Tag Archives: Marketing

Have you written all your thank you letters yet?

As many parents know at this time of year you often have to nag relentlessly to get your children to write their Christmas thank you letters.

But have you been setting the right example? Have you written to everyone who’s given up their time and money to do business with you either over Christmas or over the past year?

I have to confess I’m not a great one for sending Christmas cards to business contacts. Let’s face it, your Christmas card probably gets lost in a sea of other cards leading up to Christmas.

But sending something after Christmas; after the turkey’s being eaten, the tree’s come down and the cards have been binned, sending something of value to your customers is more likely to get to your customers attention and have longevity.

And I’m not talking here about bombarding people purely with a multitude of offers and promotions showing how desperate you are for business during the quieter months of the year. This doesn’t mean to say you can’t tell them about what’s coming up but do it in such a way that makes them feel appreciated.

Say thank you

Send something that shows you appreciate their custom. As a minimum this might be a simple as a broadcast e-mail to everybody on your mailing list, or homing in on those who have booked Christmas or seasonal events with you. Particularly think about those people who have been guests of your existing customers, maybe as part of a party and who have visited you for the first time.

But maybe you want to do a little bit more for your special customers; those that have been your perfect customers and you’d like to see a lot more of (and the chances are they’ll know lots of other people just like themselves, who they might be inclined to tell about you), the organisers of events, anyone who has made referrals that’s brought you extra business over the year, for giving you a glowing testimonial or review, or simply because they put their trust and faith in you to deliver something extraordinary for a special occasion.

A simple personalised thank you note will not only show your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by – especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. There’s nothing quite like something sent by good old-fashioned snail mail with a handwritten signature (and not on stuffy, formal business stationery) to get someone’s attention.  Even better, if the whole message is handwritten on a hand-picked greetings card. Try to find a card that reflects something about that particular customer.

Some think in this web based age this is out dated; how would your customers react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?

Ask for feedback

A follow up thank you is also a great opportunity to get feedback too. Ask them about their experience and whether they’d do business with you again. Did it meet or exceed their expectations? Ask for specifics such as what they enjoyed most and any ideas, comments or suggestions they have to make the experience even better. If they’ve had a good experience prompt them to post feedback on review sites appropriate for your business such as TripAdvisor.  Make it easy for them by providing a link to the review site too. And don’t forget to thank them again when they give you feedback. Even if it’s not all glowing and what you want to hear, wouldn’t you rather know about it so you can put it right?

Rewarding loyalty

You might choose to show your appreciation with something more tangible such as a small gift, an exclusive offer for themselves or a friend, or maybe even relevant and useful information or tips that’s relevant to your business and customers’ interests.

The law or reciprocity means that if you give something to your loyal customers you are setting the stage for them to do something for you in return. Whether this is repeat business, a referral or maybe a testimonial, any one of these will add benefit to your business.  So the more you can do to show your appreciation the greater the chance of staying on their radar and of them remaining loyal to you.

Mark key milestones in your relationship: thank them when they’ve been with you for a year, and on each subsequent anniversary, when they’ve concluded a big event, when you’ve worked with them on a big project or programme or when they’ve just upgraded to a particular level of service.

When enough is enough

One of the things I get asked about most with e-mail marketing is how often can you contact customers without annoying them. Well you certainly don’t want to be branded as a spammer.

I read this comment on TripAdvisor for a hotel only yesterday

“A nice hotel, friendly staff, breakfast ok, ……..  BUT: since I spent 2 days there I get mails and mails and mails about everything and nothing. I asked them twice to delete my data but nothing happened and they lavish me with newsletters.”

Not really the sort of thing that you want to get.

So three lessons here:

  1. Give your customers something of value; something that they really want to read or receive (and if you don’t know what this might be, try asking them)
  2. If you’re going to be sending a series of messages (supposed to a one-off thank you or confirmation) always seek permission and include a way to opt out if they choose
  3. Have a full proof system in place to ensure people are taken off your mailing list the moment they ask you to

Remember, a customer is special and the aim is to build a loyal relationship.

And of course thank yous don’t just happen at Christmas, but whenever a customer has had a choice, but chose to do business with you.


I saw this and thought of you

Don’t you just love it when you open up a gift, and it’s perfect for you?

Whether for Christmas, birthday or simply because someone says ”I saw this and thought of you, and I knew I just had to get it for you!” It feels really good that somebody’s gone to the trouble of finding something that they knew that you’d love.

You’re perhaps surprised that they paid attention to something you’ve mentioned in passing or you feel humbled that they’ve gone to so much trouble to find the exact match of something you’ve always wanted, or feel touched that they know you so well that they’ve managed to find a gift that you didn’t even know you needed!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get our customers to feel that way about what we give them?

When you’re choosing gifts for others are you the type of person who spots something earlier in the year and thinks “Oh, that would be perfect for ___”  and buys it there and then, (and probably by now has everything wrapped and ready), or do you tend to leave everything to the last minute?

Whichever category you are in the chances are you have that person in mind when you buy their present in the hope you’ll get some of the emotions described above..

You’ll perhaps imagine their reaction to your gift, is it something that they’ll like, or picture them using it or wearing it depending on what it is. You might also think about what it says about your relationship; is it too extravagant, is it too small, will it offend in anyway, is it sending the wrong message?

This might not be conscious considerations but the chances are some of these will cross our minds whilst making a choice.

The same principles should apply when making decisions about what we offer our customers.

Twice in the last week I’ve been having discussions with clients about their target market and how important it is to be absolutely crystal clear on who their offer is intended for, in exactly the same way as we would determine who we’re buying a gift for.

If we don’t have a particular type of customer in mind it’s nigh on impossible to really meet anyone’s expectations.

It’s too tempting to try to appeal to everyone and end up pleasing no one. It doesn’t mean to say that you won’t have a range of different types of customers, but it does mean you might have different offers, different messages and use different media for each of those target markets. Just as you would give different presents for each of your friends or family.

So let’s look at a couple of examples. 

Let’s say for example you are a visitor attraction.

You might have some activities which are geared towards the family market, whilst having others that are more suited to testosterone filled adrenaline junkies. So the chances are these will be very different and very distinct activities for your two different markets. Therefore initially the way in which you describe those two contrasting activities would be very different, and the messages that you want to convey will also be totally different.

Whereas the family you may want to emphasise safety, doing things together, education or creativity, for the grown-up fun you want to stress the challenge, excitement, competitiveness, thrill, and so on. The chances are that your audience are going to be ‘hanging out’ in totally different places as well, so the medium you use to get your message out to them will be quite different.

The same might apply for a therapist or salon.

This time the treatments you offer might be very similar, but the packages and the way you structure these might be quite different for, let’s say, a pamper party, with the emphasis on fun and indulgence, compared to an in company de-stress day where the focus might be more on employee benefits or reducing absenteeism.

Let’s look at the example of a hotel where this time you might have the same guest, but they may stay in your hotel in very different circumstances.

On the one hand a guess might be booking with you for company business where the emphasis might be an away-day to focus to work on a key project, or to entertain a key client. Compare this to the same guest staying or dining with you for leisure with family and friends, where their expectations and requirements are more likely to be geared towards relaxation are getting away from the pressures of work. So quite, quite different.

So each of these situations, just like choosing a gift, by having a very clear picture of your target market in mind helps you create the right offer, the right message to attract your customer’s attention, and enables you to decide on the right medium to get your message in front of your customer.

And in the same way it’s really hard to choose a gift for somebody that we don’t know really well, it’s really hard to get the right offer and the right message and the right medium if we don’t know our customers.

So be as specific as possible and go into as much detail as possible about each of your customers and have them absolutely forefront of your mind in any of your marketing communications.


What’s Usain Bolt’s relay baton got to do with customer loyalty?

Jamaican hero Usain Bolt was eventually given back the baton that he and his team-mates ran with to win the Olympic 4x100m men’s relay on Saturday night. It was quite understandable that he’d want to keep a trophy as a reminder of the record breaking race. 

Do any of your customers feel the same about their experiences with you? Are they freely given or unintentionally denied the opportunity to take away anything as a memento of their visit?

What will your customers remember most about their visit to you? What is there that makes your establishment or offer unique, that they might want to take home or share with others, and help build customer loyalty?

Could you offer any of the following either as a gift or as additional sales? Convert your renowned menu or signature dishes into a recipe book, package your hand-made petit fours into a gift box; offer birthday or celebration cakes for customers celebrating special occasions; offer a hand-tied flower bouquet for anniversaries or special occasions; homemade bread, marmalade or other preserves and chutneys; sell luxurious bathroom accessories, robes with your logo, and toiletries. A win-win, the guest has something special to take home and you get an opportunity to ensure they remember you long after they’ve left, and prompt potential repeat business.

Getting personal

Identify the little finishing touches that you can give customers at the end of their visit that will leave them with that wow factor. This might be picking up on an earlier conversation you’ve had with the customer that enables you to give them a personalised memento of their stay.

For example, they raved about a particular dessert so your chef has written out the recipe for them and where they can find the unusual ingredients (or even given them a sample to take home if that’s practical). They’ve been away on business and missed their wife’s birthday, so you assemble and gift wrap a selection of your luxurious toiletries for them to take home. They lost something on a day trip and you manage to source a replacement for them before they leave. They’ve been coveting a plant in your garden so you pot up a cutting for them and wrap it up for a safe journey home. The kids took a shine to a particular toy, game or book, so you pop it into bag for them to take home (or a least source where they can buy it from when they get home).

Be flexible

If they’d like to take their desert home in a goody bag because they are too full to enjoy it, then let them. They ask you about your luxurious robes; why not let them buy one at cost, and gift wrap into the bargain? They didn’t manage to finish that book they borrowed from your ‘library’.

Lasting memories

Give them something as a memento that’s good enough quality that they’ll want to keep it as well as relevant to your offer. It might not be something they’ve experienced this time around, but whet’s their appetite for their next visit.  Cheap and cheerful might hack it the budget market, but is this really how you want to be remembered?

Pass it on

Are your guests away from loved ones, and want to take a gift back home? What do you do, have or use that is unique or unusual and reflects your brand or identity? Homemade preserves, gifts made by a local artist or craftsman that reflect your location, branded toiletries…

Mementos and small gifts provide the perfect way to get your name out there to others. It’s far more subtle than asking someone for a referral, but in effect this is what a well targeted gift can do. This might be in the form of a tangible item, or could be a voucher or exclusive offer.

Even having information about what you do and what you offer to pass on to friends, family and colleagues with some sought after snippets of information or tips is better than nothing to pass on to others.

Show your appreciation

Mementos might provide a great opportunity for increasing sales, but don’t be so hell bent on this that you’re never prepared to give anything away. A small items as a gift is the perfect way to say thank you for their custom, and provides that element of surprise, and builds loyalty. Obviously this needs to be in line with your margins, but even something as small as a print out of the ingredients of their favourite cocktail or the recipe of a dish they asked about, printing out directions for their onward journey, or a kids’ car goodie bag or entertainment pack for the journey home.

And if nothing else, a simple – hand written if it’s practical – thank you note after their visit will keep you in mind for their next visit or when recommending to friends and family.  Remember to leave the door open for repeat business.

 


Find your passion

Working in a business you don’t enjoy, especially when it’s your own can be soul destroying enough in its own right, but it’s bound to impact on your customers too. If you’ve no passion for your hospitality or leisure business and share no common interests with your customers isn’t it time to do something about it?

Whenever anything went wrong or when confronted with something that was unpleasant my mother always used to say “life’s too short”. Unfortunately in her case it was, and she died at the age of 65. My dad outlived her by nearly 17 years, but sadly died at last year aged 81.

But both of them thankfully spent their latter years doing things that they had a real passion for. Whilst I was at university Mum also went back to school, to train as a psychiatric nurse. She later went on to work in young people’s psychiatric unit and used to come home with stories of playing football with teenage boys, dealing with anorexic girls and other troubled youngsters in the hope of giving them a better chance in adult life. My dad, having initially trained as an architect and then working as an interior designer had always had a passion for vintage cars and for the last 30 years pursued his hobby of restoring his own and others’ cars and frequently worked long into the night in his workshop. And at his funeral people came from far and wide with their cars that he’d worked on over years.

So what have I learnt from my parents about running a business?

Nearly every book on marketing, whether for hotel, hospitality, or restaurant businesses, or any other type of business, will remind you that you need to identify your target market and offer something that meets their needs. But what if when you analyse this you identify a group of people or a product or service which leaves you cold? Would you want these people at your funeral? I know my dad would have been delighted to see so many of his happy customers turn out in his honour.

Working with your perfect guest or customer and the services and products you offer should really excite you. If it doesn’t, it’s bound to have a knock-on effect on the perception of customer service and certainly impact your bottom line. But if it doesn’t excite you why would you want to be doing it anyway?

So in an ideal world you want to be dealing with people with whom you share interests, values or enthusiasm. So how do we find the ideal customers?

Start by listing what you enjoy, what you’re passionate about, what’s important to you. Can these be incorporated into your hotel or hospitality business? If your business reflects your interests the likelihood is you’ll attract other people who share them. You’re more likely to be able to build rapport with them, and you can be more targeted (and successful) with your marketing, both externally and on-site.

Create your values around what is important to you. If it’s important to you to sustainable resources, or care for the environment, or to use fresh, local ingredients when available, create your values around these principles.

If like my dad you have a passion or particular hobby, is this something that you can incorporate into the business in some way. In Dad’s case it was vintage cars, but it could be anything that you’re interested in – be that golf or gardening, shopping or skydiving, woodwork or walking. Your passion should really influence what you offer; whether you focus on just one of your passions or a number passions, it’s a combination of these that add up to make your hotel or hospitality business different. You’ll find it easier to share detail of your real passions, which will not only make your hotel or hospitality business stand out, but attract like-minded guests.

One way of really capitalising on your interests and capture the interest of your guests or customers is to become an expert in something that they and you are interested in. In addition to attracting the type of guests or customers with whom you can build a good rapport and a better prospect of repeat business, it also gives you a great opportunity to get noticed. By writing articles, blog posts, guidebooks or maybe even organising clubs or seminars around your interests or topic, you’ll be on the radar of people who share your interests, which in turn enables you to build your prospect list. It also provides a great opportunity for PR.

Focusing on a specific interest could also involve promoting or writing about events, or organising your own events, and opens up opportunities for joint ventures or partnerships with other businesses, clubs or organisations who share your target audience. What better way to get yourself noticed?

Any of these ways of tying in your interests into your business not only enables you to enjoy what you do and who you work with, but is a great way of being unique and really standing out from your competition. If you have a very niche interest it will translate into a very niche target market.

It’s never too late to start focusing on what you love and where your passions lie. Life’s too short not to.


What’s Your Story?

Everyone loves a good story, you just need to read the pages of Hello magazine, or even our own trade press such as the Caterer to see that we like to hear about what goes on in people’s lives behind the scenes, and get a feel for the real person.

And for any hospitality business telling your own story is a great way to engage with your customers – be they existing or potential.

Hopefully your perfect customer is the type of person you want to spend time with, because you have an affinity with them, share a passion, or like to engage with them.

Telling your story is an ideal way to communicate to your customers what you have in common, and what is different about your restaurant or hotel.  Everyone talks about identifying a USP (unique selling proposition) but some business owners find this a challenge.

Telling your story makes it easier as even if your restaurant is almost identical in every other way to half a dozen other hospitality businesses in your town or area the one thing that will make you different is the story behind you, your team and your business. And because you’re talking about you, it’s so much easier to be authentic.

Your story provides a great way to grab people’s attention. It creates a less obvious or blatant way to build your credibility and customers’ trust in you. You are starting to build that relationship, demonstrate empathy and create that sense of belonging for your customers. It’s also a great way to share information, and educate your customers.

Before writing war and peace consider what you want people to remember from your story. Your story becomes a part of your brand; your identity; so ensure people are left with an image that’s congruent with everything you believe in and is important to you. This is your chance to show why you are perfect for your ideal guests or customers. This is the point where you make sure you tell everyone about and demonstrate your difference – in detail.

Describe what you do, who you are, what is important to you, what makes your hotel or restaurant different, what makes you the best in your market or your area or your price range. And don’t be afraid to go into detail; all good stories give detail. The more detail you give, the more compelling the reading, providing it’s in tune with your ideal customers’ needs and interests.

Reflect back on all the things that customers ask you about – the history if the building, the origin of the name, what’s the story behind a peculiar feature, where your meat comes from

Here are some more examples of being different and how telling a story can help.

  • If all your veg comes from local organic farms, or even your own kitchen garden, describe this, maybe even a little bit about the farms, and the gardeners. If you go up to Smithfield to buy your meat tell people why you’re prepared to get up at an unearthly hour and what you look for in your choice, and what makes it so delicious. One hotelier I know even rears his own pigs – the perfect story especially when combined with photos of the pigs running around!
  • If you’ve made efforts to reduce your carbon footprint, detail your goals, what steps you’ve taken so far, the support you’ve had, the changes you’ve made to your systems, purchasing, equipment, and training, and some of the challenges you’ve faced. Tell them about the quirky practices or products you are using, and what customers might see around the restaurant or hotel as part of your mission. What has been the impact to date, and what are your plans for the future?
  • If you’re a hotel and you provide special activities for guests, make sure you tell people not only that you provide them, but go into the details. How did you get involved in this in the first place – maybe a hobby of yours, or from a quirky request from a past guest that led into something more. Talk about the hosts for these activities and their story too.
  • If you provide picnics, tell people what’s included, about the quality of the products, and about how it can make their day special, and what opportunities it opens for their day out. Give some example itineraries, places to go, discount vouchers – the ideal ‘morning for walkers’ or an ‘afternoon out for foodies’. Don’t just end up being the same as everyone else. It only makes your job harder.
  • If you’ve designed all your rooms or your restaurant around a particular theme, tell them how this came about, the research you did, the features you’ve incorporated and the added extras they can expect. If you’ve had a checklist or criteria for your rooms then share this with guests. It’s not to brag, but to show the care, thoroughness and attention that you’ve given to their experience.
  • What’s the history of your building, village or community, and other places of interest associated with them (including places they may be familiar with outside your area)

And don’t forget the individual personalities that truly make your restaurant, hotel or hospitality business unique. What are their stories?

  • How did any of you end up being where you are today?
  • How does your chef get his inspiration?
  • What’s the story behind that exceptional flare of your waiters
  • Who’s the inspiration for your beautiful gardens

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

And the best bit about these is that your team can tell their own stories, to bring them to life.

Once you have your story(ies) you can use them on your website, for PR, in marketing material, in your blog, include snippets in your menus and other onsite merchandising, at networking events, even in sales conversations or speaking… Anywhere you want to engage and get the attention of your potential or existing customers.

You know that even if you’re in a road with 20 other restaurants or hotels, there will be unique personalities in your business or values that you can promote. Now it’s time to tell your customers about your special features and in detail to ensure they book with you and not your competitors. Keep your perfect customer(s) in mind throughout, and show you really understand them.

So, what’s your story? Write up your story to include: what you are selling which is unique, what makes you different, and your passions and values to reflect your identity.

Stop being a shrinking violet, get out there and tell your story!

For more articles and resources https://www.naturallyloyal.com/products-resources/


Build rapport and build a sense of anticipation with your customers

Before your customers arrive, start to build the relationship and get your customers excited about their visit. Let them know in advance what they can be doing the make the best of their time with you. Offer your help in booking restaurants, (yours or JV partners’), entertainment, outings, taxis, accommodation, attractions. etc. Anything that will make their stay or visit with you memorable.

Introduce your future customers to the team; let your head chef describe the menu or his/her signature dish, personal recommendations from one of your local team members of places to see or things to do, your gardener to talk about what’s in bloom,  your events team about any special entertainment. Anything that will whet their appetite.

Pass on useful (and most importantly up to date) information that will enable a smooth journey: forewarn of expected traffic delays, what’s the quickest and/or cheapest way to get from the airport or railway station, personalised driving directions from their home post code.

Act like a travel company and give tips on what to bring, and what you provide, so they don’t have to overload their suitcase or cram the car with unnecessary toiletries, clothing, sports’ gear or travel books.

Say thank you

The quickest and easiest way to create an impression and get remembered by your customers after their visit is to send a thank you note. A handwritten and personalised card or note will win hands down over and above an automated email.

Show you appreciate their custom, and show you care. Make reference to the rest of  their day out, their holiday, onward journey or something they mentioned during their stay. And one of the easiest ways to show your appreciation is with a small gift of some kind. This might be an exclusive offer or deal for them or a friend, a memento for them to keep or pass on, or some useful snippets of relevant information or tips.

A follow up thank you is also a great opportunity to get feedback too. If you know they enjoyed their visit prompt them to write a review in TripAdvisor or Google Reviews (make it easy for them by providing a link). Ask for direct feedback too; what they enjoyed most and any ideas, comments or suggestions they have to enhance their stay next time.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how to start to build the customer relationship before they have even become a customer.


Building a customer mailing list

Your customer mailing list is one of the most valuable assets of your hotel or restaurant.

I am amazed how few hotels and restaurants use e-mail marketing. It’s never too late to start building a database, and e-mail marketing is a great way to continue to build the relationship with your customers and keep you in their mind when the time comes for a return visit or when asked to make a recommendation.
Without a list, every time you want to get something in front of your customers or prospects you have to start all over again. Your list gives you the opportunity to tell every existing and potential customer about promotions, seasonal events and any other newsworthy information relevant to your target market.
The more detail you have on people who are interested in what you offer, the more often you can return to them with additional offers that are tailored to them. And the more often you do this, the more likely it is that this will result in business.

Offer incentives to build your list

To build your list, you may need to set up incentives for people to fill in a physical form or coupon, or sign up online and share their details. Some ideas might be:

  • Discounts or vouchers (ensuring they are attractive offers,  but include time limits and offers that won’t leave you out of pocket once redeemed)
  • Free information such as a pdf downloadable guide to something of relevance and of interest to your target market, your business or your local area. For example, recipes for your popular dishes, aromatherapy guide related to your spa, golfing tips if you have a golf course, 101 things to do with the kids during your stay….. You get the picture
  • Prize draws or competitions, with relevant prizes from your own products or services, or those of your joint venture partners
  • Access to exclusive offers or ‘members only’ offers

Whatever the incentive it needs to be something that is of value and highly desirable to your target audience; something that will compel them to fill out the form and part with their details.

Where to find contacts

There are three key sources of names:

Existing customers: Simply ask them to leave their business card, or fill out a blank card which enables those who’d rather not give their business details to fill in their personal contact details. Present this with their bill so it gets their attention.
You may want to combine data gathering with gaining feedback on your customers’ stay or visit at the same time.

Collecting phone numbers at the time of booking will allow you to make follow up calls, and having a mobile number allows you to confirm reservations.

Online: This may be existing customers, but more likely will be for people in response to an advert or people who have just stumbled on your website.  You’ll need an ‘opt in’ or ‘landing’ page to capture their details.

As there is no relationship yet with these people you need a really enticing offer to encourage people to share their details. Remember, some of these may be those who may not want to buy right now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be potential customers in future.

In order to track the effectiveness of your marketing activities it’s useful to be able to identify the source of the contact. So you may need to include a ‘how did you hear of us?’ field, unless you have dedicated urls for different adverts or press mentions to help you keep track.

Your joint venture partners: Ask your JV’s to give their customers your discount vouchers or an invitation to receive your exclusive offers. Then ask customers to complete their details in order to redeem them with you.

Never compromise your contacts’ trust by giving or selling your list to anyone else; if a joint venture partner wants to offer something to your contacts do it through you, and vice versa.

You could in theory use contact information taken from customers’ registration details, but use this sparingly and only for a follow up and very relevant offers. You’re legally entitled to contact your own customers with future offers, but always seek permission to use customers’ details for any marketing activity. And of course if any customer asks not to be contacted at any time, you must respect this, and record their preference on your database.

Whichever way you capture prospects’ and customers’ contact information, under the Data Protection Act 1998 you must have permission to communicate with them. The Information Commissioner’s Office website (www.ico.gov.uk) shows what you need to do.

What information you really need

The more information you have the better in order to tailor your mailings to suit the needs of your customer. Asking for a lot of personal detail up front is, however, not very practical (and likely to be very off putting) so it’s better to gather it over time.

What you gather first off will depend on how you want to contact them, so if emailing is your preferred option start with just their name and email address. But if knowing who is local and who is not is important, you may want to gather mailing addresses too. This opens up the opportunity for a physical mailing, which although more expensive is certainly more eye catching than an email and may be a better match for your audience.

So balance what you ideally need with what is reasonable for people to share with you.

Tomorrow we’ll look at what to do with your list.


What’s so different about your hotel, then?

Unless you have a USP or some point of differentiation, what will make your hotel or restaurant stand out above all the rest in your area, or competing for the same market?

Some can rely on their location, or the building, or history. But what if your hotel or restauarnt has none of that?

One way of capturing the interests of your guest or prospects is to imagine your perfect guest sharing some of the same passions, values or interests as you. It’s a lot easier to sell something you have an interest in, you are passionate about or that’s important to you.  If you don’t love what you do, or feel it’s important, it will show. It will be very hard for you to deliver a good service if you are dealing with people with whom you share no values, interests or enthusiasm.

Anyone who knows me will know that I love my garden, and love visiting other gardens. So if it was my hotel an obvious target market would be other garden lovers. This would not only allow me to attract guests who share my interest and passions, it provides a theme, which can be built on. Such as – sharing knowledge of local historical or famous gardens, forming joint ventures with a local plant nursery, garden designer, gardening author, manufacturer of garden products, or market gardener (or all of these); designing menus planned around locally grown produce.

I could tie in with any specific gardening events happening locally, such as RHS flower shows, Gardeners’ Question Time, etc. Or host my own Gardeners’ Question Time calling upon local gardening celebrities. I might include talks from experts, transport and free entry to a number of local gardens of interest (maybe as exclusive guests of the owner). You get the idea……

 

To take another example, Hotel TerraVina in the New Forest, where Nina and Gérard Bassett used Gérard’s knowledge and passion for wine – Gérard is the only person in the world to hold the combined titles of Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, Wine MBA and, as of April 2010, World’s Best Sommelier. (And I was pleased to have the opportunity to interview Nina and Gérard as part of my interview series  – How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge.) As a result Hotel TerraVina attracts both hotel guests and restaurant diners who have an interest in wine, and Gérard is happy as he has an opportunity to cater for people who are interested in what he’s offering. By employing others who share this interest and knowledge Nina and Gérard are able to be consistent. And all this provides them with great PR opportunities.

But what if your theme is not so obvious?

Start by listing what you enjoy, what you are passionate about, and what’s important to you. Can these be incorporated into your business? Then consider your interests. What are the hobbies or pastimes you enjoy (or used to before you ran a hotel and had more free time!) What particular knowledge or expertise do you have? This could be nothing to do with the hotel industry, it might just be an interest or from a former career.

  • So it could be something you love: be that golf, shopping, dogs, cars, cooking – you’ll then know the types of things others enjoy who share  your love, so cater for these interest.
  • Something you value: such as supporting your local community, being in the countryside, or energy conservation, so give examples of the steps you’ve taken to contribute to these.
  •  Or it might be a particular hobby or expertise you can share with your guests: your knowledge of Italian cuisine and offering cookery lessons, your interest in classic cars, and attracting like minded enthusiasts and promoting classic car events in the area, or you might have a specific skill or talent to pass on to others.

Very few of us could honestly say there is nothing we can get excited or enthusiastic about, but I’d certainly recommend checking there is enough of a market there of others who share our passion before modelling our whole business around it!  Then we’ll want aim to recruit people who at least have a remote interest.

And once you have identified what it is that you have that others don’t, make sure you share this at every opportunity.

If your business reflects your interests, value or expertise the likelihood is you’ll attract other people who share them. Having a specific interest or expertise also makes it easier for you to find a forum or networking group where you can get your name known, as well as finding potential opportunities and prospective joint ventures.

Then tell and show your guests how you incorporate these into your business. Show your guests in as much detail as possible what you do that is different, so they can see all this before they choose you. It could be why they choose you.

It’s very easy to be enthusiastic and passionate about something that interests you, and this enthusiasm will translate into bookings if managed smartly. It means you are more likely to attract the type of guests with whom you can build up a good rapport and a better prospect of repeat business.

If your passion appeals to your perfect guests, it will make your job of marketing your hotel and making it unique so much easier.

Nina and Gérard Bassett were just two of my 10 guests on the interview series How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge.


Facebook – Fad, fan or fear

To what extent have you embraced social media to help market your hotel or restaurant? Are you already a fan of Facebook or do you still think it’s just as fad, or do you fear it.

I have to confess that I’ve been in the last category; I’m fine with LinkedIn and Twitter but up till now just couldn’t get my head round Facebook. Maybe I was a bit sceptical about the value of Facebook as a way to market a hotel or hospitality business.

After attending a webinar earlier this week with Barry Chandler, The Bar Blogger, looking at Facebook specifically for hospitality businesses I’ve been convinced!

Here are just 10 of the tips I picked up on how to use Facebook to help market your hotel or restaurant

  1. You need a Facebook page (opposed to a profile or group) as you can:
    – Ask people to like your page
    – Customise your page
    – Add contact forms
    – Not be limited to the number of fans (with a Facebook profile your limit is 5000)
  2. Choose your name carefully once set up you can’t ever rename your page
  3. Customise your URL to match your business name to make it easier for people to find you
  4. On the welcome tab encourage people to click your like button by giving them some incentive in the same way you would be getting people to sign up for your newsletter
  5. Use the page to capture contact details
  6. Add menu tabs to give more details on specific themes of interest such as your menu
  7. Offer exclusive deals or behind-the-scenes content for your Facebook fans to encourage them to interact
  8. Encourage people to take pictures and add your tag, so all their friends find their way back to your Facebook page
  9. Interact with your fans to get feedback and build the relationship e.g. asking them to vote their preferences
  10. Remember to track how people find you so you know whether or not your Facebook (or any other marketing) activity is working for you

How to market a restaurant or hotel through partnerships and joint ventures

Do you know other businesses who already work with your ideal guests? If so, why not set up a joint venture to help market your restaurant or hotel? A joint venture is when you team up or collaborate with another business or an individual to either share resources or help each other out with a promotion or service you can’t offer yourself. Joint ventures provide an ideal opportunity for some low-cost marketing.

To identify prospective joint ventures, think about other businesses that will have lists of people you would like to attract as customers. These don’t have to be competitors (although many businesses do form joint ventures with their competitors quite successfully). They might be suppliers, clubs or organisations who deal with your ideal guests or customers; other businesses who sell complementary services such as local entertainment or attractions; or just fit the profile of your guests by age or location.

Joint ventures may take on many forms. The easiest joint venture is sharing your respective customer and prospect lists. You write to your entire list promoting the joint venture business, and they do the same to their list promoting you.

BUT don’t just give your list to your joint venture partner. There are two reasons for this. You must be the one writing to your list, to respect the privacy of those on it. And your prospects and guests’ trust is in you, not your partner, so when they see something coming from you the message has more credibility and impact. And vice versa for your partner’s list. So for both privacy and effectiveness, only ever write to your own list.

Joint ventures might also be a partnership in a project. A popular option might be hosting a particular event jointly with one of your suppliers, e.g. a wine lovers’ dinner, where your wine supplier provides promotional material and maybe even some of the wine in return for a speaking spot on the night. A win–win all round.

Other joint ventures may be more long-term. For example, if you are close to a particular attraction, you may be able to advertise in their promotional material and on their website (and vice versa) and for each of you to offer or give away vouchers for a discount on entry to the venue, while they give out promotional offers for your hotel. This is a way of third-party endorsement and your joint venture partner will feel a lot happier about doing this if they have had first-hand experience of what you offer, so don’t be afraid to give them a taster.

Don’t limit yourself to entertainment or leisure businesses, though. Think about what businesses you trade with. What businesses do your guests or prospects use? (either locally, in person or virtually, online.)

This type of arrangement may even have further spin-offs, such as you providing catering, accommodation or support for big events. For example, your local tennis club runs a national tournament and recommends your hotel for accommodation (at a preferential rate), and holds its prize giving dinner at the hotel. On the other hand, if the attraction in question is something to be sought after, this may be a good selling feature for your hotel or restaurant if you’re in a position to secure (maybe VIP) entry or tickets in advance.

Becoming an ‘expert’ opens up other opportunities for joint ventures – where do other people interested in your subject go? Think about the golf club, hobby magazine subscribers, spa product suppliers, and so on.

 

If you missed last week’s tele seminar on  The 7 fatal mistakes hoteliers make in getting more business you can still download the recording here