#Book Direct ... Dissected
The whole concept of direct bookings stirs questions like “How can I compete with the OTAs?”, “I don’t know what to do or where to start?” and “Why would I bother when the OTAs are sending me bookings?”.
The idea of breaking free of the OTAs and starting to stand on your own can be a daunting thought for some. But as they say, the journey of 1000 steps starts with the first step. The whole journey seems huge, but if you look down and focus on each step, one at a time, you’ll be far along the journey before you know it (and from experience, I know that methodology works). So, let’s break the journey down into steps. Small steps.
1. The Why. Get your head around direct bookings.
By listing and accepting bookings from OTAs, you are helping them build their brand. Your product is growing their name, their business, their brand.
However, at any time they can behave in a way that doesn’t suit you. Granted you did initially agree to join on their terms, but you have no power or voice to disagree or change the course of decisions they make. You are literally working under their control. They ‘own’ you and they ‘own’ your reviews.
What would happen if they removed your account from their site? What would you have left? This is not a random scenario meant to scare you. This has happened numerous times, where an account has been closed, bookings cancelled, with no explanation. Who would you rather had control of your business?
'How one can survive and thrive after having your listings cancelled by the OTA'
Robert Nunez of Co-Host Expert will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
2. How will Guests find you?
To be out on your own means that you have to have an online presence. Think of your website as a front door to your business, your shopfront. Having your own website isn’t something to be feared or to be nervous about.
These days there are many options, from do-it-yourself sites, through to websites provided by Property Management Systems (PMS) and lots more. Learning to stand on your own two feet will take some learning and time to establish, but it isn’t rocket science. And once you learn to stand on your own, you’ll be running in no time!
'Anatomy of the perfectly optimized vacation rental website for increasing booking conversion'
Dennis Klett of Lodgify will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'How to build your own direct booking website for less than $100 - no coding required'
Alex Caravitis of Syncbnb will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
3. Be like them.
What do guests like about booking on an OTA? Initially, it’s because of the brand (see next point). Secondly, these sites make it easy to look, then book. Your website should offer this same service. You want your website visitors to look, then book too. You need to offer this booking capability to capture bookings in that instance. This can be a stand-alone service, or one that runs through your PMS.
Instant bookings have their place. We all know the benefit of having immediate confirmation. However even if you are not comfortable with instant bookings, if you offer it and then discover there is an issue with a group of/guests, you can cancel. Since the booking came direct to you, there is no penalty to do so. So, you can offer instant bookings, you can still screen your guests, and you can cancel them penalty free. Of course, cancelling a booking is never ideal, but if a guest has ignored or overlooked your house rules, or terms & conditions, then you have every right to cancel if they are not a good match for your property.
Accept bookings on your site, it’s the next step.
'Using technology to drive more direct bookings for your short stay agency'
Andy Jones of iPro will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'Direct is Best. And Technology is Essential'
Adam Clarke of Room Racoon will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
4. What is a brand?
We all know the big brands. Do you have a brand? Do you think you’re too small to have a brand?
The one thing that the smaller independents have as an advantage IS our brand. But let’s think of it another way. When a guest books on Airbnb, where is the personality? Their website doesn’t interact with you. You look, you book. It’s simply a transaction. The difference as I see it is our brand is our personality. We can inject our personality (which we do naturally) into our business, and into the dealings with our customers. Our personality IS our brand. Do you have a passion for your business, for this industry? Do you have a passion to give guests the best experience possible? Then that is your personality and that is what guests will feel as your brand. Let your personality shine.
'Brand Storytelling - Using the power of story to drive bookings'
Louise Brace of Rental Tonic will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
5. Who are you?
When you step away from the OTAs, you are expecting website visitors to “meet” you and fall in love with your offerings. But who the hell are you, and why would they trust you? We’ve all heard the horror stories of guests arriving to vacant lots instead of their holiday villa. My own home was discovered advertised on Craig’s List in Finland, and I certainly didn’t advertise it there! No one is safe from scams now, neither guests or managers & owners.
In our case, we know we are real, but how do we convince a website visitor or guest of that? With my (small) business as an example, the reviews on my website stretch back to 2006, and my properties are seen on numerous sites, including my own. But one thing I do once a guest books is to send them a “Thanks for your booking” video. My face, talking to them, thanking them for their booking, explaining the emails they will receive before they arrive, info they need to know and finish with telling them that I am always there to answer any questions. Now they know who Deborah is when they receive emails or reach out with a question. A shortcut to trust perhaps. Show your face.
'Standards and Professionalism, customer expectations in the new world'
Merilee Karr will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'Consumer Trust and the Guest Experience during Covid and Beyond'
Michael Friedman will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'Converting Enquiries into Rentals through Consumer Trust'
Chris Maughan of I-PRAC will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
6. Get word out.
Once you have set up your website and you are able to take bookings direct on your site, it’s time to get word out. But the number of steps in marketing your website is a staircase in itself, with lots of different steps. There are many avenues to explore including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, Google Ads and YouTube, so learn about each one and get something in place before looking at the next one.
Again, slow and steady, one by one.
'The importance of a good Google ads structure to get direct bookings'
Sandra Roig of AB Apartments will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'How to get more website traffic and direct bookings from Facebook doing this strategy in only 10 minutes a day'
Natacha Parmentier will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'Hotel Meta Search and Google Hotel Ads'
David Tucker of Travelers Book Direct X will be presenting at the Book Direct Show
7. Be different to them.
Again, use your personality to offer great personal service in your guests experience with you. Connect with them whether by email, text, whatsapp or even zoom or skype. By showing your face in your communications, particularly video, this increases the level of trust in you. Your brand has a face. Does an OTA? Make sure they know you are always there for them. We are in the hospitality industry after all.
'Seven Stages of the Guest Experience'
Heather Bayer will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'The guest nurture campaign that is geared towards Direct Bookings'
Nancy McAleer of FLARBO will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
Wil Slickers will presenting at the Book Direct Show about the luxury market of vacation rentals. Learn about the importance of creating a destination in an already destination market and non-destination markets and how the importance of branding & transparency play into more direct bookings.
Listen to Wil and Damian speak about the #BookDirect movement...
8. The Price is Right.
Nightly rates are a little like Goldilocks testing out the three beds call “Revenue & Occupancy”:
- if you price it too low and get maximum occupancy, chances are ‘you’re leaving money on the table’, with opportunity for more revenue.
- if you price it too high and get lower occupancy, again you’re missing out.
- with the “just right” nightly rate you’ll find the correct balance of revenue and occupancy. Tricky to do on your own, but we have speakers to help!
'Revenue Management - If you thought this was just about pricing, think again!'
Richard Vaughton of Rentivo will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'Surviving the storm - preparing for recovery. How to re-adapt your distribution channel and pricing strategy to be profitable'
Alexis Barcelo of ABL Consulting will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'How Pricing Decisions Impact #Bookdirect and Brand Value'
Vince Perez of Fetch My Guest will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
9. Get Your Guests to Spread the Love
We all know there is a lot of data about reviews and the importance of making sure you (a) have (great!) reviews and (b) they are recent ones. But how many of you find you are chasing your tail trying to get a guest to leave a review?
Well, if you have followed all the steps before this one, guests will be happy to leave a review. You just have to catch them at the right time. My tip is to send them a review email the day before check out. Chances are they have to check in for flights, or check road conditions, so they’ll be online at some point. Best they write about your place while they’re sitting in it, than at home getting kids ready for school, dealing with post-holiday laundry, or simply getting back into work mode when the holiday seems like but a dream.
'Rich snippets and how to get star reviews on Google search pages'
Sebastian Grosjean of BookingSync will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'Helping you to engage with your clients and drive direct business via your online reviews'
Joanne Greene of Reviews4You will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
10. When old is new.
One easy step you can do now with the easing of travel restrictions, is to contact all of your previous guests. If you don’t have contact details for your previous guests then it’s time to change that, as of right now. Getting a guest email address is as simple as asking for it. Once you get a booking, most sites allow uncensored messaging. So, get it immediately and enter the details into your PMS, and then from then on, all emails between you both are direct to each other.
If you do have a previous guest list, get in touch via a newsletter or an update, with a link to your website and offer a promotion, eg offering a discount for a return visit. This step is a simple one. If you have the list.
There are ways to make this step into a staircase, ie more detailed emails like sending individual guests an email offering birthday or anniversary discounts or sending them a handwritten (ie personalised) postcard with some news of your property or location and an offer. But the first small step is to simply get in touch with them.
'Direct Bookings, Your "Happily Ever After". And Storytelling is the Answer!'
Neely Khan of Neely There will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
11. Your business operations
Once you have understood the previous steps, it’s time to focus on your business operations and get ready for growth.
Do you have clear objectives and key goals? Do your staff know what they are?
Are you a data geek, or you haven’t got a clue? What can data tell you?
You have thought about your guests experience but what about the neighbours?
Is there a new market you can tap into?
Don’t worry, help is at hand.
'How to set your direct bookings goals using Google OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) framework'
Noelia Novella of Doinn will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'Using industry data and benchmarking to optimise your operation & drive direct bookings'
Lucy Driver of Transparent will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
'Why contractors are the Holy Grail when it comes to direct bookings'
Theo Bailey of Per Person Per Night will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.
12. It takes time.
But then all good things take time. Would you rather work for yourself or an OTA? Put the time into it. It’s not a race. Slow and steady is best. One step at a time.
Deborah Labi is a co-host of the Book Direct Show and founder of the Have You Got Network and Viewtiful Stays.
The Book Direct Show takes place in September 2020. The 2-day online event is specifically for short-term rental managers and hoteliers seeking to generate more direct bookings away from online travel agencies (OTAs).
Over 40 Speakers • Over 35 Hours • Direct Booking Strategies
To get a 10% discount on your Book Direct Show ticket use promo code SLICK10