Hospitality marketing, as a sub-speciality in the greater marketing discipline, has been gathering a lot of interest as hoteliers, restaurateurs and bar owners try to find ways of attracting guests to their establishments. This has been mostly buoyed by an increase in competition and constant evolution in leisure services. However, most marketers have been largely accustomed to promoting physical products. As a result, it has remained quite a challenge for service providers like hospitality entities to promote their businesses. This can be attributed to the nature of service factors like intangibility, customer’s lack of ownership, perishability, and heterogeneity.
Nevertheless, it is certainly possible to run a successful service business by implementing strategic marketing practices. The key to keeping guests coming to your establishment lies in promoting the pleasurable experience at your hotel, restaurant or bar. Humans, by nature, are highly sensual. Therefore to capture their attention and pique their interest, your marketing efforts need to appeal to their senses. Since you will be mostly targeting clients in distant places, senses of taste, smell and touch will be inapplicable. Consequently, your entire marketing tactics should be based on exploiting sight and hearing.
So, how do you promote your hospitality experience by leveraging the power of senses to keep guests coming to your establishment? Well, there are quite several ways. These include use of stunning images, videos or voice (social video marketing), use of influencers (influencer marketing), guest reviews (customer testimonials), and descriptive writing (blogging) among others.
Social video marketing is perhaps one of the most powerful techniques that are available for you to capture the attention of your would to be guests. Your marketing team, internal or a contracted agency, should be capturing and sharing different exciting experiences at the establishment. The team should work on producing quality and meaningful content (video or images) that will trigger action immediately. Let’s say you run a hotel, for instance, you can do a shoot of a sunset family dinner to showcase what it is like to have a dining experience at your premises. It is therefore incumbent for you to have a highly creative team that will come up with compelling ideas to promote the experience. Further, you can provide a virtual reality tour of your establishment.
You can also hire influencers to promote your hospitality business. While this concept seems relatively new, it has been in use for a very long time but in a different format. Influencer marketing borrows heavily from the idea of brand ambassadorship/celebrity endorsement that is usually characterized by the transfer of influence. However, the difference between the two is that influencer marketing engagements tend to be short term and can have multiple participants with slightly above average influence whereas brand ambassadorship/celebrity endorsement, on the other hand, is mostly long term and involves one personality who possesses a significant influence on the target audience. The underlying strategy here is to engage influencers who have considerable influence with your tribe of customers and have them share experiences while at your place. Let’s assume you’ve hired Flaqo, for example, they can do live videos on location and run interactive sessions where they answer fans questions regarding the business. Given that you can use multiple influencers at a given period, influencer marketing can unlock unprecedented levels of success when properly executed.
In addition to the above, guest reviews have proved to be effective in getting customers both for businesses in the service industry as well as those engaged in the production of goods. It’s anchored on the principle of social proof where people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behaviour in a given situation. Sometimes in our purchase journey, it is often difficult to discern whether you are about to make the right decision in buying a particular product or service that you have never used. As a result of the arising uncertainty, you will go around asking friends and family or even rummage the depths of the internet for reviews/testimonials from customers who have procured the service or product before. Because of this pre-purchase activity, having myriad positive customer reviews/testimonials can help in directing customers to your business. This approach has been largely successful to an extent that some hotels, for example, don’t deploy other marketing tools. However, to make this work, you need to ensure that your overall guest experience is always above par and encourage them to leave a review before they leave.
Lastly, we have blogging that utilizes the power of words to vividly describe hospitality experiences. If you are a fan of Dan Brown novels or Biko Zulu blog (Jackson Biko), you would understand how engrossing and moving descriptive writing can be. While it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, it is advisable to tell the stories behind the pictures. Your marketing team can be doing regular blog posts highlighting different experience angles at your hotel, bar or restaurant. For instance, you can write a story on interesting things to do at the establishment and the surrounding areas. The captivating videos or images can be embedded in the article and then posted on the company website. The post link can be shared to your client email database as well as your social media community.
Indeed, hospitality marketing has a key role to play in helping you to attract customers and optimise revenue. The tactics above are just highlights because there are many more marketing approaches that you can implement to ensure that guests keep streaming into your establishment. However, regardless of the strategy you choose to pursue, you must emphasize your unique hospitality experience. When properly executed, the results can be simply amazing. Even so, the celebration shouldn’t end at customer arrivals. Service businesses are about relationships. Your overall success lies in a deeper understanding of your customers and defining a service concept that matches their expectations.
Stephen currently serves as the Lead, Communication & Marketing at SMD Consulting Associates