A Room with A Bed Isn’t Enough- 8 Ways to Future Proof Your Independent Boutique Hotel

As an independent hotelier, you are always looking for ways to provide the best in service to your guests. You want to give them the best experience so that they come back to you when they require your services again, and the way to build loyalty and a great hotel brand.

Largely, customers are seeking a personalized experience, and they definitely want to remain connected from the booking process all the way to check out. Trends like mobile check-in and checkout are growing in popularity, and Wi-Fi remains a most-wanted amenity for guests of all ages.

Here are eight ways you can make your brand the greatest and get your customers coming back for more great stays.

1. Get Super Connected

In the old days, you would pick up that phone that sat on the little desk in between the beds, and you would call the front desk for help with whatever you needed. Or, you’d call the designated number for concierge, and get the help that way.

However, if your hotel has an app, consider taking a cue from Marriott and Hilton. They have the ability for consumers to complete the check-in process right from their smartphones, get into their room using a mobile key, and send out text messages with queries and requests to hotel staff members.

Connectivity is certainly growing as a standard by which hotels are measured. And of course, be sure that your rooms are equipped to handle the changing needs of today’s device-carrying travelers: some hotels even feature charging ports that are a welcome sight to those who may have left theirs on the plane.

2. Emphasize the Wi-Fi

Business travelers are getting work done. Digital nomads are meeting guidelines. Families with kids need the tablet for entertainment. The faster, the better!

The faster you can make your Wi-Fi, the better. Some customers are willing to pay an upcharge for higher speed, but this may be off-putting to some.

In the same vein, provide plenty of power outlets so that devices can be plugged in and charged with ease. Every member of the family has at least a smartphone-so be sure you are prepared.

3. Put A Focus on Local Fun

One way to really improve hotel guest experience is to help travelers experience the city like a true local. With the advent of Airbnb, this is now more important than ever. One huge example is the Unforgettable Experience packages that the Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria offers.

These include destination-specific activities right in the room rate. One such experience situated in Dubai includes dinner and a camel ride for two people. While you certainly do not have to provide camel rides, consider ways you can appeal to your guests by integrating local activities.

You might offer a rate that includes passes to a local attraction, or a dinner voucher for a favorite local restaurant, for instance. Experiences are now more important than ever to consumers, especially millennials, who currently hold them in higher value than “stuff.”

4. Improve Brand Experience by Making Training an Everyday Occurrence

There is no doubt that your staff already puts in 110% when completing their daily duties, and everyone from the GM to the housekeepers to the landscapers does their best. But there are some great ways that you can combine traditional training methods with technology to ensure that every agent and employee is up to speed.

For instance, suppose you have implemented a new Property Management System. Be sure that you are taking advantage of all methods available to teach and train employees. Have them take part in classroom training exercises, complete e-learning, or use an application that monitors your employees’ actions while they work so you can guide them as they learn the system.

Make a concerted effort to have every employee trained on new procedures, technology, and rules. Customers having to wait in line while an employee fumbles around is unacceptable and leaves everyone frustrated.

A well trained and informed staff will resonate soundly with guests. Your brand becomes synonymous with excellence.

5. Provide Personalized Customer Service

A hallmark of your brand can easily be personalized customer service. In a world where we are becoming more and more connected in the digital sense instead of the personal sense, it has become critical to treat your guests like they are the only ones in the entire hotel.

Not all guests should get the same treatment, and excellence is measured in different ways from guest to guest. Some want a speedy check-in; others like to stop and chat with you. Do your best to learn your customers’ name and greet them as such.

Demonstrate an eagerness to help. Remember the guests’ preferences. And be sure you and your employees are able to offer solid information about the local area such as good places to dine or interesting local activities.

Though your brand may not be as large as national chains, you can still treat guests like VIPs. Be sure your staff is trained to be attentive and treat everybody with the utmost of care, regardless of who they are. Guests leave reviews everywhere now: Google, Yelp and more-so when they feel special and cared for, others will know and book with you.

6. Make Booking Easy

You can do simple things that will hugely improve on your booking process and deliver guests the fast and easy experience they desire. Make the calendar part of your process easy by filling out the check-in and checkout boxes with today’s date, plus one day.

Lots of hotels have blank calendar fields and filling it in helps the user get one step closer to whatever dates they need.

You can include a progress measurement for the booking progress. People like to know how long a task will take before they can move onto the next thing, and a progress bar, steps till completion or other measurement method helps consumers move along and stay encouraged to finish the process.

Be sure your process does not ask consumers to log in or create an account unless they will be rewarded in some way (points, etc.). This just annoys the user with more tasks all for marketing reasons, not a great experience.

Every hotel is different, but at the minimum, just ask for full name, email, and phone number. You might also include special requests and time of arrival fields, too. Be sure that your website also offers security credentials, too-it’s peace of mind for users.

7. Guest Engagement

This ties into making guests feel like they are the only ones present in your hotel at any given moment. Guests that are disengaged are not as likely to return to a property and will more than likely discuss their experience online using any number of popular review sites.

Millennials are less likely to be engaged, says Gallup, but the silver lining is that guests who are engaged are less sensitive to price whether they demand luxury experiences or an economical stay. Therefore, guests that have an emotional attachment to a hotel are more likely to book at that property, regardless of budget.

You can encourage engagement by doing some easy things: Encourage them to provide feedback, and of course, treat them as the unique and varied individuals they are. Even though guests are there for different needs and experiences, they all desire great customer service that is delivered with a strong personal touch. Be sure you go over expectations with your staff to ensure the highest satisfaction among guests.

8. Provide Guests the Amenities They Want

There are amenities that customers really like, and then there are ones they can do without. Providing the right mix of amenities that add value to your guests’ stay is critical in making an impact. Consider changing the following:

  • Room Service-Customers are yearning more for good, strong Wi-Fi or a gym. Combine this with the desire to eat local cuisine and experience what the locals do, room service is desired less and less.
  • Valet-Many travelers, even those who stay at luxury hotels, prefer to park their own car.
  • Slippers and robes-Many guests prefer to just wear their own clothes and would not mind if hotels nixed the bathrobes.
  • Mini-bar-The mini bar is often expensive, and travelers do not want to pay the price. Plus, it is expensive to stock these.

Final Thoughts

Your independent boutique property can speak volumes for itself when you provide customers what they seek, which is a personalized, engaging experience, a connected stay at your hotel, bridges to the local cuisine, activities, and establishments, and of course an easy process from start to finish.

By integrating as much helpful technology as you can, and keeping staff trained to be attentive and friendly to your customers’ needs, you will surely notice more repeat business and your hotel will be established as a modern and beautiful place to stay for business, travel, or anything in between.

8 Ways That Brand Positioning Will Help You Grow Your Business

With the correct brand position, it’s your business driver, helping you to inform your messages about marketing, how your services are shaped and even how you structure your prices.

The success of your business is influenced by strong brand positioning. But many highly competitive companies have difficulty in positioning themselves and explaining why their business matters. It is difficult, but critical, to do this right. Your customers will not know whether to purchase from you or from your competitors if you fail in this.

In short, positioning is the means by which your brand is markedly distinguished from its competitors. It’s all about what you offer, the value and the position you hold in your intended audience’s mind. Defining a clear position allows you to check your perceptions of the market and to improve the position of your product and/or service upon that market.

How can your company benefit from brand positioning? Here are several different ways here:

1. Brand Positioning Differentiates You in the Market

The world doesn’t need more widgets. However, when your company or your products or services provide an unprecedented proposition, solve an unsatisfied need or deliver the desired experience, Brand Positioning will help you differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Brand positioning allows you to stake out a unique territory (e.g., an industry specialty or a highly specialized service offering) for your business where no competitor will dare to venture because they will be labeled as a “me – too” company, just following in your footsteps.

2. Brand Positioning Cuts Through the Noise

A clear brand position allows you to communicate and reach your target audience efficiently and effectively. We are bombarded every day at every corner with marketing and sales messages. Everyone is fighting for your attention. By speaking directly to the people you intend to attract, your Brand Positioning breaks through the clutter in the midst of all this noise. Your brand is seen and heard clearly instead of shouting to an empty room or to a crowd that doesn’t care about you.

Your Brand Positioning breaks through the clutter in the midst of all this noise.

3. Brand Positioning Helps You Become a Specialist

You will be forced to focus your services accordingly by laying claim to a particular feature or benefit through positioning. This, in turn, will make you perceive yourself as an expert in these services, which will increase your value to your prospects. This is especially important because “specialists” are growing twice as fast as companies that describe themselves as “generalists.”

Positioning helps to provide your business development team’s persuasive sales tools to nurture and close more sales. Unique brand positioning enhances the visibility of business and top – of – mind recall for prospects to help drown out the competition.

4. Brand Positioning Makes Choosing Your Business Easier

Consumers want decisions that are easy. To find the right one for them, they don’t want to screen 30 alternatives. They want to know who to trust and what to buy quickly and easily. Brand Positioning deliberately and subconsciously triggers an emotional response from your target audience. If in the shortest amount of time the right levers are pulled, you increase the likelihood that people will decide “yes.”

5. Brand Positioning Allows You to Compete on More Than Just Price Alone

Whether the mass market uses your brand or you offer a high-end luxury item, Brand Positioning will provide you clarity on your specific value. Your value is what you offer to customers, how it best meets their needs, and how insufficient the alternatives that competitors offer are. You have nothing to offer but ambiguity without Brand Positioning. No one values ambiguity (or buys it).

No one values ambiguity (or buys it).

6. Brand Positioning Justifies Your Pricing

Sometimes your brand still needs price justification even when your value is known. Brand Positioning is where you identify your brand and compare it to the competition and its specific offering, informing you that your price point is strategic and justified. Are you more expensive? Less expensive? Is it obvious why? Are consumers going to respond favorably?

Positioning your business against the competition will assist you in deciding what new services to offer and how to price them. Are you a boutique company at a higher price? Or a low-cost, no-frills business? Which new services support this positioning and pricing?

7. Brand Positioning Informs and Improves Your Design

You will have the insight to make more effective decisions throughout the creative process once you have developed the core message needed to promote your brand positioning. Clear positioning drives communication that is clear.

Visual design needs to build a compelling story that involves strong positioning. If you don’t know what your competition uses, how would you know which colors, fonts, or symbols to use? What if, for example, you didn’t know that color influences the taste of consumers for particular foods? It’s not much different than writing good copy, the difference being that you’re communicating and creating perceptions through images.

8. Brand Positioning Empowers Your Brand’s Story and Messaging

How will you be able to write quality copy without knowing your brand positioning? If you don’t understand how your brand is positioned in the marketplace and your customer’s mind, it will be very difficult to write anything meaningful about yourself. Communicating to an audience is almost impossible if you do not accurately understand the uniqueness of your brand or competition you face.

So asses your brand and ask yourself these questions: is your brand positioned to…

Compete with Confidence? A strong starting point helps you understand, recognize and embrace your meaningful difference to the people that matter to your growth. Look at your competitors to see if you need to change your positioning. How will you compete with the other brands that your audience is comparing you to? How can you best position your brand against any new competitors that may sprout up in the market?

Show people the value of your brand? Your positioning should make your brand more meaningful to those who already understand your brand. You need a deep understanding of your target markets in order to create meaning. Did their behaviors, ways of thinking, principles, needs, ambitions, fears, frustrations, joys, and fantasies change? Work to create simple and meaningful positioning that you can tailor to the target markets of your brand. Work to create simple and meaningful positioning that you can tailor to the target markets of your brand. Positioning that doesn’t fit your customer’s needs, and even foresees them, will struggle to remain relevant today.

Standout in the sea of competition? Your brand positioning should give your brand a coherent, recognizable and impactful picture. This picture distinguishes you from your rivals. What are your differences? Have they been changing with the market? What are your key differences as understood by your target audiences and internal teams? Is the differentiation steady and sustainable? Make sure you’re working to own the space that should separate you.

Make smarter and more informed decisions? The positioning of your brand should be a tactical and strategic compass. Consider whether your staff and leaders use your positioning to guide their strategic decisions to make sure of this. If your leaders do not make important decisions that match your positioning, it’s time to reset and align. Your brand will be more competitive and adaptable when you use positioning to make long and short-term decisions. So bear in mind that long-term successful positioning always leaves room for growth.

Brand positioning, done correctly, can make a marketing powerhouse for your business. It can help focus your services, marketing message, and prospects appeal to your business.

Brand positioning, done correctly, can make a marketing powerhouse for your business.

Highly focused positioning allows you to build a powerful and compelling message around specific areas of expertise that will appeal greatly to a targeted audience in need of your premium services. That’s why it’s so important to have a brand positioning strategy. It gives your prospects value, gives them something to be interested in, and ultimately will persuade them to purchase from you.

When it’s all said and done, Brand Positioning is the most crucial singular part of developing a brand by allowing you to define where you fit into the vast sea of your competition.

5 Ways to Build an Influential Brand that Every Leader Needs to Know

The bottom line – as a business owner you want your business to grow. If you don’t, then you should probably question whether or not you should be a business owner. What’s the most common indicator that your business is growing? You’re making more money.

This is true for every business, non-profit, and individual. People don’t like to talk about making money, but the truth is we need money to operate. But what’s the best way to earn more money? It may be tempting to start throwing out tactics, buzzwords, and strategies like: “You need to innovate”, “You must diversify”, “You need to penetrate the market”, “You need to build a sales funnel”, “You need more Instagram followers”….  yadda, yadda, yadda.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all valid methods to consider and could play a large part in how you operate your business. But, for a business owner who’s growth has flat-lined and is struggling to keep up, “penetrating the market” means nothing. If you’re tired of just surviving as a business and ready to start thriving, I’ve got good news for you – it may be more simple than you think. Humor me if you will, and allow me to give you a more simplified answer to the question, “How can I grow my business?”

For your business to grow and make more money you need…

  1. More people to buy more of your stuff.
  2. More people to tell more of their friends to buy more your stuff.
  3. To invest more in methods that will get more people to do both of the above.

It may sound simple, but for most businesses who are struggling to gain traction – these three things seem like an unreachable goal. The reality is that for most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) achieving these three things is easier than you may think. This brings up an important question that I’m sure you’re asking yourself: “Yeah, that sounds great and all, but what’s the best way to accomplish those three things?” It’s a simple answer, influence.

Building an influential brand for your business could be the best decision you have yet to make.

Understanding Influence

We’ve worked with many SMB’s over the years, and we’ve found a common trait shared among the ones who are struggling – a brand strategy is either underutilized or completely absent. That’s unfortunate because a strategic brand plays a vital role in virtually every aspect of your business. It can have a huge impact on your reputation, customer experiences, employee onboarding and engagement, important decision-making, gaining support for your vision…  and yes – influencing people to buy your stuff.

Let me make something clear – when I say influence, I do not mean “manipulate.”

Influence vs. Manipulation

Influence – the process of getting someone else to want to believe, do, think, or react the way you want them to. This approach encourages your audience to feel inspired, excited, and harbor warm feelings about you. It makes your audience feel like you care about their needs, and genuinely want to help them.

Manipulation – exerting devious influence over a person for your own advantage. This method creates anxiety, stress, or discomfort for your audience with the goal of getting them to take an action. This makes your audience feel guarded, and like you don’t care about their needs.

Both methods work in their own way. However, there are key differences in the outcomes.

Influencers…

Manipulators…

  • Seek to understand not to convince.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Listens to their audience.
  • Relates to the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the relationship.
  • Ask plenty of questions.
  • Focus on gaining a loyal customer.
  • Seeks to convince not understand
  • Communicate ambiguously.
  • Talks to their audience.
  • Control the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the transaction.
  • Don’t ask questions.
  • Focus on landing another customer.

It’s easy to see how being an influential brand will help your business grow. Now let’s begin to dissect how you can begin to build an influential brand for yourself.


 

The Building Blocks of an Influential Brand

1. Tell Your Story

Your story is the most human element of your business, yet it’s typically the last thing people bring up when they approach customers. Your story will begin a natural conversation with your customers. It’s this story that will show them that you care about more than just landing a sale.

Start with “Why?” Next time you are making a sales pitch start with answering the question “why?” Tell them why you do what you do, and why it excites you. This will give people something to relate to. It will also show them that you are passionate about what you do, and believe in its value – instilling confidence in them. Sharing your “why” is only one aspect of your story. Another aspect is the story of your brand.

The Story of Your Brand. Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. This 3-part approach is the natural progression of your brand story as well:

  1. Beginning (the Problem): Explain the problem that your audience faces.
  2. Middle (the Solution): Clearly explain how you solve this problem.
  3. End (the Success): Show the results and success your customers can experience.

Create a compelling story. You want your audience to feel like you’ve read their journal, and you understand their deepest thoughts. Really knowing the people that you’re talking to will all your message to stir up their intrinsic motivations. This will help you to influence people not because of what you do, but because of how what you do can help them. Telling your brand story can be one of the easiest entry points for building an influential brand.

2. Know What Makes You Different

Understand your position in the market. It’s hard to be an influential brand if you can’t clearly explain and defend what makes you different, and why someone should choose you over the competition. Many business owners mistake the quality of their product or service as their positioning. Simply stating, “we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

“we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” usually isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

Instead, try and pinpoint 1 or 2 specific and relevant aspects of your business that are completely unique in your industry or region – lean into those. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have quality products, but the process you use to ensure that every product manufactured meets your quality standards. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have the “best customer service”, but the fact that you guarantee a quality experience or you’ll give your customer a full refund.

Check out your competition. It’s important to do some competitive review, to see how your competition is positioning themselves. However, be sure to find something that is different than your competition. If you simply try to copy what’s working for them, you’ll find yourself getting lost in the market, and that’s a sure-fire way to not build an influential brand.

3. Make it Personal

Get personal with it. Know who you are talking to. Remember, “People do business with people.” Ask yourself, “What motivates them? What discourages them? What gets them up in the morning? What keeps them up at night?” Seek to truly understand your audience, and how you can best serve them.

This also involves getting face-to-face with your audience. Go where they are. Attend the same conferences, seminars, networking groups, or workshops that they attend. Doing this will not only help you make in-person connections but will also give you valuable insight into the industry or demographic that you’re targeting. It could help uncover areas that your business could improve to provide a better value to your customers.

Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you.

Your message. Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you. What I mean by this is that you should talk less about “I” (you the business owner), and more about “you.” (the customer). This will help you in your effort to make a connection with your customers, not just talking to them. Let’s face it, no one wants to hear about how great you are all the time.

4. Be Consistent and Clear

The value of consistency. Brand consistency is another simple approach that pays huge dividends. We’ve written about the importance of consistency in the past, but it’s worth mentioning over and over. Be consistent.

Put brand message and identity guidelines in place. This is why all BrandGPS clients receive a Brand Guidelines Handbook. It’s a vital piece to maintaining brand consistency across all customer touchpoints, as well as maintaining internal clarity around your brand values, message, and story.

Consistency earns visibility, visibility earns credibility, credibility earns trust, trust earns loyalty.

5. Be Authentic

These days, “being authentic” is one of the most common buzz-words to describe a business attempting to relate to millennials, or be relevant to modern culture. Despite the negative connotation that “being authentic” has recently earned, there is a real purpose in being an authentic brand. Building an authentic brand requires time and effort spent on keeping your promises, and ensuring that your messaging aligns with what you do.

The 3 pillars that play the part in building a healthy and influential brand are:

  1. How you look
  2. What you say
  3. What you do

If any of these three aren’t aligned, you risk being seen as an inauthentic brand, which can be extremely harmful to your business. A good example of this is when United Airlines responded to a passenger being pulled off a plane with two different messages – the messages contradicted each other, and caused public confusion. The mixed signals created a sense of distrust among the public and did further harm to the brand of United Airlines.

Actions speak louder than words. It should go without saying, but don’t claim to be something you’re not. Don’t make promises or claims you can’t deliver on, and be sure that what you say to your audience is exactly what they’re getting. If you claim to have the best customer service experience, and you have heaps of 1-star reviews saying otherwise, no one will take your brand seriously. You’ll never gain the trust of people if you’re not keeping promises, and you can kiss the idea of customer loyalty good-bye.

Building an authentic brand gives people a reason to care.

A Final Word

These five things play an important role in building a brand that is influential. I can’t stress enough the importance of a brand strategy for your business. If your business is struggling to get to the next level, gaining traction in your market, earning customer trust and loyalty, or simply getting beat by your competition – then you need a brand strategy.

An influential brand, like the ones we help our customers build through BrandGPS, is an investment you won’t regret.

 

Ready to Talk? Send a Message

Or just email us at info@longitudebranding.com