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Webcast Highlights: Retargeting Leads From Third-Party Applications

In this month’s blog, I will focus on training tips for helping your reservations sales team convert more leads that come in by way of third-party platforms such as OTA’s (Expedia, Booking.com) and other closed-messaging booking platforms (AirBnB, VRBO). First though, readers may need a new perspective on such leads. Certainly, it is extremely important to do all we can with both “marketing” and “sales” efforts to maximize direct bookings.  However, such bookings are part of a healthy “mix” of booking channels for most hotels and vacation rental companies because there will always be some guests who will only find and book us that way.

Before sharing these training tips, let me offer a few reminders. First, many of today’s booking inquiries are disguised as simple questions such as about locations, parking, amenities, services and the area.  Too many staffers simply reply with a direct answer. Next, remind your team that those who send messages are probably also messaging the competition with the same question.  Finally, remind them that even the  messages we get from those who have already booked should also be considering “leads,” especially in today’s era of more flexible cancellation terms due to the pandemic.  

A key element of any training program on retargeting OTA leads is to ensure that your staff has a tracking system and process that works.  It is of course ideal if you use the Track Pulse CRM, because it is the only one that offers a “unified in-box,” providing your team a centralized, efficient place to receive and act on all leads they are fielding regardless of channel and if inbound or outbound.  However, if you have not yet convinced your boss to invest, at you can at least get in the game by creating a simple form in Excel, Google Sheets or even WORD. The first column will have the lead name and date received. The second column will have the date of the first response, which will hopefully be the same or next day.  The third column will have the date of the first proactive follow-up, such as in the case of an OTA, the date you initiated a message to the guests who have not yet booked, which should be done 1-2 calendar days from their initial inquiry.

When sending that proactive follow-up message in the OTA app, be sure to first check and make sure the sender did not yet book through another channel.  

Now, here are some tips for maximizing success at textual selling by way of OTA platforms.

  • When replying, always mention that you are from in-house (or on-site) reservations, and provide your name to demonstrate personalized service they will receive as a guest. 
  • Carefully scan the message, noting any details you can use to personalize the response. Some senders include a lot of details about who they are traveling with and the purpose of the trip.  You can then paraphrase and restate a few details when responding. Example:
    • Example: “Hello Cathy.  This is Doug from in-house reservations.  I’m happy to assist you here with your questions about the  girl’s getaway trip you are planning, and I promise to block you some really nice rooms for you as well!”
  • When the question sent was vague or if more info is needed, respond with questions. Here’s an example:
    • “Regarding parking for your oversized vehicle.  Can you let me know the approximate size? Is it a recreational vehicle or commercial truck?”
  • Personalize all replies to questions and inquiries.  Here is a checklist, with tips for each step to follow. 
    • Use a personalized greeting and introduce yourself as an in-house contact.
    • Comment on what they have shared.
    • Proactively volunteer additional details.
    • Endorse their choice (if applicable.)
    • Express a personal interest in hosting them.
  • Use a personalized greeting and introduce yourself. 
    • Example:  “Greetings Douglas! This is Cathy from in-house reservations at (hotel or company name).”
  • Comment on what they have shared.
    • Example: “How exciting to hear that you are planning your first visit and congratulations on your milestone anniversary!”
  • Proactively volunteer additional details.
    • Example: “Does this offer a crib?” “Yes it does! And you’ll really love the view because when the baby is napping, you can sit out on your balcony and enjoy the picturesque scenery.”
    • Example: “We are traveling with our two teenagers and each is bringing a friend. Wil this accommodate?” “Absolutely! There are double beds in the second bedroom.  By the way, this location is ideal for teens.  There’s lots to do in the area within walking distance, so they can have their freedom and you won’t have to worry.”
    • Example: (Location) “Since everyone is a skier, the location will be ideal as it is so close to the lifts.”  
  • Endorse their choice (if they have inquired about a specific option.)
    • Example: “If you’re looking for the best value, this is an excellent choice. It has all the same amenities and there’s so much to do here you may not be in the room that much anyway.”
    • Example:  “Since it is a special occasion, our deluxe option really is an excellent choice because your wife will love all of the extra amenities.” 
  • Express a personal interest in hosting them.
    • “Let us know what other questions you have or what else we can do on our end. We would love to host your vacation.”

Thank you, Doug Kennedy

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