Getting the ‘Word of Mouth’ Recommendation

Closing the circle in this series on the process guests use to book lodging properties is what WIHP Hotel Marketing calls the Second Moment of Truth - the arrival of the guest at your property. We have already discussed the four-step booking decision process, how the guest becomes aware of your property (the Discovery or Stimulus step), how guests make the decision to visit your website (the Zero Moment of Truth), and the process of deciding to book with your property (the First Moment of Truth). In this article we consider the guest at your property (and beyond). [caption id="attachment_408" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Ready to share?"][/caption]Just as the process begins with the discovery of a property to be considered, by using "word of mouth" -- review sites, social media, or recommendations from "real" friends and family, the guest will become the recommender. Their reaction at your property (the Second Moment of Truth) will determine whether they recommend your property positively or negatively (or at all). How do you get word of mouth recommendations that will bring more guests? If review sites and social sharing are the sources of discovery, then we definitely want our guests to have a positive experience, and to share that experience. How do we go about doing that? 1. The Positive Experience People usually have a good experience when it meets or exceeds their expectations. Conversely, when the experience falls short of their expectations, it isn't usually a good experience. How are expectations set for prospective guests? Proceeding through the booking process we've been discussing, some expectation is created by the initial recommendations or reviews. These are refined further by the visit to your website and booking process. The Second Moment of Truth is when the guest arrives at your property and learns whether or not those…

Conversions – Getting Your Website to Do Its Job

This is the fourth article in a series examining how B&B guests proceed through the decision process for booking a stay. Based largely on research from WIHP Hotel Marketing, the first article describes the four-step process for booking, the second describes how a guest discovers your property, and the third examines how to provide information to get the guest to your website. This article discusses how to get the conversion - to capture the booking - once the guest has come to your site. What is the purpose of your website? Have you ever given that some thought? Is it to (a) show off your beautiful property, (b) get people to call you for more information, (c) get people to call to book, (d) get people to book online, or (e) other? For most lodging properties, we would venture to say that the primary purpose is to get people to book online, and, secondarily, to call to book. Is it doing those things well? The Guest Arrives at Your Website Our guest has decided where they want to go for their getaway, they have discovered your property (and, probably, up to 10 others), they have done some initial research and learned a little about your property, and have now arrived at your website. WIHP calls this the First Moment of Truth. What happens in the next few seconds will determine whether you get the booking or not. [pullquote]You have between 3-7 seconds to convince the visitor that your property has what they want.[/pullquote]For years analysts have been telling us that you have only seconds (reports we've seen range from less than a second, to about 10 seconds) to convince the visitor to continue with your site. The data for lodging websites from WIHP indicates that you have between 3 and…

How to Provide the Information Guests Want

Our first post in this series provided an overview of how guests find and book a lodging property, based on research from WIHP, a hotel marketing agency. The four step process assumes the future guest has selected a destination area and then proceeds through the steps of (1) discovery of a particular property, (2) seeking information about the property to see if it is a good prospect (the zero moment of truth), (3) the guest on your website (the first moment of truth), and (4) the guest at your property (the second moment of truth). Our second post discussed the process by which a guest "discovers" (or learns of) your property as a possible place to stay. Our topic today, then, is the "Zero Moment of Truth," or the time when the guest has decided on a location to visit, has learned of your property as a possible place to stay, but has not yet seen your website, and wants to find out more about your property. [pullquote]Around 80% of searches for more information are on a search engine. Ignore that at your peril.[/pullquote] The findings from WIHP indicate that nearly three-quarters (72.9%) of all prospective guests will look for your property on a search engine. Another 9.6% will look on a mapping website. Since most (but certainly not all) mapping sites are affiliated with search engines, this amounts to around 80% of all searches for more information going through a search engine. That is a statistic to be ignored at your peril. Another 7.3% seek information from a review site (such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.). After that the numbers fall off radically for travel guides (3%) and social media sites (0.8%). Just a side note - if you're counting on your social media sites (Facebook, Google Plus, etc.) to…

Helping Future Guests Find You

In our previous post we introduced the four step process (identified by WIHP a hotel marketing firm) of a guest finding, and staying at, a lodging property, then feeding the beginning of the cycle again by telling others. In this, and the next few posts, we will break down the components and see how you can more effectively help future guests find you. As a refresher, the four steps are Discovery or stimulus (where the guest learns of a hotel and gets interested) Zero moment of truth (the guest begins to research the hotel) First moment of truth (guest finds the hotel website and begins to determine if this is what they want), and Second moment of truth (guest arrives at the property and is either happy or disappointed - which will sometimes result in that reaction being shared) We're going to focus on the first topic in this article: How does a prospective guest discover your lodging property? The semi-automatic reaction in today's world would be that, of course, a prospective guest learns about your property through a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, or others). That is not what the data indicates. The results of WIHP's inquiries indicate that the guests are most likely to learn about a lodging property from friends or family, an online travel site, or TripAdvisor. Specifically, their statistics indicate that nearly one-third of people who learn about a property discover it from friends or family (32.7%), followed by roughly a quarter who discover it from Online Travel Agents (OTA's - 27.9%) and TripAdvisor (23.1%). Other sources have far smaller influence (see the infographic on WIHP's site). If you think about how you would find lodging for your getaway, this makes a good deal of sense. Most of us, I suspect, would decide first on…

Attracting B&B Guests: How does that work?

A few of you may have noticed that we seem to have taken a bit of a hiatus over the past several weeks. In fact, our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast had a very busy summer, and there wasn't much time for About the Inn writing. Now that our busy summer and fall foliage seasons are behind us, it appears things will be back on a more even keel, and we hope to be able to publish more regularly. How do you attract B&B guests? In the past several years, most smaller lodging properties have become aware of the importance of attracting guests through an online presence (oddly, though, some still seem to question the need - or maybe they question the long-term viability - of an internet presence). Gone, or nearly gone, are the days of buying print or television ads in huge volume, in hopes that a few visitors will be enticed to become guests. For the smaller properties, in particular, this is a good thing, as few can afford the high prices charged for print advertising, let alone the several additional orders of magnitude for television campaigns - all for ads for which there is little hope of tracking their success, and for which industry analysts say the return on investment (ROI) is very small indeed. So, then, all a small business needs to do is find a way to slap up a small website, and all the marketing is done, right? Unfortunately, many small properties seem to have adopted exactly that strategy, and are beginning to pay the price in reduced occupancy. Print media (with the exception, to some degree, of direct mail), and for that matter television, tries to sell by sending an uninvited message to a large, but generally arbitrary, audience. The primary reason…

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