Seven Proven Tactics That Will Ruin Bookings and Alienate Guests
All the work and investment into your hotel’s brand can be lost far easier than it can be earned.
Hoteliers, bed and breakfast proprietors, and short term vacation owners all share a critical element – each has a brand. Each property’s brand is more than a logo. It is the collective representation from graphics to guest experience. A brand is on social media, booking websites, in DMO/CVB activity guides, and more. Your brand is equally guest reviews, guest photographs, and their personal experiences summed up in a fun hashtag. Like it or not, your brand is in the hands of your guests.
While it takes a while to build a strong brand, there are a few ways you can quickly damage it.
Demonize Bad Reviews and Ignore Good Reviews
Online reviews are the new word of mouth. Review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp are important, but so are booking websites like Orbitz, Booking.com, and Expedia. For bad reviews, don’t fall into the trap of “if we ignore it, it will go away.” Be sure to respond to reviews with an empathetic tone. Take the conversation offline. With happy guests, thank them for sharing their story. No matter what – participate in the conversation.
Denise Stillman, co-owner of Foremost Management Services, a leading multi-property hotel management and consulting company in Wisconsin’s tourism-driven Door County region says, “It is important to speak to your entire audience and potential reader of your response not just the writer.”
“I always thank the reviewer for taking the time to provide feedback, highlight things that they like—especially hidden treasures,” says Stillman. “If there was a problem, we apologize, and sometimes give an explanation.”
Stillman warns, “it’s tempting to over explain but I really try to avoid that. If necessary, I’ll follow up with those guests offline.”
“Both good and bad reviews are helpful to new guests,” says Stillman. “It helps them get a true picture of what we offer.”
Thinking Imagery and Video Are Good Forever
Just because a picture is worth a thousand words doesn’t mean it’s good for a thousand years. Everything from hairstyles to clothing can change. Make sure you’re getting fresh imagery on a regular basis. Great photographers can be found and are frequently willing to work out deals to keep busy on weekdays.
Video can be a very different creature. Great cinematic movies aren’t always what users want. Great video can come from mobile devices, too. Spur of the moment video or videos from guests can go a long way to showcasing your property.
Not Letting Data Overrule Your Gut
“The data doesn’t feel right,” said no successful marketing report ever. Property owners and managers have great instincts, but going with one’s gut should never dictate brand strategy. Tools such as Google Analytics and Search Console, Facebook Insights, email open / click-thru rates and other reporting metrics help you keep tabs on your marketing touchpoints.
When it comes time to plan for the coming year, ask questions like: which were your most popular pages? What style of social posts got the most engagement? Which email topics got the most clicks? Use the answers to those questions to determine how to best devote your resources.
Limiting Your Touchpoints
Do some of these dismissals sound familiar? Social media is for kids. Email is a pain. Video is too expensive. No one reads a blog.
The truth is, guests come to find your property in many ways and from many different mediums. Don’t limit your touchpoints. Take a portion of your time or budget to experiment with new platforms or tactics.
Tammie Carstensen, General Manager for Harbor Shores on Lake Geneva (another tourism hotspot) explains the crucial role of social media. “[We] invested in staying on top of social media marketing,” Carstensen says. “Our marketing director went through a 3-month social media course at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee to gain insight on the latest trends and platforms.”
Part of that learning was discovering which platforms were best suited for the lodging industry and customer base. Expanding your touchpoints shouldn’t come across as “do everything” either. Focus on the touchpoints you can handle because trying to do everything becomes doing nothing very quickly. Find what you’re good at and build on it.
Shelley Strohm, Harbor Shores Director of Marketing adds, “Create smart social media goals and then come up with strategies and tactics to help reach these goals.”
“Social listening and responsiveness is just as, if not more important, than the marketing itself,” says Strohm.
Believing Print is Dead
It is a statement that has been touted for almost 15 years. From in-room publications to destination guides, printed material is going out of style. Except it isn’t. Travel guides and niche publications continue to do well and continue to be instrumental in guest experiences. Doing well doesn’t mean the content hasn’t changed.
Many printed guides are shifting from business directories to experiential guides. Many successful activity guides from CVBs or DMOs have become more of an “insider’s guide” showing guests how to create unique memories. Go the extra mile to share the unique elements of your property. Make sure your in-house magazine is packed with experiences and not listings.
Thinking Not THAT Many People Use Mobile
Over 52% of web traffic comes from mobile devices and that number is rising very quickly each year. Mobile users are also not just looking up contact information but planning entire trips and experiences from their phones. Google has made it clear that preferential ranking will be given to mobile optimized websites as well. The future is clearly mobile.
Make sure your entire guest experience is mobile optimized. From a responsive website to charging stations in the room, the more mobile friendly your property is, the happier the guests will be.
That mobile experience directly translates to social media. Shelley Strohm also adds, “Mobile and social aren’t emerging they are merging.”
Putting Your Property Before Your Destination
Don’t make your brand “all about you.” It is easy to overlook the “why” of your guest’s travel choices for the “what” or “where.” Guests travel to destinations for experiences and not accommodations for amenities. By keeping an experiential mindset in your brand, you’ll connect with the “why” guests chose your property.
The “destination over accommodation” outlook can be made easier as you partner with your local DMO or other support networks to showcase experiences. Take it a step further by providing unique insight into local experiences such as, “the tiny shop on River Street has the best lobster mac and cheese.” Your front-of-house guest services can become your best local guide and be the reason first time guests become returning guests.
Your property’s brand is far-reaching—from the moment a guest considers your regional destination to the “thank you” email they receive a week after their stay. Your brand involves everyone on your staff from the front desk to maintenance. Damaging your brand is simple and repairs are costly, but actively managing your property’s brand is the best way to keep it shining bright.
If you would like help avoiding damaging your brand, please reach out to your creative marketing guides and outfitters at Signalfire. We can help guide your efforts with effective monitoring practices, and outfit your property with a program to keep guests coming back. Just drop Signalfire a line and we’ll be happy to lend a hand. Connect through our website or give us a call at (262) 725-4500.