As innkeepers, your job, and the job of the marketing firm or marketing association you have hired or joined, is to connect people with your Inn, your brand message. The path of connectivity in marketing your inn has evolved since the emergence of the internet so many years ago. It is hard to even remember marketing without it!
According to Lisa Gevelber in an article entitled, “The Shift to Constant Connectivity,” “What distinguishes great marketers is their unwavering focus on those people – on their needs, behaviors, intentions, wants – and an ability to avoid the shiny temptations of marketing solely to things – like devices, channels, technologies.” What does marketing to things mean? I believe it means using technologies to push a product, “buy this because it is cool.” Basically the difference between marketing and branding.
“A brand will help encourage someone to buy a product, and it directly supports whatever sales or marketing activities are in play, but the brand does not explicitly say ‘buy me.’ Instead, it says ‘This is what I am. This is why I exist. If you agree, if you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends.’ James Heaton,‘”The Difference Between Marketing and Branding.”
Let’s look at an example of how marketing “solely to things” can create disconnects.
People can be easily lured by the flashy veneer of a property on the web, but when a guest’s feet hit the floor of the reception area, this is where the guest experience starts or…
Here is an example. Recently some friends of ours checked into a new property basically to see if all the recent publicity stood up to the reality. Here is what they experienced.
- They asked for restaurant recommendations and were told that there were not many “good” restaurants in the area. The staff at the reception desk went on to recommend the restaurant at the Inn. They told her they had dined at their restaurant last night and wanted to try something else. Blank face and no recommendations were offered. Are you kidding me! Disconnect.
- Their guest room looked great on the web (flashy) but the rate and the room size and features created a definite disconnect. Nothing wrong with a small entry level room but it must match the rate and this room did not deliver value. Disconnect.
Remember what was said earlier, good marketers focus on reaching the people, their needs, behaviors, intentions and wants. This Inn was good at the “look at me, buy me, I am cool,” but beyond that the lure was broken.
Here is an example of innkeepers and their marketing team that “get it.”
Linda and Dennis Bortis, innkeepers of The Lodge at Moosehead Lake wanted their brand message delivered. Here is what they had to say after their new website and photography was launched back in 2010.
“We are the only lodging in inland Maine that provides an authentic North Woods experience in the lap of luxury. It’s this story that became the communication message we want the lodge to be known for. In the world of small hospitality properties, as for most small businesses, the Internet is the Great Equalizer.”
Now, this was in 2010 and their message is still strong on their website. But the constant connectivity and the multi-screen reality that has evolved since 2010 is also apparent in their marketing. The increased ability to reach their audience through new technologies is understood by the innkeepers and their ongoing relationship with their internet marketing group, White Stone Marketing and Jumping Rocks Photography.
Does The Lodge at Moosehead Lake have great rooms with custom log beds, views of Moosehead Lake, luxury bathrooms, a fire pit by the lake, great food (lobsters!) and signature cocktails? You bet and much more. But these are the things that support their brand, that complete the package. People come the Inn to experience the overwhelming beauty and adventure of the Moosehead Lake Region. Linda and Dennis provide this because they know what their guests want and need while visiting them. No disconnect here!
In conclusion, we know that advancements in technology are constantly growing and changing at a rapid pace, that 99% of your guests are constantly connected and are your guests today and tomorrow. They have followed that path of connectivity, have you? The new technologies are available as a benefit to enhance your marketing. It will never replace you and the experiences you provide for your guests. That is the connection that is sustainable.
I’ll end with another great quote. “The brand is what remains after marketing has swept through the room.” Love that! Thank you James Heaton.
Thanks for Listening,
Tags: branding, constant connectivity, The Lodge at Moosehead Lake, White Stone Marketing
There are 3 phases in any Customer relationship; marketing, pre-sales & post-sales.
As you mentioned, ‘marketing’ is what creates interest in your product and causes the Customer to initially engage with you. It’s what causes them to email or text message or call you.
‘Pre-sales’ is what happens from that first engagement right up until they have made a reservation. Your marketing message draws them to you but if you aren’t cheerful and helpful and able to accommodate their needs you’ll lose them.
One need I see that many properties don’t meet is the ability to determine if a room is available on the website. Many Customers don’t want to email to find out availability because it takes too long. Even a phone call extends the amount of time to find out the answer to a very simple question. Providing room availability and making a reservation together on your website and you have made it easy for the Customer to say ‘Yes’.
So, your marketing is slick, your pre-sales process is easy and the guest has made a reservation, now it’s time for the post-sales process to complete the transaction and create a Customer for life.
Post-sales can be thought of as the Customer Care phase. It’s when brand loyalty can be solidified or completely lost. It doesn’t take much to go from ‘happy customer’ to ‘extremely upset Travel Advisor review’.
You mentioned the front desk restaurant recommendation and the room picture that didn’t live up to reality but this phase also includes how you answer Customer questions before they arrive and much more.
I’m not very good at in-the-moment reaction so I find it very helpful to visualize ahead of time how a situation could unfold. I think about what might happen and then I come up with the best way to handle it. Then when something happens I don’t fumble around for a response. This way of thinking might have turned the restaurant recommendation experience around if the front desk people had been trained ahead of time.
Now your guest has checked out and they said they enjoyed their stay when you asked but their experience may not be over yet. Always-on Connectivity extends the guest experience beyond the time your guests were actually on your property. Most people won’t tell you to your face that their room was disappointing or that they didn’t like the breakfast choices you offered. Instead they might post the disappointing experience on Facebook or give you a low rating on Yelp, Trip Advisor or other review sites. Some of these you may notice. How you react can influence every potential guest into the future.
The best thing may be to not react at all. If the reason the Customer is upset was your fault then an apology may be the best you can do. You have to realize that if you react negatively to a negative review and respond online it will be there forever. The majority of your future Customers will probably check your reviews and see it. A couple of bad reviews and your reactions can make all your marketing efforts worthless.
Try to think of criticism as a gift. It may not be easy to accept negative critiques when you first receive them but use them to your advantage. If someone tells you something about their experience was disappointing then figure out how to keep future guests from having that same reaction.
All the enhanced connectivity can be extremely helpful to your business if you take advantage of it appropriately. In all things there should be balance so don’t rely exclusively on one connectivity channel. Always have your Customer in mind when you’re making decisions that will affect their experience. From the way you describe the property on your website all the way through their stay and beyond to the post-stay review phase you have the opportunity to create a happy Customer. Take advantage of those opportunities and your business will be better for it.
Good points Bob. I see good future innkeepers in my crystal ball!