3 Ways to Power Direct Bookings

1. Show the benefits of booking directly

Why should I book directly ? Answer this question in your customer’s mind and you will increase your direct bookings. Use some subtle “book direct” images and text to show that booking directly on your website is the best thing that guests can do.

Customers need to be convinced that they should book directly, it can’t be taken for granted. Present a message that re-assures your potential guests at the exact point they are thinking about where to book. As a little gift we have created some images, please help yourself to some “book direct” images, use them freely and share them widely. Link to “Book Direct” images

2. Don’t hide your Book Now button

A potential guest has made it on to your website, so make sure that they can easily find your book now button. Is your booking button in a prominent position on all your web pages ?

Book Now
Book Direct

Your “Book Now” button or “Search Availability” should be easily identifiable and should be on every page of your website, not only on the Home Page. If potential guests can’t find it easily you are pushing them away and they could proceed to some other property or end up booking through an Online Travel Agent (OTA). Make it easy to book so you don’t lose the direct booking.

Typical errors include putting the booking button too low down on the page forcing customers to scroll to find it, others hide it under tabs and menus like Accommodation, Rates or even Contact. Show your booking button clearly, simply and prominently to increase direct bookings.

3. Reward direct bookings

Reward guests who have or are about to book directly with you. Display a special offer for direct bookers using an offer for everyone or if you want to be a bit more selective use a promo code.

special offer for rooms
special offer

With a special offer you can ensure guests can book your best rates directly via your own website. This could be for a selected period or for a minimum stay, or simply make it available for all stays, it’s up to you. Creating a reward for direct bookers will certainly increase your chances of getting the booking direct. When I do a booking directly I’m always looking for that little reward to clinch the deal.

Direct Bookings using Promo Codes
Promo Codes for Direct Bookings

Using Promo codes is more selective, the customer needs to know the promo code. There are various types of offer from the simple discount to complimentary drinks or a room upgrade. A little something that shows you are willing to reward direct bookings on your website. It’s a win for everyone, guests will feel special, rewarded and will more than likely mention it in their reviews. This helps the overall book direct message because future guests learn of the benefits of booking direct when reading the great reviews the rewards have generated.

Get creative and invent original rewards for direct booking.

To find out more about some of freetobook’s direct booking benefits take a look at Promo Codes, which can help you encourage customers to book with you again, and facebook book now button using a facebook call to action button.

Keep an eye on our blogs for tips on how to improve your direct bookings and start cutting into that commission bill.

5 Ways to make your website user-friendly

User friendly websites
User friendly websites

We are always trying to help our customers increase their direct bookings. Although there is not one simple answer to achieving that (i.e. social media marketing works for some properties, whilst others might find special offers increase their website bookings), one key thing that applies to all is having an easily-navigated, user-friendly website. So, here are a few helpful tips

1. Use a simple and readable font for your website. We all love the fancy fonts, but you must remember your font should be web-friendly and easy on the eye.

2. Your “Book Now” button e.g. your Search Availability should be visible on every page of your website without having to scroll down (above the fold).

Visitors should see it without having to look for it i.e. place your Search Availability at the top or the right-hand/left-hand side bar of your Home Page. Remember, your booking button must be on ALL pages of your website and ideally in the same place. Doing this makes it easy to find.

Take a look at how the Coila Guest House do it, it’s in the top menu on all pages and again on the content pages. By all means be creative but also give a consistent structure to help customers find your availability and book.

3. Each click you ask a customer to make reduces your bookings. So don’t hide your “Search Availability” button under your Accommodation or Tariffs menu. Many will leave a website in less than a minute after they have landed on the Home Page because they can’t find what they need. Visitors are looking to check your rates and availability, don’t bury it behind another click.

4. Remember, when you make any changes to your website spend a little time checking that  all your links and buttons are working properly. Why not ask a friend to do a booking and tell you how they found it.

5. If you are active on social media then place your social media icons in a visible place. If you are on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram put a link to those pages on your Home Page at the top to avoid having customers scroll down to search for them. The Auchlea B&B  has their social media buttons well placed on their Home Page.

 

As you can see these are simple, easy ideas that everyone can try in order to make their websites more booking-friendly. Let us know how they work for you in the comment section below.

Reduce your commission bill with promo codes

OTA CommissionOn the phones we hear the pain many accommodation owners feel when they get the monthly commission bill from their OTAs. Particularly annoying is finding repeat or regular customers who somehow end up booking through an OTA rather than directly. Many of you are looking for tools to help fight back against rising costs from the Online Travel Agents. One excellent way to do this is by using promotional codes.

Direct Bookings using Promo CodesA promo code is a private special offer that gives customers a discount when they book online directly with you. Essentially you give them a small discount making it cheaper to book directly, they save and you reduce your commission bill with more direct bookings. They simply type a promo code into your online booking page and it gives them a special direct discount.

The first step is to think about how much of an incentive you want to give to direct bookers. Perhaps your OTA commission is 15% and you want to give your customers 10% off thus saving you 5%. In the example we give the hotel offers a ten percent discount but you decide the amount yourself (you set it and you can easily change it).

Regular customers use promo codesNext you create a “Promo Code” in your freetobook account. Once you have your promo code setup (eg. DIRECT10) you now need to let your customers know about it, ensuring they know that booking directly on your website will save them money. The  simple message is “Book direct and save” but you do have to promote it. Here are some clever ideas to help.

Promo Code business cardAt Guest Checkout – Hand your guest a little business card with your promo code on it. This lets them know they are special and that they will always get a better deal booking directly with you.

At reception – Put up a little plaque or sign stating that you always guarantee the best rate when guests book direct and that some guests might get a special discount when they book again. Give them the promo code so they can use it to claim their discount when booking direct.Promo Code sign at reception

On your email signature – When you email guests about coming back to stay with you mention your promo code so they can get their special private deal. Again this reinforces the book direct message in a place where they might be considering making a booking with you.

We all like to feel special, using promo codes is a great way to show guests that you value their business and want them to come back and stay. Its a powerful message, book direct and save… here is a little exclusive discount because we value your custom. You want them to come back and/or tell family and friends about the special deal they can have by booking with you directly next time – promo codes do that for you.

The video below shows how the promo codes work, all you need to do is login to your freetobook account select the tab “Specials” and “Promo Codes” on the orange bar. To get a little further information see the promo codes section on our website.

Does Your Website Tell Customers WHY They Should Book Directly ?

bestPriceDoes Your Website Tell Customers WHY They Should Book Directly ?

We were chatting with one freetobook customer this week who was alarmed at the growing number of rooms sold via booking.com rather than her own website and to make matters worse, a returning customer had re-booked using the OTA! With a few clicks all became clear. The property’s website was overly cluttered, out of date with offers from the Christmas holidays and it wasn’t clear there was an online booking facility.

Does your website tell potential customers WHY they should book directly with you?  The OTA’s do a brilliant job at converting lookers to bookers. From the ‘last room, last chance’ popups in red lettering, they create a sense of urgency to drive through that final click to book.

It’s worth saying once again …
Place your BOOKING BUTTON on the top left hand side if you possibly can. Advertisers pay a premium for this ‘sweet spot’.

HIGHLIGHT to potential bookers that they will get the BEST POSSIBLE PRICE (with no commission) by booking on your website.

Add in fresh, positive reviews onto your front page. Update very regularly!

Other general website design tips to remember …
How well do other folk feel you are marketing your accommodation? Ask friends and business associates whose opinions you trust to spent time on your website. Their feedback may highlight some great new suggestions or angles.

Make your website look as professional as possible, it’s your number one marketing tool. It’s worth considering giving it a timely overhaul with the help of a website designer.

Beautiful images SELL.  Refresh images of your property seasonally, there is nothing more off-putting than searching for a summer retreat only to find the main photos on the property’s website show a winter wonderland!

Write concise (less is more!), appealing copy about your property and what visitors can expect on arrival.

Together in Gatwick

Together for accommodation ownersJust back from a quick trip down to Gatwick to see the Gatwick Guest House Association (GGHA). I was invited to give a short presentation on the Together service after a few of their proactive members thought the service may help their website generate more bookings.

Like many other associations they need to upgrade their website and in assessing the options it became obvious that a booking engine on the website would be a great benefit…and that’s where Together comes in. Freetobook are always happy to visit groups and explain face-to-face who we are, where we came from and what we do.

Gatwick guest house association
Gatwick guest house association

I was really impressed with the positive and proactive attitude of everyone at the meeting, I was made to me feel very welcome.

A big thank you to everyone and especially to Carmel at the Cumberland House for her warm hospitality…..the perfect host.

 

To find out more about how to get together click here.

Short video on the together system

 

 

iCal calendar sync

iCal sync with Holiday Lettings, Airbnb, Flipkey and others

iCal calendar sync holiday lettings airbnb flipkey
iCal calendar sync holiday lettings and airbnb

Get found and get booked by keeping your calendars up to date.

iCal enables customers to see your true availability  leading to better quality enquiries, happier customers and most importantly more bookings. However, its a bore logging into all these systems and updating each one separately. The freetobook iCal service updates availability on many of the world’s big sales channels automatically.

Very recently Holiday Lettings added an iCal calendar syncing feature so freetobook’s iCal export can now be used to update airbnb, Flipkey, Wimdu, House Trip and any other systems that accept iCal imports.

How the freetobook iCal calendar updater can work for you (youtube video)

iCal calendar sync is a standard format for calendars that’s used widely to share date information. Large companies use iCal to receive simple availability data because it’s an easy, simple and basic format of calendar data. We have created a way for you to export your availability in an iCal format to these big sales systems. If you have an account with Holiday Lettings, Airbnb, FlipKey or anyone that allows iCal import you can register for our iCal service and use freetobook to export your open/closed dates.

Due to the simplicity of iCal there are limitations. You can synchronize open/closed dates but you cannot give rates, minimum stays or other data. Another very important limitation is data only goes one way, so freetobook will give you an availability feed for export but we do not import any data. This means bookings from Holiday Lettings, Wimdu, FlipKey etc. must to be added manually into freetobook to keep your diary up to date.

iCal calendar feedPart of the freetobook iCal service is a private iCal feed for all of your bookings. This  private feed can be used on your iPhone or other mobile device, enabling you to keep up with your bookings while on the go. The standard format of iCal means are many ways to view your bookings on many different calendars.

Freetobook offers both of these iCal services, just go to your TAB ”Plus” if you already have a freetobook account. If you are not with freetobook why not start TODAY and enjoy some of our many fantastic booking solutions.

Find out more about freetobook and the iCal calendar sync

channel manager and internet booking engine
get connected to the world

Freetobook is a Internet Booking Engine and channel manager with many added services and connections to the world’s biggest sales systems like TripAdvisor TripConnect, Booking.com, Expedia, HostelWorld and many others. Using freetobook can greatly improve your worldwide distribution and add bookings to your bottom line : find out more about freetobook on our home page.

To find out more about what the freetobook channel manager can do for you, click the link below.

freetobook channel manager

Multi Language booking increases your bookings

Direct bookings increase with multilingual bookings

We are already seeing an increase in direct online bookings as a result of the new multilingual online booking process.

Multi Language Online Booking System
Multilingual Booking Engine

Freetobook now has online booking in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese. (More languages will be added.)

When your customers can book in their native language the booking process becomes easier and as a result you get more bookings. This is no surprise as we all want an easy quick way to make a booking.  Booking in your native language greatly simplifies and speeds up the process thereby increasing the number of bookings.

When potential customers book using the freetobook internet booking engine freetobook detects the language of their browser and presents the booking process in their native language or the default language of the property.

Our accommodation owners located in 84 different countries worldwide are benefiting from this new addition to our system, bringing more direct bookings.

Find out more about the languages option or the services offered by freetobook’s online booking system .

TripAdvisor is becoming a Booking Website

8 Things You NEED to Know about the TripAdvisor Changes

Are you up to speed with the changes at TripAdvisor? Not knowing could lose you bookings.

TripAdvisor is Changing into a Booking Website. If you don’t have online booking you can lose bookings that you used to get from TripAdvisor.

  1. TripAdvisor is now a booking website, you can check live rates and availability.
  2. TripAdvisor will soon be advertising on TV just like other booking websites.
  3. The TripAdvisor home page (Image Below) now asks for a destination and your travel DATES.
  4. If you are on TripAdvisor looking for somewhere to stay they will show you availability and rates from Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia, your property etc….
  5. You can now advertise your own direct availability on TripAdvisor next to the OTAs(Video Below)
  6. If you don’t work with any of Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia and you don’t advertise your own availability on TripAdvisor you will lose bookings you used to get from TripAdvisor.

What do you need to do to get your rates and availability on TripAdvisor ?

  1. You need an online booking system that can connect with TripAdvisor.
  2. Alternatively you need to work with an Online Travel Agent (OTA) like booking.com that will advertise your availability on TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor Show Prices button

Here is a short video to show you how to add rates and availability to you TripAdvisor page using your booking system.

Click Here to see the Video

As TripAdvisor grows their booking strategy you can expect more and more links to the booking process. It is likely that more of the page space on TripAdvisor’s website will be devoted to directing the customer to rates and availability.

This is a copy of the TripAdvisor home page, as you can see its asking for a destination, arrival and departure dates so they can show you rates and availability.

TripAdvisor HomePage

TripAdvisor Pay Per Click advertising
TripAdvisor Pay Per Click advertising

 

 

Wonderful Widgets

Why your widget is so important to your business!

A sports car may be beautifully styled, but if it can’t go anywhere it’s just… well, a sculpture. In the same way, no matter how good your website looks – and no matter how much money you spend getting people to it – if it doesn’t have a robust “engine” under the hood, no-one is going to book on it. Your booking engine really is the “business end” of your website.

widgetWe’ve put a lot of thought and effort into making those bookings happen for you, but that can be wasted if you don’t spend a little extra time making sure your widget looks fantastic.  Your room details page is usually the 2nd most visited page on your website. Why? Because people, quite understandably, want to see what they’re getting for their hard-earned money!  Showing customers what they are getting whilst they’re considering prices and availability will increase their likelihood of booking….it’s as simple as that.

Here are our 5 top tips to making your widget wonderful!

  1. Room images that keep the customer in the “booking zone”
  2. A list of room facilities that avoids any doubts/delays (i.e. is there a hair dryer?)
  3. Short and clear room descriptions that sell the benefits (i.e. free WIFI, a view etc)
  4. An enticing breakfast description that reinforces the value
  5. A beautiful header image that says “you’ve found the perfect place….”

The right level of information at the right time with a clear “call to action” (i.e. “Book Now”) is what great marketing is all about. That’s what will get you more bookings. Guaranteed.

TripAdvisor book now button for direct bookings

Direct commssion free bookings on Trip Advisor

Just mention the name “TripAdvisor” to independent businesses and you are guaranteed to get some interest. Businesses have to take a pragmatic view when considering what tools and partners they need to make themselves more successful.

TripAdvisor book now button
TripAdvisor Show Prices button can link to your property

TripAdvisor is without doubt a very powerful influencer for your customers because it helps them gather information from other customers i.e. people just like them. Lots of studies have shown that people value and trust the advice of friends and family far more than anything else. That’s not new, since time began we have always asked for the advice of those closest, those who you trust.

Like most things on the internet it’s not perfect but that doesn’t lessen it’s importance to your customers. Good businesses engage with their customers, listen to their feedback and react accordingly and TripAdvisor provides one of the platforms to do that. Time invested in that is money well spent because it’s highly visible and highly searchable. Managing your reputation is critical in this increasingly connected world.

Many businesses rely heavily on their reviews to attract new customers and now there is a way to get direct bookings, not just referrals, from your TripAdvisor page. It’s not free but then TripAdvisor is not a charity, it provides a service to you and your customers.

You can place a direct link to your booking engine on your profile and every time a customer searches your availability you pay TripAdvisor – a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising model where each search is a click. The service is currently only offered on a wholesale basis i.e. individual properties can’t do it themselves they have to go through a service provider and properties do not need a business listing.

The direct link is valuable because customers are usually at the end of their purchasing cycle when they are looking at your profile….so they are ready book. When you consider all the marketing that has preceded that point i.e. providing a service that encourages reviews, advertising in different places etc. you can see that you are about as close to “closing the sale” as you will ever be. That’s where you have to make it easy for the customer…..search and book here!

The service is offered on a 3 month trial basis. TripAdvisor will give you a cost per click and estimated budget required for those 3 months based on their history of your page. How do you know you’ll get value for money? Well, you don’t at the outset, but at freetobook we will track and monitor every search and booking to give you a definitive return on investment. It’s that level of information that gives you the control to make a 100% informed decision on your marketing spend. If you have already invested heavily in your marketing this is well worth a try.