So we all think that the threat to our business might be Booking.com or perhaps the start of a new recession… Maybe it’s Brexit, AirBnB or even Donald Trump (please not!!!) But really, I feel that the real threat to us all is our customers need for something different, something ‘quirky’.
One of the best examples of this is found within all of those hotels that have the joy and pain of enduring wedding business. Love it or hate it, aren’t those brides getting evermore demanding! Since when did guests need to be entertained at every moment of the day??? Now we have face painters, sweetie carts, singing opera waiters, balloon makers, blow up guitars as dancing props (seriously!). Never mind the gypsy violinist, doves, magicians and 4 different dress changes! Exhausting!
These brides all want to be ‘different’; to stand out from all the other brides that have gone before them and to do that, their demands are getting harder and harder to meet and lets face it, unless they plan to get married on the Moon, almost all of this stuff has been done before, so how do we make them feel that they are ‘quirky’, ‘different’, ‘unique’ ?
The trick for me is to convince them right at the get-go that they don’t have to take their wedding to a barn in the country, a teepee on the beach, or to a marquee in a country estate, we can actually do ‘quirky’ right here and guess what, we can do it better. We are all hoteliers and welcoming and serving guests is what we do best, so we need to make sure that those lovely brides see that. We also provide what most of these other venues don’t – rooms! So we can accommodate all her guests in one place – perfect!
But if we get back to the properties that are less wedding and more corporate or transient focused, how to we stand out from the crowd? How within this crowded space and a strong competitive set do we make ourselves noticed? Well the key is ‘differentiation’.
Lets take a room in a Holiday Inn and one in a Hilton:
Can you actually tell which is which? I doubt it. Maybe it is because most of the brands have ended up selling a commodity: a room and a uniform level of service. Perhaps we as independent hotels need to understand that we do things differently and that should be our unique selling point. We of course still have a competitive set and our guests can choose wherever they like to stay so we need to make every part of our customer journey emotive.
First of all, figure out where your brand sits and should you fight this battle on cost or experience? If it is cost then learn from the masters and look at the RyanAir and EasyJet modelling.
If it is experience then it is not often I suggest starting at the end of the story but bear with me… Go straight to your review sites and ascertain why your guests actually chose your hotel over others. Are they here for the nightlife? Culture? Beach? History? Food? Family Fun? Who is your customer and who should you be marketing to?
Then look at your guest profiles and learn and understand your customer demographics. You might well be surprised. I asked a hotel recently who they felt their customer was and they said ‘couples in their 40’s, here for a romantic break’. Well it turns out is was girls in their 30’s and mothers and daughters looking for a little pampering in the spa and spending some quality time together. So of course that changes the market mix and therefore the strategy.
Once you have established who your guests are, work out what you could do to make their stay more special. Lets face it, in a few months time, very few will remember the facilities in the room but they will remember the service and those ‘moments that you turned into memories…’
So what is your ‘moment?’ It will be different for all of you but some suggestions:
- If you are located somewhere that is famous for food, then why not showcase local artesian suppliers or better still, what you do fabulously well: Jam, chutney, macaroons, pastries or cakes that have a story attached so that your guests can understand and experience. Make them feel part of that story and engaged with you.
- If you are family orientated, how about a pack showing things to do for families when it rains or perhaps tickets to a local family orientated attraction or even cookies and milk delivered
- I have one hotel who places a teddy in the room when families check in and the kids have to find where the house-keeper has hidden it. Genius!
- Maybe encourage the families to take the teddy out with them and upload pictures of ‘teddy having fun’ on your social media pages – fun and interactive
- If you cater for the young and lively, then why not information on events or a complimentary cocktail
- For those ‘techie’ hotels why not make sure they have all the latest gadgets available
Just remember that you don’t have to, and shouldn’t be marketing to everyone. Know your demographics and create a story… Stories get told and shared and in todays world that means online and we all know how powerful that can be.
Now your challenge is to find your ‘Quirky’ and to turn that ‘moment into a memory’, so get your thinking cap on!