Have You Made Your New Year’s Resolutions Yet?
By Bonnie Knutson, Professor at Michigan State University - The School of Hospitality Business
Why the drop off? Simple, it is hard to change an old habit. It is hard to change behavior. As the Lay's Potato Chip commercial says, Try eating just one. Most of our resolutions have to do with getting healthier, more organized, learning something new, or enjoying family and life more fully. We all want to get better, be happier, and feel accomplished.
Now you are probably wondering why you are reading about New Year's resolutions in this issue of Hotel Executive? It's past the summer solstice. It's sunny and warm. The flowers are in full bloom, children are splashing around in the outdoor pool, and adults are the sitting in lounge chairs enjoying one of those fruity drinks with a little paper umbrella stuck in the glass. You are relishing the results of the hotel's summer get-away specials and are already planning fall weekend deals.
So why would you even contemplate New Year's Resolutions now when it is more than half way through the year? It's simple. It's never too late to start. But just as this is true for yourself, it is also true for your hotel. First, a more basic question: Do you even make resolutions for your hotel? If you don't, it isn't too late to start that either. If you could turn the calendar back to January 1st, what resolutions would you make for your property? For your staff? For your marketing plans? In a hats- off-to-David Letterman, here are five to give your thinking aout a fresh mid-year start.
Differentiate. Stand Out. Break Through the Clutter. Peter Drucker once defined leadership as "thinking through the organization's mission, defining it and establishing it, clearly and visibly." At the beginning of the 21st century, marketing guru, Jack Trout, author of Differentiate or Die, said that in this age of killer competition, he would change the definition to "thinking through the organization's difference, defining it and establishing it, clearly and visibly." I totally agree. So resolve that what you do at your hotel, differentiates its brand, products, and services so it stands apart from the competition and stays in the top spot of consumers' minds. In other words, think beyond just setting a piece of chocolate on the bedside table at night.
Innovate. Create. Originate. Guests are experienced; they are traveled; they are knowledgeable. They have been there, done that. They "see it on the Internet." And while consistency is critically important for any property, guests are looking for new and stimulating experiences. Just think about how the whole boutique segment has taken hold. And what about the growth of the bed and breakfast sector? Or themed guestrooms and personalized pillows? In their landmark book, The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore argue that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers in which the memories themselves become the product - the "experience". Furthermore, experience businesses can charge for the value of the memories that an experience offers. In other words, the more your hotel can offer innovative, memorable experiences to your guests, the more value they receive and the more they are willing to pay. One of your resolutions, then, must include the rule to always be testing, trying, and tweaking your hotel's ideas and offerings to make them more memorable.
Build loyalty with relevancy and engagement. Every hotel manager "knows" his or her markets. The question is, how well do they really know them. My dad taught me to work under the 20-Characteristic Rule. That is, if you can't list 20 characteristics of your customers - i.e. your guests - you don't really know them. Sure, we all have the basic market demographics down pat – age, loyalty programs, where they live and work. We also probably know how often they stay at the property, how much they spend, and what they buy or do there. But do we really know their "hot buttons" – what they value, what their attitudes or beliefs are? These are the so called psychographics that make us tick and drive our decisions. We need to more closely examine what is truly relevant in our guests' lives, what they care about and what motivates them to act. Sustainability? Volunteerism? Adventurism? Others? Knowing these elements gives us insights that go beyond the obvious and shows us the new strategies for success. Once we know the strategy, we can create compelling stories and messages and deliver them through the right promotional channels at the right time. Hence, resolve to bolster your guests' data base and increase your data mining.
Make it Convenient and More Convenient. I learned a lot about marketing and guest service from my dad. One of his favorite mantras was Make it easy for the customer to spend money. There was a survey taken not long ago that asked people what they wished had had more of. Their answer: Time. Their second answer: Energy. Your guests all wear many hats; they multi-task; they don't have a lot of discretionary extra time. (This is true for both leisure and business travelers.) So the price of staying in a particular hotel is not just measured in monetary terms anymore. Over the past decade or so, there has been a fundamental shift in the way consumers determine the cost of travel. As people take on additional roles and are more pressed for time, the notion of cost has taken on the added dimension of time. It may be a cliché that time is money, but when it comes to convenience, time is truly money. Think about online booking, concierge services, and in-room coffee service…ad infinitum. This means that your fourth resolution is to develop and implement other innovative ways that, as my dad would say, make it easier for your guests to book your hotel, delight in staying there, and spend money.
Make Multi-Channel Preface Your Promotions. All, if not most, hotels have moved beyond advertisements. Snail-mail, websites, and emails to communicate with their guests. And consumers have moved beyond their .aol and .gmail to communicate with others and their favorite brands. They now write their own blogs, pin on Pinterest, tweet on Twitter, and load countless amounts of content on Facebook and YouTube. Accordingly, your fifth and final mid-year hotel resolution should be to engage your guests across a multitude of channels and touch points every day. Pin pictures of eye-catching tablescapes on Pinterest, have your chef write a blog on new food or wine trends, and load videos clips where a fitness pro offers on-the-road tips to maintain health and wellness while traveling. As digital marketing programs continue to grow in importance, IT functions will become increasingly significant as channels by which to engage guests. Therefore, it is more imperative than ever, for hoteliers to fully understand and enhance multi-channel marketing in their marketing tool bag.
So get out your pen and paper, write down your hotel's promises, take a deep breath, and join the ranks of those who do keep their resolutions for the year. Besides, who says that resolutions can only be made on January 1st?
Your REVPAR will thank you!