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Insights with Jamie Sigler O'Grady

We've long talked about the importance of being nimble—for all businesses, not just our hospitality clients. And as 2020 continues to throw new challenges our way, the ability to change, adapt, and get creative has never been more vital.

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Insights with Andreanna Mazereeuw

As businesses have been forced to pivot in unexpected ways this year, the marketing landscape also continues to evolve—presenting new opportunities heading into 2021. Andreanna Mazereeuw, director of digital marketing for Wallop, joins us today to provide some key takeaways and tips for digital strategies in the coming year.

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Creating a website that reflects your enhanced experience

You've made all the enhancements and changes necessary to reopen your property. Your focus is squarely on the well-being of both guests and your team members. And you're confident you can still provide an experience that is worthy of your brand.

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Dining, distancing, and still driving great experiences

As restaurant dining begins to reopen across the country, it has been great to see trends emerging around providing guests with special experiences. Here are a few of our favorites...

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Best practices for communicating new policies

Quiet solitude

Every hotel and resort has revamped operations in the wake of COVID-19, but that's only part of the challenge. Communicating those changes in a way that instills confidence in guests and potential guests—without overwhelming them—is just as important as the changes themselves. Here are four quick tips to get your message out effectively.

  • 1. Stay on brand. Although the world has changed, your audience needs to know that you are still you—and that means maintaining your brand voice. Whether your brand is fun and playful or focused on luxury, make sure the tone of your communications reflects that. But your approach has to be balanced as well, so guests know you're taking this seriously.
  • 2. Watch your language. No matter what your brand voice is, don't overuse words that sound too sterile or even negative. Policy. Procedures. Safety. You won't be able to avoid them entirely, but try to find ways around them when possible. For example, instead of "We have implemented new policies to ensure your safety," try something like this: "We've enhanced key aspects of the guest experience to ensure your comfort and provide peace of mind."
  • 3. Show empathy and grace. Acknowledge the challenges that everybody has faced over the past few months—and don't hesitate to admit that this has been hard on you and your people, too. Be human, not too corporate.
  • 4. Be thorough, but thoughtful. You have a giant list of changes, and they're all important. But don't overwhelm your audience by putting everything front and center. Consider adding a note on your website with a few paragraphs on key enhancements, and then link to a more comprehensive FAQ document. Or, film a video showcasing all the new protocols in place. People who want more detail can get it, while those who just want a broad overview won't feel bogged down.
  • 5. Don't forget about meeting planners and travel agents. Consider a presentation that showcases how the experience has changed – and yet will still very much remains the same. They need to feel confident in future bookings, too.

Your property has put in a lot of work to reopen safely. With the right communications, your guests will know that you're committed not only to their comfort, but to their health and well-being, too.


Coming out from under the Coronavirus

A guest enjoying open views

As our industry endures perhaps the greatest challenge of our lifetimes, we all have concerns. How long will this go on? How long will it take for travel and tourism to recover? And how can we prepare for what's ahead?

We know the hospitality business has always been resilient—it's human nature to want to explore. However, surveys have shown that almost a third of American travelers are going to change how and where they travel after this, and a more than a quarter say they might. A few things to consider:

  • Safety and sanitation, of course, will be key concerns. Promote all of the measures your property is taking, even small ones. They matter.
  • Many people likely will choose to stay local when they begin traveling again—visiting places they can reach by car instead of taking a flight. It's time to think about focusing marketing efforts on your drive market.
  • People will give more thought to space when choosing destinations, from the acreage of properties to the number and location of rooms, even the capacity of restaurants and facilities. If you have a lot of room to roam, highlight that fact.

In 2003, the SARS situation resulted in a contraction in travel for eight months, but as things cleared, Canada and the U.S. were among the quickest to recover. That's why some experts are predicting a soft market for the next several months, and then a big rebound in Q4. We could actually see a surge in travel this fall and winter once people gain confidence.

Properties that want to be a part of that rebound, though, need to be thinking about that future now. Better yet, they need to start taking action as soon as possible, even weeks or months before opening again.

"Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today," according to an old African proverb. We're here help you prepare to emerge from this global shutdown—so you can hit the ground running when it's go time.


Thinking about using influencers? You need more than just posts—you need a plan.

A guest enjoying open views

A lot of our clients understand how important influencers are in today's marketing climate for travel, beauty, fashion, and other upscale industries. Utilizing these partnerships can be a cost-effective way to bond with new audiences, generate content, and for hotels, even turn unused rooms into powerful opportunities.

Too many properties, however, think they can accomplish all of that by bringing an influencer in, then simply sitting back and waiting for the posts to work their magic.

That's not how it works—at least if you want to get the most out of your investment. So how does it work? What do you need to do? Obviously, you need to make sure you're working with the right influencers; you can see more on how to do that here. But even more important than that, you need to have the right strategy.

Let's look at a real-world example.

Recently, a hotel client of ours hosted a fashion-focused influencer who has 5 million followers. They wanted to take full advantage of such a prime opportunity, so we provided several different recommendations to help create greater engagement and maximize the impact of the visit.

  • Several posts had already gone up, so we had the hotel review comments for mentions of the property, the city, or the region. If someone referenced any of those things, they would get a reply from the hotel encouraging a follow on Instagram.
  • We advised the hotel to comment directly on the influencer's related posts, thanking them for the visit and offering a giveaway for followers that also began following the property on IG and using specific hashtags.
  • We helped the hotel create an ad targeting the influencer's followers, in addition to reposting all of the influencer's related posts—making sure to sound natural, instead of formal and business-heavy. Sometimes, the best way to sell is not to sell at all.
  • For a post where the influencer raved about the hotel's avocado toast, we made sure to repost, add screen shots, and entice the influencer's audience to follow the property so they could receive the recipe. We also used the opportunity to encourage those in the area to come check out the hotel for breakfast.
  • Let's be completely honest:
    None of this is hard, and you can do it, too.

    With just a little more thought and a bit of extra effort, it's possible to amplify the impact of nearly any influencer. The trick is putting yourself in the mindset where you're always thinking of ways to do it.

    Here are a few other quick tips for success with influencers:

    • Expect (and encourage) honesty. Invite an influencer to your property with the expectation that they will post an honest review. These are people who have built trust with their audience; do not expect them to gloss over issues during their stay. Instead, make their experience a great one by scheduling events for them to attend, providing special perks, etc.
    • Have goals and deliverables in mind. What do you want to achieve with this visit? More user-generated content? An increase in followers? Think about what is realistic and reasonable, and what kind of agreement you can reach with the influencer. Then, spell things out in writing, so both sides know what they're getting from the arrangement.
    • Always have next steps in mind, too. When you gain those new followers, when you discover you have more user-generated content, what's next? Target those followers with ads and offers. Find ways to repurpose the new content you've got. Create a strategy that you can use not just for one influencer's visit, but going forward.
    • Review your results. Is hosting an influencer worth it to your business? You'll never truly know unless you track the returns from your partnerships—from increased follower counts to more website visitors, and even a jump in bookings from a particular market or segment.
    • If you're in the luxury space (or if you want to be), partnering with influencers has become a vital way to boost engagement and increase your reach. Don't get left behind—contact us today for expert support and proven strategies designed just for your business.

Are you providing an omni-channel experience?

A guest enjoying open views

You've heard about the importance of using multiple marketing channels to give your audience an "omni-channel" experience. Sounds easy enough, right? Hold on. Contrary to what you might think, though, using multiple marketing channels doesn't automatically mean you're providing an omni-channel experience.

The key to omni-channel marketing is consistency across those channels. Even if you've got a great website and stay on top of your social media, channels that aren't working together can hurt your brand, hinder your business, or both.

Four keys to omni-channel success

So how can you create that omni-channel experience your audience wants (and your business needs)? Start with the four steps below to build a solid foundation—and then adjust as needed to achieve your specific goals.

  • Get out of the single-channel mindset. Properties often place an outsized focus on their desktop experience, because many people prefer to complete the process at their computer or laptop. However, before you worry about where someone completes the booking process, you've got to get them to the point where they want to book with you. That means ensuring that your messaging and experience is consistent wherever that person goes when they're researching—mobile, Facebook, Instagram, and yes, desktop. How many different teams do you have interacting with your audience on a regular basis? Before you talk to your audience, talk to each other. Discuss goals and objectives. Develop a plan. And then work together to execute it across every team, every channel.
  • Build robust guest profiles. How does your audience search online? Where and how do they connect with you? Why do they choose you—or not choose you? The more you know about your audience, the better you can tailor content and services to their preferences, no matter where they are interacting with you. You have some of the information to build these guest profiles already in your own internal data. But third-party data can help show you how your audience behaves online in general—not just when they're interacting with you. Those details can be vital to your efforts as well.
  • Personalize, personalize, personalize. You provide a personalized experience for guests while they're staying at your property—ideally, you can extend that personalization to well before they arrive, and perhaps even well before they book. Are your ads and messages tailored to the preferences of various audiences? Are they used at the right times, in tune with where a person is in the research or purchasing process? Are they relevant and consistent across all channels?
  • Analyze, analyze, analyze. It's not enough to sit back and rest even after you successfully build an consistent omni-channel experience. You should invest in consistent monitoring, too. How are your customers engaging with each channel? Where are you seeing the most traction? Where can you improve? How can you refocus resources as your audience's behavior shifts? Instead of just looking at what happened to get a customer to the last step in the booking process, use analytics to examine all of the steps they took on the journey.

Remember, the omni-channel experience doesn't end when a customer arrives for their stay, either. In fact, you might consider the stay itself another type of "channel." The experience you provided along the journey sets expectations for the actual experience of staying with you—when you keep everything in alignment, consistent and personal, you and your customers alike will reap the benefits.


Three Ways to Compete Better in 2020

A guest enjoying open views

When a new year rolls around, people make big goals and sweeping proclamations: "I'm going to lose 20 pounds." "I'll pay off my credit card by the end of the year." "I'm done with smoking as of Jan. 1." The problem is, there usually isn't a plan behind those grand resolutions. And a month or two from now, many (if not most) of those people will be right back where they started.

Companies can fall into the same trap. "Our revenue is going to increase by 20% this year." "We'll have a 90% occupancy rate." "Let's get 10,000 fans on Facebook by the end of 2019." All of those are great goals—if you have a plan AND they align with your overall objectives. But too often, it seems that these goals are made simply because people or companies feel like they're supposed to come up with something for the year ahead.

Here, we're going to focus on a goal that works for those who don't already have goals in mind for 2019—and that also will pay dividends for those who do. It's broad enough to apply to anyone, yet impactful enough to make a real difference for your business.

Compete better in 2020. That's it. And here are three ways your property can do it.

Focus on the experience.

Yes, you've heard us say this before. And you'll hear us say it again and again, because in today's travel climate, people choose (or don't choose) you based on the experience they expect to have with your property. That means you have to put them in the middle of that experience, with high-quality photos, videos and content, before they even arrive—or before they even book.

Take your guestrooms, for example. You could simply list a bunch of facts and features, such as the king-size bed, spacious bathroom, flat-screen TV, maybe even a fireplace. Then add a few professionally done photos showing it all. What do you have? Well, if you don't have people in your photos, and if you haven't told a story with your photos and descriptions, you don't have as much as you think.

Instead, try positioning the room as a retreat for your guests, rather than just a place to sleep. That spacious bathroom? It's a place for pampering, thanks to its large soaking tub and spa-quality products. The massive bed? It envelops guests in luxury as they unwind after a day full of activity—and gives them the rest necessary for another adventurous day ahead. Your photos should support this story, too, by showing people actually having these experiences.

The same goes for your services and amenities, particularly food, beverage, spa and wellness, which are key differentiators for resorts. Give guests the feeling of being there, wherever "there" is. Maybe it's enjoying world-class dining or hand-crafted cocktails. Stress melting away at the hands of a skilled masseuse. A thrilling zip line adventure or a stimulating artistic activity. By giving them that feeling of being there, you'll help make them want to be there.

And remember, it's not all about your property—local attractions can draw audiences your way as well, especially when you highlight other great things for guests to do. It shows that you value their overall experience, that it's not just about business for you. Guests are probably searching for other activities during their travel research, anyway. So go ahead, talk about that hot new restaurant in town or that fantastic shopping district, even at the risk of taking your guests away for most of a day. They'll love you for it.

Think more strategically

Are you getting the most out of opportunities for promotions and partnerships? A lot of resorts aren't, simply because they don't put enough thought into it. As a consequence, they might have a significant drop in business during certain seasons, or lose out on the referral and word-of-mouth business that can come from working with trusted local partners.

Let's look at seasonality. Often, a property will offer special last-minute rates to fill rooms during down times. But what happens when a guest who paid $500 for their room months ago starts chatting at the bar with someone who booked the night before for $200? The one who paid less is probably quite excited about the great deal he got—while the one who paid more won't be happy to hear about it.

The solution? Instead of having wildly disparate rates, which can lead to poor experiences, consider special events or other offerings that can provide added incentive to visit during down periods. Have your chef create a unique tasting menu or exclusive wine-pairing dinner. Create a spa package for couples or girls' getaways. You can attract guests without slashing your rates. Get creative.

Local partnerships might help in that instance, too. Say winter is the slow season for you; is there a local festival during that time of year? You might partner with the organizers to give your guests free admission or some other benefit.

Those partners can be important for year-round business as well, especially if you offer recommendations or special deals on popular activities, such as whale-watching, guided hikes, brewery tours, etc.

Finally, it might seem obvious, but don't forget your local tourism board!

Above all, tell your story

Everything you do on the marketing front should contribute to your property's story—what differentiates you. And don't think only about services, amenities and activities; those things are important, obviously, but go beyond them. Maybe your property has a rich history as a pioneering resort in the area. Maybe the resort grounds have unique features you won't find anywhere else. Maybe you're all-inclusive, adults-only, designed for romantic getaways. What defines you? If you don't have a good answer to that, well, it's time to find one.