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In The News
Sending the Right Message
Building long-term relationships with guests -- without annoying them -- is the goal of direct digital marketing.

March 12, 2010

Published by Buyer Interactive
Written by Beth Kormanik

When it comes to sending guests welcoming emails before their stay, there's boiler plate language and then there's custom messaging.

Guess which one guests are more likely to read?

The eConcierge program from Knotice is a direct digital marketing technology that sends guests targeted emails up to a month before their stay. The messages aim to provide relevant, personalized content while enhancing their stay on the property. That way, guests actually read the information and act on special offers rather than hit the delete key

"We're seeing open rates from 40 to 60 percent," Knotice CEO Brian Deagan said, referring to the number of people who open and read the email. "That is just a great way to kick off the digital relationship with that guest and with direct guest management being important. It's a good program."

The key to digital marketing is to send a series of dynamic messages to guests based on what the hotelier knows about them. A family on a leisure vacation would receive different content than a business traveler, for example. While both groups would receive a confirmation of rates and room type, the family may get information about planning activities in the area while the business traveler can read highlights about renovations to the business center.

"Before the stay," Deagan said, "there's a lot of benefit there. Guests think, 'I booked this stay and I'm getting helpful, worthwhile information to make my stay more enjoyable, and it is relevant to me.' That is going to be a scenario where you get low complaint rates."

Gathering data on the nature of your guests' stay is essential to running an effective program.

"It really is driven by the data," Deagan said. "That's where the data becomes so important. If you have attributes on that traveler that denotes whether it's a business or family or leisure traveler, then being able to communicate to the traveler is easier. So much is focused on marketing and messaging, but the reality is you have to have the data."

Once the hotel has basic information, it becomes possible to build and maintain direct customer relationships over the long term. The thing to remember, though, is that the guest has to be receptive to the message. Hotels should recognize the line between providing worthwhile information to guests and delivering something guests consider spam. Business travelers do not need to know about your Father's Day special. And not everyone wants a holiday e-card from your hotel. One way to respect guests is giving them control over how often they receive emails or text alerts. That's especially crucial post-stay when the hotel wants to communicate on an ongoing basis.

"Make it abundantly clear that people who do not want to participate can opt out," Deagan said. "People who do want to participate can optimize their communication level. If you do that, you'll have very few people who hit the spam button."

A good way to offer those options is in the guest satisfaction survey. It provides an opportunity for people to refine their subscriptions and say how they want to be communicated with -- if at all. By giving some control to the guest, it can create a "high-margin, effective direct-to-guest relationship over time," Deagan said.

Direct digital marketing can also provide a better return on investment compared to bulk paper mailings.

"Communicating digitally is a heck of a lot cheaper than putting postage on things and sending out mail," Deagan said. "From a cost standpoint, it is the most cost-efficient channels someone can use. With our platform, we're consolidating capabilities and bringing efficiency to the table. That tends to resonate these days."

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