Innovative Hotel Website Ideas for 2010 – O’Rourke Interview With Chris Brogan

‘In with the new – out with old!’ is a common phrase as the new year approaches. At O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing we believe this is especially true for hotel website design and the traditional ways of marketing.

We believe it is time to reinvent the standard hotel website, and we will begin with a quick comparison of a typical hotel website today, and our ideas of how a website should be for 2010.

A Typical Hotel Website Today:

• designed to promote hotel with emphasis on beautiful photos
• difficult to navigate, too many options, user gets lost
• static, no fresh content supplied
• designed from a template
• no links to social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook
• no blog
• no video
• no division between types of travelers (i.e. leisure, business)
• no calls-to-action
• no incentive for user to supply e-mail
• no reason for user to visit your site again
• no personal profiling
• no personal communication with guest
• no reviews
• not optimized for the search engines
• no analytics in place

A Modern Hotel Website for 2010

• designed for the user with emphasis on supplying the information they need
• easy to navigate with no clutter
• dynamic with continually updated content
• created on a content management system that allows hotel to edit content themselves
• links to Twitter and Facebook (or place Twitter stream directly on site)
• a blog to supply useful content to users and help SEO efforts
• videos of hotel and city – videos should be authentic and not glitzy ads
• information should be organized by type of traveler and answer specific questions
• calls-to-action should lead user through the sales funnel
• offer an incentive for users to supply their e-mail (i.e. a downloadable city guide)
• give users a reason to re-visit your site (i.e. ski conditions if your hotel is in the mountains)
• maintain a database of your clients and learn their preferences. This allows for more targeted email campaigns, and a better guest experience at your hotel
• communicate with your guest before, during, and after their stay through email or Twitter
• request reviews from your guests and post them on your website
• make sure your website is optimized for the search engines
• install analytics which will allow you to track user behavior

Your website is at the center of all your internet marketing strategies, and it must be well-designed to provide the guest a positive user experience. If it is ineffective, then all your internet marketing efforts will be in vain. You could be losing guests because of a difficult navigation or reservations page. In today’s market, digital media is growing rapidly and you must grow with it.

We recently attended the Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston created by Chris Brogan, President of New Marketing Labs. Chris is also the co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, ‘Trust Agents,’ with Julien Smith. He is a social media guru and his blog is in the top 10 of the Advertising Age Power150. Chris travels a lot and he sees great opportunities for the hotel industry in social media and online marketing.

Tom O’Rourke founder/CEO of O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing wanted to share Brogan’s insight with the Hospitality Industry in the second part of this video interview. Tom asked Brogan his view on the current hotel website design and navigation structure.

“Don’t make me hate!” was Chris Brogan’s first response to Tom’s question about his view was on the current hotel website design.  He supports our opinion that hotel websites are utterly backwards of what the guests really want. Chris elaborates:

It’s basically these beautiful majestic pictures. No matter how horrible your hotel is, it’s the best possible picture of your venue. It’s great to have pictures, it’s nice to see the layout of the rooms, but take it backwards from the buyer’s experience, because ultimately I’m the buyer.

I have a really strange set of questions when I’m traveling as a dad, or when I’m traveling as a business guy. As a dad I want to know; What’s the biggest room? Can I get a suite? Can I have door-to-door? Basics.

If I’m a business traveler I want to know what the desk is like. What chair do I have? Are there 5 plugs for my stuff? Do you give me free Wi-Fi or should I worry about bringing my card? How late is your business center open?

So what I’m saying when I say all this is that site design now needs to be a bit more dynamic, and it needs to route me through because right now there’s these crazy navigation trees that cascade like rain and have 500 possible ways to go somewhere.

This is not how we buy anything. We don’t buy groceries that way, we don’t buy anything like this – but for some reason hotels think if I offer you 147 things to click on, you might click one.

Tom agrees with Chris that hotel websites should go in a new direction, and he takes it a step further by suggesting that they incorporate social media and interactivity within their website to stay with the guest before, during, and after their stay. Tom believes it would be a different approach for the hotel business, but that it would be giving the guest what the guest really wants.

Chris agrees with Tom and adds some of his ideas:

I concur. Would you like to make seven figures on a business I just don’t have time to start? Here’s my idea, concierge service – it’s not that person at that desk. That’s part of it, but I would like to have someone I could pay an extra $29 dollars a day to keep all of my things in alignment, and tell me the local ‘Staples’ is here, the ‘Target’ is here, do you need me to run out and get you pens and markers? It’s here. I’d pay $29 dollars a day just to know that person was there.

There are so many things we could do. I’m in Manhattan – I’m on 4th Avenue, I have no idea where I need to eat, and if they ping me right back on Twitter, because I’m a guest, that’s all I have to do, is maintain a little guest registry – they don’t even have to work hard – I can message them, and they can message me back.

There are so many opportunities for hotels to do so much more with these new tools that don’t cost much to launch. They cost time, and they cost a little consideration, and to not do it the way you’ve already been doing it.

So as we approach 2010, it’s time to evaluate your hotel website and internet marketing efforts. Take a look at your current hotel website from a user perspective. Is it easy to navigate or does it confuse the user with too many options? Does it provide the user with the information he or she wants, or does it just show beautiful images? Does it address the needs of individual travelers i.e. business vs. leisure or does it just group all information together? Do you have links to your Twitter and Facebook account on your site?  As Chris says there are so many opportunities for hotels in this space – and we believe 2010 is a great time to start employing these exciting new strategies. Stay tuned to our blog for part II of Innovative Website Ideas for 2010.

You can see the first part of the video interview with Chris Brogan on our blog, Hotels That Listen in Social Media Generate Business.

Below is a list of some of Chris Brogan’s blog posts related to the hotel industry.

Ideas for Hotels and Hospitality

Should Hotels have Social Networks?

Café Shaped Business – The Roger Smith Hotel

Social Media Starter Moves for Tourism

Workflow – Social Media for Marketers

A Hotel Built For Media Makers

We are interested in hearing your thoughts on revolutionizing the standard hotel website. Do you agree with what Tom and Chris suggest? Are you planning to make any changes to your hotel website or internet marketing strategy in 2010? Please comment below.

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