Know the Competition: Key Points to Researching What Matters
By Scott Nadel Chief Operating Officer, DMC Hotels/Dhillon Management | September 25, 2011
Using the World Wide Web to gain information about the competition enables hotel operators to increase business for their hotels. If Scottish Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character, Sherlock Holmes was on the case to build hotel revenues, his statement of assurance to his trusty assistant, Dr. Watson would be "It's elementary my dear Watson [look for the clues on the WWW]," and would begin his sleuth regime browsing the internet for clues. Hotel operators can also search the World Wide Web for knowledge and valuable insights about the competition. Hotel web pages provide important information about the other hotels in their market, as well as, offer evidence of room generators for which hotel operators can uncover new or additional business. Various on line search engines allow hotel managers to investigate, not only hotels, but also the companies within the concentric circles around the market which hotels may discover additional business. Hotel managers who capitalize on the knowledge to be found on the internet will solve the riddle of how to increase revenues and take more of the market share from the hotels down the street, across town, and nearby cities.
It is not a mystery to hotel operators today that two main objectives are to increase revenues and gain market share. Savvy hotel operators understand that to accomplish this is they must learn as much as possible about the competition. The internet is a powerful tool to gain knowledge about the competition. Hoteliers know that hotel web pages include information about the hotels, amenities, rates, and hotel proximities to airports, land marks, area attractions; however, it may not be well known that some hotel pages within various brand websites also list businesses and the distance between them and the hotel. At the time of this publication, Choice and Best Western include such information on their hotel pages. This information aids travel agents and individuals booking rooms online in order to locate hotels close to where they are headed. Hotel operators can benefit from these lists by noting which companies lay in close proximity to their competitors, as well as, their own hotel. Operators can contact these businesses in order to gain room shares. As the 17th Century English philosopher and pioneer of the scientific method Sir Francis Bacon once claimed, "Knowledge is Power," hotel operators can use the internet to strengthen their revenues by uncovering facts about their competitors.
Third party booking sights, such as Expedia and Hotels.com also provide information hotel operators can extract knowledge about the competition. Understanding how the competition markets their hotel online provides insight as to what business they hope to put in their beds. Hotel operators should review the competition on third party web sites to determine rates as well as room types available. Historically hoteliers use third party websites to sell their rooms on shoulder dates and to help maximize revenues. Hotel operators investigating these web sites should note dates when rates are higher or not available for their competitors. This often indicates a busy period for the hotel and managers can use this to determine events within the competitive hotel or perhaps an expected city wide event and set their rates accordingly. Further investigation on the part of the hotel manager is in order with either a phone call or a visit to the hotel to clarify and validate clues unearthed from these additional sources. Clever hotel operators in metro areas should review hotels in adjacent cities. These hotels should be considered direct competition as they are close to the same companies your hotel is competing for rooms. Hotel operators who share the shrewd intelligence of the character Miss Jane Marple created by British writer, Agatha Christie will recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors and close their case on hard to find additional revenues.
Another method in discovering the truths about the competition is by using search engines such as Google and Bing to search information about the competitors. Often times these searches unearth references to the hotels including reviews. Also, hotel managers should search companies in the surrounding areas and find information that pertain to your competitors. Companies with negotiated rates with hotels may include, on their own web sites, the company's preferred hotels, as well as, the negotiated rates so that their employees will have information to make travel arrangements. Research shows that companies with events planned will sometimes include travel information for participants that include the hotel address and other contact information including the organizer's name. Hotel sales staff can use the information to make contact with the individual and ask to bid on the next event to be held in the area. This information will also help gain an invitation for a request for proposal (RFP) and knowing the rates offered, as well as, the number of rooms used allows hotel managers to bid aggressively. Unabashed hoteliers who, like Chester Gould's character Dick Tracy can take advantage of the speed and power of the World Wide Web's latest and newest search engines will overcome the obstacles, namely the competition to help their hotel profits soar.
As hoteliers face the challenge in finding additional revenues, they must join the masses and look within the World Wide Web to infiltrate the competition. For many, searching the World Wide Web is a favorite past time to seek out knowledge. Why not take advantage of this and recruit everyone on staff at the hotel to help in obtaining information. Incorporate fact finding tasks for staff daily by including web searches on check lists. This new valuable, flexible, and low cost tool will aid in uncovering additional information on the competition quickly; however, it will not take away the need to remain diligent in traditional sales activities. Networking with organizations will be as important as in the past, as will be, cold calls, parking lot drive-thru, and reader board investigations. This task; however, can be performed anytime and can be delegated to other members of the hotel staff working in the front office, night audit, or reservations. As in Sir Doyle's novels, Sherlock Holmes had Dr. Watson to keep the eccentric detective in check; hotel managers must be attentive and monitor what web sites employees visit to check for possible abuse. To encourage productive research, offer an incentive, either with cash, paid days off, free meals in the hotel or favorite restaurants around town, or even room nights for finding new business. Investigating competitors using on line tools should always be geared toward the ultimate purpose in discovering more business. Hotel operators can establish goals based on room nights gained from the research and reward accordingly. Hotel operators who successfully create a buy in to this objective will encourage a full scale hotel wide sales team.
Hoteliers should keep in mind that the World Wide Web is available to everyone and can be a double edge sword. Hotel operations who are looking at the competitors' pages can bet they are also looking at their own pages. Hotel managers cannot afford to exclude from their own web pages some of the same information found on their competitors' web pages as many individuals, travel agents, and companies rely on this knowledge to make travel decisions, but hotel managers can make their hotel standout from the other hotels with a well designed web page. As writers of great detective novels keep readers' attention, hotel operates must ensure their web pages turn on line shoppers to rooms booked. Hotel web pages should offer potential guests vivid descriptions of the hotel, amenities, and the benefits in choosing their hotel over the competition. Also, include professional media presentations with pictures, videos, and virtual tours. Hotel operators will not lose any momentum in your endeavor to increase sales unless managers neglect to take advantage of the inherit benefits of the internet advertising.