As I was doing our November reports, I noticed a pattern, there were a lot of bookings, but it didn’t cross my mind how many ‘a lot’ of bookings meant until I opened the calculator on my phone. This times this, divided by this, equals = boom! There I saw the number, 1500% increase in direct bookings vs last year. I double-checked the dates, the numbers, and the data, it was indeed an increase of 1500% of direct bookings. In November 2018 we had X direct bookings on our clients’ website and in November 2019 we had Y direct bookings on our website. Data never lies, numbers don’t lie. This was data for Central Hotel London, a small hotel in the heart of Kings Cross.
I was over the moon because it was a very proud moment for us, as IQD, and I’m very happy for my client that believes in us, and trusts that we will deliver. In today’s business world sometimes it’s hard to find business people that don’t only think short term, but look long term as well. It’s understandable, in a world where you can have your pizza ordered and delivered in less than 30 minutes, where you can order a book on Amazon at night and receive it in the morning, our expectations have increased dramatically.
The problem with expectations is that when we have expectations without being realistic about certain things, we will get disappointed. If we want to lose weight for example, there is no substitute for hard work (and smart work) in the gym. What happens if I go to the gym for one month and see that I didn’t lose my belly fat? Then I say I will go for one more month and nothing happens. Of course, I will not lose my belly fat because I need to do the groundwork. I need strong foundations.
How did we manage to increase sales by 1500%? Well, I can promise you that it didn’t happen overnight. We’ve been working with Central Hotel for the past 13 months. During the past 13 months, we had some ups and downs. We increased their sales by 600% after three months, then we had a decline in direct bookings, then we had an increase. The goal is to have the right mentality. When creating content, it’s not so black and white, there is a grey area as well. There are challenges. The mentality we need to have is, ‘how do we add value to our potential guests/clients?’. When we work with that mentality, we will definitely see progress.
Most companies, most hotels are focused purely on the bottom line, how many more clients can I get, how can I increase sales today, how can I increase my ADR today, right now. I get it, we are all in business and we need to see growth, but we need to remind ourselves that we need to put the customers first. Great content marketing is not an outdoor billboard that shouts ‘buy from me’ or ‘book here’, it’s about adding value and helping people on their buying journey.
Different people are on different journeys, some people are ready to book a hotel tonight, some people are in research mode. In any business there is always a sales cycle. With content we can help customers decide – help them with their decision.
With Central Hotel, during the year every month we created social posts that inspired people, we wrote articles about where to go out in Kings Cross, ‘Things To Do During the Christmas holidays’, cool places to visit, we wrote an e-Book on ‘How to explore London under £300’. We added value to people, we collected data, we sent newsletters every month which distributed our content with lots of value, not just ‘book today’. We always included it at the bottom of our newsletter our ‘sales pitch’, nicely. We said; If you would like to book a room, book with us, we created a referral program as well, if you have a friend that wants to visit London, here is a 10% discount. We used our story, (explore more, do more) to inspire people to visit London, and if they are looking for accommodation, why not book with Central Hotel London.
Our strategy is not just to focus on today, or to sell right now using social media and email marketing, we created trust, we have data now. So, in the next months it will be ‘easier’ to sell and drive people to book direct. One direct booking is so much more than just the financial gain, it is the trust, the data you have, and the relationship you start building. When the guest books on OTA’s and they stay at the hotel, the relationship that the guest has is with OTA, not the hotel. When the guest books direct, the relationship is created with the hotel directly.
How can you implement the above ideas to your business and increase your sales in 2020? Well, the first and the most important thing is strategy. You need to write down your strategy for each quarter and the entire year. You need to be very clear about what you want to achieve. If you say for instance, ‘increase sales’ that’s very generic. To increase sales it’s the bottom line, it’s the ‘belly fat’. What about muscles? Don’t you want to build muscles? Don’t you want to build your stamina? The same applies for sales. To increase sales, you need to increase brand awareness, trust, desire, consideration before the sale is done. So, in your strategy you might want to include that with email marketing where you will increase credibility, with social media you will increase brand awareness, with social ads you will increase direct sales. You will need to work on your brand, develop you brand, develop your message so then selling will be easier.
When people trust a brand, selling is so much easier. It’s like going on a date, if you dated the person for couple of months you are already familiar with that person, you trust them, you are more open to them. On your first date you don’t know the person, so you are more conservative, you don’t really trust them yet. In today’s world, a great brand is what will help you stand out and build a loyal community.
Once you have that in place, you will need to step out of your business and think of how you can add creativity and passion to your content. It’s important that you don’t do what everybody else does. The biggest problem in the business world today is that brands don’t differentiate and they become commodities. They are the same as their next-door neighbour. Think of how you can add more creativity to everything you do.
Last but not least, if you work with an agency leave the agency do their job and you do yours. There is no way around it. I truly believe that Central Hotel achieved the results that they achieved because they leave the creative process to us. When you try to force something, it doesn’t work out. When you let the professionals do their job, things work out. Some people, well everybody, will have an opinion about what others should do. What I say is have your opinion but let’s look at data and see what data says. Leave people to do their jobs, not everybody is your client, you are not trying to please everybody. We all need to remember that. With this mentality that Central has we will achieve amazing things this year because we are going to push so much harder and make it a huge success.
If you want this year to increase your sales, your direct bookings, and your brand you need to take a step back, write everything down, stand up for something, add creativity and you will win. If you have any questions, you can always comment below or send me an email on [email protected]