The aprons were tied, the Crock Pots were in-line, and the heat was ablaze during Flip.to’s First-Ever Chili Cook-Off. With chilly weather (74˚) sweeping across Florida, there wasn’t a better time for a warm bowl of chili topped with ooey gooey cheese and a dollop of sour cream (unless you are Ed who despises anything with sour cream.) Plus, office bragging rights were on the line, which hold a lot of weight around here!
For some, it was about trying the newest recipes they found online the night before or maybe stopping at Wendy’s and asking to fill their Crock Pot. For the seasoned veterans, it was about cooking recipes passed down from generations and toiling over perfection for hours, days, or even weeks! Contestants were starry-eyed and hopeful, however, they were unaware of the domination that was about to pursue.
Everyone was given a ballot to cast their votes for Team Favorite, Best Texture, Best Color, Best Consistency, Best Spice, Best Flavor, and Best Aroma. After the votes were counted, the winners are (drum-roll):
Overall, the hard work paid off (mainly for Rosana) and the team got to eat some pretty darn good chili. I mean, look at those happy Flip.to-ers!
After the tastings were done, votes tallied and the TUMS taken, all-in-all things didn’t get too fiery. The bar was set high thanks to the winners’ Martha Stewart like chili-cooking skills. Truly, everyone was a winner–even the slackers who didn’t participate, which I can say because I was one of them. Until next time!
Captivate & inspire an entire new audience of global travelers like never before, and tell a richer story for your hotel with Flip.to’s newest feature—Photo Explorer. It’s an entirely new look at your hotel, as told by your guests.
Your guests capture the widest range of experiences and most candid insights into your hotel. With Photo Explorer, your property now has the ability to infuse these authentic stories and perspectives that only your guests can provide into your online experience. Thanks to advocacy, your guests drive their friends & family back to your site, drumming up a ton of activity and attention for your hotel.
It’s refined at every level. From a nuanced interface, to thoughtful interactions designed with your guests’ travel considerations in mind, the platform is smarter than ever. Photo Explorer adapts for every type of visitor that comes to your site, whether they’re learning about your hotel for the first time, or a past guest rekindling their favorite moment. With Photo Explorer, your hotel can tap into the benefits of aspirational selling and influence potential travelers where hotels can really win—inspiration.
Take a deeper dive below, and see how engaging your guests who create and share their stories makes a real impact for your hotel.
Take a tour of Photo Explorer
Curate a richer story from your guests’ meaningful moments
Turn memorable moments into highly engaging interactions with every type of visitor to your site—from your guests, their friends & family, or a curious onlooker. Capture, curate, and infuse authentic guest moments into a compelling online experience for your website. It’s a fun part of your day that makes a huge impact for your hotel. Since it’s in real time, these stories are timely, relevant and seasonal—speaking to your potential guests today.
Filtered by your hotel’s current and past contests, or through a unique Gallery view, Photo Explorer is smart. It takes into account hotel rating, votes, timeliness, and even who’s viewing your site. Your best images will always be on display, paired with the right message for that visitor.
Deliver unique, personal experiences to every website visitor
Photo Explorer engages different users in different ways—out of the box. Personalized, thoughtful interactions are built in, so your hotel has the right conversation with every viewer based on their persona and their travel considerations.
With unique call to actions, your hotel can now build real relationships with past and future guests. Convert anonymous visitors just learning about your hotel into warm leads, or rekindle a favorite moment of a past guest. These strong initial brand connections nurture guest relationships when you deliver unique, personal and genuine online experiences to every person that visits your site.
Integrate simply and see immediate, measurable results
Simply put, integration is a snap. Provide a link location to point your content, and we’ll take care of the rest. Managing Photo Explorer is easy too, fitting effortlessly into your day along with the rest of the Flip.to platform.
Everything is tracked, so you can see firsthand the impact authentic guest stories make for your hotel. You’ll be notified of submissions, sign-ups for future offers and shares—driving home the impact that authentic stories created by your guests are making for hotels on a global scale.
The Path to Booking is Not a Single Step
Even though the travel buying process doesn’t start at “Book Now,” this tends to be where most hotel marketing efforts are focused. In reality, the decision for travel starts well before guests are ready to book. In fact, the inspiration and research phases are primed for influencing the decision to travel. Fortunately for hotels, this is where they can be making a big impact. The key is to engage them in the right way.
Instead of pushing someone who isn’t ready to book now, why not change up the conversation. If they’re very early in the decision-making process, offer a light touch, let them unveil, and begin nurturing them down the path to becoming a future guest. With Photo Explorer, your hotel can do just that.
You’ll build brand affinity, and when they are ready to make a reservation, you’ll be top of mind and they’ll be more likely to book directly.
Aspire to Inspire
What does all of this really mean for your hotel? Photo Explorer is an entirely new look at your hotel. Thanks to your guests, your hotel can have real, candid experiences woven into a smart platform that drives and converts. It aspires to inspire—and aspirational selling is the key to winning in the new hotel marketplace.
Guests want more. They’re looking to buy into experiences and seek inspiration. By sharing in the creation of this inspiration, they receive value in return, and start on their way to becoming loyal brand ambassadors. It’s a win-win for your hotel, as you’ll not only share in getting incredible content, but you’re truly connecting with your guests.
Managing your hotel’s website can be a big undertaking. It’s a task often taken on by many team members, and sometimes many departments. There can be a lot of moving parts and pieces, and thankfully there are some great tools out there to help you get the most out of it—analytics, user trend tracking, content management systems, and great hotel booking engines.
But what’s “under the hood” doesn’t account for the compelling visuals and content that makes your site tick, (and grabs a visitor’s attention.) And with a number of people involved, this can mean the ability to make enhancements doesn’t always move as quickly as you’d like.
So what can you do right now that will make a difference?
Here are some things you can do that will improve the experience on your hotel website, and don’t require a website overhaul to get them done.
1. Give your website some personality
Hotels are often beautifully designed. From plush room accents to swanky public spaces, a lot of thought went into crafting an artful experience for your guests—and you want to show that off. But keep in mind your hotel has personality that extends beyond the manufactured décor that lines interior and exterior walls.
Hotels are brought to life by people. The experiences your guests encounter and the stories they share aren’t manufactured. Instead, they’re the authentic, rich memorable moments captured at your hotel. They’re all part of your hotel’s story, and provide the most candid insights into your hotel that resonate with future guests.
You may be asking, “What does this content look like?”—bringing us on to our next topic.
“Storytelling is like a vitamin. When it gets into your readers, it permeates their whole being, and fights every objection that might otherwise stop them from becoming loyal customers.” – Neil Patel, Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, and Analytics Expert
2. Build content that speaks to your guests
Start by defining personas
More than likely, your hotel is made up of a few different types of guests. Developing content with your guests’ personas in mind creates strong initial brand connections from the first time they encounter your hotel—usually online. In the long run, delivering these unique and personal messages on your website will have a measurable impact—more bookings, better performance, and a change in whatever metric you might be testing against.
Since you probably already have a clear idea of who your guests are, start by writing them down. Ask yourself if you have content that attracts and engages these personas. What brand stories still need to be told?
Take for example a hotel in our Orlando neighborhood. Since local attractions for families are a big reason to travel here, most hotels in the area have content to support that. But that message doesn’t resonate with culture seekers or foodie travelers—why not speak to those potential future guests about the brand new performing arts center located right in the city center? Or the rich dining experiences from the number of James Beard featured chefs in town?
This is where user-generated content has extraordinary value. Not only is it the best way to source timely and relevant content that speaks to all the different types of travelers for your hotel, but it does so in a way that is authentic, personable and trustworthy. The travel stories that your guests share enrich your own hotel’s narrative.
Consider Where Your Guest is in the Booking Cycle
In the example above, we defined your guest’s persona by their travel preferences. But that’s not the only thing to consider when evaluating your hotel’s content. Where your website visitors are in the travel-buying cycle is critical to being able to spark the right conversation.
Analyses from Google’s The 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision shows that when researching travel in the early stages, destination related terms dominate search. This drives home the fact that hotels need to sell the experience as much as (if not more than) the hotel itself. Reaching and inspiring potential guests during the early stages of travel planning is where hotels can truly win, influencing their decision to stay and book directly when it comes time to buy.
Other content that is particularly influential to drawing travel inspiration includes recommendations from friends and family, and online travel videos, so be sure to infuse this content throughout your site.
Also consider that curious on-lookers who visit to your website early in the decision making process may not be ready to ‘book now’. It’s important to engage this type of visitor in a different way than someone who’s ready to purchase. Flip.to’s Homepage Component is one example of how to do so effectively. By pairing a short, curated quote from a guest with a different call-to-action, the visitor may sign-up to lock in an incentive on a future stay. Later, when the visitor is ready to book travel, they have a placeholder saved in their inbox. For the hotel, an anonymous web visitor has now become a warm lead who they have the opportunity to engage further.
3. Be Local
Why do guests travel to your area? Is it because you’re located in the heart of a tourist epicenter, perched on the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, or have a special event in town? Start digging into what motivates your guests and use that to your hotel’s advantage. Over time, you’ll identify trends, letting you stay ahead of your guests’ activity.
Keep a pulse on the local heartbeat. Ask guests and locals, or use online sources for inspiration. Event hubs such as Eventful or Eventbrite house a ton of local activity, as well as resources including local newspapers or state tourism websites. Plus, being involved in your local community lets you be involved in making memorable experiences for guests. Again, weave this content into your site to make sure your potential future guests know and are excited about it during their stay.
ACME Hotel in downtown Chicago is an incredible example of how to tap into the local scene. They’re located right in the middle of River North—home to hundreds of Chicago’s hippest eateries and nightlife.
Creativity, innovation, and self-expression are key to their guest experience. They continually work with local artists to bring personality and richness to their hotel. One of their latest initiatives is the ACME Intsa Gallery—a pop-Up art display featuring photos from some of the most admired local photographers on Instagram. Meant to inspire guests, it also brings a real sense of authenticity to the property.
This is just one piece of their larger effort to work with local and aspiring artists every day, all of which is infused throughout their website and serves as a key attraction for travelers to the hotel.
4. Check your rates and offers
Sometimes there are so many things to juggle that you might miss this obvious but crucial mistake—ensure you’re not presenting multiple offers that compete with each other on yours site. If offers are posted in different pages, try to tie them together so there is consistency and flow, and also to prevent confusion on the part of the guest.
When visitors are on your website and see a different offer (either better or worse) on different pages of the site, they may start to wonder if they’re really getting the best deal. By the time they’ve decided, the guest may not even be able to find the offer they really wanted.
Keep them limited, relevant (personas!), and consistent.
5. Don’t erode your brand
To build on the above, be wary about the offers you extend on your site, as well as how they are presented to potential guests to avoid brand erosion.
Consider having visitors sign up for an offer instead of having them live permanently for any visitor to use. Your hotel will begin to build a database of warm leads, and can follow by nurturing them down the path to becoming a future guest—all while maintaining the integrity of your brand.
Again, Flip.to’s Homepage Component helps our clients protect against brand erosion in this way by offering discounts only to guests who sign-up. This creates exclusivity for guests who unlock the offer, and provides the hotel with the right information to spark real conversation and influence them to book directly in the future.
Another way hotels can maintain brand integrity is by offering value-adds instead of discounts on room prices. With a value-add, you’re not just giving something away. Instead, you may build it into the cost of the room. If you’ve defined your guest persona(s), you’ll know what appeals to your guests and why they love your property. Consider creating value-added packages that incorporate elements of their persona into the room rate.
Let’s say you have a hotel in Wine Country. Many guests selected your hotel in part because of its incredible location. Since you’re “being local,” include tickets for an excursion in the room rate to one or two of wineries your staff personally recommends. Or, offer a couple’s getaway for a weekend and include a bottle of wine with the room. This is a great opportunity to get creative and get your guests talking. By using a value-add in this way, you’re building brand affinity and staying consistent with your guests’ perception of your brand.
6. Get social
Alright—we know this isn’t your website, but it’s often the next biggest digital channel where you speak to your guests, and we know that your guests are on social media. Hotels often use social media as an advertising channel instead of an outlet to build their brand, reach users and engage audiences—there’s nothing really social about it.
When it comes to content distribution on social media, use 80% of your content to nurture, educate, and entertain guests. The other 20% should be devoted as an avenue for direct revenue generation. You know that really great, user-generated content we talked about infusing onto your site? Well guess what—this is the perfect content to repurpose for your social media. It’s timely, and most of all it’s relevant to the audience of followers and fans who’ve opted in to hear more about your hotel.
6 ½ Tech matters
This last (half of) one is something that’s easy to take for granted, but is important.
Do a “sanity-check” on a regular basis to make sure everything’s working how it’s supposed to—links aren’t broken, your booking engine is running smoothly, dates and room criteria carry through searches, images are displaying properly, and more. There’s no greater reason to abandon and use a third-party than when it’s difficult to walk through the booking process. When glitches happen, be the first one to expose them and get them fixed. It’ll save time (and headaches) when you manage the process regularly.
A strong digital strategy has countless moving parts. With a small amount of effort, you can make a difference on the performance of your hotel’s website right now. Be strategic with your changes to see even more impact, and start with these takeaways to put your hotel down the road to success.
Your hotel’s personality is a built from your guests’ experiences—show them off!
Understand the booking cycle and have content that speaks to each stage
Build relationships in your local community to help craft your guests’ experiences (and enrich your hotel)
Be aware and steer clear of competing offers that cause brand erosion
Focus the majority of your social efforts on building relationships with potential guests instead of selling to them
Do regular “sanity checks” on your website’s technology and performance
What changes have you implemented that have helped move the needle for your hotel? Let us know! Your insights guide us to continue to create great content that makes a difference in your day-to-day. Reach out, or discover more.
Hoteliers can benefit from engaging potential future guests with social media to help foster loyal brand communities, and even reach new audiences. In fact, hotels have some of the most to gain from this channel since users already love to share their travel experiences with friends and family, and their social networks are the vehicle to do so.
Below you’ll find some key elements that will bolster your digital strategy across all of your guests, and why social use is an important channel when it comes to influencing travel decisions early on in the travel planning process, regardless of age or demographic.
Social media–spanning the ages
In the dawn of modern social media, (circa 2006) users between the ages of 18-29 dominated social media adoption. Even though they still lead the pack, the age gap is quickly closing for other groups. In fact, the largest growth in the past 5 years is a tie between users 30-49 and 65+ years old. Today, 75% of adults between the ages of 30 and 49 use social media sites, and 50% between the ages of 50 and 64.
This points to social media as a top channel hotels should be using to reach potential guests. A single person is connected to hundreds of friends & family across the world, and one person’s story travels further to that audience than ever before. Use this to your advantage to introduce your hotel to an audience of like-minded travelers who are the perfect guest for your hotel.
Affluent travelers and social media
The best luxury brands tell the best brand stories. They’ve established their guests’ personas—understanding who they are, what they care about, and how to reach them with the right message.
Affluent travelers equally value the internet and word of mouth as the most important sources for inspiring personal travel. With this information, social media is a compelling, targeted and cost effective avenue for brands to tell stories and inspire potential future guests.
Hoteliers cannot ignore social media for any age group or demographic, especially when considering the impact it has on potential future guests’ travel decisions, and the fact that nearly 70% of the population uses social media.
The friends, relatives & colleagues of your guests are the perfect demographic for your hotel to reach. Whether your hotel fits in business, leisure, resort, limited service or luxury, start making trusted introductions to entirely new audiences of future guests. Hotels worldwide use Flip.to to do just that.
Last month, Lanyon Live wrapped up in Dallas—my first hospitality industry event, and an incredible one to kick-off at. It was “three days of inspiration”
featuring sessions from some of the industry’s well-known thought leaders, and expert speakers.
Going into the event, I was excited and nervous in anticipation for what was to come. Speakers, breakouts, networking—there was so much to take in! By the end of the event, my expectations were completely blown out of the water. The quality of the event, along with the outstanding speakers gave the audience (and me!) a ton to take away.
Day one got started at the Welcome Reception at The Fairmont Dallas. Hosted at the Terrace Pool, the skyline views of the city were needless to say, amazing. It was complemented by great conversation. Spanning from worldwide groups like Sonesta and Mövenpick, to local hotels like Crowne Plaza Dallas Downtown and The Joule, (to name just a few) the event was attended by an outstanding variety of hospitality professionals at the top of their field.
The crowd was a mix of old colleagues being reacquainted, and the introduction of new friends. Being a first-timer, I’d have to say that the genuine warm welcome I received was more than I could have ever expected. After all, this is hospitality—but the truth is the reception from the professionals in this industry stood out!
The next two days were buzzing with inspiring talks that offered huge value to the attendees. Keynote speakers Lori Greiner of QVC & Shark Tank, and Elizabeth Pinkham of Salesforce, both drove home key points on marketing strategy and success. To quote Greiner, “Don’t take no for an answer.” Charge ahead by staying focused on your goal, but be flexible enough to transform where needed to attain success. Lanyon’s advisory board panel also noted to keep in mind that you control the satisfaction and value your guests receive—being focused on your goal will help achieve that success.
Lanyon Live’s breakouts covered topics in every corner of the hospitality industry. With 32 to choose from, there was something for everyone attending the event. Flip.to’s own President, Edward St. Onge, led a key session on group advocacy. Covering how hotels can drive more revenue with the power of a story well told, he shared how to use social in a far more effective way, letting advocates introduce your hotel to massive audiences of potential future guests. The driver? Incredible content by way of authentic, truly compelling guest stories. Not only does it give hotels more reach, but better reach—tapping the right guests for your hotel.
The Joule Hotel in Dallas, who attended the event, comes to mind when it comes to being tapped into the guest experience. This revitalized 1920s landmark building set in the heart of Dallas is an outstanding property with art, boutique shopping, great design and award-winning food and drink. Covering everything from culture and style, to local eating and wellness, their 1530 Main blog is a local hub for all things Dallas.
I also had the ability to sit in a second breakout about social by Sahana Jayaraman, SVP and Head of Digital & Content Marketing at Eastwick Communications. She touched on the simultaneously loved and hated hashtag. While they are important, they certainly aren’t everything if you aren’t using them right, even leading to buzzkills.
Another stand out for me came from Ebony Venters and Michelle Fisher at Lanyon. “From Funnel to Pipeline” talked about the importance of aligning sales with marketing, along with how best to nurture warm leads into becoming a customer. This resonated strongly with the Flip.to team, paralleling many of the points from RevPAR Hacking, our latest ebook on where the future of revenue management and marketing lies.
Overall, the themes remained clear: an authentic brand story builds a true relationship with your past and future guests, whether the channel is social media, your website, or otherwise. And it makes sense—the hospitality industry is built on the guest experience, so making it personal makes for good business, too.
Advocacy platform sparks results; hotel and guests both win
ORLANDO, FL — November 09, 2015 — Flip.to, the advocacy platform for hotels, has increased direct bookings and captured added revenue for Platinum Hotel, an all-suite property located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Flip.to tapped into the right demographic for the hotel and spa—a non-smoking, non-gaming retreat, just a few blocks off of the main strip.
Designed to earn new guests by way of the warm introductions of their existing guests, Flip.to’s advocacy platform extends the hotel’s reach to a massive and highly targeted audience of potential future guests in an authentic and trusted way.
Platinum Hotel has seen the immediate impact on top-line growth. In addition to the revenue earned by way of booked room nights, more than 20% of their guests have advocated on behalf of the hotel. They’ve shared to a network of over 15,000 friends and colleagues in just two months—each that fall within a pool of like-minded, warm leads with similar travel and purchasing habits just one degree from the hotel’s advocate.
The move to implement Flip.to has been part of a comprehensive revenue approach by Platinum Hotel, led in part by Director of Sales and Revenue Strategy, Melissa Graves.
“We employ a hybrid approach that aligns revenue, marketing and sales. Flip.to fit seamlessly within this effort by letting us drive more direct bookings while creating a huge impact on our brand and ROI. Plus, we’re able to thank our loyal advocates, rewarding those that stay, and eventually their friends and family. It’s a win-win-win for the hotel, our guests and their network.”
Graves went on to add that the ease of implementation was an added benefit to the platform for Platinum Hotel. “Flip.to is incredibly easy to manage and take live, with an Account Management team that made the process quick and seamless,” said Melissa Graves. “I only wish we had started sooner.”
This approach is part of a larger shift in the industry that has identified the need to align hotel marketing, revenue management and sales to optimize demand and pave the way for the highest profit potential. Revenue strategists are consistently looking to adopt new technology platforms that employ these methods. Though cutting-edge today, this irrevocable change is fast becoming the standard in the industry.
“Reaching the right demographic for your hotel with your marketing efforts is critical,” said Debi Moses, Senior Director of Sales, Americas at Flip.to. “This is especially true as the cost of traditional digital channels like PPC ads can be hugely expensive for hotels in this market. Flip.to tracks everything, right down to booked room nights. It’s really made an incredible impact for The Platinum, who’s quiet getaway is the perfect retreat from the Las Vegas Strip.”
RevPAR Hacking is the ultimate guide to the impact of revenue culture. Not only will readers get insight from leading experts in their field, but they’ll also learn the tips and tools to put them at the forefront of hotel marketing and revenue management.