Growing your business organically with influencer marketing

Steve Cox of Swayy offers his top tips on boosting profits by harnessing the power of influencer marketing.

photo by Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles
By Steve Cox
Every business needs to sustain growth, generate revenue and, more importantly, profit. To be able to do this, we need to cut out as many third parties as possible, and have our customers come to us directly.  Third parties charge commission, which, of course, eats into our profits, but it is a balancing act. We need to sell our rooms, and online travel agencies (OTAs) have dominated the industry in this respect for a long time.

We spend a huge amount of time and money trying to push potential customers to visit our website and book a stay. However consumer booking behaviour has changed, and those efforts often reflect that. Consumers today are looking for instant gratification and if they can purchase anything with a minimal amount of fuss, they will do it.

Intercontinental Hotel Group recently stated that "mobile will account for 40 per cent of all online travel bookings by 2020". OTAs have been very astute in keeping up with consumer purchasing behaviour, and have made the purchasing journey simple. Us hoteliers, however, have not.

Forrester research stated that 55 per cent of consumers abandon online transactions because they can't find a quick answer to their question or problem. This equates to more than half of everyone who visits our site walking away. For this reason alone, we all need to take a step back and evaluate our sites.

We need to answer basic questions, such as:

  • Is our site really easy to navigate?
  • Have we made it as easy as possible to book a room?
  • Do the images really project our brand and values?

If the answer is no to any of these, along with many more questions you can ask yourselves, then do something about it. It will pay dividends.

Capitalising on nascent digital technologies and trends in the market can greatly facilitate customer service and engagement. Being active on social media enables a brand to provide instant assistance to confused or unhappy customers whose complaints can be dealt with in a professional manner. This in turn provides a human touch to an often vexing experience and has paved the way towards an exponential rise in customer satisfaction.

Furthermore, selling a stay directly via social media is worth so much more than just not having to pay commission. You will have a greater opportunity to upsell and cross sell, which, according to a study by big data firm Kalibri Labs, could equate to a further nine per cent on your bottom line.

So what else can we do to grow our business organically, increase direct bookings, reduce the reliance on OTAs, and ultimately increase profits? Harness the change in the consumer purchasing behaviour, and promote your brand and values to hundreds of thousands of potential customers at a touch of a button.

Traditionally, word-of-mouth was to and from our friends and families, and we have all acted on a recommendation given to us, and stayed or eaten at a venue. As we have established, consumer behaviour has changed with the advent of the digital era, with one in five mobile minutes being spent on Facebook and Instagram alone.

Today, word-of-mouth is digital, as social media platforms have become an essential research tool for planning vacations and inspiring likeminded individuals via influencer marketing.

Influencers are trusted brand advocates that inspire their followers via breath-taking images or blogs.

User-generated contented on social-media provides an alternative to traditional marketing whereby a potential guest will only ever see the perspective of the brand itself. Influencers represent the interests of the consumer. They provide a potential guest with authentic customer feedback along with a preview of the property from the eyes of the consumer. Furthermore, user-generated content can be repurposed across all of a property's marketing avenues.

Accordingly, working with the right type of influencer that represents your typical guest provides a critical opportunity to market to your target demographic as their followers, your potential customers, will also be likeminded individuals. This is a very cost effective and powerful marketing strategy, hence why some of the largest hotel chains have been doing this for years.

This is what Marriott said about the subject: "Influencer marketing is here to stay, and should play a central role in your strategy to win the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers."

There are many platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and so on. However, there is one that is stealing a march on all the rest - Instagram.             

Not only is Instagram the fastest growing platform to date (with 800 million active users worldwide, and growing at a phenomenal rate of 100 million new users every six months), it is also fundamentally different from the others because it is image driven. This is significant because the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and images provoke emotion and desire.

This is key, as it starts the consumer on the "dreaming and planning" phase of the purchasing journey. By putting unsold inventory to good use, and allowing a digital influencer to stay and experience everything you have to offer, you turn a negative situation into a positive one that fills up rooms in future.

All that is required is for you is to create an account here, invite influencers to stay, and then start communicating with your newfound followers. Ask the influencers to use specific hashtags that will direct them to your social media accounts and from there to your website. Thereafter, it is up to you to build relationships with current and potential customers, cement that loyalty and foster an outstanding overall guest experience.

From Boutique Hotel News
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