Revenue has pretty much evaporated for hotels (and a lot of suppliers of hotels for that matter). It is a challenge that has undoubtedly caused the most challenging financial situation in hospitality in a generation. When faced with these challenges however there are two ways to go as hotel marketers, we can go dormant or we can find creative ways to position ourselves to succeed when this all passes.
Challenges like this force us to completely rethink how we market and sell and this is what we need to start doing.
There are two noticeable trends in the hotel marketing environment that I really want to meld today:
- The buyer’s cycle is not dead! We have simply shifted disproportionately towards the awareness phase
- The sentiment of guest/customer support is growing in a positive way – We saw that in the takeaway alternative for restaurants, the #HelpDeHoreca movement in the Netherlands and many other initiatives.
The Buyers Cycle
Here is a quick outline of the buyer’s cycle:
The traditional cycle steadily flows people through the buyer’s cycle from the awareness of their need to the fulfilment of their need. In an ideal situation (if we’re adopting a strong inbound methodology) then the users/customers will join the start of the cycle again. This creates the inbound flywheel made popular by Hubspot. It’s important to note that each section of the buyer’s cycle needs different messaging and has a different targeting and positioning strategy so directly affects marketing output.
With this in mind, how does this relate to the current COVID-19 crisis and hotel marketing? We are currently not seeing any sales come through hotel websites. There are no rooms available and indeed no one is looking for a room at the moment anyway.
Does mean the buyer’s cycle has disappeared No. It simply means that prospects are now stuck at the awareness stage and are not able to actually take the next step because there is no mechanism for them to do so. This means that we simply have a weighted buyers cycle which sooner or later will move forward. This pent up demand and over-spending of time in the awareness phase still require our attention!
If as marketers we are lying dormant, we are setting our pipeline up to fail on reopening. Now is the best time in history to address the awareness phase appropriately by inspiring, through storytelling and by creating the need in your prospects mind. You’re not there to drive a direct booking strategy, it’s time to simply engage and position your brand in the minds of future prospects. You can also do this freely and without the instant need for ROI; something I think a lot of marketers will actually relish as the inner brand manager comes out of them.
During this crisis, and indeed throughout the other crises, there are great swathes of the population that come together to support industries and people. We have seen this through some amazing crowdfunding efforts of local businesses, in particular, #HelpDeHoreca in Amsterdam as the city comes together to support hospitality.
We need to combine these two ideas. Marketers firstly need to be focussing more on inspirational and aspirational content to feed the awareness phase of the hotel marketing buyers cycle but also we need to offer some sort of conversion point through to the next phase of the buyer’s cycle so that those engaged customers can actually convert into something of value.
We need to create new offerings, only available to a certain number of people that are happy to help. A package that has been created to reward the supporters and is likely not to happen again. At the same time as offering a buyable experience, we need to take the risk out of it as well – we should be offering things that can be redeemed any time within 12/18 months. The feeling of exclusivity will be important here. Limit it to 100 or 200 customers and make the deal genuinely very good. Compare it to the normal
For the best context of this, think about how Kickstarter works. People are happy to pay for things now and get a good deal with the promise of future delivery. Do we think this concept could work?
- Limited to certain numbers of people
- The promise of future delivery
- Buying into the values of the brand
- Resonate with the mission statement
To actually implement this, we need some level of eCommerce – in the last couple of weeks, Umi has created a simple but highly effective screen take over that allows you to very easily sell packages and vouchers with a simple fulfilment system behind the scenes.
We can set this up for you in less than an hour and it will really help convert these guests once you have put together a compelling future value proposition.
You can check out our pre-paid experiences module here.
Since this article was written, I have extended the concept a bit further and you can see a more concise version in the video below.
Food for thought.. Should hotels be thinking more like Kickstarter? The issue is that no one us booking anything because we have nothing to sell. Makes sense.
If you don’t know what Kickstarter is, it’s a crowdfunding tool that allows startups/projects to obtain funding on the promise of future delivery of a product or service. All the companies on Kickstarter don’t have anything to sell either – they’re selling on the promise of something really unique and of great value the future and limiting availability to create exclusivity.
As a hotel maybe we should start thinking along these lines. Let’s package up something really unique, like really unique, of amazing value, create exclusivity by offering it to a limited number of people and then communicate our genuine plight, mission and values that is going to resonate with our audience.
There is heaps of supportive customer sentiment out there, we only need to look at city-wide initiatives like Amsterdam’s #HelpDeHoreca to see people coming together to help the industry. We live in an experience economy so let’s pivot our thinking away from rooms being commodities, partner up with local businesses, breweries, coffee shops, restaurants, musicians, actors, anything and create something so unique that we can start acting a little bit like kick starter and commercialising the future.