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Tim Peter

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July 15, 2014

3 Reputation Management Secrets Every Hotel Marketer Should Know (Travel Tuesday)

July 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

Couple reading reviews on tabletBright Local has new research highlighting what your guests think about the overall consumer review landscape. Fascinating reading and well-worth your time. But, since I know many of you don’t have what you’d call “copious free time” these days, here are the key points worth reviewing:

  1. Customers trust reviews significantly more than they did last year. There’s been a huge drop in the number of people who answer “No” to the question of whether they trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, 13% this year down from 21% last year (and 33% in 2011). That’s huge. And further proof of how important reputation management is to your overall marketing.
  2. Quantity matters (and so does quality). Two-thirds of respondents trust user reviews more when there are 4 or more reviews to read. But equally important, the gap between 3-star ratings and 2-star ratings is huge. Only 27% of guests will use a business with a 2-star rating, while 72% will use a business with a 3-star rating, proving yet again that your customers have as much say in how others perceive your brand as you do.
  3. Guests remember how you made them feel, not what you said. This came up a fair bit at this year’s HSMAI Digital Marketing Strategy Conference (see item #3 on this list). According to Bright Local, guests value reliability, expertise, and professionalism above all else. Sure, they’ll remember what you said, but only if you actually deliver on that promise.

Again, the whole report is well-worth reading (and you can find it here). But, it’s striking to me how many of these points line up with the big items in this list of key resources for hotel marketers. It’s pretty clear the state of hotel reputation management continues to evolve as guests gain increasing familiarity with reading reviews when making a booking decision — to say nothing of their increasing comfort with creating reviews of their own while during and after their stay. That’s one of the reasons why Expedia is investing heavily in enabling real-time review creation tools for travelers.

For better or worse, reputation management — reading and responding to reviews, as well as taking action to address guest concerns — represents a key component of your hotel’s sales, marketing, and distribution activities. Treating it as anything less ignores your guest’s reality. And risks your hotel’s success today and in the future.

(H/T: Tnooz)

Interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And, if you’re curious about other trends shaping travel marketing, take a look at my recent presentation, called, aptly enough, “Digital Marketing Directions – Exploit the Trends that Shape Travel Marketing”:

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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February 11, 2014

Will Review Sites Be the Death of Brands?

February 11, 2014 | By | No Comments

Do brands matter?James Surowiecki, writing for the New Yorker says that, in an age of social media and review sites (think Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List and the like), brand loyalty is dead. He notes,

‘Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information,’ a new book by Itamar Simonson… and Emanuel Rosen… shows that, historically, the rise of brands was a response to an information-poor environment. When consumers had to rely on advertisements and their past experience with a company, brands served as proxies for quality; if a car was made by G.M., or a ketchup by Heinz, you assumed that it was pretty good… As recently as the nineteen-eighties, nearly four-fifths of American car buyers stayed loyal to a brand.”

Surowiecki continues,

“…what’s really weakened the power of brands is the Internet, which has given ordinary consumers easy access to expert reviews, user reviews, and detailed product data, in an array of categories. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eighty per cent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of studies have logged the strong influence those reviews have on the decisions people make… As Simonson told me, ‘each product now has to prove itself on its own.'” [Emphasis mine]

The article (and book) also goes against the argument that brands become more important, not less, due to the sheer volume amount of information that exists, stating “…information overload is largely a myth;” that consumers are very capable at separating the wheat from the chaff, and finding the information they need to make an informed decision.

So, which is it? Are brands more important or less important going forward?

Well… it’s complicated.

I’ve talked for years about the P’s and Q’s model for hotel research, (and have the data to support it), that shows customers use a lot of interrelated information when making a purchase decision. And, yes, review sites play an increasingly large role in that purchase decision. In fact, I have long said that managing your reputation represents the single best investment you can make in your marketing.

However, none of that suggests that brands don’t also influence your customers’ decision. Don’t forget that brand terms are among the most profitable and successful search terms. Why? Because customers often search for brands they know, like, and trust. Apple, Coke, Pepsi, Fender, BMW, Marriott, and plenty of others spend tons in making sure that their brand continues to deliver… and that their products support their brand story. That’s not changing anytime soon.

Yes, in a world of online reviews even the best brand won’t help a terrible product succeed in the market. At least not for long. But, don’t discount the importance of a strong, consistent brand in attracting, converting, and retaining customers going forward.

My presentation, “The Truth: How the Social, Local, Mobile Web Affects Sales Online and Offline,” looks at how the web changes your customers’ behaviors—and how you can keep up with those changes:

And, if you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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January 28, 2014

What's the State of Hotel Reputation Management? (Travel Tuesday)

January 28, 2014 | By | No Comments

The State of Reputation ManagementMost of you know that I recommend focusing on your hotels’ ratings and reviews, and think reputation management represents the single most effective way to improve your digital marketing. Well, now travel reputation management firm TrustYou has some great data about the state of the reputation management landscape that’s well worth checking out.

In particular, three findings really jumped out at me:

  1. Review volumes are up — way up. Across the three market regions TrustYou studied (North America, EMEA, and APAC), guests are writing reviews at much higher rates. Given the number of people traveling with one or more devices and how easily travelers can post reviews from mobile devices these days (remember, there’s no such thing as an offline traveler), it’s no surprise that guests increasingly want to tell their friends, family, fans, and followers about their experience.
  2. Management responses have increased, but… This one’s a bit more complicated. The good news is that management responses to guest reviews has increased. The less good news is that management responses haven’t increased at the same rate. Now, to be fair, since overall satisfaction is up, it’s entirely possible most of the increased reviews don’t require a response. But, I’d still recommend most hoteliers continue to watch their reviews and respond where appropriate (Contact me if you’re interested in receiving my “Fast FAQ: Responding to Online Reviews.”
  3. Guest satisfaction is slightly higher, but Internet and price/value continue to lag. Again, this is a “good news/bad news” situation. The good: Guest satisfaction has improved. The bad: Guests complaints about the cost and/or quality of Internet, and of the overall price/value proposition continue to increase. The first step to improving the quality of your guest reviews is to address guests’ underlying concerns. Now, in no way am I suggesting that “addressing concerns” means simply making Internet access free or lowering your prices. (In fact, I wrote a whole white paper last year explaining how to increase revenues per guest). But it does mean working to demonstrate the value guests receive for the price they’re paying.

As I’ve said many times, the web provides complete transparency into your business. I’d argue many guests know as much about your hotel as some employees do. I’ve given a number of talks on this topic (see my slides below) and don’t see this reality changing anytime soon. If anything, I expect things to get more transparent, not less.

Given this reality, the right response is to understand what drives positive guest reviews, how to address negative/constructive reviews, and how to increase the frequency with which guests tell your brand story on your behalf.

Happily, TrustYou’s reports offer you some transparency into that process. I’d recommend downloading the report for your region directly from TrustYou here.

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You also might enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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September 24, 2013

The Single Most Effective Way to Improve Your Brand’s Digital Marketing (Updated: 2017/08)

September 24, 2013 | By | No Comments

Want to drive more direct bookings to your hotel? Click here to learn more


Improve your brand's digital marketing: The e-commerce satisfaction cycleOK, Big Thinkers, it’s pop quiz time: If you’re a hotel, resort, restaurant, spa, retail store, or other service provider, what’s the simple, proven, and single most effective way you can improve your brand’s digital marketing? More to the point, what will absolutely kill your other marketing efforts if you don’t take care of it?

Now before those of you outside hosptiatlity run off— and before I answer the question— stick around for minute. For many industries, the same tactic matters just as much.

I’ll give you a few hints:

  • It’s not SEO.
  • It’s not paid search.
  • It’s not social media (at least not in the sense most people think of it).

So, what is this “magic” tactic?

It’s managing your brand’s online reviews.

Seriously.

Think about all the places your guests and customers encounter reviews and ratings for your business:

  • TripAdvisor
  • Yelp
  • Traditional search engines, like Google and Bing
  • Map sites like Google Maps, Mapquest, Waze, and Apple Maps (you can read more about the business implications of the integration of search and maps here)
  • Online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, and Hipmunk
  • Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — with many customers using the cameras and connectivity on their mobile phones to post pictures, ratings, and reviews while they’re experiencing your product. The could be in the middle of their stay, in the middle of dinner, or in the middle of talking to you and start sharing with their friends and family and fans and followers how they feel about the service you provide
  • Travel and food blogs
  • Even brand websites for many hotel chains now feature ratings and reviews of their properties

In fact, just about every interaction a potential customer has with your brand online provides insights into what they can and should expect.

If you’re not a hotel, resort, or restaurant, don’t think you’re out of the woods. Plenty of dedicated sites exist across a variety of industries, while the non-industry specific sites (search engines, social networks, mapping tools and the like), often provide the same picture of your brand to customers.

So why are review sites such a big deal?

One word: Money.

Studies from Chris Anderson at the Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research and Michael Luca at Harvard Business School [PDF link] show revenue gains of around 5% to 11% for each increase in star rating across popular review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp (this data supports the findings from my own research behind the P’s & Q’s model I talked about a couple of weeks ago).

Additionally, Pew says that “…82% of U.S. adults say they at least sometimes read online customer ratings or reviews before purchasing items for the first time, including 40% who say they always or almost always do so.” That’s, y’know, a pretty big number.

Now, review sites aren’t perfect. For one thing, Maritz Research posted research a few years back [PDF downloads of part 1 and part 2 here), that suggested only between 45%-60% of users trusted the data (it varied by site and demographic group) and that only a small percentage of users actually wrote any reviews at all. (H/T to Tnooz for the link to the study). But those numbers are changing. Recent research from BrightLocal shows that “84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation” and now “7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to.” That’s a big shift.

False reviews still do pose some problems for consumers too. Some businesses either try to promote their own brand or, worse, downgrade their competition. Happily, states have begun to crack down, with New York recently charging some businesses with false advertising for trying to game review sites. And many of the review sites themselves have taken actions to eliminate false reviews from their pages. While not perfect, this undoubtably signals a positive direction for businesses overall.

Or at least those focused on improving their review scores.

Conclusion

Your brand is not some mystical, intangible thing; instead a brand is the sum of all the experiences your customers have with your business. Not just what you tell guests about yourselves, but what they experience, every step of the way. Your customers travel through myriad steps prior to making a purchase decision and each step informs them a bit more about who you are and what value you provide. And, increasingly, reviews communicate your brand more effectively and more efficiently than any other marketing activity you undertake—whether it’s the brand story you want your guests to hear or not.

Yes, fake reviews are a problem. But that’s beginning to work itself out.

And, yes, improving your ratings and reviews takes effort. But not working to improve your customers perception of your brand and business costs you money, every day. I didn’t say it’s the easiest way to improve your marketing’s value. I simply said that it’s the most effective way. So, before you start another marketing campaign, take a look at what your customers say about your business and your brand, then ask yourself, what can I do to improve what they say about me.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2016: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including: