(Minor) Strategic Differences that Make a Huge Difference for Your ROI
Not all hospitality marketing strategies are made equal. While certainly many of the services, tactics and tools are used for resorts and boutique and independent hotels alike, the strategies and nuances for each can vary significantly. Building a custom hotel sales and marketing strategy for these two different types of luxury hotel styles can be as different as the experience a guest would receive at each of them. Recognizing that our strategies need to be reflective and congruent with associated budgets, Marketing Directors and Owners can better understand how to leverage their resources and time to create the best impression and most impact to their target audience in order to effectively convert prospects into guests.
While we are not able to dive into the granule detail and intricacies that might arise as they are too complex and circumstantial, we are able to provide broad strokes of how each different luxury hotel should consider refining their online marketing strategy. Note that we recognize these strategies can be applied in broad strokes and certain boutique hotels can be the size and have the capacity of some smaller resorts. Based on the destination, location, size, design, local experiences and the other invoice list of considerations our recommendations here have equally broad application but need to be personalized for each property and even each season.
Selling the Property & Experience
Positioning and selling a hotel is as much about the actual property, location and local access, amenities, and food and beverage now as it is about the experience guests are able to get in the surrounding destination. In general, luxury boutique and independent hotels provide a smaller and more intimate experience; not only on property but in their surrounding destinations. More personalized aesthetics and designs are integrated throughout the property and the guest’s room that often reflects the local culture, art and history. While this can be a wonderful attraction and selling point for boutique hotels, luxury resorts that need to outfit several hundred rooms typically aren’t able to justify this time or resources.
Alternatively, luxury resorts have far more access to a wide variety of amenities like multiple pools, kids’ daycare, tennis courts, several conference rooms for different purposes, elaborate spas and much more that independent boutiques aren’t able to justify either by budget or size constraints. For resorts, this can be a competitive advantage depending on the target audience . In targeting larger groups, families and corporations, resorts are able to tailor these experiences more appropriately to their needs, than a boutique hotel with more limited resources. Positioning these through video and social media to derive transparency about what guests can anticipate and expect is critical to further stand out from local competitors in the region with similar amenities.
Equally, highlighting your staff and personalizing videos that bridge and accelerate a connection with your sales and marketing, or even event and catering managers, are investments that quickly build trust, rapport and engage prospective guests that resorts have the resources and human capital to execute far beyond what boutiques can do.
Reviews & Reputation Management
A distinct advantage that resorts have is the sheer number of guests that stay at the property. Each guest is a chance to build or decorate your social reputation and brand equity. Larger resorts have a distinct edge to be able to solicit hundreds, if not thousands, of reviews over time in comparison to smaller boutique hotels. Establishing a clear procedure during check-out in combination with an automated review and reputation management tool can be a very effective mechanism for both properties to be able to garner important feedback and quality reviews for the hotel. This technology is able to often curtail negative reviews before they are published and give ownership a chance to rectify this negative experience and turn it into a more positive one. We know that an individual with a negative experience is 21% more likely to share this online and via word-of-mouth to their network than those who had a more positive or even average experience.
Harnessing the power of guest testimonials is far easier to create for a resort as well. With multiple people and larger budgets, resorts are able to more effectively document and capture the variety of experiences that happen on property. Resorts are able to show how different MICE events either corporate or social can be personalized to suit their needs. From conventions, awards ceremonies, leadership summits, trainings, weddings, family reunions and other group trips hotels are able to be personalized and tailored to what each different type of group needs. Getting footage of setup, the actual event and individual’s experience and testimonials on camera are very effective ways to show future prospects what the resort has the capability to do in a more transparent manner. This sets expectations and enables them to see what their own event can look like.
Associated loyalty programs that luxury resorts have the ability to stand up and reward loyalty, as well as volume, are effective tools at further differentiating and providing value to prospective guests. Because many boutique hotels are often independent and could therefore only reward coming back to the same property, resorts often are able to have more power in that they can be tied in affiliation to a brand or larger flag that a prospect or group is able to frequently visit because of the experience that they formally had there. Incentivizing guests that had a positive experience to come back and redeem savings at future stays can be as complex and detailed as these other strategies. Carefully crafting a rewards program that adds value but doesn’t break into profit margins too much is a delicate balance that should be looked at by your commercial strategy team between your marketing and revenue management team.
Differentiating your Resort in your Destination and Region
When there are multiple resorts in a destination, the design and experience on property isn’t the only way to differentiate a hotel. From leveraging certifications and establishing procedures to local partnerships and demos to unique packages and offers, resorts have a multitude of opportunities to create value and meaningfully position the property in a way that’s different than anything in the area. Especially with a proliferation of certifications and certified procedures that have arisen (in particular around marketing the sanitization of a hotel) these programs can be harnessed to tell a story that builds trust and confidence in prospective guests. Other certifications like the LEED Certification for sustainability and environmentally conscious building and energy practices can further inform a customer about your values and operations. Crafting that story in a meaningful and concise way that hits the emotional heartstrings of guests is an art and science that mirrors the same philanthropic efforts you can tell about getting involved in and marketing your efforts in your community or supporting employees.
Resorts also have the resources and time to build larger, more elaborate, strategic partnerships with their Destinations Marketing Organization, local tourism board, and other businesses and activities in the area. With more budget for human capital, luxury resorts and hotels are able to deploy these employees to stand up unique ways to partner with each one of these entities and provide mutual and reciprocated value. For example, a beachfront resort can develop partnerships beyond their local scuba dive shops, Jet Ski operators, captains for chartering boats, local bars, restaurants and nightlife. This makes the process more seamless and easy to schedule and pay for in one transaction rather than via multiple parties. Equally, at a larger scale resorts can leverage their destinations marketing organizations for further reach by sharing their video and assets to be featured in the promotion of the region itself, garnering eyes and interest to that particular resort to a broader audience.
Traditional & Digital Marketing Services
With the exception of independent boutique hotels with a large number of rooms and an incredibly high ADR, luxury resorts with more rooms and equally high room revenue, proportionally will have significantly larger marketing budgets. This means these properties have the ability to deploy these resources in a multitude of other marketing categories as well as dedicate more spend in areas like paid ads, content creation (including social media), public relations and promotions. As they are able to Market to and fulfill their inventory to more guests, they are also able to collect a lot more data about guests ancillary revenue spend and prospective visitors demographics, psychographics, location and many other behavior role characteristics that programmatic advertising is able to collect about and online visitors behavior and history.
This data is only as good as it is interpreted and developed into effective strategies that tailor customized marketing messages and campaigns to these individuals. Larger luxury resorts have the advantage that they can segment and develop a multitude of marketing messages to different ages, incomes, locations and many other characteristics then so we developing one or two campaigns that have a generic application to their target market. For example, a Caribbean resort could create a campaign towards older and wealthier tech-based corporations in the Northeast, California, Seattle and Boulder while concurrently developing and marketing an extended stay remote working campaign towards the younger entrepreneur audience in Denver, Austin, Santa Monica, and Raleigh. With A/B testing different promotions, landing pages and retargeting display ads across a variety of social and online media outlets, a marketing manager can easily decipher what campaign and segmentation is working best and where to allocate further resources or adjust as needed.
With these dedicated resources, resorts are equally able to develop more content to create visibility and transparency of the multitude of experiences on property that guests can engage with. Developing videos, tracking the retaining employees via employment branding and/or highlighting community involvement are all hyper-effective mechanisms to further build consumer confidence and eagerness to visit your property over others in the region. Hiring Instagram Influencers or graphic designers to develop Instagram-worthy backdrops can be fun and engaging ways to further differentiate a property, but there are also many other ways to do so.
One powerful tactic is to create transparency about the advantages of booking directly to your resort rather than through an OTA. Showing the cost savings, or even where you’re supporting employees, or the community such as local water sanitization programs, beach cleanups, or agricultural training programs with a dedication of a small percentage or a few dollars of this direct booking can be very effective strategies to further engage and convert a prospective guest. All of these initiatives can be documented and strategically presented in a way that adds value and differentiates your resort without boasting about yourself.
Group Sales, Conferences & Conventions
A significant revenue generator and stabilizer for large amounts of dedicated rooms and food for resorts is derived from group sales in having a percentage of rooms dedicated to group demand vs transient bookings. Luxury resorts are able to market and sell to large groups for events, conferences, conventions and wedding ceremonies with much more ease and leverage than large boutique hotels. Due to dedicated resources, human capital, pricing, the on-property amenities and dedicated space to serve these larger groups, resorts are the obvious choice of hotels. But differentiating your property and your destinations can mean the difference between occasional groups your team has to really work to secure and consistently reliable leads of groups that come to you and pay for the value that they see has been created.
The obvious and low-hanging fruit to market Resort conference space for groups is by showcasing the actual venue space, breakout or team conference rooms, supporting group amenities, AV (audiovisual), catering menu selection and special pricing. However, today consumer’s demands have shifted, especially in response to the social distancing and sanitation practices as a result of Covid-19. Resorts desiring to secure larger groups are needing to adapt with audio-visual support that is able to live stream the event to the group’s employees or tight attendees that aren’t able, or choose not to, make it on property for the event and yet, still want to virtually attend the event via live streaming. Prepackaged meals need to be made in lieu of buffet-style menu options to limit high contact areas and exposure to other’s germs. Currently, at the beginning of 2021 guests are not only receiving prepackaged meals but also servers are having to actually serve food behind plexiglass, requiring more hotel staff to monitor all while adhering to social distancing. Conference rooms are set up with ample spacing so the overcrowded meeting room will no longer exists. Guests are required to enter function space in one direction and leave out another door per a predetermined flow for traffic. Documenting these above and beyond practices in a PDF of or an amended sales pitch for the team by having transparency through videos and photos is needed to reassure weary travelers.
More established luxury resorts are able to have the human resources and financial capital to implement these taxes, sanitization procedures, collateral and asset creation as well as distribution with much more ease and far more quickly than boutique hotels. When a prospective group or event planner is seeking to work with a resort, they are often in touch with many different parties from the convention services manager to catering manager as well as the chef and even the food and beverage manager for meeting their accommodations and personalizing menu options. As a result, the groups are able to have one point of contact to manage and oversee all of this, as well as one source of billing, instead of multiple different entities and groups that otherwise an independent property might outsource to other local companies for the support they need. While this doesn’t directly need to be explained, it undoubtedly is an advantage that can be conveyed and positioned towards perspective groups and processes established to differentiate your hotels approach to streamline and automate this process with the use of other SaaS and online solutions such as an event paltform manager such as Destin, ultimately, removing the bottlenecks or pain points of ‘what’s next’ and ‘what about’ through every step of the process and continuously optimizing that feedback loop as you work with more groups to create FAQs or other assets to ease their concerns will help convert more groups, more easily and at a higher dollar once the value is transparently conveyed.
Undoubtedly, this is a massive undertaking for just one Director of Marketing and even their team to strategize, execute and continuously integrate. Our invitation is to explore where your strengths are here and whether it would be more advantageous to enhance those or to spend the time and resources in these other weaker categories to attract and convert more guests to your resort. Prioritize these initiatives and internally or with a trusted partner start tackling these one at a time as they will continue to have a compounding effect to build resiliency and brand equity.
The team at Social Capital Agency is here to guide and create these engaging campaigns for your hotel and future guests. To explore what is possible and how to best leverage your online presence to work for you as best as it can, we encourage you to explore a conversation about our approach to conversion-oriented integrated marketing to drive leads and conversions for your luxury resort. Let’s talk today.