2017’s Top 5 Online Payment Systems

Online shopping is booming, of that there is no doubt. It’s reported that 87% of UK consumers have bought at least one product online in the past 12 months [1], with just over half of all online payments made on a mobile device [2]. With this being the case it’s becoming more vital than ever that hotels, venues and other hospitality businesses which sell products or services online, are using quality payment processing systems.

The following article outlines five of the best ranked online payment processing systems available today. For more advice on which platform offers the best features for your business speak to LeadDigital, contact us today.

Stripe

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As stated on their website, Stripe is very much a payment platform designed for developers. Their robust API allows for easy integrations with minimal code writing, whilst also supporting the latest ecommerce developments, such as social selling on Twitter. Stripe can accept 135+ currencies and all major credit & debit cards.

Pricing: 1.4% + 20p per transaction for European cards, 2.9% + 20p for non-EU cards for ‘pay as you go’. Enterprise edition also available upon request.

PayPal

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As the World’s #1 online payment processing service, we couldn’t exactly miss PayPal off this list – with 197 million active customer accounts, 15 million merchants and over 4.9 billion payments being processed yearly [3]! Its popularly is partially down to how long PayPal has been established, but also how friendly the platform is for its users. They offer a feature rich service that integrates with virtually all online shopping carts, working across all devices.

Pricing: From 3.4% + 20p to 1.9% + 20p per transaction when adding to an existing checkout. Fixed monthly charges when selling through PayPal, based on sales volume.

Amazon Pay

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In 2016 Amazon reported 310 million active customers worldwide [4]. Amazon Pay enables ecommerce businesses to utilise the information held on each Amazon customer, so as to conveniently and securely, speed up payment processing online. The experience for consumers is similar to buying on Amazon, helping maintain trust in transactional security. This is also beneficial to merchants, as a method to validate buyers and prevent fraudulent transactions.

Pricing: 3.4% + 20p to 1.4% + 20p for UK payment processing based on transaction volumes. An additional charge of up-to 1.5% can apply for payments issued outside of the UK.

Authorize.Net

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Authorize.Net have been in the online payments marketplace since 1996, and with over 440,000 merchant customers today, they are often considered the most widely adopted payment platform available. Advanced features like automated recurring billing and their fraud detection suite help Authorize.Net stand out, as does their award winning customer support.

Pricing: 2.49% + 15p per transaction with a monthly fee of £19, all additional services included free of charge.

WooCommerce

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If you’re a WordPress user then you should serious consider WooCommerce – as it’s an ecommerce platform designed specifically for WordPress. They power over 28% of all online stores [5] and have created a range of features that enable tight integration with WordPress, alongside over 300 free and paid extensions! Beyond this they offer secure and trusted payment gateways, and even support businesses with marketing through coupons and reviews.

Pricing: Free model with additional WooCommerce extensions available at varying costs depending on your businesses requirements.

What About Mobile Payments?

Whilst all of the above systems provide features for mobile payment processing, there are some companies who are simply experts on the subject. A few examples of these include SquareQuickBooks GoPayment from Intuit and Google’s own Google Wallet (popular for Android users).

If you’re still not certain which payment processing platform offers the best tools for your hospitality brand, then speak with an expert at LeadDigital. We have a long history of supporting businesses in their ecommerce activities, so know the best ways to get the most from services available!

 

Need Help Taking Payments On Your Website?

Contact Us Today

 

References

[1] https://www.gurufocus.com/news/492058/uk-online-shopping-and-ecommerce-statistics-for-2017
[2] https://www.gurufocus.com/news/492058/uk-online-shopping-and-ecommerce-statistics-for-2017
[3] http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/paypal-statistics/
[4] https://www.statista.com/statistics/476196/number-of-active-amazon-customer-accounts-quarter/
[5] https://woocommerce.com/

5 Best Survey & Feedback Platforms 2017

Customer feedback is a vital part of any business. With it a hotel can improve guest services, venues can create better events and sell more tickets, and restaurants can deliver the best tasting menus that keep tables full.

Historically it was difficult to collect and analyse this data, however with modern software and technologies, hospitality brands can now secure this information anytime, anywhere!

The following outlines five of the leading online survey and feedback software platforms, which in 2017 are helping businesses of all sizes satisfy their customers.

GetFeedback | getfeedback.com

Measure Customer Satisfaction In Real Time

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GetFeedback works with over 10,000 companies to gain actionable insights into their customers experiences. Whilst the platform offers some really excellent survey features, their core strength comes from a CRM integration with Salesforce. Feedback results are streamed directly into the CRM, enabling marketers and business professionals to spot trends and increase engagement opportunities instantly.

Pros: Perfect for Salesforce users. Easy to create beautiful drag-and-drop surveys.

Cons: Limited tech support. Designed to integrate only with Salesforce.

Price: Free for up to 20 survey responses per month. Paid plans start from $50/month (£39/mo), billed annually.

SurveyMonkey | surveymonkey.co.uk

Used By 99% Of The Fortune 500 [1]

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SurveyMonkey is the best known online survey software platform in 2017. With over 25 million global users to-date, SurveyMonkey provides features that benefit virtually all industries. As one example for hospitality, SurveyMonkey enables users to collect guest satisfaction data pre, post and during events. For more info, see ‘Why Are Venues Using Survey Software?’

Pros: Highly recommended, huge collection of features, various integrations

Cons: Some surveys can be more complex to create. Customisations only available on paid plans.

Price: Free basic package, limited to 10 questions per survey and 100 responses. Unlimited plan from £25/month billed annually.

SurveyGizmo | surveygizmo.com

Collaborate Across Multiple Survey Projects

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SurveyGizmo offers everything you could need in a survey software platform and more. Like its competitors, building and designing surveys is user friendly and you can collect any kind of data required. Reporting tools are more advanced, and third party integrations are available including social media and Google Analytics.

Pros: Various unique features including custom survey domains. Support resources and an active online community.

Cons: Short trial, one of the more expensive platforms, quite complex to use.

Price: Free for 3 active surveys limited to 100 responses. Basic plan available from $300 (£233) annually.

Survey Anyplace | surveyanyplace.com

Mobile Surveys That Adapt To Every Device

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If you’re looking to collect survey data using a mobile device, take a look at Survey Anyplace. It’s a chameleon – adapting to all devices and enabling you to make branded surveys and quizzes for any occasion. Results can even be collected off-line, so you’ll never be limited by a lack of internet access.

Pros: Mobile friendly, highly customisable, off line capabilities, cool mobile widgets

Cons: Some of the best features only available on the advanced plans. Limited reporting options.

Price: Free basic package, limited to 20 monthly responses. Paid plans from $29/monthly (£22.50/mo).

AskNicely | asknicely.com

One-Click Customer Feedback Integrations

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Ask Nicely has a targeted focus on improving ‘Net Promoter Score’ – the measure of how customers recommend products or services to others. NPS surveys help improve customer experience, and Ask Nicely is able to automate feedback collection, integrating smartly with platforms like Salesforce, Zendesk and Shopify.

Pros: Simple set-up, trusted by big brands, live reporting and real time insights.

Cons: No free plan, only a trial. Not as feature rich as alternatives.

Price: 14 day free trial. Start package from $49/monthly (£38/mo) paid annually.

Conclusion

Many of the survey platforms available offer capable design tools, but differ based on their specialisms – whether that be integrating with Salesforce, focusing on mobile or collaborating with other areas of the business. As with any software purchase it’s important to first consider your hospitality brands actual needs before deciding on only one tool.

LeadDigital are experts in software that benefits hospitality companies, with over 20 years experience and services ranging from digital marketing to customer relationship & experience management.

 

Would You Like to Discuss How Survey Software Can Help Your Business?

Contact Us Today

 

References

[1] https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/mp/customers/

Top 5 Landing Page Software 2017

What is a landing page? Any page on a website is technically a landing page in the literal sense, as it’s a page visitors ‘land’ on when arriving at your venue or hotels website. However, more commonly the phrase ‘landing page’ correlates with standalone web pages used for online marketing and advertising.

Landing pages give hospitality marketers the ability to remove distractions and tightly control the message presented to the visitor. For example, a person looking to book a winter event is more likely to make an enquiry when shown a webpage only about winter events, rather than having to review your whole website.

In 2017, online software platforms enable us to quickly create fantastic, highly custom and bespoke landing pages – perfect for long term marketing aims, as-well-as limited run promotions, such as for a ticketed event or seasonal booking special offer. Below LeadDigital review five of the top landing page software tools available today:-

Pagewiz | pagewiz.com

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Pagewiz is a platform created for marketers and business owners who want to get landing pages built and live fast. The WYSIWYG style drag and drop software means you don’t need to be a web designer to create basic landing pages, and there’s even a collection of pre-designed templates available. You won’t win any awards for incredible web design using Pagewiz, but it’s great for quick production.

Pros: Drag & drop designing, integrations with popular software like Salesforce and MailChimp, quick for everyone to get ‘up and running’.

Cons: Template designs aren’t overly inspiring, limit on number of page visitors and domains, simplified builder compared to alternatives.

Cost: Free 30 day trial, then from $25 (£19) per month for the basic package when paying annually. Four plans available, structured on the number of page visitors and custom domains.

Lander | landerapp.com

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Along the same lines as Pagewiz, Lander is another drag & drop, non-technical landing page builder, ideal for beginners. The editor is modern and easy to use, you are able to create great pages fast and A/B testing features help you test up to three different versions of your landing page at any time. You can also integrate closely with Facebook, adding tabs to your new landing pages in just four steps. Other integrations are available, but most are premium features.

Pros: No technical knowledge required, superb collection of integrations with other tools, templates built by designers to achieve conversions, powerful analytics included. Well rounded.

Cons: Some integrations only available as premium features, technical support only available on ‘Pro Plus’ package, limits on custom domains.

Cost: 14 day free trial. Then from $16 (£12) per month for the basic package when paying annually. ‘Professional’ package required to use integrations and for more than 3 custom domains.

Instapage | instapage.com

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Instapage are ranked highly, not just because of the software but also the customer support they provide. Whilst offering a simple and easy to use landing page builder similar to other, Instapage also have a huge collection of resources available to help optimize landing page results. They are also one of the only companies to give unlimited pages, visitors and domains on a basic price plan.

Pros: One of the only companies offering unlimited pages, visitors and domains on their basic package. User friendly interface, high quality selection of conversion tested templates.

Cons: No A/B testing on basic package and limits on integrations.

Cost: 14 day free trial. Then from $29 (£22) per month for the basic package when paying annually.

Leadpages | Leadpages.net

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Leadpages takes landing page creation to the next level. Built specifically with conversions in mind, everything about this platform is focused on converting traffic into buyers. You have next level landing page design tools, all the integrations you could want and an incredible collection of templates – plus lead capture forms and subscriber tools, powerful analytics and AB Testing features. All of this and the basic package offers unlimited traffic, leads and responsive pages!

Pros: All of the above, plus a huge library of resources including guides, certifications, tutorials and an active community of users.

Cons: This is a more complex, feature-rich software platform so may be overkill for some companies. A/B testing and advanced integrations only available on ‘Pro’ and ‘Advanced’ plans.

Cost: 30 day money back guarantee. From $25 (£19) per month for the basic package when paying annually.

Unbounce | Unbounce.com

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Last but not least is Unbounce. As with Leadpages this is an advanced landing page development tool, and whilst you don’t need to be a qualified designer to use it, the features are more complex. Yes they have all the landing page building abilities you’d expect, but Unbounce’s true strengths lie in the testing and optimization of each page to achieve industry leading conversion results. This is the most expensive of the software tools we’ve reviewed, however its next level features help make the investment worthwhile.

Pros: Advanced features but still easily usable without a technical background. Powerful optimization and testing capacities. Always releasing new services, including ‘Unbounce Convertables’, targeted overlays for any web page.

Cons: An expensive investment and less integrations than some alternatives.

Cost: 30 free trial. Then from $79 (£61) per month for the basic ‘Essentials’ package when paying annually.

Conclusion

As with any new software purchase your primary concern should be ‘what do I actually need’, rather than simply buying from the industry leaders. The landing page software tools reviewed above are just a handful of whats available today, but all provide those core functionalities needed to create web pages that look good and convert sales.

If you’re still not sure which landing page software best fits your venue or hotels needs then have a chat with us anytime. LeadDigital have over 20 years experience in hospitality marketing and have designed hundreds of landing pages, so can advise on the best fit for your hospitality business.

 

Interested in Landing Page Software for Your Company?

Contact Us Today

 

Why are Venues Using Survey Software?

It’s 7am Monday morning. You wake up, grab a coffee and read an email from your senior events planner telling you how Saturday’s event at your venue was an incredible success.

At this point it would be very easy to think “job done” and go about the rest of your day. Instead you pause and ask yourself – how does my team actually know the event was successful?

In our experience, most venues get event feedback from just one source, the event organiser. Of course they’re going to give good feedback, it was their event, they planned it and unless something went dramatically wrong, it was always going to be how they wanted it. However, let’s say this was a corporate event for 300 people, what did the other 299 guests think of the experience?

For all you know, the food could have been cold for half the guests and one of your waitresses could have been incredibly rude – but if this isn’t being fed back, it won’t be corrected.

So what’s the solution? Our recommendation is the use of online survey software, and our preferred solution is SurveyMonkey. Below I’ll explain why, and how it can benefit your venue.

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Guest feedback is vitally important. It’s the key to understanding your target market, their wants, needs and expectations, and it can provide insights that shape future business and marketing plans.

Typically for venues there are three stages of event survey: Planning, Real-Time & Post Event

Stage 1 – Event Planning

Survey software helps decision making become quick and (reasonably) painless. Rather than lots of back and forth questioning over email or phone, you can obtain all the event information you need in a single form. This can be as simple or complex as required, from just confirming headcount to gathering info on dietary restrictions or individual requests.

Event planning surveys give you a head start on guest expectations. Used as a research tool, surveys provide insights that enable you to plan the perfect occasion. Collected data can also be saved for future sales and marketing efforts, such as finding out where they originally saw your venue.

Stage 2 – Real-Time Surveys

Also known as “mid-event” or “during-event” surveys, this stage is about two things, encouraging engagement and gaining immediate feedback. Here are a few examples:

  • An event includes a meal. Between the starter and main course, have servers use a tablet to conduct a short and sweet survey. This way, you can immediately make corrections there and then before the meal’s second half begins.
  • You’re running a corporate conference. Between speakers, ask attendees to quickly complete a live survey on their mobiles about the event so-far. This feedback can then be shared with upcoming speakers who can adapt their talk accordingly.
  • Guests want to access your free wifi during an event. When they try to connect ask them first to complete a poll including their email address. This way you’ll get live feedback and a possible future sales lead!

More often than not, venues only ever have contact details for the event planner. We 100% recommend obtaining contact details for all attendees whenever possible, and real-time surveys provide the perfect opportunity to collect this info.

Stage 3 – Post Event Surveys

Of all the stages, post event surveys are the most important to action. This is because, using a well considered email strategy you can reach event goers just a day or two after the occasion, and get fresh feedback on their overall experience.

If you only did one survey, we’d recommend this option, as information collected will encompass the entire event from start to finish. It is also the perfect opportunity to build a relationship with each event guest individually, which if incentivised, could lead to future bookings.

Why SurveyMonkey?

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SurveyMonkey report over 25+ million business customers worldwide, with 99% of the Fortune 500 using this survey platform and over 3 million survey responses collected every day [1]. Their mission states:

“We want to make it as easy as possible for you to get at the knowledge you need to make smart, informed choices” [2]

There are five dominant reasons we love SurveyMonkey:

  1. Ease of use. SurveyMonkey is a very accessible and user friendly platform. Whilst it can be made more complex, it’s not overly complicated to get up and running with a new survey. Their survey builder is logically laid out and offers many design features, although you need a paid plan to take advantage of all options available.
  2. Templates. They provide over 200 expertly written surveys covering pretty much every subject you could imagine. So whether time is limited or imagination is lacking, there’s probably a template available to help get you started.
  3. Tips & Advice. SurveyMonkey offer a massive amount of online support, with tips and best practices on everything from the dos and don’ts of question writing, to help analysing survey results and next best steps.
  4. Integrations. In this digital world it’s becoming vital that software can talk to other platforms, and SurveyMonkey does this brilliantly. For example: Integrate with MailChimp for your email marketing, Eventbrite to contact event attendees, SalesForce for enriched CRM data or select one of the many other integrations available.
  5. Reporting. SurveyMonkey provide advanced but understandable analytics data for every survey you create; meaning that not only can you share stunning surveys, you can also discover exactly how to use data gathered wisely.

Conclusion

So why are venues using survey software? It’s because they can collect vital information about their venue and organised events otherwise unavailable, that can assist in decision making across all areas of a hospitality business. It also enables greater greater levels of guest satisfaction, which can lead to retention, referrals and brand loyalty.

At LeadDigital we can help with all your venues survey requirements. Starting with an initial consultation to develop a strategy plan, we support survey designs, implementation, integrations with other platforms and results reporting.

 

Want to Speak to us About Survey Software?

Contact Us Today

 

References

[1] https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/event-planning-surveys/?ut_source=header
[2] https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/mp/aboutus/

Ten of 2017’s Best Hotel & Venue Blogs

Blogging is Brilliant!

It’s not easy, and certainly takes a great deal of time management, careful planning and content organisation to get right. However, when successfully crafted, blogs can inspire customer engagement and loyalty, they can provide insights into your hotel or venue for prospective guests, and are fantastic for inbound marketing.

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On WordPress alone 87.6 million new blog posts are produced each month [1]. With so much new content being shared in 2017, hospitality businesses need to be relevant, niche and overall interesting to keep the attention of blog subscribers. The following overviews 10 of our favourite blogs, from hotels and venues across the UK.

The Grove
blog.thegrove.co.uk

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The Grove is a luxury 5 star country estate hotel, located in Watford, Hertfordshire. Their blog makes our list for two reasons: 1. they don’t shy away from longer articles, and 2. they have a clear sense of brand personality (particularly suitable for golf lovers). When writing blog articles it’s important to think about word count, as longer content tends to perform better in search engines.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels
brownswordhotels.co.uk/blog

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“A renowned collection of privately owned properties situated in some of Great Britain’s most memorable locations.” – This hospitality blog strikes a chord with us because of its use of very high quality photography. In 2017 photos and videos dominate content marketing [2], so it’s important to be optimizing these wherever possible.

Ace Hotel
blog.acehotel.com

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The Shoreditch London Ace Hotel is home to creatives, artists and theatrics. Their blog highlights this wonderfully, talking about the resident artists that stay with them and the creations they produce, whilst continuing to promote the location. This develops an impression and sense of expectation about the hotel to potential guests, before they even book a room.

Eden Hotel Collection
edenhotelcollection.com/eden-life

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Each hotel we review approaches blogging differently, and in the case of Eden Hotel Collection their blog titled ‘Eden Life’ looks to engage readers with an honest insight into hotel life. A stand out for us was their use of guest bloggers, as this not only promotes the Eden Hotel Collection, but also opens the door for guests to equally promote new articles in their social circles, leading to additional influencer associated marketing.

The Admirable Crichton
admirable-crichton.co.uk/blog

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Also known as ‘The AC’ this events company is known for producing some of the world’s most stunning and creative events – from intimate occasions to huge parties! When it comes to their blog, for one we enjoy their use of tiled photos on the top page. Another business not afraid to use photography, their blog articles are visually rich but also have engaging written content that you don’t just want to skim read.

Beds on Board
blog.bedsonboard.com

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Ever wanted to sleep aboard a Sunseeker yacht? Meet Beds on Board, the boat hotel company. The written content within their blog is very good, but we were impressed more by their approach to readers – with two separate blog options, one for guests, the other for boat owners. It’s vital to understand the different demographics within your audience and produce content that appeals to them uniquely!

Watergate Bay Hotel
watergatebay.co.uk/blog

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“An inspiring group of foodies, surfers, cyclists, music-lovers, beach dwellers, equestrians, creators & friends.” – If this sounds like you, then you’ll love Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall. Their blog is all about telling the hotels story, whether thats by highlighting their stunning beach location, talking BBQ’s or showing off their fantastic cocktail range!

The Idle Rocks
idlerocks.com/blog

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Consistency can be the life and death of a good blog. Post too little or too much and you’ll lose your readers interest pretty quick. The Idle Rocks have this down to an art, with regular, consistant posts that are wonderfully relevant to the hotel. They also score points for separating out their blog articles into specific groups e.g. ‘Cocktail of the Month’.

Bourne & Hollingsworth
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Bourne & Hollingsworth take a unique approach to their core blog, treating it more like a social media platform, with polaroid-style images and text snippets that give you the reader, a brief glance into their venues and events. Whilst we generally recommend more written content, this approach may be better suited to 2017’s visually driven subscriber / event goer.

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Castle Howard
castlehoward.co.uk/news-room/blog

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Finally, Castle Howard in York. We love a castle at LeadDigital, and being set within 1,000 acres of country landscape, it’s understandable they’d have a lot to talk about! Their blog is promoted across the Castle Howard website, and covers everything from horticulture, to bird watching and gift guides. We rate them highly based on how they personalise each writer on the team, so a clear range of personalities can be enjoyed.


Do you need support improving how readers engage with your hotel or venues current blog?

Looking to start blogging but not sure where to start, or how to get a subscriber list in the first place?

Speak to LeadDigital today. We can help guide and structure your digital marketing, ensuring you reach the right people, at the right time, with the best content marketing designed around increasing bookings & event sales.

 

Contact Us Today

 

References

[1] https://wordpress.com/activity/
[2] https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-content-marketing-strategy#sm.000010dglkdknbd6tvkb1ahqiboih

Top 5 CRM Systems of 2017

Starting to use a CRM system for your hotel, bar, restaurant or venue, could be a decision that completely changes your business. A CRM system when correctly implemented, can help with business transparencyefficiencyorganisation, custom retention and importantly, it can help you to close more sales.

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Needless to say there are many CRM systems in the marketplace today, so in this blog post I’m going to give an overview of LeadDigital’s Top 5 recommended CRM systems of 2017.

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Salesforce

The World’s #1 CRM”

Founded in 1999 by Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff and Frank Dominguez, Salesforce is now the most used CRM Worldwide.

With around 4 million users and over 10,000 employees globally, Salesforce has the infrastructure to support hospitality businesses of any size. Salesforce is constantly being improved, with around $150m research & development budget per year. See our recent ‘Is SalesForce Right For You?’ article for more information.

Pros: Salesforce will support any company size. Their ‘AppExchange’ marketplace boasts thousands of add-on applications which cover a variety of different niches; everything from Event Management to Booking Engines and Surveys.

Cons: The basic versions can be very restrictive if you wish to do any customisation, such as to workflows or custom coding.

Cost: All versions are billed annually, per user. SalesforceIQ (small business CRM solution) starts at £20/user/month for the starter package, up to £240/user/month for unlimited with all features.

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HubSpot CRM

“Grow and manage your pipeline for free”

HubSpot’s CRM solution is relatively new when compared to Salesforce, as the latest addition to HubSpot’s existing collection of inbound marketing services, which they’ve been developing since 2006!

By adding a CRM to the existing tools that HubSpot offers, users can capture the whole lifecycle of a lead, from the inbound marketing source, through into the CRM. Users can then track all results gathered, entirely within one system.

Pros: Free for up to 1 million contacts. Able to track the whole lifecycle of a lead from capture to completion, when using other HubSpot products, such as HubSpot Marketing.

Cons: Very limited when compared to a complete CRM, such as Salesforce or Zoho. Small list of third party applications, when compared to other platforms.

Cost: Free – however, you will need other modules such as HubSpot Marketing & Sales, which are at an additional cost.

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Zoho CRM

“Get ready to sell Smarter, Better, Faster.”

Zoho CRM was one of the first products in the ‘Zoho Suite’, introduced in 2005. Since then Zoho has grown in size, with 25 million [1] users across its whole product range in 2017.

Zoho have recently introduced AI into their CRM, in the form of ‘Zia’. The AI is able to learn how each person uses the CRM, and can master data intelligence to interpret how your business works, analyse what you’re trying to achieve and predict unexpected incidents before they even happen!

Pros: Long list of integrations and excellent customer support. Very competitive pricing for an enterprise CRM, highly customisable Cloud-based platform.

Cons: Zoho CRM can be very complex to customise and the user interface is not quite as intuitive as other platforms.

Cost: When billed annually, the standard package is $10/user/month, Professional $20/user/month, Enterprise, $35/user/month and Ultimate is $100/user/month.

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Microsoft Dynamics

“Drive your digital transformation with Dynamics 365”

Microsoft Dynamics is part of the Microsoft Business Solutions platform, which covers ERP and CRM. Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be run on-premise or online, via Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

Microsoft Dynamics focusses on the industries of retail, service, manufacturing, financial services, and the public sector, but it can be adapted to work in any industry including hospitality, and for any size of company.

Microsoft Dynamics is a modular system, which means it’s possible to only use the modules required, which can make it very cost effective.

Pros: Microsoft Dynamics has the potential to be the only system you need, as it can be configured to cover CRM and ERP. Very configurable, with lots of integrations available. A ‘light’ version is offered for smaller teams.

Cons: The pricing structure is quite complicated, with lots of options on modules.

Cost: The most popular plan, is £86.70/user/month. Light edition starts at £7.50/user/month.

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Pipedrive

“Pipedrive gets your sales organised”

Pipedrive was founded in 2010 and has around 240 employees Worldwide. As of 2017, Pipedrive has around 50,000 customers [2] all around the world, with a focus on small to medium size businesses.

Pipedrive was built by sales people, for sales people, and aims to simplify the sales process and provide an intuitive user interface to do so.

Pros: Pipedrives ‘Pipeline’ view is perfect to see all the current opportunity deals and their progress. The intuitive user interface is great and simple to use.

Cons: As Pipedrive is aimed at small companies, it can be overly simple. The list of integrations is short compared to other platforms.

Cost: Pipedrive offer annual and monthly costs. When billed annually, the Silver package is $10/user/month, Gold $21/user/month and Platinum, $63/user/month.

In Summary

There is a huge range of CRM systems to choose from in 2017 and this list only scratches the surface, with other services like ‘Insightly’, ‘Nutshell’, ‘Freshsales’, ‘Freshdesk’ etc… equally deserving of mention.

So how do you choose? Think about these questions; what problems can a CRM system solve and what issues can it improve?

The right software is vital, but so is installing it for the right reasons. Moving to a CRM system will take time, so thought needs to be put into the process.

At this point you should talk to us at LeadDigital. We have over 20 years experience in Martech and have successfully implemented CRM systems for various UK hospitality businesses, which have proved vital and in turn have increased revenues!

 

Need Help Choosing Your CRM?

Contact Us Today

 

References

[1] https://www.zoho.com/aboutus.html
[2] https://blog.pipedrive.com/2017/03/50000-customers-taught-us-sales/

Top 3 Ecommerce Platforms in 2017

With over 3 billion global internet users [1], there’s no doubt that your hotel, bar, restaurant or venue should be selling online in 2017. The best way to get started is with an ecommerce platform, a collection of purpose-built software technologies that allows merchants to build, host and manage online storefronts in order to sell their products.

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Shopping carts are the most important part of any ecommerce platform. It is the part of the software that allows customers to browse items, build lists for purchase and then “checkout” when they are ready to buy. At checkout, the software will generally calculate a total for the order, including shipping, handling and any applicable taxes.

More advanced ecommerce platforms will fit into your current supply chain making things like payment, delivery, accounting, warehousing and event planning integrate easily with your existing systems. Some platforms are even capable of being run in physical stores by offering their own point of sale systems.

This all sounds great, but with so many ecommerce platforms to choose from now, how are you supposed to know which one to go for? There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all here, a brand new events venue trying to sell tickets online has very different ecommerce requirements to a hotel that has been taking room bookings for years.

 

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We’re here to help by telling you about the best ecommerce platforms available right now and how to choose the right one to suit you and your hospitality business. Here are LeadDigital’s top 3 ecommerce platforms in 2017:

1. Magento

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Magento is an enterprise-level, open-source ecommerce platform and was first released to the public in March 2008. The ecommerce platform is being used by around 240,000 websites [2], roughly 13% of all online storestoday [3] and includes many popular brands like Burger King, SEAT and Graze. There are currently three versions of the software available; Magento Community Edition, Magento Enterprise Edition and Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition.

Magento Community Edition is a free version of Magento, built for emerging small businesses and will work well for small stores with few products. The faster code base and page caching that Magento Enterprise Edition brings to the table is a must-have for larger stores, but this speed comes at a price.

Pros

  • Good user experience, the interface is very nice to work with.
  • Being an open-source platform means you have full control over your store and allows you to develop and extend to fit your needs.
  • There are almost 10,000 plugins/extensions available.
  • There are many free extensions available to let you sell on social media platforms.
  • Magento has a huge online community of store owners and plugin developers, always ready to give help and advice when building or extending your store.

Cons

  • Magento needs separate hosting, leaving you responsible for updates and security. The software has been known to run slowly on poorly optimised servers so you may need to spend time and money getting this configured.
  • Any customisation work would need to be done by a developer and if you’re looking to extend your store, this could end up being expensive.
  • Unless you’re comfortable working with code, getting extensions and templates working properly can be troublesome.
  • Can be very expensive for an enterprise license.

Who Should be Using Magento?

Magento is considered by many to be the enterprise-level ecommerce platform of choice, built to work with large stores and large amounts of products. It is highly customisable due to it being open-source, but requires an expert developer to get most things done. Magento is not a simple solution and can only be recommended for advanced users. If you’re a startup or smaller store, then a hosted solution like Shopify would be a better fit.

2. WooCommerce

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WooCommerce was first developed by WordPress developer WooThemes in 2011 and has since been downloaded over 20 million times [4]. Despite a flood of competitors entering the market, WooCommerce has shown amazing resilience and is a major player in the game. Stats from BuiltWith show that 24% of the top million ecommerce sites are built using WooCommerce[5]. WooCommerce was acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress in May 2015 [6].

WooCommerce is a plugin, not a subscription-based solution like Shopify or Magento and is built to integrate seamlessly with WordPress. The plugin itself is free, 100% open-source and is backed by a huge online communitythat is always ready to offer help and advice.

Pros

  • It’s free! It doesn’t get much better than that.
  • Highly extendable and customisable, there are many free and paid extensions and thousands of themes available to install on your store.
  • If you have ever used WordPress then WooCommerce will feel very familiar and anybody with past experience will easily be able to figure it out.
  • WordPress and WooCommerce both have huge community support, which makes getting help and advice on your store a breeze.

Cons

  • Even though the base plugin is free, many of the extensions are not. Total costs will soon go up when you start extending your store.
  • Customisation can be difficult and you may need to hire a expert to install the plugin, custom themes or extensions which could end up being costly.
  • WooCommerce is not a hosted solution so you must buy separate hosting, leaving you responsible for the security and maintenance of your store.

Who Should be Using WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is perfect for people already running their website on the WordPress platform because it’s simple to download and install on an existing WordPress site.

For a lot of small businesses, WooCommerce comes with everything you need; the ability to sell products, calculate shipping, calculate taxes and accept PayPal payments. It even comes with a customer login area to show customers the status of their orders. However, if your store needs anything other than standard ecommerce features, you are going need an expert to work on it and you can expect the costs to rise significantly with each extension you need to install.

3. Shopify

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Founded in 2004, Shopify was originally based on software written by its founders for their online snowboard store, Snowdevil. [7] Since its humble beginnings, the company has grown to over 1,900 employees, working from 6 different offices around the world [8] and after going public in 2015, posted revenues of $205 million. [9]

Shopify is one of the biggest ecommerce platforms in the world, to date they are hosting 377,500 online stores that have sold over $29 billion worth of products. [10]

Prices start from ~£23/month for the basic package and up to ~£234/month for more advanced plans. Shopify also offer an enterprise level plan called Shopify Plus for high-volume merchants and large businesses.

Pros

  • Free 14 day trial, no risk, no credit card required.
  • 100+ professional themes to choose from, made by world-renowned designers like Happy Cog, Clearleft and Pixel Union.
  • 1,500+ apps to extend your store’s functionality.
  • 70+ international payment gateways included. Shopify makes it easy for customers to pay for items.
  • Mobile commerce ready. Your Shopify store and checkout will work on any mobile or tablet device right out of the box.
  • Use the official app to access store analytics, update your store, fulfill orders or contact customers all from your mobile device.
  • 24/7 dedicated support team available via email, live chat or telephone.

Cons

  • Your total monthly cost may end up higher than you originally thought because you will find yourself installing one of the many apps to increase your store’s functionality, but these apps come with their own monthly costs.
  • The checkout page is locked down to Shopify’s design unless you upgrade to Shopify Plus. There are good reasons for this, but if you want to control the design of your store all the way through, you’re going to be disappointed.

Who Should be Using Shopify?

Shopify is a fantastic ecommerce platform for beginners with a very simple setup process and a great dashboard area for quickly adding products and managing your store. Combine this with a huge library of beautiful themes and you can have a good looking store up and running in just few hours.

Shopify is, in our opinion, the best ecommerce platform available today for Hospitality businesses. The level of customisation offered across all areas of your ecommerce store make it extremely powerful. With all the technical aspects of running an online store taken care of, you can focus on the important bit, increasing ticket sales.

As an official Shopify partner, LeadDigital can design and build custom themes for your store. We can sit down, discuss your business goals and work with you to build a Shopify store from the ground up in order to increase your event sales.

 

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References

[1] ICT Facts and Figures 2016. International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Jun 2017.
[2] Magento Usage Statistics. BuiltWith. Apr 2017.
[3] Ecommerce technologies Web Usage Statistics. BuiltWith. Apr 2017.
[4] WooCommerce – The Best eCommerce Platform for WordPress. WooCommerce. Apr 2017.
[5] Ecommerce technologies Web Usage Statistics. BuiltWith. Apr 2017.
[6] WordPress Parent Automattic Buys WooCommerce. Recode. 19 May 2015.
[7] Shopify, a Start-Up, Starts Its Own Business Competition. The New York Times. 2 Feb 2010.
[8] 2016 Year in Review. Shopify.
[9] Shopify Expects Revenue to Surge in 2016. Fortune. 17 Feb 2016.
[10] Shopify Announces Fourth-Quarter and Full Year 2016 Financial Results. Shopify. 15 Feb 2017.

Top 5 Email Marketing Services in 2017

We are often asked about the various email software platforms available today and with so many options out there, how should you decide which is best for your hotel or venue? In this blog I’m going to give an overview of LeadDigital’s Top 5 recommended services for Email Marketing.

It’s easy to be tempted by all singing, all dancing services like Infusionsoft (discussed below), but these are often overcomplicated, and require a significant investment. We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t try to run before you can walk”. In this case it’s better to start simple and select software based on your needs today. It’s easy to upgrade as your requirements become more sophisticated, but it’s very difficult to go backwards!

So without further ado, lets get started:

AWeber

“All The Tools You Need To Send Emails The Right Way.”

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Established back in ’98, AWeber is one of the original email marketing platforms and is considered a great starter option for people new to email. It’s very simple, offering most of the core features a small to medium hospitality business would need, without overloading you with too many tools.

Pros: All the basics are covered, simple reporting and functionality and it offers a useful WordPress plugin for quick website sign-up forms.

Cons: The subscriber importing capabilities are quite limited, no ability to build landing pages, overall it can be quite limiting for more established businesses.

Cost: Today you can get a 30-day free trial followed by $19 (£15) per month for up-to 500 subscribers. Standard pricing then peaks $149 (£120) per month for 10,000-25,000.


MailChimp

“Send Better Email. Sell More Stuff”

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If you want to design awesome looking emails without needing a web designer on-hand, MailChimp is the tool for you!

A fan favourite for many, MailChimp is a popular option for most email marketers given its powerful functionality and user friendly interface. Whether you’re adding new subscribers, creating new email campaigns or looking for advanced automated email options, MailChimp is a solid all rounder.

Pros: Integrates with hundreds of web services including e-commerce platforms, huge collection of templates to design from, quick to get started.

Cons: MailChimp use a unique language for features & processes, they only allow for one opt-in form per list, reporting whilst informative can be less comprehensive than competitors unless managed by a MailChimp expert.

Cost: Up-to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month you can sign up for free, however this only gives access to the most basic features. To access all functions including autoresponders, pricing starts from £8 per month for <500 subscribers, then £65/mo+ for over 10,000 subscribers.


Drip

“Quick And Easy Email Marketing Automation Software”

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Marketing automation is the ultimate dream of most email marketers. The ability to take insights you have on customers and turn them into personalised & automated outreach campaigns, makes for the perfect recipe to succeed in email marketing.

Drip take that one step further by building their entire platform around the premise of drip marketing. Intelligent workflows allow users to automate the entire customer journey, with sophisticated rules based on interactions helping you get the most engagement from each subscriber.

Pros: Specialists in drip marketing, advanced visual workflows & event triggers, automate everything, access to marketing automation normally reserved for only high end expensive email software.

Cons: Still quite a new software platform so constantly seeing changes, integrations are less available and can be complicated.

Cost: Free for 100 subscribers, or get 2 months free when buying an annual package. £39.50/mo for up-to 2,500 subscribers, £120/mo+ for 10,000 subscribers.


ConvertKit

“Email Marketing For Professional Bloggers”

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Like MailChimp, ConvertKit offer many of the essentials needed for hotels, venues, restaurants and other hospitality businesses. Its advantage over competitors however, is that it uses ‘tags’ rather than ‘lists’. List based systems store subscribers (email addresses) on a per list basis, such as ticket buyers or competition A entries. If one subscriber is in both lists (tickets & competition), you could get charged twice!

Alternatively a ‘tag’ based system like ConvertKit looks at all subscribers together as one. Using customisable event tags, segments are then created and personalised emails can be sent to a select audience only, without the risk of double charging!

Pros: Tag based software, easy to use, simple to create sign up forms, offers a basic landing page builder.

Cons: Reported information and email testing functions can be quite limited and the email composer is somewhat basic.

Cost: 0-1,000 subscribers is £23 per month, £64/mo for up-to 5,000 then custom price for above 5k subscribers.


Infusionsoft

“Build Better Connections With Leads And Customers”

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If your subscriber numbers are above 50,000, you’ve got everything you can out of platforms like MailChimp and need to step it up a notch, it’s probably time to look at Infusionsoft.

This is a marketing automation, CRM and sales platform all rolled into one, and is big, powerful and perfect for complete email marketing dominance! It has every feature you could imagine and more, but does also demand a significant investment in time and money so can’t be taken lightly. Its abilities extend way beyond just email marketing, so you’d likely see this service become part of every aspect of your hospitality company.

Pros: Ultimate tool for much more than just email.

Cons: Too expensive for most business owners, very complex.

Costs: £160/mo for 2,500 subscribers plus you have to buy a kickstart package from £804 up. Thats not including the cost of training and additional staffing this system would require.

In Summary

There is a huge range of email marketing services to choose from in 2017, and this list only scratches the surface, with other services like ‘ActiveCampaign’, ‘GetResponse’, ‘Constant Contact’, ‘Ontraport’ etc… equally deserving of mention.

So how do you choose? Stop. Down tools and just ask yourself one question – what do I actually want to achieve with email marketing? Be specific.

The right software is vital, but even more so is the right email marketing strategy. This is the point when you should talk to LeadDigital. We have over 20 years experience in email marketing and only serve businesses within the hospitality sector – with our team creating bespoke email strategies designed to increase bookings and sell more events!

 

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3 Email Tactics For Customer Retention

In hospitality, success depends heavily on repeat custom. Many marketers forget this and put their focus into gaining new ticket sales or bookings; however when 25-40% [1] of most business revenue comes from repeat custom, this channel cannot be ignored. Studies by Bain & Company state a 5% [2] increase in retention can lead to profit increases of 25-95%!

A sell-out event full of new customers is an amazing quick win, but what is your venue doing to ensure they visit again?

It’s likely that your hotel, restaurant, bar or events venue will have a basic database of information on past customers. This means you have the capability to reach people on a personal level; which can be used to increase loyalty and repeat custom through strategic email marketing.

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At LeadDigital, it’s our opinion that email marketing is far from dead. In fact with the number of worldwide email users now topping 3.7 billion [3], plus the growth of email on mobile, it’s actually flourishing. How can email increase repeat business? Read our top 3 tips here below.

 

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1. The Personalised Approach

How well do you know your customers? Say for example, a person attends an event at your venue. Sure you have their name and contact details from the event booking, but what else?

For one you can probably assume their sex, potentially their age, and it’s likely you’ll have some insight into their interests based on the type of event they attended.

When it comes to email marketing, savvy marketers take this information and use it to personalise every interaction. You may even have experienced this yourself if you’ve attended an event and later received a ‘thank you for visiting’ style of email, addressed to you directly.

Sending a masculine-styled email to ‘Tim’ referencing the rock gig he attended 6 months ago & inviting him personally to a similar event, is much more likely to result in repeat business than a generic promotional message.

Personalised email communication enables more than just contact with existing clients. It also grants the ability to strategically target what you send, when it’s sent, and to who; maximising the return on each email. More importantly, regular personalised emails help maintain relationships with a group of people you know have bought services from you already!

2. Let Software Do The Hard Work

Automate Everything! Okay maybe not everything, but modern email marketing software does give businesses the ability to automate emails sent to existing customers. By utilising these features correctly, Hotels, Restaurants, Bars and other event venues can develop drip marketing strategies that increase repeat business.

What do I mean by drip marketing? Imagine a scenario where ‘Lana’ books a birthday party at your bar.

  1. First, you send Lana a personalised email confirming her booking.
  2. Next you remind Lana of her booking a week in advance and wish her a happy birthday.
  3. Two days after the event Lana receives another email, thanking her for choosing your bar and asking for feedback on her party. You learn she had a great time and particularly enjoyed the cocktails available.
  4. A few months later Lana receives an email, inviting her to an exclusive cocktails masterclass at your bar.

In this example, as she knows your brand, remembers her great party and loves cocktails, Lana books the masterclass event – job done, another repeat booking!

All of the above emails can be automatically sent, having been designed and scheduled well in advance – making email marketing scalable as your business grows. Working with an email marketing expert the right strategy can also save hospitality business time & money, that otherwise could be wasted on less effective marketing initiatives.

3. Make Existing Customers Feel Special

Leading on from the personalised approach above, email gives you the ability to make customers feel special, like they’re getting exclusive ‘backstage’ access to your Events Venue, Restaurant, Bar or Hotel.

People are becoming increasingly selective on who they give their email addresses to. When a customer gives you permission to contact them, they’re also telling you they have an active interest in your business. By picking up on core booking information and interactions, you can develop relationships that result in repeat business.

Wedding venues for example, know it’s unlikely they’ll get a repeat wedding booking from a recent bride. However that bride will have spent months comparing your venue with alternatives before booking, so clearly LOVES your location.

Email marketing gives you the perfect opportunity to make her feel special and remembered. People who feel valued, are both likely to book on another occasion and recommend your business! For example, how about emailing the bride just before her wedding anniversary, inviting her to an exclusive dining experience to relive their special day?

Exclusivity is a big deal in hospitality email marketing. At LeadDigital one of our clients is the luxury London private yacht company, Woods’ Silver Fleet. Their brand is associated with hosting luxurious functions & celebrations on the Thames, and LeadDigital are responsible for their email marketing strategy. Our greatest email successes for Silver Fleet have come from targeted, personalised invites which make previous clients feel remembered and important.

Conclusion

Email marketing for repeat custom can generate impressive revenue returns for your hospitality brand. Making your past customers feel special and taking a personal approach to communication builds trust & loyalty, resulting in more ticket sales, bookings and event enquiries!

LeadDigital are officially recognised email marketing experts, with over 20 years email marketing experience, specialising in strategies that increase revenue and grow customer loyalty. Need to improve your email marketing profit, then speak to us – we can audit current processes, develop a bespoke strategy and help you get the most from email!

 

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References

[1] The Importance Of Repeat Customers. SumAll. 5 April 2013
[2] Customer Retention Is King. Forbes. 21 January 2015
[3] Email Statistics Report 2017-2021. The Radicati Group. February

How to Increase Sales with Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing has become one of the most effective marketing methods for generating business online. It is becoming the go to hospitality marketing strategy – helping luxury hotels, restaurants and event companies to generate new bookings and sales, across the UK.

This article looks at the initial stage of the inbound hospitality marketing methodology of attracting potential customers to your website.

So, how can inbound marketing help your hospitality business increase sales?

Firstly, let’s establish what inbound marketing is.

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What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound is all about producing content that your prospective customers find interesting and helpful. It is a method of attracting your potential customers to your website and raising awareness of your brand and service offerings. This is what is known as a “non-intrusive” marketing method, achieved through content channels such as;

  • Blogs
  • Social Media
  • Landing Pages
  • Videos
  • E-Newsletters and more…

These all contribute towards your inbound marketing strategy for attracting customers to your service or product. This content, created with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) fundamentals at it’s foundation, focuses on answering questions you know your potential customers may be searching the internet for, before making a buying decision.

Aiming your content towards answering specific customer queries with relevant and optimised information will generate a high ranking on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This in turn, will drive interaction from your target audience with your website. Which, if set up correctly, will work for you – converting your visitors into customers.

Not only is this a highly effective method for generating new bookings and sales, but it is also extremely cost-effective in comparison to other marketing methods such as paid advertising. With both inbound and paid advertising, you pay for the time and resources to create your content. But with paid advertising, you also pay to appear above the natural, search engine optimised, results. Once you stop paying, you stop appearing.

With inbound marketing, the content you create keeps working for you long after the initial cost of the resources it took to create it. If your potential customers keep searching for the relevant terms covered by your content and your website proves to be the destination for their search queries, you’ll keep appearing atop the results pages.

How does it work for Hospitality Businesses?

More and more hospitality companies are buying into the inbound marketing methodology, creating content to attract more qualified visitors and drive more direct bookings and sales from their websites. Here are the first steps in attracting the right visitors (potential customers) to your website and making them aware of your brand and service offering:

1. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Optimise your website so that Google and other Search Engines can easily understand what your website is about (known as indexing). You can achieve this by ensuring relevant keywords (industry terminology) for your service, page titles and user-friendly URLs are used throughout your site. The result will be a higher ranking on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), making you more visible to your potential customers when they are looking for the answers you’re providing.

2. Blogging

While you may be limited to a number of pages, based on the number of services or products you provide, blogs allow for infinite content creation on anything and everything. Create content on subjects you know are of interest to potential customers, based on experience with existing and past customers. Giving them insight and helpful information will influence the buying decision when the time is right.

Example:

If you run a restaurant or hotel – creating content covering the best things to do in the area your business is situated in, may attract an audience researching what to do when visiting that area. This transforms what was a stranger, to your business, into a visitor and will raise the awareness of your brand and services.

Regular and frequent blog posts also show that the site is active and “fresh”, which has a positive impact on Google rankings, according to Moz.

3. Social Media Publishing

While creating optimised, keyword rich content is a great start, it isn’t enough on it’s own. You need to be actively promoting content and reaching your customers in the world they inhabit on a daily basis, the land of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Having a consistent social media presence, and including the right hashtags, can keep you in the forefront of your potential customer’s mind. Plus, on social platforms the users have the opportunity to share articles of interest with their network, extending your reach even further.

No matter what life cycle stage your Luxury Events, Transportation, Bar, Hotel or Restaurant company is currently in, you will have looked at multiple marketing strategies for your business. Inbound is one of the most effective hospitality marketing methods for attracting more highly qualified visitors to your website, which leads to better conversion rates and ultimately more direct bookings and sales.

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