One of the trends I have been noticing is that hotels continually generate hype instead of value. Hyper-marketing on social media platforms has led to a race for hotels to participate in everything; that participation then somehow reflects the level of “modern-ness” or innovation at your hotel.
On the contrary, innovation requires time and effort, from ownership and management, and the on-property staff. Asking your internet marketing vendor to bring innovation to your hotel does not work. It just enables them to sell you a new product or service. True innovation, on the other hand, supercharges your marketing. You have a new story to tell and a chance to reconnect. You have to invest in innovation before marketing to future-proof your hotel revenue.
Marketing is not a substitute for innovation; it never will be. Stop worrying about the next big social/mobile/local online marketing fad. Focus on making changes to your lodging business that bring increased value to your guests. Here are some interesting ways you can jump-start your innovation process.
Consciously Uncouple From Platform-Obsessed Marketing
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. are platforms controlled by billion dollar companies that have a clear common goal: to sell you advertising. They are in no way interested in “innovating” your marketing. Mass-produced hyper marketing on these platforms is generating unprecedented FOMO (fear of missing out) and forcing owners and managers to continuously chase the next big thing. It’s also leading to a lot of “social media” spending – hiring outside agencies to generate social media content that is not relevant to your audience and not worth the budget you are spending.
Do yourself a favor, and stop worrying about what you have to do to keep up with the hotel across the street. Focus on one or two platforms, and then only if you can do it right. Handle social media communications in house. Listen and respond to your customers; have an authentic conversation and provide the information they are looking for. Answer questions, thank guests for positive comments, apologize when things go wrong. Talk. Don’t try to “market.”
Innovate IRL (in real life)
Innovation comes in many forms. Keeping your business model relevant and up-to-date can have a massive impact on your revenue. Here are some examples of innovations that provide added value to your guests:
- Fast WiFi (free is even better)
- Mobile, on-site customer communication (eg, restaurant offers via text message)
- Better quality coffee and tea (eg, Nespresso in room)
- New product and/or service in addition to a room (eg, carry-out room service)
- Creating new room types (eg, family floors)
- Better fulfillment process (1- to 3-click booking engines)
- Support/customer service (mobile concierge)
Innovation Is Not Optional
The idea of “this is all we are going to offer” is not a sustainable strategy for profit. Innovation is the name of the game, as some new player is always going to raise the bar by providing a more convenient, efficient or cost-effective service or product. Why not your lodging establishment? Startups in the lodging business, like Airbnb and Hotel Tonight, are changing and innovating every day. You cannot afford to stick with the status quo.
Just look at the some of the major hotel brands worldwide that are struggling to connect with the reality of today’s travel market. A great example is the Second Life platform (2006-2010). It had a Twitter level of hype in its golden years. It had blanket coverage in newspapers and magazines. Starwood Hotels rushed into opening an aloft brand hotel in that virtual world in efforts “to attract hip, youthful, tech-savvy customers to the aloft brand.” Long story short, Second Life is on life support and nobody cares about it anymore. It’s a platform that lost its glory, just like every marketing platform eventually will. The time, money and effort wasted, however, are never coming back.
The travel industry as a whole has seen tremendous innovation over the past 10 years. Marketing, no matter how hard you push, is not going to make up for lack of innovation at the property level. Hotels that are expecting marketing to magically make them look good are failing. Are you innovating?