Hotel Customer Loyalty: A New Perspective
I pay close attention to patterns in the business email subject lines I receive, a lot. Staying on top of industry trends requires signing up to many reports and webinars and conferences, so I get a lot of emails.
One keyword phrase that is cropping up more and more in my inbox is “customer loyalty”. I open them all with interest to find the same old stuff, and it frustrates me.
The world has changed. A lot. As a result, of course consumers and their buying decisions have changed.
Customer loyalty, and how to generate more of it, is nothing new, but I am surprised how much old school advice is being regurgitated right now.
It is a whole new ball game, and I am going to disrupt what you already think about it with a fresh new perspective.
But first, let’s address the elephant in the customer-loyalty-concept room.
Leisure guests are not always inclined to return to the same property they have stayed in before, especially if their journey was long-haul.
In many conversations about customer loyalty, I often hear, “but my guests come once, and then they don’t want to hear from me every couple of weeks by email”.
My answer to that is maybe some don’t, but have you tried it?
Have you taken the time to find out what they are interested in?
What their plans are for their next trip?
If they know anyone in the local area whom they might return to visit again?
Have you asked why they chose your property and what motivates them to travel to a certain place?
Here’s the disruptive idea.
Working to create customer loyalty starts way before you even generate a customer.
It starts by understanding human behaviour.
The best marketers on the planet right now are human behaviouralists.
It is time to get in on the game.
I recently watched a presentation by Marcus Murphy from The Five Percent on the Future of Travel Marketing at World Travel Market in London and I was riveted.
For the first time, I heard a presenter simply but confidently reiterate my own thoughts that the future of travel marketing is about being more human.
Understanding human behaviour is understanding the way that humans act and interact. Scientific research tells us that human behaviour is a complex interplay of three components: actions, cognition, and emotions.
The action or inaction that we take, based on the way we are inspired to think and feel, is also influenced by a variety of mental triggers that work for us all, in varying degrees.
Mental triggers are powerful psychological principles that are biologically hard-wired into our brains and are key drivers behind our decision-making. When used in the right way, they can create a deep and powerful connection with our target audiences.
The mental triggers that are particularly well suited to hospitality marketing are:
Priming: The use of images and content to unlock our subconscious desire to feel engaged and take action.
Surprise / Unexpectedness: Think outside the box to avoid predictability and exceed expectations.
Anticipation: Invest time in capturing attention by generating emotion and imagination.
Authority: So customers can trust you and have confidence in your service.
Social proof: We all love to hear that people just like us have found value in your service.
Reciprocity: Give something for free so people feel like they want to give back.
Understanding your "why": The word “because” is extremely powerful and generates connection of values.
Interaction / Anchoring: Conversation appeals to emotions and builds a sense of community.
Simplicity: Aim to reduce mental load by keeping messaging clear.
Specific: Don’t leave room for questions or doubts about anything to do with your offer.
Commitment / Consistency: Serve to strengthen your authority allowing people to trust you more.
Scarcity: Motivates people to take action and breeds confidence due to the “take it or leave it” nuance.
And finally, one of the most powerful metal triggers is something that humans like the most?
We all love a good story, but what makes a story a good one?
One that engages us, lifts us, inspires us, entertains us.
Does this story have to be in a story book format?
No! That is the beauty of the online, multi-channel world we live in right now. That “story” can be a video short on social, a blog post, an interview, or even just an image.
The key to engaging people is to understand what makes them tick. And that means understanding human behaviour.
While this might feel like a task far away from the remit of a hotel manager or owner, don’t throw your arms up in exasperation just yet.
There are still three focus areas of “traditional” style marketing that will never change.
You will be happy to know that some of the same marketing to generate customer loyalty does still apply.
These areas are:
a) your target audience,
b) your messaging and content, and
c) the channels you use to distribute that content.
My point is, when you redefine how you generate customer loyalty from that human behaviour point of view, it gifts you a framework to work with, that can be applied to the unique needs of your business.
So, what are the take outs from this?
The first is to get curious about your target audience.
Don’t just write down where your target audience persona lives, if they are married, and ponder over how much you think they earn.
Demographics are important, but psychographics are critical to truly understanding who you are pitching your messaging to.
The second is to design your content around great characters. Define them among your staff members, find them in your community, make up a persona that takes on a role in your business.
And third is to get better at talking to your audience on different channels. Change the way you talk to people. Get curious about what they want to hear and what they react to. It does not all have to be new content. Repurpose old content that worked well: same messaging, different formats.
Many people skip the target audience definition stuff. They think it is too mundane, but it is critical. If you don’t understand who you are talking to, how can you create content and messaging that engages them? And if you don’t know what they like or where they hang out, how can you get that messaging and content in front of them?
Moving people from A to B along the “journey” of being someone who has never heard of you to becoming a guest and then a repeat customer means that you must have content that meets them where they are at along the way.
Before we close, I will finish with a thought that helps to put that elephant in the room in perspective.
It is true that some (especially long-haul) leisure guests may never return to your property, but if you really nail the messaging and content you use to talk to them in a way that engages them at every stage of their experience with you, they will become ambassadors for your brand and will be more inclined to continue to interact with you, be inspired by your content, share it with others and recommend you at the drop of a hat.
That alone defines successful customer loyalty marketing.
How to apply this human behaviour concept to your own customer loyalty marketing strategy is covered in section 5 of my Purpose-Driven Marketing Compass framework.
This framework makes up the structure of my most popular coaching programme, Amplify Hotel Marketing. Click this link to find out more.
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