I spend a great deal of my time on restaurant and hotel websites, assessing clients’ online needs, analysing websites and implementing internet marketing techniques, and it never ceases to amaze me how many ineffective hospitality business websites there are! So over the next few editions of Eat Out Magazine I’m on a personal mission to help hospitality business owners better harness the power of internet marketing and will be providing you with a whole host of useful tips, approaches and insights on a range of internet marketing techniques.
Digital marketing is still a developing technique, in its infancy really compared with ageing communications tools such as advertising. But it is growing up at light-speed, with new schools of thought and bodies of knowledge appearing every day. It’s a fascinating journey with opinions on marketing applications of the online world constantly evolving.
Your Website – The Marketing Hub
In the hospitality sector, your website is now your number one marketing tool and everything you do online must support this. A website is the hub of all your online marketing activity, a facility to convert interest into sales. These are two important points, please digest those sentences! Much of your other online and offline marketing activity will be encouraging people to visit your website. Once you get them there you need to convert those people to tangible sales, or at the very least collect their contact information so you can continue to communicate directly with them.
The Conversion Rate
The rate at which visitors are converted to sales or to some other key objective is called the Conversion Rate. A small change in the Conversion Rate can make a big difference to your return on investment and turnover. There is much that can be done to improve your Conversation Rate and when planning your website you should consider everything with Conversion Rates in mind. Using buttons, suggestive copy, banners and text links all help you direct site visitors around your website and to your booking engines or enquiry forms. Always ask yourself, “Is this going to drive sales?”
Test & Improve
One of the beauties of the online world is measurability and the pure statistical data and analysis that the internet so readily provides. This key attribute can be used to fine-tune and optimise your website so that your Conversion Rate increases.
Different versions of a page can be ‘A/B Tested’ to determine which version is most effective. Using a free tool called Google Optimiser, two different versions of a website can be alternately displayed and the activity of visitors then compared. So Version 1 might cause 100 people to click on Book Online, but Version 2 might cause 120 people to click on Book Online, a 20% improvement. After running the test for awhile you then select the version that produced the best results happy in the knowledge that you’re using the best version. You can put rest to boardroom discussions as to which design is best by running tests like this!
When developing a new website try and consider everything from your visitors’ perspective. What are they likely to be doing? Why are they there? What information are they seeking? Then consider your attributes that might encourage these visitors to buy from you. We call these attributes ‘Persuasion Assets’, the things you have that persuade a desirable action. The trick is to place these Persuasion Assets in front of your visitors as they travel through your site and then make it easy for them to convert into sales.
Present the information your visitors are looking for in the clearest and most uncomplicated way possible. This is another key point, as many website designers strive to create cutting-edge unique designs and do things such as place navigation menus in unusual places. Although this might make them feel valuable, it probably doesn’t help your visitors travel around your website. People are used to navigation being in certain places, so don’t hide it from them. Links within copy text are also useful for website users; if they’re reading about your great spa, why not allow them to jump straight to your spa pages by making the word ‘spa’ a link in your copy? Simple, direct, clear and obvious is always best, if you annoy or bore a visitor by trying to be too clever they will leave without buying and your website will be a failure.
Take a moment to look at your own website with all these points in mind. Is it intuitively designed? Is all the information where you’d expect it to be and is your business presented in the best possible light? Does it encourage you to make a booking? Test it on your friends and ask them to perform certain tasks whilst you stand behind them and watch. If they can quickly and easily perform these tasks then give yourself a pat on the back. If they get lost or confused and take too long you need to take action as you are losing sales and missing a major opportunity.
First published in Eat Out Magazine March 2010