Based out of Denver, HotelEngine has launched an exclusive hotel booking service focused on helping save time and offering discounted rates. It offers its services for free and is especially appealing to small to medium businesses that do not get the same business travel savings as many large corporations that book in bulk. We like them because not only do they provide a valuable service, they are also doing an excellent job of marketing as a small startup in an extremely competitive market. Check out their website here: www.hotelengine.com
As HotelEngine’s Brian Gerbetz said in our interview, “The proof is in the pudding.” Most customers who try the service enjoy it and find it useful. Getting potential customers to try the platform can be quite a challenge, especially as a lesser known startup. How do they move forward?
They know what’s not for them
HotelEngine’s social influence is important, but it is not as essential as it might be for a standard B2C (Business-to-Consumer) organization. They also find it hard to cost effectively compete for pay-per-click ad bids with so many other companies looking to advertise to “hotel booking” searchers. Ultimately, the hotel space is very competitive, and they managed to niche out their target customer base with a B2B (Business-to-Business) and SMB (Small-to-Medium-Sized-Business) focus. Since most potential customers are available via email, they look more toward targeted email outreach.
Focus on data intelligence
HotelEngine’s marketing team tries different outreach tools to shape their strategies to perfection based on what works best. Any inbound sourced prospects must submit an application and be approved before joining the service. All cold sales outreach is done after vigorously researching and pre-qualifying potential customers. Before sending an “invite to join” email, they find businesses that fit their criteria (number of employees, average annual hotel spend, etc.) and send them an “invite to join” email after generating a prebuilt account. The team integrated Marketo and Salesforce for automation of outreach but also to analyze their buyer personas. Overall, they were able to snowball their outreach by using better data intelligence to be more predictive and specific with their marketing. Focusing on a targeted email outreach strategy, they are able to not only improve their conversion rates, but also truly add value to a higher percentage of their prospects.
“What’s the catch” as a free booking platform
Offering a free service of this nature can often be difficult as a startup. This comes down to a question of legitimacy. First off, HotelEngine is precise with their messaging and not overly aggressive with their email sales pitches. Another thing that helps is social proof both through social media and media coverage. HotelEngine maintains a large social following online, boasting 800+ Facebook likes and 8000+ Twitter followers. Looking forward, they hope to be featured in blogs (like ours) and major publications. Easy to find recognition and reviews of HotelEngine services helps eliminate doubt for their potential customers.
HotelEngine has faced and overcome challenges that often stymie startup success. With so many choices open to us as marketers, knowing what path not to take can be really valuable, and HotelEngine has been able to use outreach tools like Marketo and Salesforce to make those choices. Qualifying prospects is hard, but HotelEngine’s online application makes the process seamless and provides valuable customer persona data along the way. Most of all, when you offer a service for free, there can be “what’s the catch” resistance that only social proof can conquer. We look forward to seeing this startup blossom.