To Mail or Email? That is the QuestionJuly 16th, 2012
There’s a great article in Target Marketing that addresses this issue from a generic perspective. It got me to thinking about this from the lodging point of view. When trying to bring in more reservations, how do you balance your marketing between mail and email?
The answer often comes down to budget. If you don’t have much money, then email may be your only option. But if you do have a marketing budget, it’s not really a question of which one do you use, but how often do you use both?
As with all marketing media, each works best when combined with another. Your direct mail will be more successful when combined with email, social, and other media. Your email will work better when combined with direct mail, your website and other media. It’s always better to send the whole team out rather than just the quarterback.
The answer to knowing what works best and when is in your list. Proper segmentation will dictate which makes sense. For higher-end properties and high-spend guests, a direct mail piece makes sense. For lower-end properties and low-spend guests, email is the answer.
Timing also plays a role. If someone is already interested and their dates of interest are near, email is your best course. If someone hasn’t expressed an interest but they fit the profile of a high stay value, a direct mail piece is justified.
You can think of it this way. Use direct mail to get the attention of the big fish and email to reel them in.
Okay, enough with the sports analogies.
Vice President - Marketing
Reservation Information OverloadJuly 16th, 2012
If you’ve ever been into a Baskin-Robbins you’ve experienced what I hear time and time again on reservations calls, a decision dilemma. Do you go with the peanut butter blast, mocha almond explosion, bubble gum surprise or maybe the ol’ standby strawberry? Fortunately, they have those tiny little spoons and no limit on the number of samples.
Unfortunately for your guests, there aren’t really any taste tests for their vacation. To further complicate the matter I frequently hear reservations agents confuse guests by offering too many options. For most of us too many options throws us back on our heels and lessens the likelihood that we will make a decision on this call and stay with you.
Helpful Agent Exercise: Visit or even stay in a room type or property that they have never experienced. This will give them real perspective to share with callers and also aid them in narrowing recommendations. Then, have each agent categorize and summarize the room or property they stayed in and share with the team.
Here’s to a summer of double scoops and reservations.
NAVIS Client Advocate
NAVIS Leaders Conference - BendSep 6-7, 2012 at Seventh Mountain Resort
June 4th, 2012
If you're new to NAVIS Narrowcast or NAVIS RezForce, our Leaders Conference is a great way to take your knowledge to the next level. Even if you're not new and consider yourself an experienced user, the NAVIS Leaders Conference is where you will find new ideas about how to be more successful. Sales, marketing and management professionals from some of the most prestigious resorts, hotels and vacation rental management companies in North America will be present. What a networking opportunity!
And if you've never been to Bend in September, this is your chance to experience the beauty of the Central Oregon high desert, and the hospitality of the Seventh Mountain Resort.
Get more information HERE, along with a link to the registration page, where you can save $100 by registering before July 13.
See you there.
Vice President - Marketing
It’s funny really. So often when we observe a reservations agent struggling, we assume the agent is ineffective or “just not getting it.” In reality, it’s just as likely that their manager is an ineffective coach. We’ve all seen it before. Just because someone was good at sales doesn’t mean they’ll be a successful coach, or vice versa.
With that in mind, I have two considerations to aid in effective coaching:
- Highlight your top performers and use them for peer-to-peer coaching or role playing. This method tends to be successful because the advice is coming from their peers – not just the boss. If you don’t have a top performer, go outside the building and find a credible third party.
- Limit your coaching session to 2 areas to work on. Overloading people with change is a sure fire way to paralyze them. Focus on the 2 most important areas that you want to see change and understand that great sales skills/habits don’t happen overnight.
Here’s to a great reservations season.
Today is a special day at NAVIS – sort of a birthday. For quite awhile, NAVIS has struggled with the fact that no category sufficiently defined what we do. We are sometimes referred to as a software company, but that’s only partially accurate. Sometimes we’re a call center company, which is certainly true for part of our business but not all. I’ve heard marketing tracking company, which is only a piece of what Narrowcast does. And there are probably a dozen others – CRM, ACD, lead management, etc.
We got so tired of searching for the right category that we have decided to create a new one. So after a lot of discussion, we came up with:
Reservation Sales System
It’s simple, concise and accurate. Everything we do, whether it’s NAVIS Narrowcast or RezForce is designed to increase reservation sales. It’s easy to understand and easy to remember.
So…help us spread the word. When you are asked, “What does NAVIS do?”, you can now reply that NAVIS makes an amazing Reservation Sales System. I threw in the “amazing” part ‘cause I’m a marketing guy. It’s what I do.
Vice President – Marketing
I don’t often like to toot our horn in this blog, but I have to give a big shout out to the entire NAVIS team and the many hospitality leaders in attendance for helping to produce such a fabulous Conference last week. Nearly 60 people from 16 states, representing more than 15 thousand rental properties attended our Leaders Conference here in Bend. They were treated to 25 sessions in 6 different tracks over the 2 days of the Conference – all of which was designed to help them be more successful.
I was reviewing the surveys this morning, and they are overwhelmingly positive. Many thanks to all who helped to make it a success.
Now…it’s on to planning for our next Leaders Conference to be held at the Reunion Resort, Orlando, Jan 30-31, 2012.
See you there.
Vice President – Marketing
Silence may be golden in some situations. Phone sales, however, is not traditionally considered one of those. Certainly silence is powerful over the phone but only when used with intent and precision.
Let’s first explore some pitfalls of silence, to better understand its appropriate use. We’ve all been on the phone with someone who goes silent as they type away, in search of the answer to our question. This silence tends to carry nervous energy and in turn can hinder your opportunity to secure a reservation. Too much silence on a call can make us uneasy because there’s no non-verbal communication over the phone, therefore making it difficult to read the situation. Furthermore, long pauses and silence seem to almost encourage objections and doubt on the calls I listen to. If—as a guest—I feel that you don’t have a firm grasp on your properties or my needs, you are likely to hear “Well, I need to talk this over with my wife.”
The correct and proper use of silence comes after a question is posed; particularly after an agent asks for the reservation. Silence used in this scenario gives the potential guest the opportunity to say “yes.” There is, however, a caveat to this technique. Know that if the agent has not successfully sold the experience that the guest desires, they are likely to receive a “no” in response to their silence. As with any sales technique, setup and delivery are crucial.
Here’s to your success.
I realize a lot of attention is being paid to PPC and rightly so. You need to stay on top of it to make sure your hard-earned marketing dollars are being spent on ads that bring in the revenue.
But given that paid links account for about 25% of clicks and organic links for the other 75%, it makes sense that you should focus even greater attention to your SEO.
One of the best things you can do is make sure you are using your primary keywords in the text of your home page and your secondary pages. Don’t overdo it. Just write your copy in such a way that the words are used at least three times.
No need to worry about the keyword meta tags since Google ignores them. But you should make sure to use your primary keywords in your title and description tags.
Lastly, develop rich content that includes photos and videos since Google ranks those sites higher.
Above all, stay on your SEO. Change your copy frequently, measure the results and try again. It will pay off big time.
Vice President – Marketing
Most of our resort lodging clients start out with an inbound reservation conversion rate of about 25%. As they engage the technologies and processes of The NAVIS Way, that conversion climbs rapidly. It’s not unusual to see it hit 50% and higher, which is certainly an achievement to celebrate.
But wait, that means the “not-booked” represents 50% to 75% of the inbound calls. If you’re looking at roughly 10,000 bookable calls a year, that’s 5,000 to 7,500 not booked calls. What are you doing with those? Unfortunately, way too many lodging providers ignore them and go buy a list from somewhere else when they want to do some direct marketing. When you have a large group of qualified potential guests who have taken the time to contact you, why would you use a list of unknown names?
If you could convert just 5% of those not-booked leads through direct marketing, you’re looking at roughly $600K in additional revenue (assuming $1,600 stay value). Add an outbound sales strategy and you’ll convert even more.
Don’t forget about those not booked calls.
Vice President – Marketing
Usually you wouldn’t think “poker” in relation to your reservation team, however, there are many parallels that can be drawn between the two. Here’s the executive summary:
- “I’m all in”. A scary but frequent approach I notice reservation agents using. Basically, this can be defined as immediately fading on rate, or offering that 10% discount within the first 2 minutes of the call. Agents often fall back on this technique when they don’t understand the real value added of your property(s). If your agents are doing this it’s highly likely that they will run into price related objections and guess what? Now they have no wiggle room on rate. What mindset do you want agents setting right off the bat?
- “Reading their tells”. Your agents need to quickly identify what’s important to the guest. Not to be confused with what YOU think is important to the guest. Sell the experience.
- “Hold your cards”. Don’t lay all your cards on the table or feature flood. The guest doesn’t need to know every little detail about the garbage disposal and locking doors. In fact, feature flooding confuses the guest and delays the buying decision. Share only what relates to what’s important to the guest.
It’s your bet.
Understanding how to gain and maintain consistent occupancy throughout the year is always a hot topic. It doesn’t really matter if I am speaking with the director of revenue for a 5 diamond hotel or the owner of a vacation rental management company – occupancy always comes up.
On a recent new client visit I observed something that has occurred at many different locations and property types:
Agent: Hello Mr. Smith how may I help you?
Mr. Smith: I’d like to make a reservation for a one bedroom unit.
Agent: Perfect, well I do have several available and I’m running a special so I can give you a 15% discount on that reservation.
Wait wait wait, do I need to have my hearing checked? Are agents leading with a discount? You bet, and not just every once in a while but on almost every call. Why? Their manager has placed all the focus on occupancy. They were even incented on occupancy.
So, why would it be scary to incent your agent on occupancy and give them the power to offer discounts? Anyone? Occupancy incentives can work but only in correlation with revenue and conversion goals for your team. It’s putting the cart before the horse by asking them to focus on occupancy instead of asking them to focus on the skills and behaviors that will help them convert more calls and raise occupancy. Focusing on occupancy is not inherently bad. However, what I find is that it almost always leads to fading on rate.
My advice: be smart about how you get to an acceptable level of occupancy. When tempted to fade on rate just remember, the choice to discount your rate today affects perceived value for 5 years on average. Basically, you’re going to have a difficult time ever convincing them to pay more. You’ve effectively reduced your product to a price-based commodity.
So, instead of fading on rate try value-add or packaging. In other words, give them something with a high perceived value that doesn’t reduce perceived value of your product. They get a free fishing trip or Swedish massage or round of golf. Use the relationships you have with other businesses. If I’m sending you a client Mr. Fishing Charter, will you sell me the trip at half price? Even giving something like the 6th night free is better than fading on rate because the perception is different. It’s a special and can actually add value since the consumer knows how much rack rate is and it hasn’t been diluted.
Let me know how this works for you.
One of the more underutilized marketing methods in the lodging industry is direct mail. A lot of marketers look at it as “old school” or too expensive and don’t do much of it. Most prefer email – primarily because it’s low cost and easier to execute.
But there are some great reasons to incorporate more direct mail in your marketing mix.
1) Direct mail has a lower attention barrier. The average person receives roughly 20 pieces of mail per week. Most of us get that many emails every hour. So you have a much better chance of getting the attention of the recipient with direct mail when you don’t have to compete with so many other senders.
2) Direct mail has a long shelf life. I’ve talked to clients who have received responses from a direct mail piece over a year after it was sent. Many recipients will hang on to a mail piece, especially if it has an image that appeals to them. The mailer will end up on their refrigerator or desk where the sender’s brand will get many many glances. Email, on the other hand, has a shelf life about as long as it takes to hit the delete key.
3) Direct mail offers greater opportunity for messaging. When you consider the front and back of a direct mail piece, you have a lot of real estate in which to convey your message. You can communicate using colors, type styles, and graphics without having to rely on the recipient having html turned on, or graphics enabled.
Obviously, these advantage come at a price. And yes, it takes a little more doing to execute a good direct mail campaign. But the reward is more than worth it.
Vice President – Marketing
Is your leisure reservations team getting your prospects email address 100% of the time? If not, why not? Well, it’s hard to obtain right? It’s a personal piece of information and one that most of us don’t relinquish easily. None of us like spammers but remember these prospects are calling you. They’re interested in what you have to offer and who wouldn’t be? You have a great location with a variety of fun and exciting experiences.
Since you’ve already convinced the prospect to pick up the phone and call you, let’s take the next step in the sales and marketing process and get their email, so that we can keep them informed on all the great reasons to come stay with YOU! My suggestion is simple, but in my observation, very effective. Getting the email has to do more with when you ask, than how or why. So, here’s my suggestion. Sometime toward the beginning of the conversation plug this little word track in:
Reservation agent: “May I please confirm your phone number in case we get disconnected?”
Prospect: “Sure, 555-555-5555”
Reservation agent: “And a good email for you please?”
Prospect: “Um, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org”
Here’s why this works. It’s because of a psychological concept that internet marketers know well. If I can get you to share one easy piece of information it is much easier to get the next more personal piece of information. This is why when you visit a company online to get a Car Insurance quote they start with asking for your zip code only, then on the next screen they get your contact info. Have your team try it. You’ll be surprised by the number of emails you’re getting.