“Good Guy-Bad Guy” The Continuing OTA Debate


OTA’s are not bad guys, however, over-dependence on any third party channel is simply poor revenue management or perhaps lazy revenue management. I would rather pay a travel agent 10% commission on consumed business than 20% to 30% to an OTA. But ask yourself…..is this business you would not attract yourself?

We are very fortunate today to have an incredible array of tools in our tool box that assist hotel marketers figure out the optimum channel mix and more importantly its ROI. Having been at the sharp end of hospitality marketing for 30 years, nothing changes the overarching objective of attracting, winning, engaging and retaining the customer. Over the years we have seen the relationship with the customer (the guest) erode and have allowed the guest to be the frequent customer of the OTA. Hospitality marketers have to work energetically and smarter to retain the loyalty of the guest. As demographics change and the GenX wave hit us their view of loyalty has nothing to with the definition of loyalty understood by Boomers. But that’s a different story.

OTA’s are big, bold and audacious and are not going away. I suggest that we take care of our own business and grow our own customer base and understand where the addictive reliance on OTA’s has its place in our channel mix strategy. We need to make data driven decisions.

But first we need a stated Channel Mix strategy. Here is my 7 point recovery plan to overcome the OTA addiction :

  1.        Develop a clearly defined Channel Mix strategy
  2.        Understand the real ROI by carrying out an analysis on your channel mix
    •        Property direct
    •        Website
    •        Cres
    •        GDS
    •        Wholesale and Receptive
    •        OTA (Merchant and Opaque)
    •        Group
  3.        Know your revenue-to-cost ratios, flow through costs, and lifetime value by marketing channel
  4.        Understand the value of each channel
  5.        Can you grow a relationship with channels that deliver high value customers (LOS, Rate etc)
  6.        Drill deeper in your existing database and grow the sales pipeline and engage
  7.        Negotiate better terms, especially if you’re not located in a very competitive location (i.e. downtown)

OTA’s are great when you need to “fill a hole” but should not become your number one source of business. Bottom line is that you are in business to grow your business. You are not in business to grow the share value of an OTA and definitely not in business to build their loyalty. Loyalty in hospitality is built on personal relationships. OTA’s after all cannot greet and check in a guest, engage face to face with a guest at all the many guest touch points. These touch points allow you to communicate with your guest post check-out, like nobody else can and extend the Life Time Value. I guess it’s time to reposition the playing field.

Three Screen Strategy and Beyond

It wasn’t so long ago we were trying to figure out the best 3 screen strategy, especially as we were developing a new, or upgrading an existing, website. We had our analytics on who was looking at what and when. It super-charged our tactical plan.

Just over a week ago a new study was published by Facebook, who commissioned GfK*, to explore behavior as people wandered between various devices during different times of the day. I recall my own behavior watching the Superbowl, with my iPad in one hand, my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in the other, and my old Dell laptop within close reach, using each for different Superbowl purposes.

The study revealed that more than 60% of online adults use at least two devices every day, while a quarter (25%) of online Americans and a fifth (20%) of online Brits use three devices. In both countries, more than 40% sometimes start an activity on one device only to finish it on another. If this doesn’t underscore the truism about the need to “be everywhere, on everything, all of the time” I don’t know what does.

As with my own Superbowl experience, the study determined that people use different devices to carry out different  tasks. The mainstay is the smart phone. It’s what we (or 75% of us) use as our first weapon of choice. Used primarily for immediate research and the usual instant social sharing. The tablet has become our fun toy. Our pleasure box. Music, books, games, shows…and all the better for sharing. The laptop remains the workhorse, which I am using right now. About 85% confirmed the laptop as the indispensable go to device for important stuff like finances (and writing posts).

One interesting fact is that those of us who own two or three different devices start a process on one and end it on another. We also tend to start small and move up the screen size scale. When we dig deeper we go bigger.

Ultimately it’s a matter of usefulness and our own comfort level.  Some of us feel very happy reading long documents on a smartphone. I prefer my laptop for this purpose but will do a quick scan first on my smartphone.

At the end of the day we in marketing have to believe in the fact that we truly need to “be everywhere, on everything, all of the time”. If we do not have the capabilities to accomplish this in-house then we need to add some bench strength or outsource. We live in dysfunctional times but being consistent across all channels is clearly a high priority and gives us a fighting chance to break through the clutter.

Quick Snapshots

  • 60% of online American adults use two devices, 20% use three
  • Over 40% start an activity on one device and finish on another (larger screen)
  • Over 75% use a smartphone as the primary social or on-the-go device
  • 43% share their tablet with others

*Facebook commissioned international market research agency GfK to perform a study of more than 2,000 people in both the UK and the US, to explore these changes and the resulting implications for marketers.


bobsbytes from CaptivationMarketing.com

Great band. No, that was REM!  RFM: Recency, Frequency and Monetary. RFM is the quantitative output of the simplistic 80-20 rule. The key entry level data analysis that will get you on the road to improving your bottom line. RFM analysis assists you in segmenting your customers and surfacing the high value customers within your database. Sending out the same message and call to action to all customers is nothing more than Spray & Pray. RFM analytics provides a solid foundation to build upon plus a platform to perform deeper dives. 

  • Recency – How recent has a customer purchased 
  • Frequency – How frequently they purchase
  • Monetary – How much they spend with you

Our objective is to capture a deeper understanding of our customers and translating those insights in to higher return initiatives. But beware there are pitfalls along the way. Frequent communications with those customers that rank highest in…

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What’s Your Story

What's Your Story

Telling a story is an art. If you cannot tell a story, how can you expect to sell, engage, interact, and be relevant. Telling stories is not just about business. In reality, it is about life in general. This is not about B2B or B2B. It’s both. Are you believable. Do you have an air of authority and credibility. When we use the word “story” we mean all messaging intended for a customer or potential customer. So, let’s get on with the story…………………..

Top 5 Story Telling Tips

  1. Own Your Story – Make sure your story cannot be told by somebody else. You need be able to create a story that is 100% “ownable” by your brand. The litmus test is to write your story and put a competitors logo on it. Share it internally and if people believe the story actually comes from the competition its back to the drawing board. Your story and its position has to be defendable.
  2. Add Relevant Graphics – Using relevant and new photography will always help in telling a better story. Make sure you own the rights to reproduce the images. Remember Rod Stewart…”Every Picture Tell A Story”
  3. Don’t Be Predictable – Nothing is as boring as knowing what is coming next. Imagine going to a movie and you guess the outcome in the first 10 minutes. Hardly impressive. Be creative in your delivery. It’s not the story as much as the way you tell it. Using humor has its place but don’t let it get in the way of the key message.
  4. The 30 Second Elevator Pitch – I find it very useful to develop a mental storyboard for my story. Treat your story or message as if it is an advertisement. You have one page. What is your headline. What is your sub headline. What is your (brief) copy and call to action. If you can tell your story in 30 seconds (as in an elevator pitch) you will be on the right track.
  5. Know Your Audience – Today we have the ability to drill down deep in to the group of people you are trying to engage. Is your story relevant to the target group. One size does not fit all. Your story needs to be authoritative, compelling, timely and relevant. You do not wish to become irrelevant to your target audience.

So let’s start telling great stories, share those stories and remember…The best story wins.