In a quest to investigate the hurdles hotels face, Custard scrutinzer Paul L’Estrange gets to grips with that old favourite ‘loyalty’ and addresses some of the simple rules to engagement which could have a big impact on cost.
“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”
Walter E. Disney
So you have a great hospitality business but the customers aren’t coming through the door. What do you do? It starts with marketing. It doesn’t matter how great your business is, if people don’t know about it… well, they don’t know about it. Luckily professional marketing agencies exist for that very reason, to shout about your business. They can help you identify your target audience and identify the best channels to reach them with your business messages leading to new customers for you. Whether it’s paying marketing professionals to shape your business’ key messages, deliver campaigns, organise promotional materials or manage the media, the astute of you will know that this process comes at a cost… But, it is in your power to reduce that cost.
Reducing the cost of getting people through the door
“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”
Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO, Starbucks
Before we get down to business, what exactly is a loyal customer? To me a ‘loyal customer’ is not just someone who turns up for repeat business or is incentivised by rewards, but someone who has an emotional connection with a brand. Customer loyalty comes from, as Howard Schultz put it “shared values”. Not only will this type of customer turn up again and again, but they will become an ambassador for your brand as well, telling their friends, family and work colleagues about you and effectively doing all of your marketing for you. This will save you money!
These “shared values” will be communicated in the marketing effort. However, if your business doesn’t deliver what is promised through this effort, you will not gain loyal customers.
One example of a campaign that emotionally engaged customers is the John Lewis 2014 Christmas advert with ‘Monty the penguin’. Campaign Live* reported this advert alone had 6.9 million online views within the first 24 hours of being online. The advert told the story of the little boy’s lonely penguin who unwraps a friend for Christmas. How sweet! The fact is the audience had an emotional engagement with the advert and in turn will think of John Lewis when buying their Christmas presents and beyond. Connect with customers culturally, make them laugh, feel nostalgic, happy, pull at their heart strings, tap into their desires – perfume adverts are great for this – do something that will communicate your brand’s shared values and elicits an emotional response. What stories can you tell about your brand? What experiences can you provide for customers?
What about hospitality businesses?
Hospitality businesses are unique in that customers spend a considerable amount of time interacting with your brand. Whether it’s a two week stay for a holiday or a two-hour dinner with friends, your customers invest into your brand. This is an opportunity to convert them into loyal customers. Let’s look at what one of the top hotel brands is doing to create the next wave of loyal customers.
“Our brands resonate well with Generation X and the Baby Boomers, but in order to engage that next generation traveller we need to think outside the box and do things differently,” said Jennifer Utz, VP of buzz marketing and partnerships at Marriott International.**
Marketing Week reported that Marriot International is looking to engage with the next generation of travellers by hosting live concerts at its hotels. The partnership with Universal Music Group will see concerts featuring established artists as well as up-and-coming musicians offered to guests who are a part of the hotel groups loyalty scheme first before opening up ticket sales to the wider public. This is a good example of rewarding loyalty whilst attracting new customers and creating a great experience that is relevant to this next generation of travellers.
You might not have the same budget of an international hotel brand but your business can always tell a story. The use of space, interior design, music and customer service are just some of the channels you can use to create great experiences relevant to your target audience.
The experience your business provides must be relevant if you want to create the type of loyal customer who will be an ambassador for your brand.
Remember, it’s cheaper to get customers to return than it is to gain new ones so make sure what you offer your customer is the best it can be.
- Make your business relevant to your target audience
- Make sure your business is the best it can be
- Engage with your customers emotionally through the marketing effort and the experience your business offers
- Let loyal customers do your marketing for you
- Save money!