6 Tips for a Winning Influencer Marketing Campaign for Your Hotel

In the last decade, the advertising of hotels and leisure has changed forever. The era of billboard advertising is rapidly coming to an end, and more than 2 billion internet users spend an hour and a half every day on social media, looking at their phones once every 12 minutes. The key to marketing success with ad-block also on the rise is to adapt to changes in consumer buying behavior.

Influencer advertising is rocketing in popularity due to these trends. However, if not done the right way, incorporating influencers into a successful marketing strategy may pose problems. These challenges are discovered at the execution level when assessing influencers, handling collaborations, and managing deliverables and at the operational page when it comes to duties, making deals, and securing complimentary room nights approvals. These can be addressed by owners and operators by educating their teams on how to deal with potential challenges.

1. Create Your Goals

Is your hotel’s goal to promote awareness or direct bookings in a particular market, bolster its Google ranking, or attract interesting content that can be reused on other marketing channels?

Each owner and operator wants to have an occupancy of 100 percent at all times, and ideally a directly booked. Achieving the best, most meaningful audience to the target market of your hotel — on the platforms on which they spend most of their time— is a logical place to start in achieving that goal. More than two-thirds of the time that a person spends on booking trips consists of the processes of thinking and planning. It is therefore essential to capture potential customers early, often before they even know they want to visit a venue, location or property. In “sales-speak,” this is near the beginning of the AIDA (Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action) funnel when regarding direct bookings.

You may also want to promote the property to produce alpha and achieve your IRR (Internal Rate of Return) goals after repositioning properties. Being able to promote your hotel’s rebranding or renovation quickly and cost-effectively helps to speed this up.

2. Set Clear Deliverables

Understand what your hotel needs from any partnerships and find a way to streamline the process.

No matter if RevPAR or EBITDA is your focus, leveraging unsold inventory to create a large, engaged community with the property can make a difference for both in the longer term. What owner or operator does not want great visibility?

3. Develop a Process for Receiving Requests

A process for incoming applications ensures that each application is received and processed in the same way. Consistency is a major thing that a brand can do to earn trust, and everything matters.

Consistency is a major thing that a brand can do to earn trust, and everything matters.

Having a simple online process to which all influencers are referred is the best way to approach it. The form should ask some obvious questions concerning the scale and demographic characteristics of the influencer’s followers, and why they believe they are suitable for your hotel.

This form is important for a few reasons:

  • First, it helps us to snuff out influencers who weren’t willing to fill in a few bits of information for consideration, which helps you avoid time-wasters.
  • Second, all requests go to the same place and can be handled systematically.
  • Third, it ensures that there is positive, professional and consistent interaction with every influencer that reaches out.
  • Finally, it assures that the influencer receives the correct information and makes tracking the entire process easier.

4. Set Aside “Room Off Nights” with Revenue Management

Not only do the most successful hoteliers utilize their unbooked rooms, but they also allocate some inventory as “room-off” so that the occupancy levels of their revenue management system are not affected. Consequently, addressing any potential conflict between key performance indicators (KPIs) for revenue management and KPIs for marketing and PR is also easy.

5. What’s the ROI?

Digital word-of-mouth can easily produce a return-on-investment average of $6 per $1 paid. Hotel owners and operators can receive full monitoring capabilities with the correct approach and remove the uncertainty from influencer relationships. At the minimum, you should be able to calculate new website visitors and record click-through rates

…Remove the uncertainty from influencer relationships

6. Relationship Building

Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere. This is nothing new, so with that in mind, collaborate with those who are most aligned with your property so that when influencers come back, the hotel can benefit from recall marketing in the future.

The overall message we want to highlight is that it’s necessary to put in place strategies, processes, methods, and agreements to build an influencer marketing campaign that is meaningful, reliable, and creates the right perceptions for your hotel’s brand.

Ultimately, the successful integration of an influencer marketing strategy focuses on a prolonged effort to target an engaged niche audience. Having already shown interest in the brand, the consumers that your hotel targets are key to any efforts towards increasing your online presence through social media.

10 Ways To Increase Your Hotel’s Direct Bookings

When it comes to increasing your hotel’s direct bookings, things can get a little tricky, and there are hundreds of tactics you could try. However, for this article, we are going to go over 10 ideas you should try first.

These are some ideas that some of the top hospitality brands are using around the world to increase the number of travelers booking directly through their hotel.

I realize that increasing your hotel bookings can be somewhat tedious and time-consuming; however, with these tips, perhaps the journey will be slightly easier to handle. At least, that’s my hope. How about we get started, shall we?

Make Your Hotel’s Website More User-Friendly

We live in the digital age of technology. Every year, more and more advanced technologies emerge to provide convenience to our lives. As such, we often need to change and adapt our approach to customers, and that includes how we deliver our services and experiences to our customers.

As such, for our first suggestion to make, we suggest reexamining how your hotel’s website is structured, and perhaps change it to better accommodate mobile and tablet users.

Additionally, not only are people on their phones more frequently than ever before, but they are also on the move. As such, making sure your website is mobile/tablet-friendly is one of the first suggestions I would offer to increase bookings at your hotel.

You should also consider the accessibility of your website. This means your website is designed and developed in such a way that those with disabilities can still use them; easily learning about your hotel, navigating through your site, and, ultimately, booking their stay with you.

Leverage Social Media For Advertisement and Hotel Bookings

Social media is one of the biggest and most lucrative forms of advertisement to have blossomed within the last decade. Even as I write this, millions upon millions of people flock to websites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter every day.

As such, traditional advertising is slowly dying out in terms of profitability and reliability. Why pay thousands, if not millions of dollars for expensive TV ads and booking times when it can be far cheaper to advertise your hotel business through various social media websites.

Why pay thousands, if not millions of dollars for expensive TV ads and booking times when it can be far cheaper to advertise your hotel business through various social media websites.

Not only is social media advertising less expensive, but it offers an easy way for customers to directly interact with your hotel brand through a medium that is most familiar to them. In addition to this, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have massive audiences already built into the platforms, and people are more innately tied to these forms of communication now than ever before.

In my experience, people are willing to talk and interact with companies through social media accounts than any other types of communication because social media has become so user-friendly and simple to use. Because of this, enabling social media users to book directly via sites like Facebook might not be a bad addition to include, as well.

It’s no coincidence that I put this tactic alongside updates to your website; they are almost married to each other. If you can communicate with the modern-day patron through social media platforms, and have a wonderful and easy-to-use website for them to explore, you will certainly increase your direct booking rates.

Test Your Hotel’s Booking Process Yourself

Another idea to help raise your direct booking rates for your hotel is to check and see how smoothly the process is for your website. Test it yourself! Humans like it when things are simple and easy for them to handle; it is why most sites have a one-click purchase option now.

Humans like it when things are simple and easy for them to handle

As such, I know when I want to book a hotel, the last thing I want to see is menus and menus of tabs and rows going to different sites and or parts of the website. I cannot stress how annoying and frustrated I get when it takes me seemingly forever to make my hotel reservations after deciding on what hotel/brand I want to stay at for a trip.

I recommend reevaluating the process in which people have to go through to book their lodgings at your hotel. Maybe count the number of clicks the average customer needs to go through to secure their reservations, and then perhaps find a way to automate or lessen the amount of time it takes to see a reservation confirmation screen.

User Reviews, I Cannot Stress This One Enough, Allow Reviews

As much as we all fear the idea of people leaving a bad review on Yelp and dealing with the hassles of reputation management, it shows a lot about your character and as a company if you allow customers to leave direct reviews on your site. I cannot stress this one enough. That alone can mean a lot to customers.

Additionally, it not only shows a lot on your character if you have a means of letting people leave reviews on your website. It also means you have a direct method of gauging how people are taking to your hotel(s) right on the spot – saving them the time and energy of searching for that on other websites or listings.

Also, by allowing people to leave reviews on your website you have a means of showcasing real positive comments for other customers to see; meaning people visiting your site are more likely to give your business the time of day because they can see that other real people enjoyed staying with you.

Finally, when you allow customers to leave reviews, this opens the door for them to leave valued compliments and criticism that every business needs. That criticism will be important, especially leading into the next section regarding the handling of grievances.

Address and Remove Previous Customers Grievances

Another benefit that can come from on-site user reviews is finding out what it is that they did not like about your hotel, thus not only do they feel validated in letting you know what they may or may not like about your hotel, but it also gives you more concrete information on both them and your business. Just this simple addition can help boost your direct booking rates.

By tackling customers grievances, you help show not only to them but to all of your customers that you are not only willing to hear what they have to say about your business but also directly tend to those problems if necessary. People like to feel like their opinions matter giving them, yes sometimes their ideas can hurt to hear, especially when it comes to your business; but often their views and criticisms may be valid and worth evaluating.

People like to feel like their opinions matter giving them

By having a place where they can air out their grievances, such as a review or comment section, not only can they feel validated in leaving behind often just criticism about their experience at the hotel, they can then feel satisfied when their grievances are handled properly. Moreover, by seeing you handle their negative complaints with your hotel, (whatever that might be), this could encourage them to return for a night or two, maybe even with their friends and family.

At the end of the day, customer feedback is important and necessary. Embrace it, value it, address it, and move forward.

Make Your Hotel Sound and Appear Unique

Another idea I feel I should mention is something that I think every business owner tries to do with their business, and that is making it sound and look unique in comparison to the competitor down the street. This isn’t always easy, especially if you are working in an already over-saturated market. However, there are a number of things you can do to improve your position in the market.

One idea I have to share is to reward your customers for their patronage, perhaps give them discounts on future bookings and services due to their continued support to your place of business. Alternatively, another idea to offer VIP rewards for continued support, like discounts on hotel amenities.

There are ways to reward your customers for their continued support and dedication to your organization. Another idea I have is to allow individuals the luxury of bringing their dogs or cats with them via unique rooms or upscaled cost. Pet owners always appreciate it when hotels allow them to bring their pets with them.

I am positive there are more ways to make your hotel appear unique and offer tremendous value to your customers, so perhaps find those methods out there. Finding and providing those services to your patrons can be a tried-and-true way to increase your direct booking rates.

Focus On What You Can Offer Over Your Competitors

This ties back to the previous section on focusing on what you can offer your customers over your competition. Another way to entice people to spend their holidays at your hotel is via the location and the unique and singular properties it may be privy too over other sites.

For example, are you near a park or heavily trafficked area like a plaza? Then advertise that as a selling point, people like convenience, especially when traveling and on the road. So, if they know, they will be shopping or adventuring in an area, being there as a hotel can be a luxury for them, especially if they are traveling or passing by through parts unknown.

Let people know that after a long day of shopping and adventure that they have a nice cozy hotel room waiting for them not a mile away from them. Alternatively, maybe your hotel was once a historical landmark or site, and it has some artifacts dating back to an era long since past.

In all honesty, it took me a long time to learn why location matters when it comes to starting a business, and this is one of the reasons why. If you have any definite reason to advertise your particular hotel (especially if you are a small brand), then use it, my friends.

Make Sure Your Staff and Employees Are Happy and Content

Okay, the next topic I feel we should discuss is the overall happiness of your employees and why this ties directly into potential bookings for your hotel. Now, I am confident this is one of the first things that managers and business owners have to think about always when running a business, but it would be wrong of me not to make it a section onto itself.

When working in the service industry, especially with hotels, you want to make sure your guests are happy and content, that is how we get those fun five-star ratings on Yelp and other review sites. As such, making sure your staff is actually genuinely happy to be there clocking in those long hours, and not just tapping their foot against the ground trying to wait out the clock.

Additionally, by making sure your employees are happy, this will translate into your patrons being happy as well, mostly due to the fact that they are getting tremendous value from the service of your employees. Moreover, this has many benefits onto itself as we can see.

Furthermore, by allowing the word to spread about your fair treatment of your employees (and their terrific service towards their guests), that can potentially entice guests to book with your hotel as a result. So, it is a win-win situation when it comes to this topic. Your employees are your lifeblood, after all, so treating them right will in return, treat your guests right.

Your employees are your lifeblood.

Ensure Your Hotel’s Website is Easily Found and Relevant

Through all of these additions and suggestions, there are plenty of ways of not only improving your image in the eyes of the public but also improve your chances of increasing your direct booking rates in comparison to your competitors around the state and or country.

Consider hiring an SEO specialist who is capable of understanding the search algorithms of search engines such as Google. Someone who knows the exact methods of getting more people to visit your website.

SEO specialists are the individuals you want when it comes to not only figuring out how your website will work but also provide general tips and tricks on getting people to discover your website, book a room, and then, of course, visit your hotel.

Understand That It Takes Time

As much as we may hate hearing that words “patience” and “determination,” seeing success and growth is not a one-night ordeal. It is not something that will happen immediately, especially when it comes to trying to increase your direct hotel booking rate in comparison to your other competitors.

However, it can happen with time and effort. All I can hope for is that this shortlist has provided some methods to help you achieve your ultimate goals when it comes to your hotel.

Conclusion

With that said, there are countless tactics and approaches you could use to increase your hotel’s direct booking rate. It’s up to you to find out which work best for your property. I hope this short article provided some tips and tricks on growing your hotel’s booking rates, and in return, bring even more lovely patrons to your place of business.

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.

Save Money on Marketing Your Independent Boutique Hotel with a Great Brand

As a boutique or independently owned hotel owner, you want to effectively market your brand. However, getting a strong return on investment (ROI) may be a challenge. For example, many independent, boutique hotel owners and managers are spending upwards of a $1000 a month on marketing. What they typically lack, though, is measurable results from their marketing spend. This lack of return can typically be pointed back to a poor or non-existent brand strategy. In this article you will learn some ways that a brand strategy and better visual identity can affect your marketing efforts for the good and create measurable returns on investment.

There are several ways how having a strong brand strategy and visual identity can greatly enhance and improve a hotel’s marketing efforts. Below are the four most effective strategies.

  • Develop a Strong Market Position
  • Understand Your Guests Needs/Decision-making
  • Have a Well-Crafted Message that Resonates with Guests
  • Create Better Brand Identity to Drive More Valuable Customer Perceptions

Building a great brand by implementing these four strategies can save your hotel from the effects of wasted marketing dollars. Great brands are contagious and the consumers start becoming brand ambassadors. However, getting to that point requires dedication to a clear strategy outlined in these four steps. As you execute on these strategies you will start creating better ROI from your marketing efforts. Helping your guests become evangelists for your brand becomes the end goal with the right strategy in place.

Develop a Strong Market Position

A market position is defined as the consumers’ perception of your brand in relation to other hotel options in your region. As an independently owned boutique hotel, your resources are very likely limited when it comes to marketing and branding expertise. However, that does not limit you on your ability to develop a strong market position.

Some of the steps any boutique hotel owner can take to develop such a position are:

  • Create a position statement – what do you stand for and why does it matter?
  • Identify how your position statement stands out against your competitors. What other offerings do consumers have when they come to your geographical location?
  • Create an outline of where your brand fits in the midst of all of the competition. This might look like a market position map of sorts.
  • What are the conditions of the marketplace? Is tourism up/down? What are guests looking for? Do you offer something unique that they cannot get anywhere else in the region?
  • How is your independent boutique hotel unique? A strong market position requires a clear differentiator. Something more than just a bed to sleep on.
  • Consider hiring a third party to provide some qualitative and quantitative testing of your market position. Will it hold up? Is it accurate?

Understand Your Guests’ Needs a Decision-making Process

Your brand identity and marketing message should align with your guest needs and be communicated through channels they use in their decision-making process. By understanding your guests, you can communicate clearly with them the way they want to be contacted. For example, maybe your guests are more advanced in age and are not on Instagram. Those dollars once spent to attract guests can be used where your customer is, in this case maybe the dollars are better spent on newspaper or radio? Once you have a clear market position, communication becomes the next most important thing. Rather than cast big nets to draw in guests, you can focus your efforts getting much more return for every dollar spent. Meet the customer where they are at. Know them and know their process for making a decision when it comes to lodging in your town.

Have a Well-Crafted Message that Resonates with Guests

When it comes to marketing, getting the message right is critical. There are examples over and over again where the brand message significantly increases the consumer perception of value. For example, big hotel brands use things like a robust reward program to drive engagement for frequent travelers. In fact, just recently Marriott merged loyalty programs of Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards for exactly that purpose. The benefits for frequent travelers in their program are things like…executive lounges with gourmet snacks and drinks. What message resonates with your guests? What matters to them? Craft a clear message that reminds guests why boutique is unique.

Create Better Brand Identity to Drive More Valuable Customer Perceptions

Brand identity is defined as the image which is connected to your independent hotel’s brand culture. It typically includes a logo, typography, fonts, colors, positioning, white space, and strategy. A better brand identity improves customer perception. However, it is important that any change is executed right. You must be careful to build the image that drives perception of value. While there are several examples where building a brand identify have failed according to the brand and marketing community, most brands only fail if they don’t deliver increased perception of value to their buyer. The image should be designed to reflect your customer. Apple, Google, and Amazon are three companies that are good at building brand images and experiences that resonate with their customers.

In summary having a good strategy and solid brand identity helps guests connect with your independently owned boutique hotel. When they are connected to your brand’s position you turn guests into raving fans. They create a sense of need for the experience they had with your brand. Guests remember amazing experiences and associate brand image with that experience for good or for bad. Experience is important.

When guests are in love with your hotel experience and the brand image is strong, over time they will stand up and fight for your brand when needed. There are examples where boutique hotels were rebuilt after a disaster like a fire or a flood. While the hotel owners didn’t always want to rebuild, those that did were driven by their guests. When you have guests, who stand up for what your market position is, you have a powerful way to increase sold-out nights, price per night which result in increased revenue and profits. You must remember that guests want an experience… not just a bed to sleep in when it comes to going boutique.

What is your guest experience like?

 


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Bring Guests Back Again, and Again with a Great Brand

As a boutique or independently owned hotel manager or owner, you want to use your brand strategy to build loyal, returning guests. Getting guests in the hotel and servicing their stay for the first time is just part of the battle. Another major part of your brand strategy should be to get guests excited about the experience they had at your hotel, so they want to come back again and again. This article is all about ways you can enhance the hotel experience and use brand strategy to build guest loyalty.

There are 9 recommendations which can enhance the guest experience at your boutique hotel. These brand recommendations are intentionally built around people and culture.

1. Elegant guest experience

Often times when hoteliers think of elegance, they think of the cost. Just the fact that your hotel is independently owned, and/or a boutique destination already sets the tone for an elegant guest experience. An elegant guest experience is an experience where your brand strategy comes to the surface. The guest has an experience which is pleasing, graceful, stylish, and most importantly consistent. Elegance is perceived differently by nearly every person; however, most often elegance is referred to with only two words, unique and simple. Invest in your brand so the guest experience is unique and simple. Don’t over complicate the experience.

Don’t over complicate the experience.

2. Develop boutique concierge services

Your brand represents your hotel’s culture. As such, the customer experience and service should be a significant part of the strategy. Independently owned hotels overlook the concierge service offering to guests far too often. However, the ones which get concierge service right, stand out and create loyal guests. Good concierge services help guests have an amazing experience outside of your hotel. Concierge services should recommend, arrange, and reserve services for guests from your hotel partners who also represent your brand culture. By doing so, the experience is carried into the local community and outside of your hotel. You’ll find that guests will seek out your fun spot when they come back to town. This is a strong indicator of brand loyalty.

3. Empower and reward hotel employees

People should be central to your brand strategy. Employees are people and should be empowered to make decisions as such, even though there could be an error. When employees are empowered to service guests, the guest experience benefits every time. While errors are possible, rewarding your employees when the right behavior is caught is ideal over calling out the things they did wrong. As a hotelier, this will build up a culture of belonging. You want your employees to feel like they belong with your brand story.

4. Reward loyal guests

Guest loyalty should be recognized and rewarded. One example of how boutique hotels can deliver this experience is to really know their guests. Welcome back Mr. & Mrs. so and so, are you back in town to visit your folks? How are they doing? It is important that your staff is genuine and not reading a computer screen. Hotel customer relationship management tools can help track this type of information. But it is up to your staff to know who is showing up each day. This example is a reward doesn’t cost much. People love to be remembered and recognized much more than just getting some points or a free bottle of water.

People love to be remembered and recognized.

5. Develop personalized marketing strategies

A personalized marketing strategy goes along with rewarding guests. Knowing your guests makes all the difference to creating brand loyalty. When you email them or post promotions on your social media sites, try to make those messages as personal as you possibly can. Sending an email with “Dear {insert name}” can kill everything you have already done in creating the guest experience in person. However, personalization of your messaging should also go beyond the first line of an email.

6. Resolve maintenance issues and reward guests that mention them

One of the best ways to know about issues with your hotel is to invite guests to tell you and rewarding them when they do. For example, you can call the guest once they get to their room to check and make sure they have everything they need and to get quick feedback about their room. If they mention something isn’t right, fix it if you can. If you can’t fix the issue right away, tell them you’ll have maintenance look into the issue. However, in both cases reward them with dinner or a drink for telling you. Again, you are looking to reward behavior that can improve the guest experience.

7. Align staff, vendors, partners on your brand’s core objectives

Brand alignment is not an easy task. However, when your core objectives are clear it becomes easier. You are building a culture. A culture of what your brand, staff, vendors, partners, and guests want to be part of. As this alignment occurs over time you will notice how customers tend to want to join the cause and experience they had again and again.

8. Get guest feedback, every time you can

Knowing everything you can about your guests is important as mentioned above. Why they come to town, what did they do while they were in town, what things do they enjoy, what are their hobbies? Understanding these will help improve your guest experience. Such feedback will help you attract new guests using the language that is the right message. A message they can relate to. Guest feedback is everything to building a great brand strategy.

9. Make booking dead simple

Far too often boutique hotels are booked through outdated technology and made by phone only. Booking your hotel should be dead simple. Guests typically avoid friction. Think about how many times you tried to buy something in a store or online, but then just left the shopping cart. The line was too long, or you had to re-enter data that the merchant should have already had. When it comes to booking a room with your boutique getaway, it must be easy.

Hotel managers or owners can use brand strategy to build loyal, returning guests. These tips will ensure you execute on your mission to get guests excited about the experience they have had at your hotel. This excitement results in guests that tell others about their experience, in fact, many will post about things immediately on social media. Happy customers cost so much less than those who had a poor experience. However, raving, loyal customers help grow your brand in the hotel space and revenue.

 


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3 Ways Independently Owned Hotels Can Beat Big-Chain Hotels

The Challenges Facing Independently Owned Hotels

Running an independently owned hotel is not easy, especially when big-chain hotels can provide the basic shelter needs of travelers at scale for a lower cost. However, there are certain trends you can watch regarding consumer behavior when it comes to their travel habits. In addition, the ideology of boutique, and feeling of exclusivity is on the rise.

luxury consumers seek out the perception of value just as much as the value of the product or service they purchase

According to Forbes, luxury consumers seek out the perception of value just as much as the value of the product or service they purchase. When it comes to beating big-chain hotels, this is where an independently-owned hotel must separate itself with a strong brand identity – winning loyal guests.

There are three strategies you can use to stand up to the pressure of the big-chain hotels. You will notice that all of these strategies are intentionally built around people and focusing on creating a great brand (reputation).

Build a Brand That People Believe In

The first step in beating the big-chain hotels is to build a brand that means something to your customer. Create a story, message, and identity that will resonate with your guests so it becomes something they want to stand behind.

Your brand strategy, identity, and the guest experience you provide should be so well connected in the mind of your guests that they want to belong in your guest book. Does this sound like your hotel brand or not?

If you build a brand people actually believe in, with values which are authentic, it will spread like wildfire. Think of the last time you had a guest call for a reservation saying that “so and so” was raving about your hotel and that he heard it was the most luxurious weekend getaway for him and his wife’s twentieth wedding anniversary. This is the outcome of a powerful brand and meaningful guest experience – one that someone believes in.

Focusing on building these quality relationships with guests is a great way to differentiate yourself, and position your brand in the market. While big-chain hotels are often impersonal, only caring about hitting numbers – you can communicate a personal message, and connect to guests on a deeper level.

As an independent hotel, you have the unique opportunity to craft a custom and unique guest experience tailored to their needs, and people will definitely connect with that. More and more people are looking out for ways to relieve stress. Make sure your brand delivers the ideology of less stress well-being. The big-chains are just average at delivering this experience.

Design Your Guest Experience Differently

Jay Acunzo’s book Break the Wheel (2018), explains that we must think differently to challenge the status-quo. While he acknowledges the need for us to absorb what has been learned from an industry, the process of thinking for yourself is unique.

When you create the guest experience, think about things you can do which are unexpected. Create experiences which are different from the big-chain hotels and share your guest’s endorsement and enthusiasm when you blow their mind. Zappos gets this concept. If you dial the Zappos customer service line, there is an option in their recording to press a number for the joke of the day. Unexpected delight.

Be thoughtful in your approach; be intentional in what you do, as well as what you don’t do.

However, there are challenges you will face such as:

  • Market presence. WIthout the support of a large hotel chain flag, it’s easy to get ignored without a plan.
  • Employee limitations. You’re often stretched thin, and wearing too many hats.
  • Balancing of luxury and budget. This is a delicate balance and must be considered when building your reputation.
  • Personalized service. Finding trusted, quality labor is difficult for independent hotels.

Don’t let these obstacles get in the way of beating your competition. You have to think differently, be flexible, and innovative. This is something that big-chains are often unable or unwilling to do.

What are different ways your market presence can grow? Does your local community know what you provide? Think of giving away some nights so they can experience your brand and recommend your hotel to people they know who might be coming to town for leisure. Be strategic with who you choose. You might even choose a social organization similar to your target guests and provide meeting spaces (if you have them) or other services. Think differently about how you can expand your market awareness.

Maybe your challenge is one employee wearing multiple hats. One employee may be trying to host a reception and making beds at the same time. You might need to consider if that is a good approach. You might consider hiring students who can do the work for a fair wage and provide perks to those students who best represent your brand the best.

The bottom line here is that you need to be thinking critically about how you can do something no one else in the hotel industry (at least in your town) is doing and do it well.

Put Your Brand at The Center to All You Do

Again, a healthy brand should be at the center of all you do and will help you beat the big-chain hotels. When looking at a chain hotel brand, guests get a consistent experience at a consistent price, with pretty average services. This is their brand and the center of what they do. If you try to mimic this as an independently owned hotel, you will likely fail. You can’t try to be a brand you are not. The brand of your hotel must be unique, deeply connected to everything you do, and be consistent across every guest touchpoint.

Having confidence in your brand’s identity, positioning, and messaging is important. As you build your brand you may get caught up in thinking about the prize of a well-known, super busy, boutique hotel. While being sold out a year or two in advance might be the end goal, it is critical that you, as an owner, manager or hotelier, focus on consistency along the way. Your core job as the leader is to drive the brand home in your organization and put it at the center of everything, every time, for everyone throughout the organization.

Final Word

These are just 3 ways to help you build a powerful independent hotel brand which can compete and beat big-chain hotels. Having a clear brand strategy is an extremely important foundation. You need to have a plan, because hope is not a good business strategy and will lead only to frustration, loss of money, and eventually your hotel will suffer greatly. While you don’t have all the big corporate support, you also aren’t restricted to think like big-chain hotels. Get out there and build a brand people can believe in, create something unique, and put your brand strategy at the center of everything you do.

 


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4 Tips for Hoteliers to Keep Your Boutique Hotel from Failing

While many boutique hotels are failing, others are thriving on many levels. The most successful of these boutique getaways have been successful in applying 4 branding tips that connect what they stand for as a “brand” to their guests. If you are reading this article, you are likely in the business of delighting guests as a manager or owner of a boutique hotel or maybe an independently owned sweet spot.

There are two aspects to your brand – your internal and external brand. Around this, there is often confusion. Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos, claims that a brand is a synonym of culture. Your internal culture is paramount to building a healthy business. As you are building your internal culture, it’s equally important to think externally as well. Your brand can also be thought of as your reputation – the way that you are perceived by your guests, and the market. This is especially important for independently owned boutique hotels.

This article will detail 4 ways you, as the hotel manager or owner, can utilize branding, positioning, and identity to keep your hotel from failing. When you think of branding as the action of building your culture and your reputation, you’ll have a clearer gameplan for how this plays out in day-to-day operation. For instance, how do you treat guests when they arrive at your hotel? This is completely controlled by the hotelier and employees, and with a clearly defined plan of action, you’ll know exactly how your guests should be treated. Such an experience contributes to the reputation of your boutique hotel. The tips below are the some of the steps needed to build a boutique hotel brand that sells.

1. Get to Know Your Guests

A basic rule of marketing is that your start any branding, positioning, or marketing project with a single question. Who specifically is my audience? Do I know my guests? When thinking about how well you know your guests, it is not the idea of having data from their generic demographic snapshot, although that data will help. Think about the guest who loves your brand already. Why did your boutique hotel strike passion in their choice? How did they make the purchase decision to stay with your hotel? Would they book it again, why? If not, why not? What are their hobbies and interests? Ask them what the one thing is they enjoyed the most about their stay before they leave. These types of questions will help you better understand who your ideal guest is and what makes them tick.

The most effective and quickest way to sell more is to match your guests’ needs and wants with what you offer. When it comes to boutique hotels, this probably means location, nostalgia, history, site seeing and so many other factors that the large hotel chains can’t deliver at scale. That is what makes a hotel “boutique” and unique.

Think about a traveler who wants to stay at a quaint, boutique bed and breakfast on the Mississippi River. They are coming in from the west coast seeking to stay close to some historical landmarks from the religious development in the mid-1800s. What will they remember about your boutique hotel experience, so they recommend it to all of their friends and family? Is it the stairwell built in the early 1830’s that present a feeling of sacrifice early settlers made, or will it be the fact the hotel is still hosted by the same family as the original owners? Your brand can be tied to a number of features; however, to survive those features must be what your guests want and need.

2. Get Your Employees Excited About Your Guests

Once you know (really know) your guests, you can work with your staff to get them excited about the guests who are coming to stay at the hotel. Have you ever thought about what makes a great guest experience? How about service in which you don’t have to ask for? Service that just happens. By helping employees understand your guest and what they like to do, where they are coming from, why they are coming to the area, etc., you empower them with information to further expose your brand as a positive experience. Your employees are the vehicle which transports your brand throughout the hotel, guest experience, and local community. Empower them and then take care of them. Running a boutique hotel isn’t the same as running a large national chain. Cater to your employees like you want them to cater to your guests. Hire smart, not cheap employees and stand out.

3. Clearly Define Why Your Boutique Hotel is Different

When it comes to lodging, in most cases, guests have an abundance of choices. The list is even smaller when a guest is looking for a boutique or independently owned hotel. Standing out as a unique brand makes the top five list because you’ve got to offer enough of a value and/or an experience that someone would want to pay a little more for. When it comes to your uniqueness, location is only one of the unique benefits Another might be a horse-drawn tour the area’s historical sites with no added charge and so on. Define how your boutique hotel is different and then be different.

4. Create Consistency with Your Brand Identity at Every Touchpoint

Brand identity is much more than a logo, it’s colors and visual aspects. While those are critical of a clear and consistent message, a great brand identity without correct positioning and messaging don’t work well. Create consistency in both the look of your brand identity (logo) as well as the experience guests have with your hotel. Mike Brown the CEO of Death Wish coffee understood this concept. He didn’t want to build just another coffee shop. While the story is much better coming from Mike, the essence is that his customers wanted the strongest coffee ever made. Not the smoothest, best tasting, but the strongest. The brand Death Wish came about because the owner listened to his customers. His customers wanted the energy to work a second job. They wanted the ability to work themselves to death figuratively. The Death Wish name, logo, and slogan tell this story. It is consistent, and the coffee is consistently the strongest in the market. The experience isn’t the focus, but how well it gets the job of creating energy done is. It delivers energy to work oneself to death by delivering the world’s strongest coffee.

Concluding Remarks

As a hotelier, you don’t want to fail. To succeed you must know your guests so well that you understand exactly what they want and need. You then get your team laser focused and excited to deliver a unique experience to your them. Then deliver that experience with consistency. While boutique hotel marketing takes much effort to get it right, spending time on these 4 tips can help you position your brand to avoid failure.

 


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4 Steps Independent Hoteliers Can Take to Attract More Guests Without Spending More on Marketing

You may have big hopes and dreams for your independent hotel, but don’t forget – you need guests!

Dreams Without a Plan

Have you seen the movie “Field of Dreams?” It’s one of the most iconic movies related to America’s favorite pastime, baseball. The main character played by Kevin Coster builds a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa. It’s this film where the famous phrase, “if you build it, they will come” was coined. It makes for a great story, but it’s a terrible strategy for opening a new hotel.

It’s time for a wake-up call, folks. You’re starting a business, not building a baseball field in a movie.

You may have investors, or maybe your a small independently owned and funded hotel. Either way, you will want to see a return on your investment – and preferably sooner rather than later. This hotel needs to start generating revenue quickly in order to make the business profitable.

Guests aren’t going to simply show up because you’re building a shiny new hotel.

Hotel owners, hoteliers, investors, and developers, please remember this – guests aren’t going to simply show up because you’re building a shiny new hotel. They’re not going to book their stay with you because you have a unique lodging concept. These things alone won’t get them through your doors. You need the right strategy and plan in place to attract them.

Tactics Without a Purpose

You may be tempted to start thinking about business and marketing tactics that might give you measurable and trackable results related to improving your RevPAR, Average Occupancy Rate, and ALOS. Or, you could be thinking about hiring the best architect and interior designers to ensure that your hotel creates the best guest experience.

No doubt those things are all important, but before you begin spending too much time and money creating reports and spreadsheets, hiring consultants, paying for hotel booking platforms, hiring digital agencies, and installing expensive signage and infill – here are four things that should be at the top of your priority list when planning your hotel.

Before you do anything else do the following:

  1. Determine Your Perfect Position
  2. Discover Your Ideal Guest
  3. Define Your Powerful Message
  4. Develop Your Game Plan

1. Determine Your Perfect Position

Positioning is vital to independently owned luxury and boutique hotels due to the competition being so fierce. There are likely many, many options to choose from when a guest is planning their trip. What sets yours apart? What makes yours the clear choice?

Without a clear positioning in the market, you won’t have these answers. If you can’t find a clear and compelling reason why someone should stay with you, then it’s very likely that travelers will validate your findings.

If you can’t find a clear and compelling reason why someone should stay with you, then it’s very likely that travelers will validate your findings.

A hotel’s position can be seen in two ways, the perspective of the hotel’s management and that of the guests. The hotel’s management needs to have a firm concept of the position set-forth. Its marketing and advertising efforts must clearly articulate not only what the hotel offers but also how it’s offerings are unique from the competition.

For example, a hotel may offer a luxurious package of services, perks, and amenities in an effort to attract business travelers. However, if the room rate is higher than travelers are willing to pay, that brand is not positioned for properly for the majority of business travelers. Instead, it may attract guests who are price insensitive, or it may attract luxury-minded guests traveling for leisure.

In another example, if a hotel has positioned itself as the best conference hotel in the market, guests will expect meetings to be hosted and executed flawlessly. Should that not occur, the hotel’s position— from the customer’s perspective— will, in reality, be “an average conference hotel” or worse.

To sum it up, if you need to have a truly unique position in your market. But not only that, you need to be able to back it up with the right actions as well.

2. Discover Your Ideal Guest

Around here, we love the saying, “people do business with people.”

No one wants to do business with a boring, lifeless, and dull business. People talk to people. People have fun with people. People enjoy other people. People trust people. And hotels, especially, are people-centered businesses. So even more-so, you need to know who you are talking to.

Who is your ideal guest? What do they look like? What car do they drive? Are they blue-collar? White-collar? Traveling for business or leisure? What motivates them? What are they looking for when booking their stay? What fears do they have associated with their travel arrangements? What are their underlying reasons for making purchasing decisions?

Seek to intimately understand your guests on a human level, not a transactional level. They aren’t just a number on a page. These are real people you’re talking to. Find out what resonates with them, and how you can best serve them.

3. Define Your Powerful Message

After you’ve discovered more about who your ideal guest is, you can craft a brand message focused on them. Keep in mind, your message should be focused on your guests, not on you. This simply means that you should talk less about how great your hotel is, and more about how your hotel can make your guest feel great. And to be honest, no one wants to hear about how great you think you are.

No one wants to hear about how great you think you are.

Your messaging must be simple and concise. Focus on the problems your guests are facing and present your hotel’s services, prices, amenities, and accommodations as a solution to their problem. People buy things that are easily understood. The reality is, your hotel may be better than a competitor, but if you’re unable to communicate that in a way that resonates with your guest’s needs, you’ll lose almost every time.

4. Develop Your Game Plan

You can have the most unique position and compelling messaging, but if you don’t deliver, your hotel will never be healthy. A healthy brand centers around the idea of “promises made, promises kept.” As a final ingredient to building a healthy brand for your hotel, you need to be consistent in your brand’s execution. Your positioning and messaging are extremely important, but what you do will always hold the most weight as you build your reputation.

This should be common sense, but I’ll say it again – don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’re making promises and claims, be sure you can deliver on them. Go to great lengths to ensure that your guests know exactly what they’re getting when they book with you. If you claim to have the most impeccably clean rooms, and you have loads of 1-star reviews saying otherwise, your reputation will be hurt. You can’t earn the trust of people if you’re not keeping promises.

You can’t earn the trust of people if you’re not keeping promises.

Why Many Independent Hotels Will Fail

Experienced independent hoteliers understand that owning and operating a hotel is a business. It’s not a weekend hobby or side project. Hotels are open year-round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They require expert management, hiring and training, expensive marketing and advertising costs, accounting, and customer service. And with new guests coming through your doors every day, there will always be new challenges you face to ensure you’re providing the best experience you can.

With the sheer complexity and nature of how hotels operate, it’s inevitable that many independent hotels will fail. One of the biggest reasons most hotels will fail is due to a lack of proper planning, positioning, messaging, and identity. For many independent hotels, failure can be avoided if you act fast and with clarity and confidence that comes with a brand strategy. It’s better than seeing your dream slowly die, and simply hoping things will get better.

You need a game plan to get you to where you want, and that is exactly what we can help give you with BrandGPS. Find out more about how we’ve helped many people transform the way they do business.

 


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