Planning ahead for your promotions

heather turnerThis week’s guest blog is from US based social media and marketing expert Heather Turner, “Chief Logroller” at Forfeng Media. Here Heather helps you plan your social media calendar for holiday events and special promotions.

The time to start planning ahead for your promotions throughout the year, is best done in slow season when you actually have a little down time, a little space to actually think and work on your marketing for the upcoming year.

Developing a social media and content calendar in advance is key to getting promotions out in an stress free, and timely manner so you have the best chance for a journalist to pickup an event or special for a story, and to make sure you work any kinks out of the special or offer in advance. If you are doing specials in conjunction with other area businesses, i.e. a discount at a local restaurant in conjunction with a stay, or free or ½ price tickets to a museum, for example, as part of your packages, it’s best to be able to make those connections and iron down the details as far ahead in advance as possible. When making joint package deals its very important to stress to the partnering business that they will be getting a lot of free publicity out of it. Working some numbers up, and letting them know where and how you will be promoting it, and them, is leverage for getting you a better deal on a partnership offer or discount.

If you are hoping to get your special or offer picked up by the news for inclusion in a newspaper or magazine, be cognizant of the fact that the lead time for both is very different. A newspaper generally needs several weeks leads time to run an article. Monthly magazines generally need three to six months.

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Realistically any unique specials or promotions should be up online on your website at least 6 months prior to the actual event. If you send press releases out about it, it should be send out at least 4 months or more prior. Advertising them on social media should start being pushed out at last 3 months prior, 2 at the very latest.

If you have something that you know will book up and sell out in advance, advertise it on social media at least 4 months in advance so that if you get the inevitable cancellation or two you have time to rebook it. Developing the social media calendar will help you keep on track for when you are scheduled to start promoting your specials.

Specific Holidays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are generally high traffic days for lodging packages, and many potential guests do like to plan ahead for those. You may want to consider starting to advertise these on your social media channels a little earlier than the rest of your other packages.

Posting your specials on social media should not be done more than once a week, each post should be unique, have an appropriate and inviting picture accompanying it (make sure you either own the photograph or image, have permission to use it or have purchased it from a legitimate stock photo source), and be written in a way that utilizes the soft sell approach.

As an example of the soft sell post: Father’s Day is coming up soon. What better way to thank your Dad for being there for you and your family then treating him to a weekend away from it all. Our special Father’s Day Package includes a full day of golf at the historic Beach Head Golf Club, followed by a day on the water fishing for Bass on Lake Bestinach. For more information about this special Father’s Day package please visit http:thejanedoeinn.com/fatherdayspecial.

VS. the hard sell post:  Father’s Day Package, June 18-19, Package includes 18 holes of golf, cart included. River tour with Bass fishing instructor, $360 for the weekend D.O.. Exclusions apply. Book Now at 800-555-1212.

Make sure to keep your social media calendars from previous years, and note when you have gotten the most traffic and bookings for each previous year on them. You should also include anything of note that happens during the time your packages have happened. The Christmas of 2013 had a horrible snowstorm resulting in cancellations, Easter of 2011 had a travel ban, etc. Long term this helps you better plan for next year, as well as being able to look back and see what previous years results were based on what you did for marketing as well as any external events that may have happened that were outside of your control.

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Great, Gratis and Glorious digital marketing ideas to boost direct sales

Gonzo Marketing
Gonzo Marketing

Our guest blog and interview is with Frederic Gonzalo, founder of Gonzo Marketing. With over 19 years of experience in the travel and tourism sphere, he is passionate about marketing and communications.

Frederic recently attended the EyeForTravel event in Miami as a speaker, panelist and participant to the 2015 edition of Online Marketing Strategies in Travel.

Here Frederic generously shares his industry insights and expertise with freetobook. As he pointedly states, having no marketing budget is no excuse for not having a dynamic online presence!

What is the most important trend in online room booking?

It’s about going mobile. More than 51% of travelers now research their next destination, accommodation and transportation from a mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone or tablet. And more importantly, an increasing proportion of them are now booking via their mobile device: in fact, it is estimated that 25% of all online travel revenue in the US will come from mobile devices in 2015.

How can a property get more direct bookings?

1- Have a “best online rate” guarantee and feature it, big and bold, on your home page. People will shop around no matter what, but if they can have the confidence that by booking direct they will get the best deal, well… you got it!

2- Have a relationship marketing approach in place. This can be through a rewards program or simply by capturing emails from clients and visitors to your site and/or blog. Sending out regular newsletters and promotional offers to this base can ensure retention and direct booking through time.

3- Promote deals and best rates across your various social accounts. I see hotels mention a promo code for 10% off best rate… on their Twitter bio. Others do Facebook offers, or mail push to group databases. Think outside the box, and make sure you crossover information from newsletter to blog to social media.

Having no marketing dollars is not an excuse not to have a dynamic online presence.

The first step is to have a professional-looking website, and this can be done with various solutions that cost a fraction of what it used to 3-5 years ago.

Sending out emails? MailChimp is free up to 2,000 email addresses, and other providers offer similar low-cost solutions.

Social media? It’s not free, contrary to what many believe, because someone has to manage it, but you can have impact and reach on Facebook with minimal investments. It’s more a matter of having a strategy in place to begin with, then finding the resources (human and financial) to manage this new reality. Knowing 87% of travel decisions now begin with an online search, do we even really have a choice here?

15 key stats to consider:

  1. TripAdvisor (42%) is the most downloaded mobile app amongst travelers, followed by Priceline (15%), Expedia (14%) and Orbitz (13%)
  2. There are 139 reviews written every minute on TripAdvisor
  3. You lose 25-60% of visitors with each click on the mobile path to purchase.
  4. 69% of travelers begin their search online…via a mobile device!
  5. Average mobile users check their device 150 times per day!
  6. Of the average six daily hours US adults spend on digital media, 3 hours is on mobile.
  7. Twitter on Travel: in the past year, 60M tweets mentioned hotels, 21M tweets mentioned vacations
  8. 70% of followers have taken some action after seeing travel content on Twitter
  9. 70% of Instagram users have looked for a brand online
  10. 3/4 of consumers are frustrated when online content doesn’t relate to their interest
  11. In 2016, 50% of total travel sales will involve more than one device
  12. Ritz Carlton Hotel sees 18% conversions from email campaigns. Email is not dead, folks!
  13. 92% of visitors to a website will never return. Thus, remarketing is key!
  14. Only 27% of hotels send automated emails prior to arrival (and after departing)
  15. According to Google, 1/3 of people with a smartphone would give up sex instead of their phone. Sad.

Visit Frederic Gonzalo’s website for further insights

 

Visit Jersey Special Offer

Connect to Visit Jersey accommodation websites

There’s no charge from freetobook for connecting to Visit Jersey tourism accommodation websites when you freetobook connect visit jerseyconnect before the 31st Oct 2014 (normally £49+ VAT) *.

Freetobook’s channel manager now updates Visit Jersey all from your freetobook diary.

You can also use freetobook to link up with the worlds largest Online Travel Agents including, booking.com, LateRooms, Agoda, HostelWorld, Expedia and TripAdvisor.

1) Save time and energy updating different diaries – your freetobook diary updates them all with rates, availability and bookings. No more double bookings and no more double entry.

2) The channel manager connects you to guests from all over the world – using freetobook’s global connections you reach customers that would not otherwise be able to find you.

3) Our online booking engine also links to your website at no charge, where all bookings are zero commission.

Find out more about the freetobook Guestlink channel manager connection

freetobook guestlink connection

 

 

 

Find out more about the freetobook channel manager

freetobook channel manager

 

 

Watch the video on YouTube see how the freetobook channel manager works.

 

* freetobook will not charge their set-up and connection fee if connected in time. There may be costs from Visit Jersey to list on their websites and update via guestlink – your listing on Jersey websites is subject to their terms and conditions so you need to check all Visit Jersey terms and conditions.

Independent Hotel Show 2013

A big thank you to everyone who dropped in to see us at the Independent Hotel Show 2013. It is fair to say we had one of the busiest stands at the show and we were kept on our feet right from the word go. It was great to see that many businesses had heard of us and were keen to see us at the show.

We also met some of our existing clients  who kindly dropped by to say “hello”…and even helped with the sales when we very busy!  All round it was a big success and we have already booked our stand of next year – stand H56….see you there!

VisitScotland – get free bookings on VisitScotland dot com using freetobook

Bookings are already flooding in from VisitScotland to properties using freetobook, don’t lose out and get yours at no cost whatsoever.

If you are an accommodation in Scotland you can get free bookings from the VisitScotland website. No signup fee, no annual fee, no commission – using freetobook system you can feed your rates and availability onto their website and get bookings FREE.

VisitScotland and freetobook connected
Get connected to VisitScotland with freetobook

This is a NO-BRAINER, bookings are already flooding into freetobook properties from VisitScotland and there is no cost from freetobook and there is no cost from VisitScotland.

How do I get free bookings from VisitScotland ?

  1. You get a free listing on VisitScotland (this is free)
  2. You have an account with freetobook (this is free)
  3. If you don’t have an account with freetobook get one today (this is free)
  4. VisitScotland and freetobook are connected (you get free bookings)

Find out more about how to do it – click here

The Benefits of Getting “Together” in Torbay

Accommodation associations the length of the country are benefiting from freetobook’s innovative “Together” product, which allows them to market themselves more effectively as a group.

getTogetherTopLogo-click-for-videoIt’s already revolutionising life for members of the Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group (FWAMG) up in the Highlands. Now it has also been adopted by the Torbay Booking Association down in Devon.

The Torbay group consists of over 20 hotels, B&Bs and guest houses, ranging in size from 6 – 14 rooms. Their new “Together” site, which went live last week, is called www.torbaybooking.co.uk

Now these small, individual properties will no longer have to go it alone in an increasingly competitive world where big budget chains dominate more and more. Thanks to “Together”, they’ll be able to benefit from strength in numbers and take advantage of all these innovations:

(1) Increasing conversions by giving customers a fully functional booking engine

(2) Bookings are kept and shared within the group

(3) If members are full, they can see who else is available

(4) They can track bookings through their “Together” booking engine

(5) They can also track the success of any marketing campaigns

And, best of all…

(6) All bookings are commission-free!

Scotland’s Best B&Bs and the Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association are also using our terrific “Together” product. You can find out more about it HERE

VisitScotland Update

freetobook connecting with VisitScotland

One of the most exciting things on the horizon for freetobook is our new connection with VisitScotland.

visitscotlandVisitScotland has a new accommodation search system that allows all B&Bs, guest houses, small hotels etc in Scotland to be displayed regardless of their relationship with VisitScotland itself (this is known as a “polling” system).

What this means is that very soon all Scottish freetobook properties will be able have their rates and availability appearing on VisitScotland’s site whenever a prospective customer does an accommodation search.

1st June is the current “go live” date for VisitScotland’s new system. Keep checking our blog for further details and updates.

2013 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence

freetobook sponsors “Small Hotel of the Year” 2013

Visit England Awards2013Quality is the key. What makes the VisitEngland Awards so important for the accommodation world – and so important to freetobook as a sponsor – is the fact that they’re not just an excuse for a boozy meal and a lot of back-slapping. Instead, they’re a beacon of excellence for all tourism businesses. By rewarding excellence, they play a key role in encouraging everyone involved in English tourism to raise their game even further. They highlight good practice amongst the very best hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and self-catering cottages in the country and, in doing so, allow other properties to learn from them. Simply by taking part, accommodation owners are inspired to improve their business performance in terms of turnover, profitability, quality, sustainability, staff morale and customer satisfaction.

This relentless focus on quality and making things better is what freetobook is all about as well. We provide cutting-edge booking technology, but we also offer a huge range of advice on boosting your online business and getting the very best out of a fast-changing digital world that is full of just as many opportunities as it is pitfalls.

With this in mind, freetobook is once again delighted to be sponsoring the “Small Hotel of the Year” category at the 2013 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence. The ceremony will take place on Monday 20th May at Lancashire County Cricket Club, Old Trafford.

Here are the finalists in the freetobook-sponsored “Small Hotel of the Year” category. Click their names to view their websites and connect with them via Facebook & Twitter (all, of them, interestingly enough, are strongly active on Social Media):

Brockencote Hall, Worcestershire

Gidleigh Park, Devon

Holbeck Ghyll, Cumbria

Northcote, Lancashire

The Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall

And given the fantastic range of our customer base, we’ll also be keeping an interested eye on the “Bed & Breakfast / Guest Accommodation of the Year” category too…

Alkham Court Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast, Kent

Fern Cottage Bed and Breakfast, South Gloucestershire

Pendragon Country House, Cornwall

The Bear’s Paw, Cheshire

The Salty Monk Restaurant with Rooms, Devon

Best of luck to all the nominees!

 

 

Fort William B&Bs get “together”

More “togetherness” thanks to freetobook

Wasn’t there a hit song out a few years ago called “Better Together”? Don’t know, off the top of my head, who sang it, but here at freetobook, we’re all about “togetherness” too, and it’s one of the main things that’s helping our customers go from strength to strength.

FWAMGWhen we talk about “togetherness”, though, we’re talking about a lot more than just a warm, fuzzy glow of cooperation. An affordable product unique to freetobook users, TOGETHER is specifically designed to enable smaller businesses to market themselves more effectively as a group, as you can see HERE.

The latest group of forward-thinking accommodation owners benefiting from our TOGETHER product is the Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group (FWAMG), who’re using it improve their current website and booking process.

“Using freetobook’s TOGETHER was a no brainer as far as the members of FWAMG were concerned. We had already benefitted from freetobook individually. This new product gave us an affordable opportunity to collectively generate additional commission-free bookings whilst maintaining the local identity that is so important to us and our visitors”

–  Andy Keen, Chairman, FWAMG

So what do the Fort William folk get from TOGETHER? Here are the benefits:

1. They can offer their customers a fully functional online booking engine that increases conversions on their group website

2. Members using freetobook don’t need to update any other system

3. Each member can track the bookings through their “Together” booking engine

4. Bookings are kept and shared within the group

5. It’s a real marketing asset for the group, tracking the success of any marketing campaigns

6. If members are full, they can use the booking engine to see who else is available

7. It’s a great resource and benefit to offer and attract new members to the group

8. No technical knowledge is required…we do the clever stuff!

And, best of all…

9. There’s no commission on any bookings!

Well done to FWAMG for getting it up and running in under a month! You only have to look at their great site HERE to know that the future really is “Better Together.”

Get Together with a group of properties using freetobook

It pays to get “together”

online group booking website
together you get more

With “together” a new solution by freetobook, properties can can easily co-operate to maximise their bookings. It’s great for associations, tourism groups, destination marketing and anyone else that just wants to get together. You can even use it for an independent chain of properties.

All you need is a group of properties that want to work together and we will build a website for your group. We will provide the customised graphics to brand it, we will host it for you and best of all we will provide a professional booking system to generate bookings for your group.

We all know it’s easier to stand out and get noticed as group. Getting a bookable website for your group makes perfect sense in terms of marketing and as a long term asset that you can invest in and grow over time. That’s why it pays to get together.

together online booking systems by freetobook
get together video

Collaboration pays with more bookings. From time to time properties get fully booked, so it makes sense to keep the booking within your group. When one is full the chances are that some of the others have accommodation available. This makes the customer’s life easy and means you don’t lose any bookings – more bookings for the group means more bookings for each member. Nothing wasted, nothing lost – that’s why it pays to get together.

We already have a few examples (check out our blog articles) on Ayrshire Bed and Breakfast Association and Scotland’s Best B and Bs – we welcome more co-operating groups.

You know it pays to get together: Find out more and tell us about your group. Contact Iain or Craig by email or phone. Contact details at the bottom of freetobook homepage.