Innovation & planning will boost bookings in off-peak times


It’s not always easy to come up with innovative ways to target your potential guests and it’s difficult to ensure bookings are generated at a continual rate. However, there are ways to ensure you appeal to your target audience and generate bookings, even during off peak periods. Tom Beasley, founder and CEO of Wired Media explains how.

1. Think about what you’re offering
You don’t have to reduce your price to increase capacity. In order to sell your services, you need to think about your target market and what they want. This can be done by creating bespoke packages that are unique to your hotel.

It is crucial you understand your service inside out. Understanding your positives and negatives is fundamental to maximising your occupancy. When it comes to the negatives, don’t hide away from the fact you aren’t based in the city centre, embrace this and use it to your advantage. You may have free parking or a greater spread of facilities to utilise. Alternatively, use your location as an opportunity for city workers to get away from the hustle and bustle. When considering your positives, pay attention to what your reviews tell you. Once you understand this, creating a unique offering will be much easier.

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Every hotel offers an overnight stay with dinner, breakfast and access to their spa facilities (if they have one). However, intrigue and attention is gained through creating a whole new package, something that has never been done or seen before. Think outside the box – create a men’s afternoon tea which includes craft larger or local beer. Play on packages you already have and popular events such as the Six Nations in February and create a Rugby Widows package. Many hotels are now dog-friendly, therefore offer a dog’s bed and treats as well as morning or afternoon walks so guests can truly relax.

2. The money is in the planning
Plan your marketing in advance, create a 12-month plan and keep coming back and reviewing it. Take a look back at last year’s data to see when your quiet times were. Put together a spreadsheet for the next year focusing on quiet periods and panic periods (last minute). This will help when creating new packages and will allow you to understand when you need to push off peak packages.

Once you have come up with your 12 month marketing plan, it is key to have a joined up strategy in each platform of communication. Ensure you have the same message, tone and style on your website as you do on social media, email, SEO and PR.

3. Choosing the right channels of communication
Now you have your packages and ideas, how do you execute them? The first step is ensuring you have sufficient knowledge of marketing, or alternatively you can approach an agency to help you out.

Review the different elements of marketing such as SEO, PPC, Social Media and PR, it can help you to define what will work best for your property. You don’t have to have a huge budget in order to get your brand out there. Embracing the power of social media for advertising, user conversation and brand awareness is free. With additional paid services such as Facebook ads, you can really narrow down your reach to your specific target market. For example, females who are 24-28 years old and live within 10 mile radius of your property and love shopping.

4. Your guest’s reviews
Hoteliers cannot underestimate the power of reviews. Nothing produces trust quite like third party reviews, this in turn encourages people to book. Due to the recent issues with TripAdvisor and fake reviews, hotels should make sure that they are on other third party review sites such as Feefo so guests can look at several different reviews before making a decision.

5. A picture paints a thousand words
Nothing is worse than false advertising. Imagery is one of the fastest and most effective ways of selling your hotel; it’s essentially acting as the body language between you, the hotel, and your potential guests. Therefore, it’s crucial the scenario you’re selling is accurately mirrored in all your marketing. For example, a romantic night away could be constructed through images of candles, champagne and room service.

Think about the types of images your target audience engage with and use these across your website, content, social media and brochures.

We recently ran a Facebook advertising campaign for one of our clients targeting two age groups; 25-45 and 45-65. We used an image of the hotel, bedroom, bathroom, food and pool. As a result of the advertising, we found that 80% of the 25-45 age group clicked on the image of the pool, whereas the bedroom image was most popular with the older age group with 80% clicking on this. From this, we learnt different images appeal to different ages, especially for this particular client. This was then carried over into newsletters, onto the website, within PR and SEO which meant we were able to generate a higher conversion rate.

6. Put your website to the test
To ensure people are visiting and booking through your website, try Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO). This is when you test certain changes to your website such as adding a booking button, amending the call to action text or rearranging the content on your webpage to see if it increases bookings, revenue or click throughs.

Colour, text, placement and images are all part of this and testing your website means you know each change you make is continually improving your conversion rate (and therefor increasing the number of booking generated from your website).

Additionally, you also have to ensure your website is mobile responsive. Guests will access your website from every different platform available and you need to ensure they have the same journey throughout.

You will also need to understand Google analytics. Within the seminar, a lot of people knew what analytics were but stated they wouldn’t have a clue how to read them. If you have a marketing agency, they should be giving you this information monthly (at least) and explaining why numbers and figures are changing. If not, spend an hour or two every week to sit and look through your Google Analytics reports to see what is happening on your website.

7. Generating guest loyalty
Once your guests have been and gone, it’s not the end of your journey. Continue to interact with them and keep them on your side, if they enjoyed their stay previously they are more likely to rebook when you need them most, in off peak periods. Offer guests extra incentives to book direct and earn their loyalty. Mr & Mrs Smith have produced a wealth of success through doing this by offering incentives such as boxes of chocolates, 20% off spa vouchers, or bottles of Prosecco or Champagne on arrival.

Finally, ensure you are also utilising your own database before giving away your profits to OTAs. Despite OTA’s having large databases of potential guests, if your offer is good, it will sell just as well through your own channels. Don’t just settle for lowering prices and hoping the business will come. Be proactive with your hotel’s marketing and take time to understand your potential guests.