The taxi pulls away from the driveway and a deep sigh of relief washes over you. This troublesome guest has finally left. Which hotelier doesn’t experience this time and again: Having to accommodate guests that make it pretty difficult to be a gracious host. From arrival to departure it’s all about their unmet expectations and their disappointment. And they’ll make sure to show you they’re miserable. From subtle sulking to endless discussions, they’ll leave your team and other guests increasingly uncomfortable.
But you have no real control over who chooses your hotel, haven’t you? That might be so, but you can influence who you attract online and offline.
You have the ability to turn your guests into loyal fans that really care about your hotel product. And no, this is not about your handful of hard-earned repeaters, but something that has a far-reaching ripple effect.
It makes so much sense: By attracting more of your ideal guests, many typical hotel problems become non-issues and you’ll finally have the time to focus on what matters most to your guests: awesome hospitality!
Imagine less complaints and more time toÊwow the guests that already like your hotel product. Less rules and fees to protect your assets (cause your tribe cares about your hotel) and more generous hospitality. Less conversation about hiccups and more glowing reviews. Get the drift?
Creating your own loyal following means connecting with people that believe in the same things you do. The benefits of attracting and engaging the kinds of guests that resonate with your view and vision are significant. It not only helps you build trust, but these guests are also more likely to purchase your products and services.
In the beginning, it might not feel comfortable to focus on engaging with a specific group instead of addressing the world at large. After all you have hotel rooms to fill.ÊBut the concept of quality over quantity provides you with something that is priceless Ð the formation of a fan base or tribe that values your product and speaks on your behalf.
Turn your guests into raving fans and let them share it with the world Ð you don’t need TripAdvisor to keep that conversation going! You could foster groups over your hotel’s environmental efforts, the best way to cook a steak and whether a certain type of mattress is better than another. The possibilities are endless.
ÒA tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate” – Seth Godin.
How do you build a tribe?
As the famous quote goes: ÒRemember who you are and what you stand for.Ó That’s the first and most crucial step before you can start building your tribe. Be clear about your values when it comes to your hotel and your hospitality and the kind of people you’d like to attract. Then think about your ideal guest – the person you’d love to show up at your hotel and to have as a member of your tribe – and find an engaging, relevant and purposeful topic to get the conversation going.Ê
Create a buyer persona
A good way to discover more about your ÒidealÓ guest is to give him a face by creating one or more buyer personas. It’ll help you better understand your guests (and your prospective guests!) and make it easier to tailor your content to their specific concerns, behaviors and needs. Start with data in regards to background and demographics, but also go a level deeper and think about the kind of person he (or she) is. What does he value, how does he think and talk, what is important to him, where does he come from and what is he looking for. The more details you know about him the better you can relate to him.Ê
Communicate consistently and talk like a real personÊ
Once you’ve figured out who your ideal guests are, meet them where they hang out online and start the conversation. The platform you are using (email, newsletter, blog, social networks) is not as important as being accessible and encouraging human interaction. Be yourself. No standardized or formal responses, but sincere and authentic conversations in the way your audience communicates.
If your readers feel comfortable they’ll engage and interact. And once they begin to open up, amazing things will start to happen.ÊÊ
Stay relevant and talk about topics that matter to your tribe
People are not interested in what you view as important, they want to talk about what matters to them. Figure out ways in which you can help members of your group and be generous with your assistance. Nothing connects people faster than authentic conversations and generous assistance Ð free and without expecting anything in return. You know these guests are passionate about Bordeaux? Share with them the address of a small local wine bar that has exactly what they are looking for and then get a conversation going about great wines.
Guests mention the long and stressful journey back home? Provide them with an insider tip on where they can relax at theÊthree airports they have to transit. Listen well and make sure your guests feel the love and the caring.Ê
ÒHuman, heartfelt connections are what make life worth livingÓ – Kimpton Hotels.
Make the members of your tribe feel special
People matter and they want to feel that way. Encourage participation and make every member feel a valuable part of your community.ÊShare upcoming projects at your hotel and ask for their opinions. Allow them to contribute and have them participate in the project that way. They’ll feel involved and more attached. Find out what’s important to the members your tribe and what they want, and get a great conversation going.
And then of course, provide them with a great experience, when they visit. Growing your community organically won’t happen overnight, but once you have a number of loyal supporters, the positive ripple effects of even smaller support groups can be impressive.
By Brbel Pfeiffer
Brbel Pfeiffer is a former hotel executive turned marketer who helps hotels create a distinct online presence that will make them stand out. She is the founder of Text Spot On, a communications agency that assists hoteliers with creative marketing concepts that engage, generate leads and drive business. During her 20-year career in the industry, Brbel worked for Hilton International, boutique hotels in Germany and Switzerland and hotel resorts in the Caribbean. You can reach her at [email protected].