The hardest word to write in a new post is the first one. I used to think of this as just writer’s block when faced with a blank page but it goes one level up I think. Most content generation never ends up taking place because the ideation part is missing.
The underinvestment in creating valuable content among independent hotels is frighting and I have been trying to explore why this might be. It is never that the hotel doesn’t have a voice, it is simply that there is no mechanism for bringing together the writer’s voice, reader validation and a good content idea.
First, let’s ask us ourselves ‘what is a good piece of content?’. I would argue it needs to address the following three core elements:
- The content directly addresses a reader’s need
- It comes from a truly authentic voice
- The channel suits the message
Step One – Step into their shoes
Rather than thinking of content through the lens of ‘what do I have to say’, think of it as ‘what do prospective guests want to know’. It is really hard to see the wood for the trees when evaluating your own business. Goodness, that is why consultants make so much money! Make sure you have an objective perspective when evaluating this point. Perhaps think of the following actives to achieve this:
- Why did I choose the hotel on my last holiday?
- When I stayed there, what did I do during the day?
- What went wrong on that holiday?
- What is a travelling tip that you would share with your friends?
Perhaps there are also repeat guests that you would be happy asking these questions? Perhaps you can get friends and family on board and ask them what is important to you? Ideas, generally speaking, come from exposure to information and the brain making connections to form something new. If you don’t step into your reader’s shoes and ask these questions, you starve your content process of inspiration and you will never generate good ideas.
A quick example of this in action. Think of the train departure time screens in the pub next door to the station? It’s not marketing beer or food but it is a direct response to the question of ‘what does my customer really want to know’. I can’t even begin to imagine how much additional revenue they make through ambitious commuters thinking they can sink a London Pride in 12 mins plus a quick dash to platform 8.
Action point: Write down as many key considerations you personally had when you were last travelling. Reach out to family and friends to do the same and gather a list of guest-focused considerations.
Step Two – Leverage your resources
Everyone in the business has something to add here. Receptionists are asked hundreds of questions, the sales team are constantly trying to evaluate customer needs, staff are responding to review sites. All of these are a direct source of ‘customer needs’ and should be documented. Imagine if you had a list of every question that was asked in the hotel, think how much this would influence the content that you would write?
This list would guide what FAQs to have on the website, inform additional information added to the pre-stay email or dictate what the direct booking message says. Similarly, questions might also be more inspirational in nature and could guide content pieces on where to eat, where to buy theatre tickets or a romantic spot to propose?
Evaluating feedback and questions is not just an operational and repetitional challenge, it is a really powerful source of content ideas and should definitely be a part of the marketing team’s content process. In summary, here are a few places to look:
- Review platforms
- Objection handling in the sales team
- Reasons why people stayed elsewhere
- Regular questions on the reception desk
- The advice the concierge is regularly giving out
Action point: gather a list of as many key questions as you can. Consider adding questions on post-stay feedback for reasons for travel and if there was anything they wish they had known. If you don’t have a logging process for questions then consider implementing one.
Step Three – Prioritise and structure
If you have followed the previous two steps, you should now have a good long list of key friction points and questions. It might be quite long and quite daunting so this final step is essential to match it up with an authentic voice in your business. Remember this is not just an activity for marketing. If you can find perspectives and stories from different team members, it will do wonders for the authenticity of your brand.
We now need to work through the different team members and find out what interests them the most about their job. People always write best when it is something that they’re interested in. Ask where they would like their career to go, what was a recent interesting experience at work, where do they see the industry going, what do they hope the hotel will become? Note these down as it paints a picture of the unique voice that they might have.
With a clear understanding of the team’s voice, we can now go through and match topics and questions to who is best suited to them. It’s important to bear in mind that it might not be entirely on the receptionist’s shoulders to write everything but they can certainly have input or put a quote or bullet points in.
The core principle of marketing is getting the right message to the right person at the right time. By investing some time into these three steps, you will end up with a content list that is validated against what guests actually want to read and leverages all the unique voices in your team to ensure that each content piece is truly authentic.
If you wish to chat about implementing this in your business, just let me know. Umi runs structured content planning workshops that can achieve the above in just half a day.