07 Jun 2017

How to Use Psychology to Drive Bookings

The internet has created a double-edged sword for resorts, lodges, and properties everywhere. On the one hand, the internet has leveled the playing field—it has allowed the little guys to finally compete with the big guys. On the other hand, it has made competition fiercer than ever. Today, it’s both easier and harder than ever to attract travelers to your website, get them to stay, and persuade them to book a reservation with you.

In the past, I’ve written articles that aim to help you attract more people to your website, articles that can help you build a more successful team of reservation agents, and articles that help you understand how to leverage past guests to drive resort awareness, but I haven’t spent as much time writing about how to actually persuade travelers to convert once they find you.

I’m going to dig deeper into that area today by sharing 6 psychology-based techniques that you can use to influence human behavior and drive more confirmed reservations at your property this year.

Technique #1: Social Proof

The first technique is all about leveraging social proof to connect with your audience. Social proof is, as Buffer defines it, the idea that “people will conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior.”

It’s a relatively simple concept: to convince people to book a reservation with you, provide them with examples and content from or about other people who have happily done so in the past.

In a post titled, Social Proof: Your Key to More Magnetic Marketing, author Barry Feldman describes 5 types of social proof that companies typically use to influence consumers:

  1. Expert Social Proof: Thoughts or opinions from a well-known influencer or celebrity from a particular industry about something that relates to that same industry.
  2. Celebrity Social Proof: Thoughts or opinions from a well-known celebrity about a product or company.
  3. User Social Proof: Reviews, testimonials, and honest feedback that you collect from your customers (or in our case, guests) and share with prospective customers.
  4. Wisdom of the Crowd: Highlighting specific numbers in order to show how popular your offering has been.
  5. Wisdom of Friends: Thoughts and opinions about a business that come directly from friends, family members, and other people you’re connected to online.

So, the question is, how can you use the concept of social proof to drive more reservations at your property? Here are some ideas:

  • Idea #1: Leverage Testimonials & Reviews – Ask happy guests to leave reviews on your website or send you a testimonial to use in your marketing material. Include real reviews from your guests on your website, in email marketing campaigns, in social media and banner ads, and anywhere else that prospective guests might go to learn more about your property.
  • Idea #2: Work with Travel Bloggers – Invite travel bloggers to stay at your property and write an honest review about their experience. Do not pay or offer to pay them to write positive things about your resort—keep it authentic and the review objective. When the blogger publishes the review, share it with your social media followers and link to it on your website.
  • Idea #3: Use Real Numbers – Leverage the power of numbers in your marketing material. Let interested travelers know exactly how many happy travelers you’ve served, how many 5-star reviews you have, how many hours of vacation guests have experienced while staying at your property, etc.
  • Idea #4: Drive Word-of-Mouth – Encourage guests to share their photos, videos, and stories about your property with their friends on social media. Incentivize sharing by offering them perks like discounted meals, free day trip transportation, or other complimentary amenities you know they’ll love.

Remember: The key with social proof is to supplement your sales material with compelling content from or about your guests.

Technique #2: FOMO

Another way to drive more reservations is by making travelers feel like they’re missing out by not vacationing at your property. The concept you’re leveraging is referred to as FOMO (or fear-of-missing-out).

With this technique, your goal is to share content that makes travelers feel anxious about potentially missing out on the fantastic experiences that a lot of other people have had the opportunity to enjoy.

Here are some ideas that you can use to make travelers feel like they need to visit your property:

  • Idea #1: User-Generated Content – Feature photos and videos from happy guests on your social media pages. Instead of posting deals and specials, share stories and experiences from past guests to convince interested travelers that they could experience something similar by staying at your resort.
  • Idea #2: Best of Travel Lists – Find annual “Best of” or “Top 10” travel and vacation lists published by travel bloggers and see if you can get your property listed. All you need to do is find a list that gets updated or republished every year, reach out to the editor, and see what needs to happen in order for you to be featured in the article.
  • Idea #3: Urgency/Scarcity – Make interested travelers feel like they only have a small window of time to book a reservation with you by creating urgency/scarcity. This can be done by letting travelers know how many reservations are still available until the end of the season, or by promoting a special deal that expires after a short period of time.
  • Idea #4: Amazing Visuals – Hire professional photographers, videographers, and designers to help you create amazing, high-quality visuals of your resort. People who book reservations online don’t want to be surprised—give them the complete picture and show them what makes your property worth visiting.
  • Idea #5: Something Quirky – These days, millennials and young people are motivated by unique experiences and services. They want Instagrammable moments. Create some sort of quirky experience that travelers can only get at your resort (a food dish, a day trip, a special amenity), then plug it on social media sites in an effort to drive awareness and FOMO.

Remember: In order for FOMO to work to your advantage, you have to really sell people on the unique experiences they’ll get by staying at your property—experiences they can’t get anywhere else.

Technique #3: Reciprocity

Reciprocity is another technique you can use to persuade interested travelers to book reservations with you. The concept behind this technique is simple: you give something to interested travelers up front in an effort to make them feel like they should return the favor.

Here’s how to make this work at your property:

  • Option A: Offer Something First – Present interested travelers with a free gift just for talking to you or requesting more information about your property. For example, you could email digital gift cards to local shops in the area to interested travelers. Alternatively, you could mail them an actual care package with items from the surrounding area (food, postcards, a t-shirt, etc.).
  • Option B: Offer Something Special – Present interested travelers with something they won’t find anywhere else. For example, you could send them a personalized gift that you have custom ordered for interested guests (ex. personalized photo album, personalized mug by a local artist, a complimentary day-trip package designed just for them).

The trick to successfully implementing this tactic is to obviously not go overboard when it comes to cost. Just remember: it’s not about spending a lot of money—it’s about the gesture. If you can make your interested travelers feel like you legitimately care about them enough to give them something for free, they could end up feeling like they owe it to you to book a stay at your property.

Technique #4: Storytelling

To convince people to stay at your property, you need to tell stories. I’ve mentioned storytelling in a few other posts on this blog, and hinted at it a few times in this article itself, for one main reason: it’s an extremely effective way to connect with people and get them to take action.

Human beings love storytelling, and they need stories in order to relate to other people. In an article titled, The Psychology of Stories: The Storytelling Formula Our Brains Crave, Hubspot explains it in the following way:

“Your brain is programmed to recognize patterns of information (human faces, letters, music notes, etc.) and assign them meaning (your mother’s face, the alphabet, the Star Spangled Banner, etc.). Stories, too, are recognizable patterns, and we use them to find meaning in the world around us. We see ourselves in them, and the stories we hear become personal to us.”

As a property manager, you should be actively and proactively capturing and telling stories about:

  • Your Property – tell stories that help interested travelers imagine themselves staying at your property and enjoying all the amenities you have to offer.
  • Your Location – tell stories that help educate people about the surrounding area and what makes it special or unique.
  • Your Staff – tell stories about your employees and your dedication to customer service.
  • Your Guests – feature stories about and from your happy guests.
  • Your Unique Offerings – tell stories that help travelers realize what kind of unique experiences they could have and memories they could create were they to stay at your property.

Remember: In order for storytelling to be effective, you have to connect with travelers on an emotional level.

Technique #5: Framing

Framing is another simple psychology-backed technique that you can use to influence the behavior of interested travelers. Framing refers to the way in which you choose to describe information to your audience—you can either focus on the loss, or the gain. The good, or the bad. The positive, or the negative.

In his blog post about psychology and copywriting, Nick Kolenda provides the following very simple examples to illustrate how this concept works:

  • NEGATIVE: Don’t be late.
  • POSITIVE: Arrive on time.
  • NEGATIVE: Don’t drink excessively.
  • POSITIVE: Drink responsibly.
  • NEGATIVE: Don’t use negative frames.
  • POSITIVE: Use positive frames.

To persuade more travelers to book reservations at your property this year, think about framing when you’re writing copy for your website, social media ads, email marketing campaigns, and other marketing material.

For example, you could focus on the positive and use phrases like:

  • “An experience you’ll never forget!”
  • “The best resort you’ll ever stay at!”
  • “We take care of our guests like we take care of our family members!”

Or, you could focus on the negative and use phrases like:

  • “Don’t miss out on an unforgettable vacation!”
  • “Don’t settle for average—stay with us instead!’
  • “Don’t plan a vacation you’ll regret!”

It’s worth testing both positive and negative framing to determine what resonates most with your audience.

Technique #6: Personalization

The final psychology-backed technique worth trying to drive more reservations at your property this year is all about personalization. These days, online travelers, and online consumers in general, are absolutely inundated with marketing messaging, junk mail, social media ads, and phone calls from companies interested in getting their money. They’ve learned how to tune out the spam—they know what to pay attention to and what to ignore. One of the best ways you can cut through the noise is by offering a little personalization when engaging with prospective guests.

A good place to start is with the email marketing campaigns you’re sending out. Are you taking the time to incorporate first names into the mass email marketing campaigns you send out? Or does the message you send look and sound the same to every person who opens it? If you aren’t using personalized greetings or subject lines in your email marketing campaigns, start now. It’s an easy way to show prospective guests that you care enough to know and use their actual name when communicating with them.

You can also incorporate personalization into the phone calls your reservation agents are making to prospective or past guests. Build rapport by asking them informal questions when you’re talking to them on the phone, taking and saving notes, then referencing past conversations and notes when you follow-up with them again in the future.

Remember: Your goal is to nurture relationships with prospects and make them feel like you already know them well before they’ve ever even decided to stay with you.

Over to You

What other techniques do you plan on testing to drive more reservations at your property in the months ahead? Tell me in the comments below.


Ryan Bailey