Bob Diener is not intimidated by the competition. Despite the abundance of travel industry websites, Diener, the co-founder of Hotels.com, has recently launched a new online travel site called GetaRoom.com.
He gives BusinessNewsDaily readers advice on how to succeed in an already crowded market.
Carve out a niche and strive for innovation. — First, decide what it is that you want your business to be. Are you looking to one day claim the largest market share of any company in your industry, or is being the top player in a smaller niche your ultimate goal? The answer to this is critical, as the former would certainly involve higher risks, a much more sizable budget and stiffer competition. Getaroom.com's strategy isn't to stuff as many hotels it can find into its portfolio; instead, the company focuses mainly on offering discounts at boutique hotels and rental properties.
But this is far from enough. In order to cut through the clutter, companies must be on the cutting edge of innovation.
Maintain a customer service focus. — Every enterprising business owner knows that maintaining a high level of customer service is integral to any company's success. While other players in the online travel industry continue to outsource customer service operations, Getaroom.com has kept all of its call center agents in the U.S. Having customers fill out customer satisfaction surveys goes a long way in helping companies determine areas for improvement. You can also solicit testimonials and designate a page on your website just for them.
Develop your business around the needs of consumers. — Getaroom.com is continuously searching for new and improved ways to sell and market its product. One of the key advantages to being a startup is the ability to respond quickly to the ever-changing needs of consumers, a sharp contrast to the bureaucracy that bogs down many larger organizations. The choice of a company name, for example, could have huge implications on the success of a fledgling business. Take Getaroom.com, which was originally named RoomValues.com when it was founded in 2009. Focus groups revealed that the former name didn't strike a chord with consumers, thus prompting the company to rebrand. Soon to follow was the rollout of a $10 million advertising campaign highlighted by lively television commercials touting its unpublished rate program.
Build strong relationships. — As the oft-repeated adage goes: "Two (or more) heads are better than one." Any time you can work jointly with other companies to deliver a better user experience, everybody wins. For its part, Getaroom.com works closely with hotel partners to put out special promotions, including 72-hour sales and Facebook contests, that serve to generate brand excitement and cultivate a loyal customer base. In addition, Getaroom.com forges affiliate partnerships with third parties that specialize in niches, from companies that focus solely on Las Vegas lodging to those that only provide budget accommodations. Such relationships will not only combine your company's strengths with those of your partners, but they'll help set you apart from the competition and in turn translate into increased sales.
Leverage resources and exploit all marketing opportunities. — In order to cut through the clutter, your brand has to be visible, and this entails investing in marketing and public relations. Diener himself travels around the country and the world to promote hotel deals in major markets, including New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and London. And he is a regular guest on such cable news channels as Fox, CNBC and CNN, as well as major radio stations. Even if appearing in the media is out of your price range, you can still participate in industry conferences and trade shows to raise awareness of your business.
It's important that small businesses harness the power of the Internet and capitalize on low-cost channels, including mobile, e-mail and social media. In order to turn prospects into customers, you must provide them with added incentives for choosing your product over that of competitors.