The importance of growing your own database of customers, as well as a few home truths…
The biggest issue for accommodation providers is that as soon as you sign up to an online booking company and you start paying commission (currently around 12% on average) you have opened your business up to allow these companies to take direct bookings you would have normally received. It was my understanding initially that these sites were designed to attract new business not pirate the business you were already going to get…
Do you really know what you’ve let yourself in for?
Online Advertising Myth.
Once you’ve signed up with of the 3rd party booking sites you know doubt believe that you are making your business completely accessible to the online marketplace. And you are… but in name only! In reality, these sites hide your contact details and your e-mail address so that it’s impossible for customers to contact you direct.
The ‘Using Your Name’ Ploy
How many times do customers arrive at your premises thinking they have booked directly with you but actually they have booked via an agent’s site? Online booking companies, such as Expedia, will take the liberty to list you on other sites. You will know nothing about this of course, but if and when someone does book via these sites, you must pay them 12% commission
The Great Pay-Per-Click Con
Did you know that you may regularly be the victim of underhand PPC tactics designed to steal away your direct bookings?
Check this out for yourself: Google your hotel name and town and, hey presto, although your business may be listed, there’s a strong chance that above it, in a larger, sponsored link, is “booking.com/your hotel name”.
Now, imagine a Customer does exactly the same search. Unfortunately, although your Customer was looking for your business by name with plans to book direct, he or she will very possibly click the first obvious link and end up booking via Booking.com. It makes no real difference to the customer at this stage, however this stolen’ opportunity will cost you 12% for the pleasure!
The TripAdvisor Trick
TripAdvisor doesn’t automatically display your website details or phone number so that people can contact you! Why? Because this site is fully-owned and operated by Expedia – a tremendous touch of wizardry on the part of the world’s biggest online booking corporation!
If TripAdvisor truly was a consumer-driven site and completely unbiased in its approach, then surely it would include direct contact details or at least have weblinks for free? It also wouldn’t be reliant on advertising and affiliate income. But, hey! Parent company, Expedia, is one of the 12% or more bunch who work extremely hard to direct traffic to their or other high commission booking agents!
Even if you do pay the large fee to put your contact details on TripAdvisor, they place this above the compare prices box connecting to all those 12% agents!
What you can do….
Well up until recently there was quite a bit you could do if you were aware of your rights. However once a few businesses caught on that they could challenge the use of their business name as a keyword for paid Google adverts (PPC) by these 3rd party sites, Google changed the rules. You would need to do your own research , however what we believe is correct is that if you have a business name that is “copyright” then you can ask Google to stop allowing other parties using your business name in their Paid advertisements or as a keyword for searches. (Messy right!) This would at least stop them directly marketing to people/past customers who directly search for your business.
You could remove yourself from all of these types of sites, however that is almost impossible and currently detrimental to your business.
What I would be doing is ensuring you get the complete contact details from all of these types of bookings including email and mobile phone numbers when they arrive for their stay. By gaining complete contact details you then place your business in a position to actively market back to these guests for future bookings. Actively remarketing over time whether it be by email newsletters, email blasts or Mobile phone marketing (SMS) means you can at least gain an additional return from the commission rates you are currently paying.
Please note this is a not a gripe simply an eye opener for many in the industry. What you choose to do with this information is entirely up to you. Should you wish to discuss some of the issues above feel free to call or email me. To gain a further understanding of the power these organisations now hold have a look at this site http://fairerfees.com/ where some of the above contentwas sourced.
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