What would happen if you re-branded a hotel’s event room as a unique venue – completely separate from the hotel brand? Could the event space compete with boutique venues?
While associating with a brand has huge perks for transient business and corporate group bookings, it is not always as beneficial for booking social events like weddings.
Put yourself in the shoes of a newly engaged couple looking for a chic venue for their upcoming wedding. Would you want to host your wedding at a “cookie-cutter” venue you have seen a million times? Or would you prefer a unique venue your guests will talk about for years to come? Thanks to channels like Pinterest and Instagram, we celebrate individuality and enjoy showcasing our creativity. “Boutique” is in, “standard” is out, and people associate parties in hotel ballrooms with outdated carpeting and bland food. Hosting an event at a Crowne Plaza? Okay. Hosting an event at a sleek, penthouse-style venue overlooking Atlanta’s Skyline? That’s exciting!
That is the hard truth many hoteliers see but do not know how to address. Bill Spicer, DOS of the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown, and the Blue Magnet team figured out a lucrative solution.
This is the inside scoop of how we helped rebrand a hotel event space called “The SKY Room” with a new microsite, promoted it with a strategic PPC campaign, and made the hotel almost $100,000 in event bookings in just the first three months of the campaign. The momentum remains strong and unwavering ever since.
In 2016, the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown faced a frustrating realization: they only booked nine social events for the entire year. They had the capacity for so much more.
The hotel had just come out of renovations, is located in the heart of Atlanta, and had what many hoteliers would deem as several “typical” event spaces. One of these spaces happens to be on the 25th floor and features stunning views of the Atlanta skyline. Despite the views, it was difficult to sell the space with the content and photo limitations on the Crowne Plaza brand site. Even on the hotel’s independent site, the event space was still tied to the Crowne Plaza brand name – a connection that helps with group and transient business but hurts in the land of social events.
Needless to say, they were in a rut. Victim to society’s negative outlook on hotel ballrooms and stuck with empty event spaces eager to be filled.
How does a hotel that only hosted nine social events in 2016 increase event bookings the following year? Change people’s expectations for the space.
Plant the idea in people’s minds that this not an ordinary hotel ballroom. It is a one-of-a-kind venue that will have a large impact on the tone of the event, one that is on par with the edgy boutique venues in the area.
When it comes to social events, people buy with their emotions. It is imperative to appeal to those emotions. Tug on heartstrings. People will want to book your space not because it is large enough, cost-effective, and conveniently located, but because they imagine their event there and nowhere else. They have already planned out their event in their mind and it is no longer a question of IF they will have their event there; the question is WHEN.
The Proposed Solution
Our idea was to dedicate an independent, microsite to the event space on the 25th floor and brand it as a boutique venue, separate from the hotel. Action items included designing a logo for the space, creating new menus with the logo, investing in new photography and VR views to showcase the space in all its splendor, and promoting the microsite through a well thought out Adwords campaign.
Building an independent microsite specifically for the venue allowed Blue Magnet to sell the event space on the 25th floor, named the “SKY Room” in new ways we could not have on the hotel’s site. As Don Angelo expressed in his article on generating more event space leads, “Building an independent website for your property allows you to control both the universal design and individual elements of your site.”
On the brand site, the SKY Room is not extraordinary. The space becomes muddled with the other spaces within the hotel. All luster is lost in among PDFs named “Static Floor Plans” and “Layouts and Capacities” and in a gallery of small, uninspiring photos. There is no room to digitally pull at people’s heartstrings or help them imagine what their event will look like. It is also difficult to rank for niche keywords with only one page dedicated to absolutely all event bookings.
On the Blue Magnet-built and managed hotel vanity site, the unique SKY Room landing page showcased the space a lot better than the brand site could, yet the space is still bound to the Crowne Plaza brand colors, logo, and menus.(During the test phase, this landing page performed extremely well and served as data-driven evidence that a microsite would perform just as well, if not better.)
Now let’s talk about the SKY Room microsite itself. Blue Magnet created an HTML5 template that worked perfectly for the SKY Room. Our team designed the template so the photos “do all the talking,” which is exactly what you need to sell an event space, especially one with incredible views. You need showmanship.
Our team wanted the user experience to be natural and fluid, not choppy and forced. Rather than providing text and then a separate gallery like many sites do, the template sprinkles photos throughout the entire site so there is no need to sift through a gallery. The whole microsite is its own gallery.
The HTML5 microsite also allowed the hotel to use 360 degree VR tours to sell the space, a feature that is impossible to implement on the brand site but provides impressive marketing value to an event website.
Blue Magnet Senior Project Manager, Brian Surdel said it best in his VR media article, “People’s time spent online is a valuable currency for a website. Your goal should be to prove to users your site is the most unique and enriching experience they can have, and the next cutting edge tool to do this is virtual reality.” At this time, there are very few articles demonstrating the ROI of such VR because most applications of this tool are used for large branding campaigns without a definitive KPI other than engagement and experience time. However, the unique SKY Room campaign allowed Blue Magnet to collect more easily attributed ROI of VR technology as it relates to generating leads for event spaces.
In the first three months post-launch, analytics showed many of the site’s visitors submitted RFP forms immediately after viewing the VR tours.
The Analytics screenshot above shows the most popular path throughout the SKY Room site within the first three months of the campaign. Of the 433 people who landed on the ‘Home’ Page first, 137 people then navigated the ‘Our Space’ page to learn about the venue. Of that 137 people, 75 navigated the ‘VR’ page to the space using the VR tours either on a headset, desktop, or mobile device. Finally, of the 75 people who viewed the VR tours, 63 of them navigated to the ‘RFP’ page to submit an event inquiry immediately afterwards! That’s 84%! Even if only a third of those people submitted an RFP, that’s still a 28% conversion rate.
Using data from the initial SKY Room landing page on the hotel’s independent site and conducting additional research on search volume, competitors, and more, Blue Magnet determined the best keywords the pages on the SKY Room site should target.
One challenge was making sure the pages on the site did not compete with each other OR the SKY Room landing page on the vanity site in SERPs. We needed to carefully determine which page should target each term and do it in such a way that each page on each site was unique from one another. Putting together the best metadata and page content for two websites was a delicate process that took the precision of a scientist and the ingenuity of an artist. This way, the hotel gains more business without watering down the effectiveness of both pages.
The final piece of the puzzle was implementing a strong PPC campaign that generated highly-qualified traffic to the site, allocating more spend during the peak season of December/January and less, but still steady spend throughout the remainder of the year.
When we look at search term trends for wedding rings and wedding venues, we the same patterns year after year. Wedding ring search terms spike around Thanksgiving when people are home, asking parents for permission to wed their beloved, getting familial pressures to propose, etc. Wedding venue terms spike during the two weeks surrounding Christmas and Hanukkah because so many people propose around the holidays and eager couples hurry to lock in their venues and wedding dates.
Blue Magnet’s PPC experts used these data trends to get the timing right with the launch of the campaign (mid-December) and to allocate the hotel’s ad spend strategically for the most ROI for wedding bookings.
In the first three months, we were able to tell which search terms generated the most conversions and which ones fall a little flat. We used that information to allocate the hotel’s ad spend for optimal results moving forward. While every month is a little different due to seasonality, the SKY Room’s PPC ads have a whopping 9% conversion rate, on average.
Here is the moment you have been waiting for with baited breath: the hard results. *Results shown here are from the first three months of the SKY Room campaign going live.
The SKY Room Campaign generated 191 RFPs for the hotel. Compared to the 70 RFPs they received during the same period last year, the hotel saw a 172% YOY increase in event leads as a result.
The SKY Room Campaign booked 11 events. Eight events were for scheduled for 2017 and two were scheduled for 2018. For context, compare just these three months to the whole of the previous year. The hotel only saw nine event booking during the whole of 2016, where as the SKY Room campaign helped the hotel gain 11 event bookings in just three months!
The catering team saw a 35% increase in event inquiries, leading over 85 site tours in that three month time span.
Finally, In just the first three months of the SKY Room Campaign, the hotel converted between $90,000 – $100,000 in event revenue, with more leads in the pipeline.
The hotel made more revenue in social event bookings in the first three months of the 2017 SKY Room Campaign than they made in the entirety of 2016.
What We Learned
There is no doubt that the SKY Room Campaign proved to be a successful solution to the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown’s event booking pickle, but what can other hoteliers and digital marketers take away from this?
- With a proper strategy in place, hotels can compete with boutique event venues.
- Evidence supports that VR photography on a venue website increases conversions since the VR tour page was often the last touched page before several RFP submissions.
- Hotels should research wedding and event trends and use their findings to make strategic decisions in their PPC campaigns.
Of course, every hotel is different and what works for one hotel may not work for another. Blue Magnet dedicates the time and care to understanding each hotel we work with and customize solutions that will work for them.
If you are in the hospitality industry and looking to learn more about Blue Magnet Interactive and how we can work together to find solutions and make your visions a reality, check out our website or contact us. We are excited to meet you!