Storytelling to connect with Guests

It is not as difficult as it might seem to trigger an emotional response with your hotel marketing ideas. Even the typical guest room and pool images that hotels use appeal to emotions. The trick really becomes how to play an emotional ‘trump card’, one that generates a stronger emotional reaction, so your property sticks out from the rest.

In the hotel industry, storytelling can be your trump card. From making your message more memorable, to making your content more exciting and emotional, storytelling is what can drive more business through your website.

The first step in integrating stories into your hotel marketing ideas. Instead of focusing on the features of your property, start focusing on the benefits, experiences and emotions those features generate. For example, a pool isn’t just a pool. It’s a place where children can play, families can connect, and adults can relax.

The second step is to start telling these ‘stories’ in as many ways and places as possible:

Write Copy that Connects– Language can turn a typical hotel website page into an emotional story. For example, ‘Planning Your Stay’ can be a helpful page that informs travel shoppers about some of the amenities of your hotel, and some of the sights and attractions they can enjoy nearby. But ‘Prepare for Your Adventure’ infuses the emotion of discovery and a sense of the experience they will have.

Put People in Images– If there is one thing that’s common in hotel marketing images, it’s the absence of people. Adding people to at least some of your images instantly tells a story, illustrates an experience, heightens emotion and sets your site apart from the rest.

Let Customers Tell Their Story– User-generated content(UGC), both written and visual, can be your best source of storytelling. From the reviews that guests leave, to the videos they post on social media, UGC speak volumes in emotional, experiential ways.

Put a Face on Your Team– Visitors like to know they are dealing with real people. Sure, a ‘Bio’ tells a story, but an image adds to the emotional connection.

Create Stories Everywhere – Take a moment to read the descriptions you have of your images, both on your website and those that appear on OTAs. Do they tell a story? Or do they simply put into words what’s in the picture? Instead of ‘Fitness Room’ try ‘Give our fitness centre a workout.’

Mobile SEO tactics for hoteliers

According to Google, the ‘Mobile Tipping Point’ was crossed back in 2015 when more people made searches on their mobile over their desktop. Mobile searches have reached nearly 60% of total website visits for the first half of 2017. With the smaller screen-size, organic results are shown much further down below the fold on mobile, making it even more vital to position yourself highly.

There are many SEO practices and tips but here are just 4 from the latest algorithm updates to optimise your hotel website’s ranking on Google both today and for improvements scheduled in the near future?

Be Mobile Friendly

Google is a constantly evolving animal and you must play by their rules, so keeping abreast of the latest Google algorithms is essential to get the top spot on the SERP’s.

Google rolled out an algorithm in spring 2017 which favoured ‘mobile-friendly’ websites over those only suitable for desktop. This means getting a mobile website is not ‘just a phase’, it’s now an essential part of maintaining website traffic.

Load Your Site Quicker

For mobile in particular, users want content to load quickly, under 2 seconds in fact. According to KissMetrics47% of users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of users abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Scale down on heavy content as much as possible (such as images, videos & interactive maps), not only for a cleaner and easier-to-digest appearance, but also to keep site weight to a minimum.

Content & Language

Meta descriptions and meta tags must be paid attention to. These pieces of text appear in SERP’s as the title and small excerpt of preview text underneath, therefore they need to be carefully crafted to appeal to potential guests, and Google.

Mobile SERP’s naturally provide much less space to sell your hotel in so your message needs to resonate with users across all devices.

The main take away points for creating Meta copy are:

To use keywords liberally but never sacrifice on quality – if it doesn’t make sense, it can’t be included.

Use descriptive language and imagery to entice users to click – this is particularly easy to achieve with hotels and travel in general.

Employ psychological techniques – fear/urgency tactics such as rapidly diminishing room availability, and conveying exclusivity at your hotel are effective in getting users to click.

Showcase enticing rates and special offers – numbers attract attention because they are easier for the brain to process, particularly helpful for smaller screens.

Google My Business

Google My Business is a free tool for every company. It displays all the vital pieces of information about your hotel such as address and contact number, as well as user reviews , property images, and most recently, Google Posts – among other features in the ‘knowledge panel’.

Making sure you have claimed your listing will help make your hotel the most prominent result for brand related searches. It also gives your hotel the opportunity to appear as one of 3 businesses displayed for non-brand related search queries so make sure you’re optimizing this feature, to ensure Google displays your hotel above others.

 

Driving Loyalty

53% of consumers said that good service would keep them loyal to a hotel brand, even if they could get a cheaper deal elsewhere. Meanwhile, 40% said good deals and 39% said a rewards scheme would result in greater loyalty.

This shows that long-term loyalty is possible for travel brands, but the key to achieving it is delivering a service that takes into account the individual’s needs. So while personalisation is somewhat of a buzzword at the moment, it’s certainly something that consumers value.

This is reflected in the reasons certain brands are favoured by consumers. The second-most favourite, Booking.com, was chosen because of its ability to personalise and tailor offers based on previous behaviour. Similarly, the biggest factor cited for British Airways was its superior rewards scheme. Outside of these, there are a few standout examples of brands succeeding when it comes to loyalty.

Hilton and its Hilton Honours Program is particularly good, mainly because it allows consumers to make use of points in situations unrelated to the brand. Members can use them in restaurants and in shops, and even pool points to share with family and friends.

Marriott is another hotel chain that is similarly innovative, this time using a beacon-driven loyalty scheme to allow people to earn rewards based on where they are.

Increasing the guest experience

When it comes to the opportunity for customer engagement, the travel industry already has a head-start – because who doesn’t get excited at the prospect of going on holiday? But while travel consumers might naturally be more inclined to engage, this also means there is greater opportunity for brands to get it wrong. Delays and disruptions might mar a travel experience, but how a brand deals with it can make or break a customer relationship.

Travel Brands need to do the basics as below:

  1. Consumers prioritise pragmatic needs, such as honesty, authenticity, value, and good service. Brands that do not meet these expectations (or view them as standard) run the risk of losing trust.
  2. Customer-centric brands create deeper relationships. Offering something of value (on top of the expected) can be the key to generating longer-term loyalty.
  3. Transparency is key when it comes to data-sharing. Personalisation can help to improve the customer experience, so it is important to communicate this value-exchange clearly with consumers.
  4. In-the-moment technology can take brands to the next level. VR, AR, and chat-bots can enhance and improve the travel journey, engaging consumers when it matters most.

Games Customers Play

Have you noticed how our guests have become smarter over the years and are now able to wangle better deals from you? As much as the world gets smaller, travel has become much less complex and affordable and today’s guests can be geniuses at negotiating much better deals than earlier. Besides, a larger supply of hotel inventory as well as destinations has tilted the scales in the favour of the guest.

Following are some of the most popular tactics that used by Guests

  • Shortage of funds/ limited budget/ more than estimate
  • Complaining from the time of check in /event
  • Never appreciating the positives during his stay
  • “I am too busy now, meet me later”
  • “Your competitor is offering me better rates than you”
  • Praises the competition
  • “What is your best offer?”
  • “I’ll book with you only if you quote me a discounted rate”
  • Referring documents to make out as if he is comparing your quote with competitors, but not specifying any comparison
  • Asks you to give him a minute and keeps on doing other things for a long time
  • Does not pay proper attention – talks to others around – Leaves in the middle for a while
  • Raises his voice on the phone with the person he is talking to in front of you
  • Showing off that he will be favouring you if he commits in your favour
  • Asks for a complimentary stay to check quality (in case of a large residential banquet query)
  • Makes out that he is very pressed for time

I was used as a catspaw!

Children’s author Aesop in 1919 relates a fable of the monkey, the cat and the chestnuts.

Once upon a time a Cat and a Monkey lived as pets in the same house. They were great friends and were constantly in all sorts of mischief together. What they seemed to think of more than anything else was to get something to eat, and it did not matter much to them how they got it.

One day they were sitting by the fire, watching some chestnuts roasting on the hearth. How to get them was the question.

“I would gladly get them,” said the cunning Monkey, “but you are much more skillful at such things than I am. Pull them out and I’ll divide them between us.”

Pussy stretched out her paw very carefully, pushed aside some of the cinders, and drew back her paw very quickly. Then she tried it again, this time pulling a chestnut half out of the fire. A third time and she drew out the chestnut. This performance she went through several times, each time singeing her paw severely. As fast as she pulled the chestnuts out of the fire, the Monkey ate them up.

Now the master came in, and away scampered the rascals, Mistress Cat with a burnt paw and no chestnuts.

Hence the phrase – ‘he used me as a catspaw.’

How often have we been used as a catspaw in our jobs?

As a General Manager, I was given to sign termination letters and file cases against various employees. Sometimes I may not have agreed with the harsh step taken, but job insecurity out of fear, may frankly have led me to comply… not my proudest moments for sure!

We all have our values, our code of ethics, our ways of looking at life… yet moments come when we find ourselves being used as a catspaw. You may relate to situations like these:

  • Your colleague convinces you against your better wishes to go along with his/her plans or ideas…
  • Your subordinate entices you into signing off his/her leave form with flimsy excuses and you do so in order to gain his/her approval…
  • Your boss gets you to do his/her work using flattery to keep you motivated…
  • Your boss takes your idea and implements it without giving you due credit…
  • People are nice to you only because they need something off you and not necessarily because they care for you…

All of the above may happen, but at a cost to you. Remember how pussy’s catspaw was singed while pulling out chestnuts from the fire for the monkey?

So keep a watch and be aware of such situations!

How many time have you been used as a catspaw recently?

Disruptive technology half a century ago ~ Sony vs. RCA

There is a class of technological changes where almost always the new entrant – with far fewer resources and with no track record – topple existing industry giants. This special class of technological changes, paradoxically, does not have to be sophisticated or even radical.

Take transistor television as an example. When RCA first discovered transistor technology, the company was already the market leader in colour televisions produced with vacuum tubes. The company naturally saw little use for transistors beyond a mere technological curiosity and decided to license it to a little-known Japanese firm called Sony.

Sony, of course, could not build a TV out of transistors, but it did manage to produce the first transistor radio. The sound quality was awful, but the radio was affordable for teenagers, who were delighted by the freedom to listen to rock music away from the complaints of their parents. Transistor radios took off. Still, the profit margins were so low that RCA had no reason to invest further. RCA was busy making serious money and investing every R&D dollar on improving vacuum tube colour TV.

Sony, meanwhile, was looking for the next big thing. It launched a portable, low-end, black and white TV targeting low-income individuals at a rock bottom price. Called the “Tummy Television,” it was tiny enough to perch on one’s belly — an antithesis of RCA’s centrepiece that graced middle-class living rooms. Why would RCA invest in transistors to make an inferior television for a less attractive market? It did not.

The real trouble began when Sony finally pushed the transistor’s performance to allow it to produce colour TVs based entirely on the new technology. Overnight, RCA found itself trying to catch up on a technology that it had ignored for the past three decades, which it had ironically pioneered and licensed out. This type of technology – inferior at first but immensely useful later – was disruptive, a term that has since been immortalized in the business lexicon of executives, consultants, and academics.

2016 India Biz Travel

India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and the business travel spend that originates there is expected to reach $33 billion in 2016. India is the 10th largest global business travel market, and GBTA expects the country to climb into the sixth spot by 2019. In July, GBTA had estimated that business travel spend growth from the second quarter of 2015 to the second quarter of 2016 would come in at 10.2 percent. Now that those numbers are final, GBTA has found that business travel spend grew 10.9 percent during that period.

GBTA expects domestic business travel spend, which it estimates represented 91.4 percent of India’s total business travel spending in 2016, to increase 12 percent to $30.2 billion in 2016 and to reach $33.8 billion in 2017.

Think out of the box

An interesting case study…

First you hire someone, then you train them. Right? David Bowd thinks that’s backward.

Earlier this year, the CEO of Salt Hotels was preparing to open his fourth location, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. But he didn’t run a cattle call. He and his team started Salt School instead.

“This is an industry where it’s all about attitude and hard work,” said Bowd, whose resume includes stints with boutique hoteliers like Ian Schrager and Andre Balazs.

The company invited local job-seekers to a free, 10-week, 25-hour introduction to hospitality, and the only requirement was explaining why they wanted to be included. The result: 380 applicants, from teens to 60-year-olds, for 160 spots – many with moving stories of seeking a break, a second chance, or to be a role model for their kids.

“We set about calling in every favor we could with all the hotel friends we had” to staff the Saturday morning sessions, Bowd said, which focused on topics like sales and marketing, F&B and revenue management. In one class, students role-played front desk scenarios – luggage delivered to the wrong room, complaints about loud neighbors. “The purpose was to make decisions on the fly. It’s thinking creatively,” he added.

Bowd watched students gravitate toward certain responsibilities. “It was such a natural evolution of people moving toward areas that they felt comfort in and had a passion for,” he remembered. It also fostered a healthy competition. “You see who’s shy, who’s outgoing, and you are able to match people with their skill set much easier because you see them perform,” he said.

In the end, 110 students graduated, and the hotel hired 67 (three have been promoted); 90% were from Asbury Park. Other local companies have inquired about hiring the students, as well.

“At the end I thought, why have we never done this before? We just employed a whole workforce that we’ve already spent 10 weeks with,” Bowd said. “They know what our core values are, they know what to expect, they have a passion, they’re all local. This is a no-brainer.”

It’s also a lot of hard work, he acknowledges, but with results that far exceeded traditional recruitment, using an approach that he would like to see larger companies use in the communities they enter.

The school moves next year to Topeka, Kansas, where Salt is working on a 109-room hotel. Former students will become staffers to help prepare for an early 2018 opening. “I’ve opened many hotels, and this is the best way of doing it,” Bowd said.

Applying EI in Organizations

Emotional management skills which provide competency to balance emotions and reason so as to maximize long term happiness for self as well as dealing with others, when applied within organizations has major benefits.

Customer Service: Learning how to help your customers feel heard, understood, helped, served, respected, valued and important.

Hiring: Selecting employees with relatively high Emotional Intelligence, i.e. emotionally sensitive, aware, optimistic, resilient, positive and responsible.

Turnover: Enabling turnover reduction through helping employees feel appreciated, recognized, supported, challenged, rewarded and respected.

Training: Raising EQ at all levels of the business through Emotional Literacy and EQ awareness workshops.

Corporate Culture: Creating an environment where employees feel safe, trusted, special, needed, included, important, cooperative, focused, productive, motivated, respected and valued.

Productivity: Developing intrinsic motivation. Increasing employee commitment, cooperation and cohesion. Reducing lost time spent on conflicts, turf-battles, defensiveness and insecurity.

Goal Setting: Setting goals based on feelings. For example, stating the goal that we want customers to feel satisfied, appreciated, etc. and setting similar goals for employees, and then getting feedback on feelings and measuring and tracking performance.

Emotional Support: Mitigating negative emotions like fear, worry, anxiety, and stress.

Leadership: A leader with high EQ is emotionally aware. This means that he or she is aware of his own feelings and is not limited to logic, intellect and reasons when making decisions and managing people.

Mistakes made in designing your website

A website should be modern, aesthetically pleasing, inviting, and be able to show off your property. It is hard to remember that these small things can matter more than the expensive design things, but do not give in to marketing peer pressure. Usability beats trends. Make sure your most profitable revenue channel is more than just a pretty face. Also also remember to avoid the pitfalls below:

  • Missing Address & Phone Number
  • Fluffy Homepage Taglines
  • Putting music on your website
  • Cannibalizing Your Own Traffic
  • Poorly Embedded Videos
  • Bad Photography
  • Press Releases
  • The Dreaded Restaurant & Spa Menu PDF
  • One Call to Action
  • Bad Booking Engines

Marketing through Instagram

Its going to get harder and harder to think of Instagram  as nothing more than a simple tool for sharing a filtered version of your life with family and friends as this social media platform is fast becoming a marketing machine.

Now, businesses can set up a profile that contains a “contact” button that allows prospective buyers to call, email, or text a seller without ever having to leave the app. That grill making your mouth water? Call and make a reservation at the restaurant.

There is also the new Insights feature which promises to give businesses actionable information about ‘who their followers are and whose posts resonate better than others.’ By learning more about the behaviour and demographics of your audience, one can create more relevant and timely content.

Sellers will be able to promote posts, turning well-performing posts into ads right within the app. A business simply has to select an existing post, add an action button, and then select a target audience (or let Instagram suggest an audience on its behalf). From there, you will have an ad ready to run for as long as you’d like. The whole world will be able to access these tools by the end of the year.

What great sales people do…

Just as great brands cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with their customers, great salespeople cultivate a deep connection between their company and their client’s business. To borrow a term, the best salespeople are brand evangelists.

Guy Kawasaki first adopted the term “evangelism” into the business world by applying it to an innovative approach to sales, marketing, and management.  Evangelism, as he defined it, means “convincing people to believe in your product or ideas as much as you do” because evangelists believe that what they offer is truly helpful and valuable to others.

Brand evangelists — that is, great salespeople — build up support within a market for a brand so that it becomes the brand leader in its category.

Importantly, brand evangelism is not another one of the customer-centric or customer-driven sales approaches that have become popular in recent years.  Customer-centric sales and most other sales improvement approaches are pursued for the sole purpose of increasing sales.  Brand evangelism is about engaging customers in a way that produces stronger and more valuable brands and sustaining long-term business success for their companies and their clients.

This is what great salespeople do.

Emails are still numero uno

Despite whisperings of its decline in recent years, email remains a growing, go-to channel for marketers. A June 2016 survey of US marketers conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Demand Metric found that email had a median ROI of 122%—more than four times higher than other marketing formats examined, including social media, direct mail and paid search.
Agency professionals and in-house marketers worldwide are in agreement about email’s effectiveness, according to March 2016 polling from Econsultancy. Both groups named email marketing most frequently as a tactic able to provide a strong ROI, at 80% and 73%, respectively. The study also found that while respondents allocated an average of 16% of their overall marketing budget to email for 2016, the program contributed to 23% of total sales, a ratio that indicates email’s positive ROI.