While not common to every bed and breakfast or vacation rental, business travelers can be the bread and butter of your business if targeted properly.
Many hospitality professionals feel marketing to business travelers is simply a matter of targeting them.
The most important thing to focus on with b&b, vacation rental or luxury hotel marketing is to keep the business travelers already staying with you.
The rest will follow.
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Why Does the Lodging Industry Love Business Travelers?
Hosting business travelers is nice work, if you can keep it. Business travelers are:
They consistently stay on your property. Their business is reliable year-round, and not dependent on the season or weather as is the case with leisure travelers. Besides, business travelers are often the only business on weekdays.
Once a business traveler guest gets used to a place, they will become loyal to that business. There can be many reasons other than actual loyalty for a business traveler to stay at your property. That said, the behavior is the same no matter how they arrive there.
3) Easy to Please
Business travelers, to quote one bed and breakfast owner are, “in late, out early, and don’t spend a lot of time in the room, which cuts-down on wear-and-tear and use of facilities”. Especially if the price is right, business travelers are often more than willing to overlook an okay experience in exchange for a good deal or a reliable experience. Note that business travelers aren’t desperate, and a consistently okay experience is very different from a single bad experience.
4) Not Price Sensitive
In line with the above, companies are usually the ones footing the bill for stays at lodging establishments. As such, attempts to bargain-down the rate historically were rare.
The Business Travel Industry Continues to Grow
Since the Recession, the business travel industry is projected to continue to expand. According to the Global Business Travel Association, in 2015 $1.25 Trillion was spent on business travel globally. That was a 6.5% increase over 2014, and growth is projected to exceed 6% until 2018.
Other trends are also encouraging for marketing to business travelers: research shows that business travelers are staying longer in places when they travel. Travel costs increased 14% in 2015 versus 2014, largely because the average length of business trave stay increased to 3 days.
New and Old Challenges of Marketing to Business Travelers
A changing marketplace has provided both challenges and opportunities for attracting business traveler customers to independent properties like boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals.
Historical Problems Attracting Business Traveler Customers
In the past, the assumption (both in real life and in movies) of business travel was that these road warriors holed-up in sad, drab, chain hotels when they traveled.
This was largely due to the simple fact that it was easier all around to book at chain hotels:
- They provided a consistent experience from beginning to end, regardless of where the guest was staying in town or in the country
- They offered full-service amenities such as restaurants, gyms, spas, business and conference space
- It was easier to book at them, as travel agents could simply find and call the nearest Marriott, Hyatt, or other chain hotel for Mr. Smith’s trip to Detroit and save Mr. Smith the trouble of researching himself
Remember how hard researching travel was to do before the Internet?
Today, independent lodging businesses enjoy fantastic new opportunities, but some new challenges to match.
Well, Guess It’s Time to Update Our SWOT Analysis
Booking business travel has become significantly easier, caused by:
- Dominance of online travel agencies
- Travelers (both business and leisure) using mobile devices to make travel arrangements
- The explosion of the sharing economy, exemplified by new companies like Airbnb and Uber
Airbnb especially has done a fantastic job of shifting perceptions of bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals from beings solely for leisure travelers to also being options for business travelers.
One thing that has not worked well for Airbnb in their venture to crack the business travel market is their inability to provide a consistent experience at all their properties.
That’s where you come in!
So chain hotels have lost their almost monopolistic hold on business travelers. But more opportunities to attract business travelers away from chain hotels also means competitors can do the same to you. There are plenty of opportunities to lose business travelers to a competitor that’s more amenable to their specific needs. Follow the business mantra of working to put yourself out of business to save your company, and you’ll be ready to take-on this challenge.
To Catch the Business Traveler, One Must Become the Business Traveler
But one does need to better understand and empathize with them and their experience while traveling.
So first, it’s important to understand differences between business travelers and leisure travelers.
What Do Leisure Travelers Want in a Hotel?
To some degree, leisure travelers want different things to business travelers. As such, marketing to these two groups is very different.
Leisure travelers are looking for an experience when they arrive at an independent lodging business like a bed and breakfast, boutique hotel, or vacation rental. They want to experience your unique location and show-off their experience to friends when they get back home, either via:
- A good ol’ fashioned slideshow
Leisure travelers want an experience unique to them, be it:
- A mix of the above, or others
And usually don’t care that you can host business retreats. As such, hospitality marketing services like email marketing, search engine optimization, social media, and blogging are all effective ways of roping-in these guests.
What Do Business Travelers Want in a Hotel?
So the next (obvious, if you’re actually still reading this) question is: what do corporate travelers want when they travel?
The simplest answer? Control of their own environment.
Think about it: Business travelers are usually forced to travel away from the homes they know and love (or at least, choose to be, as opposed to your hometown). While traveling for business once or twice can be fun and exciting, the 250th or so trip is not.
How do you as an independent hospitality business win brownie points with this cohort of overworked, red-eye traveling, zombified travelers? Give them collectively as much consistent control over their traveling experience as possible.
Sound overwhelming? You’re not the only one, hence the need for this super long article.
Continue on your literary journey to learn more, dear readers.
Understanding Business Travelers Needs and Wants, Course 101
Attracting business travelers to stay at your property will be a waste of your limited resources if you don’t provide the amenities they need and want when they stay.
Before diving into a list of best practices, first recommendation would be to do some market research.
WAIT, WHAT IS MARKET RESEARCH!?!?!
In this particular case, it’s asking business travelers what they’re looking for when they travel.
Do you not want to spend a fortune paying someone else to create a focus group to ask all kinds of questions? Yeah, that sounds like a waste of time.
But an easier thing to do is ask business travelers that already stay with you.
Most people love to talk about themselves. Asking them a couple pointed questions will make them like you more and provide some valuable information.
This will give you some perspective:
- If you don’t have any current business travelers that regularly stay with you, it may be a sign that your business may not be suitable for business travelers. For example, you’re in a remote, rural location far away from any headquarters business travelers would be traveling to visit.
- Getting a consistent list of reasons business travelers like staying with you will help keep you from killing the goose that laid the golden egg. In this case, getting rid of something they really like about your property, or ensuring that you highlight a major selling feature to future visitors to your property.
If your property isn’t ideal for business travelers, that is definitely not a cause for despair. You can adjust your bed and breakfast marketing strategy to target other portions of the travel industry, like leisure travelers.
Top Hotel Amenities for Business Travelers for You to Steal
Ready for an exhaustive list? Alright, then…
1) Location, Location, Location
This is one of the most important amenities (besides cleanliness) that your boutique hotel, vacation rental, or bed and breakfast needs to offer. Marketing to business travelers is pointless if there’s nothing near you that they want to be near, such as:
- Places of business, such as headquarters of corporations that bring-in employees for trainings or in-office visits
- Downtown of your city or town and everything that it entails, like restaurants and activities like bars
High-priced land in downtowns of cities is obviously not easily stolen from chain hotels. Usually, their parent company has much deeper pockets than you. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.
Luck of the geographic draw may ensure that you’re closer than any of the hotels near Davidson College, for example. If that’s the case, make sure you highlight that you’re within walking distance of Davidson College in downtown Davidson, North Carolina. In this case, you are providing useful information to business travelers (or recruiters, vendors, or any other people with business at Davidson College). No shameless plugging of your company in that regard.
Providing useful, authoritative information is the foundation of hospitality content marketing, anyway.
2) Free, Fast, and Non-Frustrating WiFi
The need for WiFi is arguably more important to business travelers than location, though I have no statistical proof of that. I do have numbers on how important WiFi is to business travelers, however:
- 49% of business travelers consider free WiFi a deciding factor while deciding on their choice of hotel
- This makes sense, as business travelers spend more than 16 hours per day within range of WiFi.
- As such, 90% of business travelers expect there to be WiFi at hotels.
Even More Top Hotel Amenities for Business Travelers
Items and amenities that workers are expecting in their workplace are expected where they’re staying on business trips, too:
3) Readily Available Coffee
Some theorists argue our modern world was established with the abundant use of coffee to kick-start the Industrial Revolution. Coffee is necessary for many if not most in the business world. As such, business travelers want and need coffee in their lives, preferably all the time.
4) Readily Available Food
In the past, guests expected a restaurant on-site when they arrived at their business travel destination. Now, business travelers work too much to have time for that. In fact, business travelers work for more than 240 hours per year than the average American worker. 39% of business travelers work more hours when they travel than they do when they’re at the office (Source is still Leonardo).
While 4-star dining is lovely (if you have it), business travelers may be content with grab-and-go options. Include healthy choices in your easy-access bistro and travelers looking to avoid the battle of the bulge commonly fought by road warriors will thank you.
5) Business and Creature Comforts
The rest of this list isn’t exactly going to make or break the decision on the part of a business traveler about whether she’ll stay with you. Having as many of them on your list of amenities as possible can only help you though, obviously.
6) Easy, Convenient Parking and Proximity to Mass-Transit and Transportation
This fits in with the location requirement. While neither of these things are exactly items to highlight on a billboard advertisement, they’re still important to business travelers (and likely leisure travelers, too).
When marketing to business travelers, make sure to highlight these important amenities when potential guests are comparing you to competitors. If your lodging establishment is the best choice of the downtown hotels near Greenwich Hospital and the Greenwich Train Station, make sure that your hospitality marketing strategy highlights these key points.
7) Tables and Chairs, Et Cetera
You may not think of this on a regular basis, but business travelers will notice if you force them to go find basic business equipment. And losing them to go back to a chain hotel will be a major bummer if all you needed to save that relationship was a scanner.
Some more items important for meeting business travelers wants and needs include:
- Fax machine
- A good desk in the room
- Ergonomic desk chairs in the room
8) Other Creature Comforts Not Unique to Business Travelers
Other things on this list are not special for business travelers, or necessarily unique things to use when marketing to business travelers. Most of these hotel amenities are good to have for leisure travelers as well. However, to provide their perspective, these amenities are necessary for business travelers to impress their colleagues they’re visiting.
- Hair dryers
- Ironing boards and irons
- Full-length mirrors
- High quality bedding
- High quality toiletries (to save business travelers from stressing about what they packed)
And now a few additional suggestions for hotel amenities to use for targeting business travelers at your bed and breakfast, vacation rental, or boutique hotel. While not as common, these offerings feed further into the mental perception of business travelers at your place that they’re in control of their experience. Your level of attention to detail could blow them away and hook them as a long-term customer, to boot.
It’s not unusual to see corporate travelers concerned about their waistlines. Between long stretches of sitting down on flights and cars and eating whatever is readily available, it’s an uphill battle.
But helping them out will certainly win you brownie points. Some ideas to wellness-centered travel:
- Discount or complimentary access to a local gym
- In-house wellness kits with enough to do a simple, easy, and quick workout: yoga mats, resistance bands, etc
Make all aspects of planning and follow-up as easy as possible. Airbnb has bent-over backwards to make it easy for business travelers to plan their stay at one of their properties. It has also created an entire billing and invoice process for them. While an entire software solution isn’t necessary, offering itemized billing and invoices would certainly help.
No idea what that means?
That’s because I just made it up. But it makes sense, let me explain.
Corporate travelers often spend all day interacting with people:
- colleagues at the home office
- flight attendants
- Uber drivers
- you name it
Being forcibly pleasant with your front desk or property management staff may be painful to them by the time they check-in that evening.
So why force them to?
A non-traditional check-in experience permits business travelers to avoid interacting with anyone if they want, or vice versa. But the important thing is that it doesn’t force the guest to do so for basic things like getting into their room or unit or basic information. While this is a common expectation for bed and breakfasts and to a lesser degree some VRs, it doesn’t match with business travelers’ needs and wants, especially Millennial business travelers.
What could a non-traditional check-in experience look like on your property?
Switching from physical keys and locks to a setup in which guests can get in and out of their rooms and units without interacting with the front desk, or even touching a keycard.
Flexible Check-in and Check-out
Speaking of letting business travelers maintain control over their experience at your boutique hotel, vacation rental unit, or bed and breakfast, having some flexibility with when a guest arrives and leaves can work wonders for customer loyalty.
When a business traveler has a few hours between check-out time and when their flight leaves (or arrives hours before their room is normally available for check-in), figuring-out those gaps can be difficult for them.
Removing that hurdle can go a long way in making those guests love you, and could be well-worth the logistical nightmares that causes.
Some Suggestions for Vacation Rental Companies Specifically
To some degree, bed and breakfasts or boutique hotels can more easily recreate the corporate travel experience than vacation rental companies with their current business strategy. Some easily copied amenities for vacation rentals companies marketing to business travelers include:
- Concierge services
- Daily housekeeping
- Shop or cook for guests (as simple as having readily-available food delivery services, or an on-call cooking service)
Alright, NOW You Can Start Planning Your Strategy Marketing to Business Travelers
Once you know that you have a fantastic product for your target market, now is the time to start marketing to business travelers.
Not sure where to start targeting corporate travelers specifically?
A few hotel strategies to attract customers include:
- Get great reviews
- Loyalty scheme
- Mobile-optimized website & easy, immediate online bookings
- Targeted communications to business travelers
- Find business travelers where they go
While being strong on various aspects of hospitality marketing is important, important areas for marketing to business travelers include:
- Search engine optimization
- Search engine advertising
- Website design
- Email marketing
Get Great Reviews of Your Property
Just like the leisure traveler, corporate travelers want to know in advance what their experience at your establishment will be like. That said, their need for good reviews of your property is to not to deal with any surprises. A negative review will not necessarily translate to a deal breaker for them as it could a leisure traveler (that is, if all other things are equal).
Some important review sites that business travelers visit are national brands, such as:
- TripAdvisor business listings
- Yelp Reviews
- Google+ Reviews
Great reviews on these sites also provide benefits to your search engine optimization efforts. More on that later.
Offer a Loyalty Program for Business Travelers
Just because price is one element of a traveler’s decision to stay at your bed and breakfast, hotel, or vacation rental, doesn’t mean it should be the only one. While a discount is one option to offer in a loyalty program, the only real limit is your imagination (and what actually intrigues potential loyalty program members).
Scope out your competitors for ideas and what appears to already be working. To get your research going, try Googling for example, “(your location) hotels for business travelers”, for example, “downtown Denver lodging for business travelers“. Top results for that term are likely considered good answers to relevant searches, and therefore good places to start.
Visit those websites and see what they offer and then build something even better (rather than just copycatting):
- Amenities for travelers
- Free upgrades
- Free night after a certain number of nights or stays
- Free use of amenities
Keep in mind there is no perfect loyalty program. Experiment with your own and get feedback from customers on what’s working and what’s not.
Make your Browsing Experience Painless on Mobile Phones
The general public is using their phones more and more to surf the web, but business travelers are ahead of the curve. Think about smartphones to begin with: business travelers (and celebrities) were the first adopters of Blackberries before Apple rolled-out a solution better suited to casual users.
Nowadays, the average business traveler checks their smartphone 34 times per day. 59% of business travelers said they would feel disoriented, distraught, and lonely without smartphones for just a week (all statistics from the same Leonardo report).
Forcing business travelers to switch from their smartphones to a desktop to book (or worse, stop surfing and call you) takes control of their experience out of their hands and puts it in yours. Of course, some corporate travelers (or their assistants) may want to pick up the phone and call you to book. But if that seemingly small decision is a make or break for them (especially for Millennial corporate travelers), do you really want them to pan your business before they even get a full experience?
Ensure that the entire experience is a breeze on a mobile phone. That includes your booking engine, where bookers should be able to make easy and immediate online bookings.
As business travelers embrace mobile booking experiences (and shift back to booking direct), making that experience as painless as possible is a no brainer.
Targeted Communications to Business Travelers
Now that your property is optimized for business travelers to enjoy full control over their experience and you have business travelers already enjoying your place, it’s time to attract more!
The most important thing to remember is not to dilute your message. Business travelers don’t want to hear about a romantic or family-friendly experience at your property anymore than a couple looking for a romantic getaway wants to know that you’re a great place to conduct corporate meetings in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Business travelers usually travel during the week while family and romantic vacationers come on weekends. These groups likely won’t have to awkwardly interact on your property. Don’t force them to do that online. Target travelers differently, even down to having different pages on your website devoted to different target demographics.
As far as communication style goes, keep it straight-forward with a focus on descriptions, rather than emotion-provoking copywriting.
Don’t forget to highlight amenities important to business travelers:
- Items in your rooms or units
- Things they have access to (and especially anything available 24/7)
- What attractions, offices, restaurants, etc your property is near
If you have other amenities that may be of interest to subsets of business travelers, be sure to highlight these as well. Any amenities that would define you as one of the best boutique luxury hotels in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, in the eyes of your customers should be plastered wherever relevant on your website.
How Does All of This Relate to Content Marketing?
While a full suite of hospitality marketing services is the best way to attract hotel guests, business travelers are generally a more direct bunch. Here’s the breakdown of hospitality marketing services as offered by Q4Launch, and which to focus on when targeting corporate travelers:
As business travelers prefer descriptive language instead of emotional, this one’s not as useful. The majority of their experience at your property will be show up, sleep, get up, leave. Good luck painting an inviting picture of that experience in a well-written blog article.
Search Engine Optimization
Hospitality SEO is super useful. If you’re #1 in your area for terms that your target demographic searches, they’ll land on your website, get all the information they need, and book.
The simplest strategy would be to collect all relevant information for business travelers on one page. One great example is Sayre Mansion’s quick guide for corporate travelers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at their boutique hotel.
Re-read the section on the mobile booking experience if you’re not sure whether this matters for targeting this group.
Hospitality email marketing is highly effective for business travelers, as well. Don’t forget that communication must be targeted to them. Sending them an email about weddings risks being a major turn-off.
Social Media Management
This one… not so much.
While you need a strong social media game to catch corporate types when they’re avoiding work on Facebook and looking for their next weekend getaway, this wouldn’t be as effective for those planning a corporate trip. The one current possible exception could be LinkedIn, or Google+ depending on the industry (again, know your target demographic).
This can provide quick turn-around, and is similar to SEO. That said, a poorly managed campaign can be a huge waste of money with little return on investment.
Brand and Logo Design
Spoken from experience, business travelers don’t care about this. But that’s no excuse for having a bad brand identity.
What About Other Paid Advertising Channels When Marketing to Business Travelers?
This entirely depends on your location, so would be too broad to go in-depth. Look at where your competitors with a better business traveler targeting strategy are advertising. If they’re listed somewhere, you should research doing the same:
- Chamber of Commerce
- Convention Centers
- Visitors Bureaus
- Other relevant places
Alright, You’re Good to Go
And that’s everything you need to know to effectively market to business travelers.
Colin Pearson | Director of Marketing Services
Learn More About Me and Q4Launch on LinkedIn today!