gyms do this all the time and this ‘social proof’ via social media has helped the industry to boom. I bet you too have seen countless friends who have posted images on Facebook/ Instagram of them either working out or before or after pictures of them in great shape
Now this is of course entirely something that you need to manage and respect the privacy of your customers, but it is an excellent way to gain that all important social proof. But if you feel that it is not right for your hotel to do this you can cheat a little.
The Social Proof Cheat
Go out and find a great bunch of natural models, these are ‘people next door types’ and set them up in a situation that your customers partake, then just click away. It is up to you if you want to hire a professional photographer or just use your mobile phone camera, but the idea is to look natural.
An excellent example of this is from a Hotel in Windermere in the UK:
The hotel has used their setting to promote a deal they have on and already it has gained some interest from people who like their page:
Social proof, of course, goes further, especially online because of the dreaded Trip Advisor and that is something you need to keep on top of.
If you get a review from a customer, you need to answer it, both the negative and the positive and look for a chance to convince not only that customer that you will try and fix things, but also show other customers that you are on the ball and dealing with any issues.
2. Get On Top Of All the Important Lists
Much in the same way that social proof makes the decision process easier, there is another great way to get easier conversions, and that is to become a hit!
Now this, of course, sounds obvious but let me explain using good old Harry Potter as an example.
Harry Potter is a global franchise of books, films, merchandise and even Themepark attractions. Not bad for a book that was repeatedly turned down by publishers. In fact, the author JK Rowling was rejected by not one but 12 publishers who told her not to quit her day job and ‘children’s books do not make any money’. Considering that the franchise is now worth an estimated $25 Billion, those publishers must be kicking themselves up the backsides.
OK, but what has this got to do with hotels? Stay with me, and all will be revealed.
You see JK Rowling was not alone; she joined a host of other smash hit successes that were originally told that they were not ‘good enough’. The worst I think is Walt Disney who was fired and told he ‘had no imagination’.
So why did so many industry experts get it wrong?
This was something that was queried by sociologist Matthew Salganik who wanted to know why certain things became hits and others didn’t and more so why people who were experts could not recognise which would.
To solve this, he created an experiment with a music download site and displayed the information of which songs were listened to and which were downloaded. In very carefully crafted experiments they were able to show that social influence plays an incredible part in popularity.
People who came to the site used the list of the songs most downloaded/ listened to as a guide and then those songs gained even more popularity. This is social influence at work. We only have so much attention and time which is why being on top of lists is essential. If we see a book or film on the bestsellers list, we are more likely to check them out, and once you have success, it starts to compound.
To prove this point take a look at another JK Rowling book called ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’. This was a detective novel that she wrote under a pseudonym. The book sold only 1500 copies in its first three months of sale. That was until she was revealed as the writer and then sales skyrocketed and it became the best-selling book on Amazon.
So how can you make social influence work for you?
Well clearly a hotel rating is essential, but becoming the top hotel in your area on Tripadvisor, winning local awards for your restaurant, being named ‘best hotel for families in xyz’ and any other list that you can think of, and yes that includes being on the first page of Google.
3. Use Your Blog
A hotel blog is one of the least used and utilised weapons in the customer retention arsenal of any good hotel.
Why? Because Blogs are considered the third most influential source of online information that affects consumer purchasing decisions.
But as if this is not enough Google did a truck load of research around consumer purchasing decisions. They established that customers have a research phase before purchase now, this is done online and the customers that gain the answers to the questions they have are more likely to buy from the source of the answers. They call this ZMOT.
Ok, so how does this work for you?
Well let is say that you are a hotel in the countryside and you have amazing local walks all around your premises, if a consumer was looking for a nice romantic break and saw your hotel website.
It would make life easier for them if you both told them you have nice walks around the hotel and actually wrote a detailed blog posts that told them about each walk.
These micro questions- answers are essential in keeping your site visitor engaged and getting them to convert.
But where do you find content ideas?
A great place to start is Tripadvisor itself.
Head over and type into the search bar Things To Do and then your location:
This will take you to a new search page where you type the details in again.
Once you do this you will now see a range of things to do in your chosen area:
This should give you at least one amazing post idea but you can even break this down further by selecting a location/ attraction.
Inside the attraction, you can see the reviews and start learning about the concerns/ views and issues the customer has. For example, here we see that one person arrived by boat and this was a brilliant idea, and the next review shows that the price was more than they thought but well worth it.
For your blog posts you could add these factors to the article and this, of course, is super helpful to any guest.
The kick back to all this is that your hotel becomes a source of information, the hotel website grows in page size and also the amount of time people spend on the site increases, this is great for SEO (search engine optimisation). Also by writing about local things you are giving superb signals to Google about your business and it should increase your rankings. (remember the social influence factor).
Ok there is another great way to use your blog to increase social influence, tell people about your success, which is what this hotel did:
This hotel was voted the best of 2015, they then used that to create an article and I am sure shared that on their social media accounts.
A blog is a great tool so start creating epic content that helps and educates people.
4. Use Attention Front Loading To Increase Sales
Have you ever had your palm read?
If you have, you will notice how they tend to know so much about you. Is it a gift, is it a trick?
While there might be some real and gifted palm readers an awful lot of this type of mental trickery is called Attention Front Loading.
Here is how it works.
If I was to take your palm and said to you “you are often stubborn”, your mind automatically looks within itself for an occasion that you were stubborn and when you find one this supports what I just said.
I know, it is almost too simple to be true, but it is. You see, the International expert in Influence Robert Cialdini talks about this in his book Pre-Suasion. Inside he talks about an experiment by communication scientists Sam Bolkan and Peter Anderson.
Within the experiment, they went out and asked people if they would take part in a survey, as you might expect only 29% of people they stopped agreed.
However, the next time they stopped people they asked a simple question first “do you consider yourself to be helpful’. The result was that 77.3% of people volunteered.
So what took place to change the approach of the people they stopped, the answer is consistency. People like to stay true to themselves and if they just told you that they consider themselves to be helpful they are well and truly snookered if they refuse to do your survey.
Now you might be wondering how this might help you to convert more people into booking your hotel. The answer lies in your website copy.
The vast majority of hotels pay little or no attention to their web copy. Sure some have a few lines about the rooms, but the vast majority rely heavily on images. This is a huge mistake because once you have them on your website you have their attention.
If we look at the copy on this hotel website we can see a great example of how not to do this:
These few uneventful lines of text hardly make me want to rush to book a room.
The fact is that when a person heads over to your website they are ‘paying’ attention. The very term pay means there is a cost and yes that cost is that they are not attending to other matters.
You have secured the very thing you need to make a sale (their attention) and you now need to cultivate it.
Of course this will differ depending on the web page the visitor landed on, because if a person is looking for a wedding venue or a romantic break will require different copy.
But the idea here is to trigger the customer consistency from both the web copy and the images.
A great example of this done well is the British Hotel chain Premier Inn.
As you can see they have a flexible web design that focuses on the customer needs. Take a look at the image and the clothing that works with the text ‘Autumn breaks start here’.
If we go further down the website we can see more attention front loading on display:
As we can see here they have really gone to town on the copy “Nothing beats family time”. Well if you are looking for a family break then straight away you will be thinking of a superb family break you have had in the past, you will not be thinking of the kids arguing in the car, or the night one was sick and kept you awake.
No, you will be thinking of all the postcard images in your head. And they do not stop there, we see they allow kids to stay free, they have free wifi and free breakfast. And the cute teddy bear on the bead image will get you thinking of either your young child sleeping peacefully or a time when your children were cute enough to have a teddy bear and not an Ipad.
Anyway you can see straight away how powerful the front loading of attention can be as it forces people to be consistent to what they want. In this case the web page uses great images and text to answer the consumer questions straight away.
But you can use this as well, use surveys to find out what matters most to your guests and then front load this into web copy and images on your site. It might be that your guests value the traditional aspect of a hotel, or its peaceful location away from it all.
The key here is telling people what you offer straight away and if that is consistent to what they want it will be very difficult for the person to hit the back button.
5. Use The Law Of Reciprocation To Entice Bookings
The law of reciprocation is perhaps one of the most powerful of all social behaviours we possess.
If you are not sure what it is, it is simply the act of returning a favour, and we do it all the time.
You might get an invite for your child to go to another child’s birthday party. Well, guess who bagged themselves an invite to your child’s birthday party.
Have you ever had a present from someone at work and you say ‘I have yours at home, I’ll bring it in tomorrow’ only for you to dash to the shops and get them one because you never thought they would get you one?
Or perhaps you reward a waiter a huge tip because he went out if his way to help you.
Well, you too can leverage this same law with your website in a variety of ways.
The most powerful of this is money. Giving someone money off or money towards is an easy way to encourage bookings. Disney does this all the time with their ‘free dining’ offer that they use every few years.
If we look at the Macdonald Hotel Chain we see a great example of this on display:
They have offered a £10 spend for your stay when you book direct.
This offer could be a free meal, an extra night for free or a free bottle of wine on your arrival. The issue is not really what it is; it simply has to be something relevant and of value.
Now this type of offer works on so many levels; firstly you have front-loaded their attention to something that you will give them free, and this leverages the law of reciprocation because you are offering something free if they book.
I saw this same law done in reverse on my recent stay at a hotel in Rhodes. The hotel owners and staff all waved us goodbye and asked us how our stay was.
This is ridiculously smart because if someone says ‘it was great’ then they are unlikely to go away and write a terrible review on TripAdvisor (remember we like to be consistent). Now the next thing was the free goodbye gift to my kids (and me). They provided our children with activity packs so they would not get bored on the way home or in the airport.
Ok, now this is scarily powerful because the law of reciprocation makes me want to thank them and do something great for them, in this case, write a great review (which I did by the way).
So could you leverage this law with a low-cost method of ensuring great social proof?
So there you have it, five ways you can boost your hotel’s direct bookings using the scientifically backed principles.
These are incredibly powerful triggers of influence that can have an amazing effect on your hotel booking if used correctly.
So what are you going to do first? Look at getting them a gift or write a new blog article? As always let us know what you think of this article and the ideas by commenting below
Thanks for reading!