Marketing your hotel online is no easy feat. The digital landscape is always changing, and hotels are pressured to continue to innovate, putting their best foot forward.

This is why the travel technology landscape has seen companies like Revinate thrive. Revinate designs and develops technology to improve the guest experience, helping hotels know more about their guests so they can deliver personalized experiences that create valuable relationships and lifelong customers.

We were fortunate enough speak to Maarten Plesman, Vice President for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Revinate, about online reputation and email marketing.

1. How does a hotel measure online reputation? What are the key metrics to track and how do you benchmark your hotel against your competitors?

The TripAdvisor Popularity Index is becoming a critical metric to measure hotel online reputation. But besides this quantitative number that comes from scores on review sites, many hotels also look at the qualitative data by looking for trends in the guest feedback. For example, if guests are consistently complaining about the speed of check-in or the quality of the beds, hotels should consider taking steps to remedy those problems.

Like TripAdvisor says, “The key to building a successful business and a higher popularity ranking is stellar hospitality and paying attention to your customers’ needs. Encourage customers to write reviews, learn from them and watch your hard work pay off.”

As for benchmarking your hotel to other hotels in your region we suggest looking at research we do like the recent European hotel review report.

2. What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for small independent hotels who are just starting out with reputation management? Is it realistic for a smaller property with limited staff and resources to continuously manage their reputation online?

If you look at many tourist destinations around the world you will often see that independent or small group hotels are on the top positions on sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com. Independent hotels have the flexibility to make decisions on the spot to surprise and delight guests in unique ways. They can also make operational changes quickly without having to worry about brand standards. I believe these factors put independent hotels in a much better position than the big brands to create exceptional and personal guest experiences, which can lead to better online reviews.

As for smaller properties with limited resources, software like Revinate Reputation™ can help hotels streamline the reputation management process so that it takes less time. My advice for these hotels is to focus your guest engagement efforts on a few review sites and OTAs where you know your potential guests search and book.

3. What’s the best way to ask for guest reviews and ensure that only good ones get posted? eg. a generic email to ask for a review post-stay may encourage unhappy guests to post negative reviews publicly. How do you mitigate that risk?

Your hotel’s placement on the TripAdvisor Popularity Index, as well as other review site rankings, is affected by the volume, frequency, and recency of reviews that your hotel receives on that site. Additionally, a study by Phocuswright found that hotel guests read 6-12 reviews prior to making a booking online and that. So, it can benefit your hotel’s online reputation (and by proxy, your visibility on review sites) to prioritize driving a greater volume of online reviews.

The best way to do that is to just ask. We’ve seen some hotels verbally encourage guests to write a review at check-out. There’s also a way to do this digitally. Revinate Surveys™ customers can send guests an email asking for feedback shortly after checkout. These hotels also have the option to automatically submit this feedback for publication on TripAdvisor. Those that do so have seen an average of 409% increase in TripAdvisor review volume, and 15% increase in ranking on TripAdvisor.

As for the risk of negative reviews getting posted, if you are a hotelier that pays attention to guests and provides good service, you should get overwhelmingly positive feedback. Sporadic negative reviews will not hurt your reputation directly and, when followed regularly by new positive reviews, will disappear quite quickly into the background.

4. What kind of email or marketing promotions have worked best for your customers? And what kind of data should hotels be using to segment their database and personalize these emails?

We at Revinate believe there are a couple of campaigns that every hotel should run. Every incoming guest should get an upgrade email before check-in. Hotels should also be sending upsell emails to promote amenities, emails to request survey responses, post-stay OTA win back campaigns, and loyalty campaigns.

For each of these campaigns, hotels should also apply personalization measures for each email, and segment their guest databases, so that all emails are relevant to the audience. This way, you won’t try to upsell suites to guests who have already booked a suite, and you won’t promote golf to guests who don’t like to play golf.

To achieve this goal, hotels need to start collecting guest data. This starts with basic demographic information, and can expand to include more detailed information like personal preferences, likes and dislikes, and loyalty towards the hotel group.

5. Our recent joint whitepaper revealed that hoteliers believe ‘managed guest relationships’ is the top challenge and concern in relation to distribution and online marketing. Why do you think this is?

The relationship between hotels and guests has dramatically changed over the last years and this is challenging for the hotels. On the one hand you have OTAs who have taken over the guest ownership. On the other hand, guests today have different expectations. In order to meet those new expectations, hotels have to know their guests better, so they can focus on delivering more personalized experiences.

By exceeding guest expectations and by working to build relationships with guests, even small independent hotels can encourage repeat bookers to book directly with them instead of with an OTA. In order to compete with the OTAs and other hotels, hotels realize they need to start collecting more guest data and use that data in better ways to improve service and build relationships with guests to ensure they return to the hotel.

6. How do you see reputation management evolving over the next 10 years?

10 years is a long time but looking at the future I see reputation management moving in a more personal direction. What I mean with that is that currently the learnings from your reviews are quite anonymous. You might learn that people dislike a certain aspect of your hotel but you don’t know who specifically dislikes it.

An example; some older guest might complain about the music while younger guests think it is excellent; in the future you will be able to segment reviews on demographics so you can see how you are performing specifically to your target audience. Also reputation data will become part of the big data pool available for hotels so they can analyze this together with other data sets and dive even deeper into the reviews.

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About Maarten Plesman

Maarten Plesman is the Vice President for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Revinate. His 15 years of experience in the US and the Netherlands combined with his vast track record in different high-tech industries offers him a unique view on how companies can leverage technology to improve loyalty and increase revenue.

Prior to joining Revinate, Maarten was the head of service sales at Cisco in Europe for the telecom service providers segment. He also held the Senior Associate position at McKinsey & Company in New York and helped build the tech company Idetic – currently known as MobiTV and a global pioneer in mobile and video technology.

A seasoned specialist positioning companies for growth by aligning them with their customers’ needs, Maarten holds a Master of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Groningen and MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford. He is fluent in English and Dutch and is currently based in Amsterdam.