MOFU or MOFO? Why Understanding Your Hotel Buyer’s Journey is Critical to Conversion

The used car salesman lurking in the lot like a rabid great white shark.

Or the fast-talking telemarketer, who tries to release their pitch before you call end button.

Examples of painful experience which most avoid like the plague. Most damaging is the reputation and opportunity to build any meaningful relationship with those prospects.

Buyer’s Journey for Hotels

Thanks to advancements in technology, the consumer is much better informed and can easily vet a Shyster a mile away with online searches. Thanks to online reviews and social media, it’s even more difficult for these evildoers to prey on unsuspecting victims.

Conversely, most successful hotel salespeople aren’t focused on short-term wins, but building meaningful relationships that will pay dividends over the long haul.

Additionally, understanding their buyer’s journey can help personalize your process in an effort to help solve their problem, making you a hero and not a villain.

I love the band Journey, but what is a buyer’s journey?

The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service. The journey is a three-step process:

1. Awareness Phase: The prospect realizes they have a problem.

2. Consideration Phase: The prospect researches options to solve their problem.
Nearly 80% of this process starts online. And 72% of those will turn to Google.

3. Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution.

Seems logical, but how can I apply this?

very circumstance is different, so it’s important to first understand what your specific buyer’s journey looks like. Start by conducting a few interviews with customers, buyers, and other salespeople at your company.

Here are a few sample questions for kick things off for each phase:

Houston, we have a problem.

Awareness Phase:

Buyers define their problem or need they have and how important it is in the ever increasing, long list of tasks. To further refine the process, ask:

  • How do buyers describe their problem or need?
  • How do buyers educate themselves on these problems or need?
  • What is the downside from the prospect if nothing is done?
  • Are there any misconceptions about the process?
  • How do buyers rank this event in priority?

Let the search begin.

Consideration Phase:

Once the commitment from the prospect has been established, they begin to search options and solutions to help them address their problem or meet their need.

Some specific questions could include:

  • What types of product or service are buyers researching?
  • How are buyers educating themselves on these options?
  • How are buyers making decisions on which is best?
  • When is the right time to make a purchase?

Make YOU the only choice.

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY: What if Darth Vader Was Your VIP Guest?

Decision Phase:

Once the prospect has made a decision to purchase, it’s game on.
The evaluation process kicks in while the buyers carefully weigh the positives and negatives for each viable options. To drill deeper into this process, ask

    • What criteria do buyers use to evaluate the available options?
    • When prospects consider your hotels’ options, what do they like or dislike?
    • Are there any special circumstances or viable the prospect needs to consider if they book your hotel?

Defining or designing your hotel’s buyer’s journey can dramatically increase conversations and ultimately revenue across the board.

RELATED: Guest Persona Worksheet

Bringing it all home

The buyer’s journey can be frustrating, especially considering how emotional a prospect may be upon discovering a pain point or problem.

As a hotel sales professional, sticking by your prospect throughout the many stages of their journey, you’ll build a sense of trust within them that will ultimately transform into ambassadors for your hotel and beyond.


Inbound Sales For Your Hotel :: Be the Hero

Best practices reap best rewards. When it comes to sales, this is exponentially true. Except, for a hotel these days, what are the “best practices” in sales? With the constant evolution of technology and the overwhelming onslaught of tools, it can be challenging to discern what to use, when, where, why, and even how.

We have uncovered a sales technique that both uses best practices and can position you as a superhero. It’s called inbound sales and we are here to tell you more about it.

The Plot

More often that not so many of our sales tools are founded on the same principle – a vague assumption that the people we’re selling to want our product. We’ve approached prospecting like a numbers game – the more people we can pitch to, the more sales we can close.

That’s a dangerous technique these days, because buyers have an unprecedented amount of control over which messages they do and do not wish to hear. If your hotel sales team is pushing your product(s) on an audience that may not need or want it, then not only will leads not prove fruitful, your prospecting has the potential to completely backfire.

The Solution

Image credit: On Target | by viZZZual.com

What is the solution then? Stop assuming that the more people you can get in front of the higher your close rate. Why? Because now there are highly effective, modern tools available that can help you hyper-target who needs your product, and gives you super powers into how to convert them into a sale. It’s about identifying the right prospects and best understanding how to nurture them into leads and sales.

Pinpointing and attracting these authentic leads is commonly referred to as “inbound marketing,” and the special power to help close the sale is referred to as  “inbound sales.”

Though it may be foreign to some hoteliers, the term inbound marketing has been making it’s way through the hospitality industry, becoming a familiar face. Inbound sales, on the other hand, is still the mystery guest at the party and we want to introduce you to this new and exciting concept.

Related: 8 Steps to Sales Nirvana :: How Inbound Marketing Can Supercharge Your Direct Bookings and Lead Generation

So, what is inbound sales?

Essentially, inbound sales is an acute focus on individual buyers and their frustrations, pain points, needs, and goals. An inbound salesperson prioritizes the buyer’s needs before their own, every.single.time. When you approach the sales cycle from the place of being genuinely helpful, you will automatically be two steps closer than your pushy, non-relevant counterparts. Yet, it takes patience to develop your inbound sales system. Here’s how to get started.

First answer the why….

Inbound sales is answering the why before anything else. Think of yourself as the sales advisor, instead of the sales person. If you’ve done your inbound marketing homework, you’ll have your buyer personas, you’ll know exactly who your target audience is and what they need, want, and desire. Additionally, you understand the buyer’s journey – you know where your prospects are in the buying cycle and your goal is to provide solutions every step of the way.

Related: Boost Hotel Sales with These Hot Marketing Automation Tips

All that’s left is to tell your target audience the why behind your product or service, and then guide them to the realization that one of their frustrations, pain points, needs, or goals are alleviated or achieved through your product. They have a problem. You have a solution.

When you implement the inbound sales methodology, it helps your team:

  • prioritize the right buyers
  • understand the prospects’ real challenges
  • make a lasting impression from the very first call
  • write emails that convert
  • create a compelling sales conversation
  • and, makes every step of the process a long-lasting success

Next, no more cold calls!

No more assumptions. No more cold calls. No more leads gone to waste. Be the hero in the hospitality industry. Serve your guests as best as they can be served because you have already learned so much about them, have an understanding of their needs and how you can best provide a solution.

Inbound sales is your key to solid leads that have been nurtured from the beginning, which will then translate into happy and thankful reviews, which will then evolve into more of your target audience being reached.

Inbound sales is the good kind of domino effect, and who doesn’t need a little of that?


The Hashed Email Can Skyrocket Your Hotel’s Revenue

The numbers don’t lie. The days of “mass marketing“ are past us, never to return. The one-too-many approach is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, replaced by one-to-one (micro) targeting. Thanks to Amazon and other savvy brands, the consumer is expecting more, and we better deliver a similar experience or face the consequences. Those who embrace this new strategy will reap the benefits.

Micro-targeting is the use of in-depth customer data to deliver highly-targeted and personalized messages across a multitude of channels. These campaigns are designed to appeal to specific people or small groups of guests. And the result will be transformative to your bottom line.

The key to unlocking your hotel’s untapped gold mine is hiding within the data of the email address, in the form of a “hash.”

What is a Hashed Email?

Hashing is a technique used to encrypt a piece of data into a hexadecimal string. With technological advancements, it’s not possible to perform that sort of cryptographic function in order to give each email its own unique string so that it remains consistent, no matter where the email is used.

Think about how you use your email. Nearly everywhere you go online requires an email to log in – from your favorite shopping platforms (I’m looking at you Amazon) to all your social media accounts. And, with half the planet now using email for an estimated total of 3.8 billion email addresses, they’re a lot of opportunities! Needless to say for hospitality marketers, accessing customers data by way of a hashed email could is like winning the lottery.

Hashed Email vs Cookies

Cookies are information stored on a user’s computer so preferences are remembered on future requests, they’re passed from a Web server to a Web browser by way of that user’s specific hard drive. When it comes to your computer “remembering” your information for speedier checkouts or personalized portals, cookies are great. But, for marketers, they are less than effective.

Not only are cookies are not universally used, but they can also be turned off or blocked. Additionally, cookies do not work across devices.

Hashed emails on the other hand offer hotel marketers access to data from tried-and-true technology that has been an effective form of communication for more than 20 years. In fact, it continues to grow! According to Radicati Group, the number of email accounts are expected to grow 20% by the end of 2018.

Opt-Ins More Important Than Ever

f you do not already have campaigns in place to invite website visitors to opt-in, it’s now more important than ever. It’s not about lumping the addresses into a database you’ll blast once a month, it’s about tying together available data so you can make smarter marketing decisions.

We work with our clients to capture this information by offering an incentive such as a downloadable guide, giving a discount or offering perks through a VIP program.

How You Can Use Hashed Emails

Utilizing hashed emails offers many exciting possibilities. Not only will you be able to more effectively personalize the subscriber’s experience, but you can also now truly do multi-channel marketing. Here are a few ways in which you can do that:

Social Ads

Customizing audiences on social channels lets you maximize the effectiveness of your marketing spend.

In-Store

Between digital kiosks and brand phone apps, in-store identification can now unlock sophisticated, real-time personalization that’s seamless with communication across other channels.

Direct Mail 

Linking email addresses to home addresses opens up a wealth of opportunity. For example, triggered postcards can be mailed based on online behavior.

Who knew real-time insights from the trusty email address would be the future of marketing?

Here at Lure Agency, we’re taking technology of hashed emails to a whole new level through Identity Resolution. Learn more here >>


Every Hotel Has A Unique Story To Tell. Here Are Three Revenue-Generating Strategies

Aside from perceived quality, what makes you more likely to purchase a $400 purse versus a $50 one?

It’s simple; emotion.

Humans are driven by emotion, and the slightest detail often triggers us, subconsciously, into a memorized, habitual, emotional response. In essence, that’s what marketing is driven by; understanding human emotions. What does this have to do with your hotel?

Find Your Story – Add to the Bottom Line

For the most part, hotels and resorts will always be competing on price, especially those who utilize OTAs and other third parties for business. The only effective way to avoid that race and ending up on the bottom is to influence your consumers based on “emotions.”

The question begs, how does a hotel tug at the emotional cords of its possible customers? It always comes down to storytelling. Data such as price, location, and amenities will only get you so far. How can you take that data and intertwine it into an emotional story that will propel bookings and sales? Here are three strategies to consider implementing immediately!

Create a community around your hotel’s blog.

First of all, does your hotel have a blog? If not, create one ASAP! Aside from the standard data on your website, a blog is the way you converse with your audience. It’s how they get to know your personality, your quirks, and the people behind the desk. It’s your chance to share your expertise on the city you’re in, traveling in general, and anything else you are an expert in. Offering quality content that adds value to their lives will keep readers coming back for more.

RELATED: Get Out of Your Blog Fog – 5 Reasons You Should Be Blogging for Your Hotel Now

Take this one step further by creating a community around the blog in the form of an email list. Allow the blog emails captured to go into their own list. You know these are your avid readers, the ones who adore the content. How special do you imagine this group will feel when you send them a special discount code, only for them. Not accessible anywhere else. You can even keep track of the most popular blogs, by asking your marketing team to check the data and analytics, and base your discounts and special offers on that. Was your inspirational post on the importance of travel the most popular? Then put together a special package that highlights the touristy things to do in the area and offer it as a privately discounted rate only for them.

View everything as a chance to tell your story.

Having a blog is just one way to tell your story. You can forge an emotional connection every step of the way. What is your clientele passionate about? Likely, whatever they’re passionate about is a reflection of your hotel’s why, its mission statement. Tap into those passions in as many ways as possible. Is your clientele family-focused and wish to make lasting memories? Have board games in each room for use. Consider snapping a Polaroid of the group when they check-in, and leaving it in their room with the welcome packet. Use the hotel’s social media, email, and blog to leverage these other iterations of storytelling. Feature a photo of a family holding their Polaroid on Instagram. Interview a mom on what she enjoys about the hotel and post it on the blog.

RELATED: Super Simple Social Media Strategies You Can Really “Feel”

Allow the marketing to make its own profit.

It used to be that content was created as a marketing tool to drive profits. That is not a bad strategy whatsoever, useful and helpful content distributed to the appropriate audiences helps grow a loyal customer base. All of that content costs time and money to create, though. That same content, poised correctly, can bring in a direct profit.

There are a variety of examples out there, let’s look at LEGO. Have you seen the LEGO movie? Do you have children who have? Friends? Chances are you’ve at least heard of this movie. The LEGO movie is fun, comical, and charming, and by no means free to watch. When it was initially released, one had to purchase a ticket to see it. Now, you can purchase the DVD or find it on a streaming subscription service. The movie is all about LEGOs and is a direct form of marketing, yet it brings in its own profit. How can your hotel marketing team create marketing that brings in its own profit while building an emotional bond with your audience?

Your hotel can be the $500 purse purchase if your audience feels so compelled. Your hotel is not one location within a chain or another option on a boulevard of hotels. No, it’s unique. It has its own story, each team member has a story, and every guest who walks through the doors has a story. And these stories, these are stories worth paying more to learn about, to experience firsthand. Allow your story to drive revenue in a way it never has before.


Want to Beat OTAs at Their Own Game? Here’s Their Secret

If you’re in the hospitality industry, you’ve probably taken notice of OTAs and how they have been scoring record profits for the past many years. Some hotel executives have even identified OTA’s as an impediment to profitability, but we think it’s possible to turn the tables back. Right now Facebook, Google, Amazon, and OTAs are legally using a secret strategy to grow year-over-year profits, and we’ve unlocked the secret to this success, it’s called Identity Resolution.

The good news is, what was once only available at an enterprise level is now available on a wider scale. Now, it’s your turn to succeed using the same technology large organizations have been using for years. Here’s how.

What is Identity Resolution?

A method of resolving the identity of your website visitors to put you in permanent control of your “first-party data.” It sounds simple, but the technology is incredibly complex.

Think of it this way…

Every website you interact with (Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.) assigns an identifier to you. A “code” so they know who you are when you come back.

It’s not a question of if, but when. Will you be using this strategy OR will you compete against it?

Here’s what you need to know, now.

Overview

In year over year growth, online research before a purchase is at an all-time high reaching nearly 90% in 2017. And, this is not just for internet purchases, it’s across the board from beauty products to cars. With a wealth of information at your fingertips, it’s no surprise. As a marketer, you understand that those who are visiting your website are your very best leads. These are customers who are actively searching for what it is you have to offer but unless they fill out a form, you have no idea who they are or how you can best serve them.

These prospects are golden opportunities, but without their contact information, there is little that can be done to follow up or better nurture them into a sale.

What if … you could legally identify anonymous visitors by name, address, email and phone number just by adding a code to your site? Imagine the value of knowing exactly who to market to easily re-engage and nurture them into a sale.

Imagine how this advantage could improve your bottom line!

Success in business has a lot to do with knowing something others do not know. Identity Resolution is your Competitive Advantage.

What is Identity Resolution?

By definition, Identity Resolution which gives you the advantage to drive revenue. It allows you to resolve the identity of half your visitors, without the needing them to fill out a form. This is the same strategy Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook have all used to scale so quickly. Best of all, it’s considered first-party data.

How Identity Resolution Works?

When a visitor lands on your website, our technology is able to match that visitor with information we have in our consumer database. This allows us to resolve the identity of that visitor and place them on a list that is unique to you. This list is permanent, portable and owned and controlled by you.

Let’s look at a real-life example. Maria is in the market for a beach vacation for her family. She starts by asking for advice on Facebook, then she does a Google search, she may navigate to Travelocity and spend time looking at photos, reviews, and pricing. She’ll read a couple of bloggers’ reviews, and continue in her research. She’s obviously in the market to book! By having a simple script of code – a pixel – on your website, Identity Resolution will pick up on her purchase intent based on her previous behavior and give her a score which you can use in your follow-up marketing. Pretty amazing, huh?

You can engage with Maria on every channel.

Best of all, you can use the data and find a lookalike audience, just like Maria.

Why let the OTAs, Google & 
Amazon profit from YOUR data?

Identity Resolution gives YOU the control to increase revenue.

“At long last,” says Cory Falter, CEO of Lure Agency, “first-party data will give us the ability to foster personal and meaningful relationships with our prospects. I’m excited to know I will soon never have to see another marketing message that has no relevance to me.”

Benefits of Identity Resolution

Under the current system, you don’t have access to the data you generate without relying on a powerful supplier such as Facebook or Google to allow access to it from within their platform. SVM allows you to manage AND use all of your first-party data in one place, regardless of the platform it originated from.

Because you now control your data, it can be used in ways that were previously impossible. SVM gives you a permanent audience under your management that can be used on any platform and at any time, forever. Marketing your own products and services is just one of the ways in which it can be used. Joint ventures, affiliate deals, list rentals and many other opportunities (more on this below) become possible when you own your data.

  • Full & permanent control over your prospects
  • Quick and affordable method for generating profits
  • Increased conversion and decrease costs
  • Privacy and GDPR compliance issues NOT applicable

Why first-party data is key

With SVM you can grow an InMarket audience 10x – 20x faster than with any other method, such as relying on form-fills or opt-ins. This opens up enormous possibilities to partner with businesses that desperately want access to exactly the kind of data that you own.

Who else could benefit from having access to your first-party data? Partnerships, co-marketing opportunities, “list swaps,” rentals and many more opportunities become available to you. List brokers and data companies charge enormous sums for doing nothing more than providing lists to companies that are based mostly on third-party data. What could you charge for access to verified first-party data that also comes with identities attached?

    • Defined as information you yourself have collected about your audience
    • Gathered from website analytics platforms, CRM systems, and business analysis tools
    • The only data Identity Resolution captures

Summary

Having a deep understanding of your website visitors – your hottest prospects! – using identity resolution is going to propel your profits. With the demand for attention at an all-time high, you need to meet people in the moment with personalized messages. Identity Resolution today is what SEO was 10-15 years ago, it’s a real game changer.

What to learn more? Get info and request a consult here.


Here’s How AI is Changing The Face of Hotel Marketing

It’s game over for “spray and pray” marketing. The consumer is on to us and we better wise up.

If you’re still annoying your prospects with repetitive retargeting ads, it’s time to step up your game and get personal with AI and Identity Resolution.

Don’t take our word for it. Check out this recent survey.

U.S. digital shoppers and retailers conducted by Nanigans, 77% of consumers say they receive too many retargeting ads and 88% complain they still receive retargeting ads for products they’ve already bought. Not surprisingly, 57% claim retargeting ads do not persuade them to buy.

Thanks to Amazon, personalized marketing isn’t just useful, it ’s critical for marketing success in 2019 and beyond.

Remember this: Personalization just a few years ago (a name in the subject line of an email, perhaps) is a far cry from what we consider effective personalization today. Moving forward, the ideal state of personalization will continue to change as consumers’ expectations of how they should be nurtured will increase dramatically.

You better know your consumers and what motivates them or suffer the consequences.

It’s not that retargeting can’t be effective, it’s more important to understand poor retargeting is no more effective than 83% of retail marketers said they believe they would achieve the same sales results organically, without retargeting.

To make matter worse, poor retargeting can do more harm than good by driving prospects away with repetitive and disconnected messaging.

Gone are the days of relying on third-party cookies to inform retargeting efforts. Our ever-evolving multi-device, channel-hopping behaviors have rendered these temporary, browser-based data files relatively useless for targeting customers with timely and meaningful messages along buyer journeys.

Fear not. Help is here.

Enter Artificial Intelligence and Identity Resolution.

Thanks to advances in tech, hotel marketers now have opportunities to build customer profiles via their first-party data, including email addresses, device IDs and buyer behavior. By definition, these deterministic identifiers persist across any touchpoint whenever a customer logs in or authenticates via some transaction.

By leveraging this data, marketers can reach prospects at any moment of the buyer’s journey, across any device.

This simple, yet powerful element will unleash the real power of retargeting once again since the consumer will experience the right message at this right time. It’s the single and most potent strategy that is responsible for Amazon’s incredible growth.

Amazon knows what customers are looking for and what they’ve already bought, and it can retarget shoppers with messages that add value to their experiences, instead of annoying their prospects with annoying messages that are not relevant.

Marketers chasing personalization with cookies instead of establishing identity will only set themselves up for failure as omnichannel personalization becomes the new standard.

Are You Ready to Build a Personalization Strategy?

You first need to know your prospects are.

Armed with “the identity,” hotel marketers can recognize known customers throughout all stages of the purchase funnel and beyond — from awareness to consideration, to purchase, to loyalty — and retarget them with personal and relevant messaging that drives the ultimate ROI: high customer lifetime values.

The critical marketing element for 2019 and beyond is: IDENTITY

Without identity, you’ll miss vital parts of buyer journeys, resulting in imprecise targeting and irrelevant, disconnected and annoying messaging — all of which adds up to a colossal waste of ad dollars and a further decline in conversion.

NOW is the time to change that and here’s how.

Identity Resolution can help build your personalization strategy.

Quite simply, Identity Resolution allows you to resolve the identity of over half your visitors, without a form fill. This is the same (secret sauce) strategy Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook have all used to scale so quickly.

Best of all, it’s considered first-party data.

Here’s how it works.

When a visitor lands on your website, the technology can match that visitor with information we have in our consumer database. This allows us to resolve the identity of that visitor and place them on a list that is unique to you.

Some benefits include:

  • Full & permanent control over your prospects
  • Collect and analyze the behavior of your site’s visitors pre- and post-click
  • Convert your hard-earned SEO rank to a permanent
  • Retarget across platforms without relying on siloed pixels or expiring cookies
  •  Increased conversion and decrease costs by 25 – 50%

Bringing it home

Having a deep understanding of your website visitors – your hottest prospects! – Using identity resolution is going to propel your profits. With the demand for attention at an all-time high, you need to meet people at the moment with personalized messages. Identity Resolution today is what SEO was 10-15 years ago, it’s a real game changer.