TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring India-based web and social media training service HotelMarketingClub.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Arun K R has been in the marketing arena for past ten years in Dubai and India, during which he worked on online and offline marketing for real estate and banks including StanChart.
Sreenath G has previously worked at HCL Technologies and other software development firms in India on the development side.
We brought together partners from hotel and online marketing field to find a solution for hotel's online marketing which is growth-oriented, transparent and sustainable.
Most hotels we surveyed had burnt their money trying in-house and outsourced online marketing with unproven and half-baked techniques.
We realized that a cutting-edge online marketing training specialized for hotel marketers is a need today. Moreover, we also met many hoteliers, who didn't want training or in-house action; they're happy if someone can run their campaigns at a reasonable and transparent cost tied to performance. HotelMarketingClub is the result.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
No outside financial support. We bootstrapped it all - special thanks to low cost web services and social media. We are trying to leverage this same cost efficiency to service our hotel clients with limited budgets.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Direct bookings are the cheapest option adding more to hotels profits, and helping reduce dependence on costlier channels like OTAs.
Online marketing as a field is unpredictable due to enormous growth and technology changes. We offer a solution for both by bridging the knowledge gap of hotel staff as well as providing a performance-oriented online hotel marketing service.
Our goal is to grow any hotel's direct bookings in the least amount of time(our contracts are monthly 'pay as you go') through their own website.
We offer cutting edge online hotel marketing training, where hotel wants to run campaigns with in-house team. If we run their campaigns, we get paid only for the booking growth we bring to the table. Our 100% pay-for-performance(P4P) moneyback guarantee ensures that our member hotel never pays for below-par performance.
Describe the business, core products and services?
HotelMarketingClub offers a membership to any hotel looking at growing their direct bookings using online marketing. We offer full-fledged online hotel marketing training for hotel staff, which cover all major online channels to grow direct bookings.
- On and off-page search engine optimization
- Social media optimization
- Mobile marketing
- Email marketing
- Reputation management
- Conversions, tracking and analytics
Optionally, hotels may outsource the project to us, if their team can not handle the campaigns. We offer 100% moneyback guarantee on booking growth (yes, you read that right - it's not traffic growth or ranking growth!)
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
We signed up our first hotel client even before we had our website or office space, which gave us a huge confidence boost, that we're on the right track. Since we're under NDA, we can reveal names only after the contract period. Our Beta Program is currently open for new member hotels interested in our direct booking growth model.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Yes, we have done extensive survey of large and small esp. indepedent hoteliers before we zero-ed in on our current model. Some member hotels are currently trying our model under our Beta Program.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Our major revenue source would be new memberships and monthly renewal by existing members. Given our commitment to hotels on 100% P4P guarantee, we currently work on wafer-thin margins. But, we're lucky to be in India, where we can hire quality hotel management graduates and MBAs at great value.
The profits may have to wait till we sign up sizable number of new hotel members. But, we're in no hurry - we're proud to have introduced this new model where hotels can actually say 'good bye' to old-style traffic growth and ranking guarantees, and say hello to direct booking growth. It's a matter of time, when more hotels would find us out to sign up.
Till then, we're focused completely on growing our Beta member's business in every aspect.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Lean but knowledgeable and scalable team. Growing demand for performance marketing at lower costs.
- Growing talent costs could erode our advantage.
- HUGE. Online marketing is the biggest (and only?) growth area for hotels. Importance of Direct Bookings sinking into hoteliers quickly. In-house focus for lower costs leading to high demand for staff training.
Who advised you your idea isn’t going to be successful and why didn’t you listen to them?
- Hoteliers whose marketing mindset still exist in 90's.
Some wondered if our model was sustainable with the margins we work on. But, we think that could be our biggest advantage for which more hotels would join us and make us sustainable. We fill a huge gap, and are confident that hoteliers would come forward to join us.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
We'd call it a success, when our hotel members grow faster due to our training and techniques. We're planing a "State-of-our-Biz" kind of report twice a year - Tnooz would be the first few to get it. Wish us luck and growth!
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.