In recent years, deal websites like Travelzoo and Secret Escapes have been incredibly successful as they create great buying environments for customers. They offer high value deals with a specific deadline with only a scarce number of deals available. They tease a ‘from price’ which may only represent a small percentage of the prices available to lure you in and encourage you to engage further with the offer. In short, they use urgency and scarcity to prompt action. It is not uncommon for a hotel to create a high value deal, promote it on a website like Travelzoo and sell 300 room nights in a few weeks. The big problem with doing this, of course, is whilst you are driving strong revenue into the business, you are probably offering a considerable discount on rack rates AND paying above 20% in commission. The Prospect Method is all about creating your own deal with your own group of prospects, replicating the techniques used by these successful deal websites and not succumbing to the often necessity of slicing two-thirds or half of the profit from a booking by having to pay large sums in commission.
With this in mind, first we have to adopt the Steve Jobs iPhone technique. The now iconic presentation featuring the late CEO of Apple presenting the iPhone in his synonymous black turtle-neck jumper prompted thousands of Apple customers to queue up overnight (and for over a week in some cases!) so they could get their hands on the highly anticipated iPhone. He achieved this by effectively teasing the product, building excitement and making customers wait. This ‘teasing’ is precisely what we want to do to your email list to ensure that we get a figurative queue of prospects lining up to buy your upcoming special offer. This ‘tease’ will be broadcast explaining that a special offer is launching tomorrow at a specific time. The details of this offer are secret and can’t be shared until it opens but what can be assured is that it is one of the best deals ever made available to our prospects and it is not to be missed.
Now the tone of voice and use of hyperbolic statements need to be adjusted to suit the style of your hotel and the offer being presented but the key is to build excitement.
What we’re wanting to do here is build suspense and curiosity in your prospect’s mind so that when the offer is officially launched and lands in the prospect’s inbox the following day, they know when to expect it and they want to know what all the fuss is about! It’s important to offer maximum validity in terms of the dates that the prospect can book but a limited booking window. As a general rule, you should allow prospects to take advantage of the offer for up to six months, but it must be booked within the five-day sales window. Make sure the call-to-action is repeated no less than three times within the offer and where possible create multiple ways to book (call and online via a promotional code or promotional link). The repetition of the call-to-action is a crucial part of the process given that most email recipients tend to skim read and we want there to be zero ambiguity about what we want them to do next.
The use of telephone tracking numbers can be really useful here. Our preferred supplier Invoco provides local numbers all over the UK for a line rental of £1 per month. These numbers can be instantly redirected to your main reception line and the caller, not the receiver, knows no different.
Firstly, the key benefit of telephone tracking is that you will be able to track the success of your email campaign by identifying how many times it prompted the phone to ring. Secondly, you will be able to see how many calls went unanswered, giving you and your team the opportunity to return these calls so you don’t miss out on an opportunity to close a direct booking!
Send a follow-up email two days later informing your prospects that the offer must end the next day at 5pm. You may also decide to broadcast an email the next day, two hours before the closing deadline, prompting any last-minute action.
Whilst this may feel a bit overkill to send this volume of emails in such a short window, our experience consistently shows that the follow up emails always outperform the first offer launch email. That is to say that more sales are received after prospects have been reminded a second or third time than launching them the offer on the first attempt, despite all of the anticipation building put in place with the tease email. The final step is to officially shut the offer down when you said you would. Be clear about when the cut-off point is and make it very specific (5pm Tuesday for example). In order to create a successful buying environment, there must be a strict deadline.