What marketing in the hospitality industry can learn from six human needs.
Each and every one of us enjoys high-quality, memorable experiences, both big and small. With the rise of technology connecting us faster than ever before, we are craving connection to both each other and to the moment.
Today’s entertainment companies know that harnessing the desire for connection and experience drives sales and engagement. Movies and music connect with consumers emotionally and encourage social connection, too. The hospitality industry can take a page from the entertainment industry playbook, designing experiences that cater to fundamental human needs.
There are six deep human needs that may be the key to consumers hearts. Despite the rise of short-term stays like VRBO and AirBnB, hotels have an opportunity to niche down and create unforgettable experiences that provide more value.
Through our social capital approach, we look to human behavior and the underlying themes that the hospitality industry can capitalize on today. One way we do this is by designing marketing plans that cater to six human needs: certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth and contribution. There’s a competitive edge when companies provide unforgettable experiences to their guests that are created with human nature in mind.
The Emotional Recipe for Incredible Experiences
A Story or Emotional Arc (Certainty)
Your customer’s journey is a story that requires key points of inflection to keep them engaged. Without a strong customer journey, brands are likely to lose their strategic position as a guide. Instead, customers will disengage and find their own source of entertainment.
Like a movie or music, the collective branded touchpoints should be leading customers through an emotional arc. This draws people in and keeps them excited, anticipating what’s going to happen next. In the entertainment industry, transitions are deliberately thought through. Performances like Cirque du Soleil or the Blue Man Group hold the audience’s attention using the structure of a story: rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.
People anticipate having a luxury experience when they travel. The whole organization is responsible for creating memorable moments for their guests. An off-putting interaction with an employee, a missed traveling opportunity or a seemingly unimportant brochure that has the wrong event date leaves an impression on the customer — the experience is not valued. It breaks up the emotional arc and creates choppy transitions between experiences.
Successful brands that understand the customer journey create emotional arcs by continually providing experiences that will guide the customer seamlessly, engaging them with the brand in a more meaningful way. Each micro-moment adds up — it’s important for brands realize this.
Hotels and their management groups should focus on making the most important parts of the journey not just memorable, but unforgettable. Customers remember the beginning and end far more than anything in the middle, so the rising action and resolution of experiences should be especially thoughtful.
It’s imperative to be a step ahead in anticipating what customers will need online, as well as off. This could include upselling a room on your website, email sequences for events happening that weekend or even having drinks available for transportation to and from the hotel.
Hype and Anticipation (Variety)
Think back to your favorite childhood vacation. The excitement leading up to the trip is what made the experience so exciting. You might have seen some advertisements on TV, videos online or heard your parents talking about travel plans.
The hype we have around an event or experience comes from having a general idea about what we’re getting into, but with details left to the imagination. This uncertainty is where either anxiety or excitement stems from.
The entertainment industry has perfected the art of suspense. We see movie trailers that give us the highlights but still draw us in without closure to the story. The same concept can be leveraged by the hospitality industry to create excitement before a guest even books or sets foot on the property.
You can guide customers’ imaginations through photography and videos of the property, amenities, services, nearby locations and other adventures. The key here is to only provide enough information through a perspective that allows the visitor to see themselves there.
As humans, we want to fantasize about what the experience will look like for ourselves. Depicting the lifestyle and a variety of different types of experiences is key here for allowing prospective visitors to understand the range of possibilities that exist, and identify which of those they resonate with.
Deep, Meaningful Engagement (Significance)
Consumers desire meaningful connection, and technologies are providing that faster than ever. The internet has created a pathway for individuals to connect with brands on a more personal level. It’s now expected that brands respond directly to reviews, send proper email updates and support an active social media presence. However, brands can go much further through meaningful human connection that enhances the customer experience.
When was the last time a hotel called you before your stay to confirm you had the address and could drop off your bags before your check in time? A few minutes of effort from the front desk in those transition times can create an entirely different experience for your guests and show them that you care, before they arrive at the property. How often does this happen?
There are the same standard operating procedures to welcome a guest, but has your hotel gone above and beyond to anticipate guest needs? If not, we can help you. For example, we recognize that guests are always looking for a Wi-Fi password upon entering the room. At SoCap, we encourage our clients to use a textbase technology to send their guests the Wi-Fi password upon checking in. The same technology can be used to communicate when the guests need fresh linens, send them a feedback polls or even ask for reviews.
We know that consumers are likely to check their phones within one minute of receiving a notification — a much quicker and more reliable way to communicate with guests. All of these little micro-moments provide value to guests and differentiate their experience from others. It’s through these moments that your perceived value and reputation is continuously developed, while building trust, loyalty and advocacy from your patrons.
It’s Remarkable and Worth Sharing (Connection)
The root of remarkable is remark, which means “mention of that which deserves attention or notice.” As business owners, we’re often very innovative and come up with a variety of solutions to a problem. Where we consistently see campaigns, initiatives, or products fall short, is in answering one question: Would I want that?
If the answer isn’t a resounding, “Hell yeah,” then we would encourage you to take a closer look at your concept. How can you provide real value and connect with customers on a deeper level?
In entertainment, connection is one of the primary considerations creators look at to ensure they are providing meaningful value to their clients. In hospitality, we often see that there is intention in experiences, but there are often missed opportunities. Brands that are truly thriving today have taken the time to dig deeper, understanding what differentiates the individual experience throughout the customer journey and executing on it.
Pause for Effect – Hold the Curtains for the Staff (Growth and Contribution)
People often yearn to travel because of the opportunity to meet new people, experience new things and ultimately grow from the journey and new perspective. These needs can be fulfilled for travelers and employees alike. Employees take opportunities in the travel industry to grow and share those common experiences, serving in a way they feel impacts their lives too.
In a theater, we invite all of the staff and crew that participated in the show to be recognized at the end of a performance. During any consumer experience, when there is human acknowledgment towards the guest or the employees that brought these experiences to life, we notice it — we applaud. But there is so much more that we can do, and it goes a long way.
Handwritten thank-you notes the day of your departure or memorable photos sent to the customer’s home can be great ways to meaningfully differentiate your company. Having bar, floor, or food and beverage managers out engaging with the public also goes a long way in creating a more personal guest experience.
Observing the recent change in consumer behavior, especially towards experiential services and products, we get excited about how brands can continuously increase the value they provide their customers. Hotels in the hospitality industry today have the chance to pivot, adapt, and get ahead of this trend, truly becoming the thought leaders in creating immersive, experiential moments, both online and off, for their guests and employees.
If you are curious about what this could look like for your hotel, we invite you to use our contact form to set up a free consultation and explore how we can partner and help you stand out amongst the crowd.
View our approach to hospitality marketing via a case study we put together for one of our previous clients, The Carmen Hotel.