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Be our Guest(y): How to successfully build a brand amid shifting guest expectations

During this time of constantly shifting guest expectations and patterns brought on by the pandemic, it’s crucial for property management companies to diversify distribution channels, remain consistent and drive loyalty among new travel personas. That’s why we went live with thought leaders from EMEA’s short-term rental ecosystem in a virtual event to share data-driven insights that can help professional hosts transform into prosperous hospitality brands. 

Guesty’s own Tomer Rosenblum, Director of Sales (EMEA), shared the stage with Damian Sheridan, Founder of The Book Direct Network; Allan Nelson, Co-Founder & CEO of For-Sight; and Dale Smith, Founder of Host & Stay, to discuss the essential marketing and branding strategies for building an online presence and driving direct bookings. 

Tomer began by introducing the different travel personas and behavioral patterns that have emerged within the short-term rental industry in light of the pandemic. From the new travel trends he mentioned, he noted there was an increased demand in travelers booking directly with professional hosts now creating their own booking website to reel in these new guests. Here at Guesty, we actually saw a 150% spike in users utilize our own direct booking website tool over the course of the pandemic!

Up next, Damian then shared his insights on how to increase direct bookings through a branded website based on his experience at The Book Direct Network, the community he built for short-term rental owners and hoteliers to learn direct booking strategies. He offered actionable tips property managers could use to improve the guest journey throughout their booking website, such as adding a clear and simple call-to-action button on their homepage as well as reducing the amount of click-throughs during the registration process. He also recommended several tech tools for search engine optimization like Google My Business, Yoast and AnswerThePublic. 

Allan brought his expertise from founding and managing For-Sight, a CRM solution that specializes in helping hospitality brands grow their marketing capabilities and email lists to deliver a personalized guest experience. He provided tips on how to increase revenue and leverage direct bookings through data-driven strategies. He explained the importance of nurturing and growing your client database as well as taking advantage of targeted marketing strategies to increase engagement throughout the guest journey. He also announced that for a limited time only, Guesty Early Adopters can now enjoy 3 months of For-Sight’s CRM and guest engagement platform for free

Lastly, Dale discussed how Host & Stay, his family-run holiday accommodation and management business in the UK, managed to successfully increase their direct booking revenue amid the pandemic through paid social media campaigns, SEO, and the Host & Stay Rewards program. In an effort to appeal to new traveler personas, Dale then explained how his company diversified their portfolio to include niche markets with their recent launch of Host & Stay LUX and their new initiatives to attract corporate travelers. 

Following the presentations, we addressed questions from our live audience. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity): 

Q&A Session:

Q: What lessons has the pandemic taught us about the importance of establishing and maintaining a strong brand?

Damian (The Book Direct Network): Branding became more important than ever as we realized we couldn’t solely rely on OTAs for our bookings during this unpredictable time. We only had our reputations and prior relationships with guests to fall back on. 

Allan (For-Sight): Now more than ever, guests have an interest in who they are staying with. Before the pandemic, location was the most important. But now guests are more concerned with having a direct relationship with that accommodation provider to ensure they will be taken care of and safe at the property they are staying at. 

Dale (Host & Stay): Building trust for our clients is crucial and making sure we are delivering everything we promised. By initiating flexible cancellation policies and enforcing strict cleaning standards for all our properties, we needed to ensure that trust and reliability had been established. 

Q: How important are local social media groups and news outlets to a property management company’s marketing strategy?

Damian (The Book Direct Network): It’s a way of constant communication with your prospective guests. Facebook groups are a nice way to continuously tell people what’s going on in your area while also building your brand that is less formal than emails. 

Allan (For-Sight): Social media provides a softer aspect of upselling and can be very effective in reaching your target audience. Something to note: not everybody will be on Facebook, so make sure you’re looking at all the social channels that appeal to your key markets.    

Dale (Host & Stay): With some basic Facebook marketing analytics, you can leverage the data found there to see which demographics are interacting with your content. This will allow you to understand your audience and get insights into which markets you should be targeting. 

Q: What advice would you give to those property managers who are planning to take their first steps in a direct marketing approach?

Damian (The Book Direct Network):  Now is a great time to be diversifying your business models and looking for alternative ways to maximize occupancy. The easiest and most inexpensive way is to work on your email marketing campaign and engage with those repeat guests. 

Allan (For-Sight): Conducting a direct booking campaign is a long-term strategy that requires patience and building on that client database with continuous engagement to see the pay-off in the long-run. 

Dale (Host & Stay): Start by building your own direct booking site and guiding your existing guests to that website as much as possible throughout the customer journey. 

For more strategies on navigating 2021, take a look at our Coronavirus Infocenter. Thank you everyone for joining and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events!

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