You would think guest engagement is simple. They already like your brand enough to book a room. Now you just need to send them the right messages at the right time and the rest will just take care of itself, right?
If that were really the case, hotels would be owning more of the guest relationship. Guests who have stayed at a hotel previously wouldn’t be booking through an OTA for their second, third, or even fourth stay. There wouldn’t be such a growing demand for engagement and hotel marketing solutions. If that were really the case, more than a quarter of the population would consider themselves loyal to a brand.
At its core, guest engagement is the act of keeping a hotel brand in front of someone on a consistent basis in a way that adds meaningful value to the relationship.
So what’s so hard about engaging guests? There are five big mistakes hoteliers are making in regards to guest relationships, and often, they are unaware that they are even happening.
1. They’re always selling
Open your email inbox right now, and most of what you’ll see is designed to convince you to buy more stuff. Engaging? Only if you’re ready to buy and the email is pushing something you’re already interested in.
There are times when it’s appropriate to make a sale, but a guest engagement is built by adding positive value to the relationship. The companies that enjoy the highest customer engagement tend to offer information that makes their customers’ lives better or easier.
Hoteliers don’t communicate with their customers other than to ask them to buy right this second, and many blast the same offer to their entire database. This is a surefire way to alienate your guests because you’re guaranteed to send irrelevant content to some recipients, causing them to lose interest in your hotel.
The solution? Learn how to interact with your guests and add value to your email marketing efforts. Instead of sending out mass emails to guests who have different interests and needs, use your database to learn more about your audience. With this data, create segments to send personalized messages so guests are only getting the information they care about.
2. They assume their product is enough
After every booking or purchase made by a guest, ask yourself this: What’s the most important thing a guest can do to get the best experience from your hotel’s services or brand?
For example, when you sign up for Twitter, the service suggests people for you to follow. Twitter knows you’re more likely to keep using it if you can read tweets from your favorite athletes or celebrities. Amazon does the same thing, by suggesting products you might like based on your search and purchase history.
The solution? Make it easy by holding your guest’s hand, guiding them directly to the best possible experience they can have. How? Create segments of your guest database based on factors your guests have in common and send emails targeted to their specific wants and needs. Revinate customers have seen great success with segmenting based on whether the guest previously booked directly or booked through an OTA. You can also segment based on whether the guest stayed with you on business or with their family, or whether the guest lives within driving distance of the hotel or if they’d have to book a flight to get there.
These are just some examples. Tailoring your messages with an “If you liked this, then you might also like this” mentality shows your guests that you pay attention to their wants and needs. Prove that you are interested in providing products and services that are valuable to them.
3. They don’t build ongoing relationships
Did you know that just 22% of people consider themselves brand-loyal? This is because a lot of brands don’t put in the effort to engage. Why don’t they ask customers to sign up for their email newsletter, review them on TripAdvisor, or “like” them on Facebook?
People are rarely more pleased with a business than when they make that initial purchase. Why not formalize the relationship and try to earn a second date?
The solution? Your email database, online reviews, and even social media connections provide the foundation for building long-term relationships. We Miss You campaigns and birthday campaigns are just two types of emails you can send to lure customers back in. Go back to past stay dates and invite guests for a return trip. Target nearby guests who can drive onto your property with special rates and high-value promotions. The point is to personalize your marketing strategies so guests receive messages that appeal to them. Don’t just let your potential loyal customers walk out the door without some way of bringing them back.
4. They abuse their privileges
Many brands associate customer engagement with sending emails every day or constantly tweeting out the latest promotion or service. But what matters most is being present at the right time – not all the time.
Granted, timing is a delicate art. When you’re really adding value, however, the frequency is irrelevant. Consistency helps, but value trumps all because you’ll be top of mind when people need something you offer. Most people aren’t constantly looking to book a hotel room. Your goal is to be the first hotel that comes to mind when they are ready to book. This is the drive behind customer engagement – building such a great rapport that you get the call when the need arises.
The solution? Be there for every step of the customer journey. Whether it’s sending pre-arrival upsells and upgrades, on-property welcome letters, weekly incoming guest newsletters, operational announcements, or making things right with a detractor, it’s imperative that you stay relevant from the very beginning. Guests cherish a personalized experience more than ever now.
5. They keep all their secrets
The truth is most businesses’ secrets aren’t that big of a secret. Chances are if you reveal the secrets behind what makes your hotel unique, others won’t be able to replicate it. When your customers book a hotel, they do so in a large part because they want the unique experience your brand has to offer.
The solution? Share some of your expertise and remind your guests of the experience they can only find at your property. Turn your customers into semi-pros at what you do, but deliver an experience so good they’ll pay you to do it anyway and establish guest loyalty.
Share how people are doing things with your product you hadn’t planned on, or connect new customers to an online forum of their peers. For example, film a quick Instagram tutorial of your executive chef making one of the top dishes at your hotel’s restaurant. Have your brand’s designer talk about the thought process of picking specific pieces of furniture for the rooms from the perspective of teaching design philosophy.
Encourage mastery and expertise. Peel back the curtain a bit and let people connect with the brand and the company. It’s the best way to build long-term trust.
The common thread is relationships, not marketing
Engagement is all about relationships. Most great relationships aren’t built by keeping secrets or selling things to each other. Relationships are about belonging to your customers’ tribes and adding value that makes their lives better and easier.
Our goal as marketers is to reach the point where communications don’t feel like marketing anymore, where each interaction provides value to the recipient. The advantage for you is that most hotels aren’t engaging in this manner today. Hotels need to realize that a booking is the beginning of the relationship. Treat it as an opportunity to keep the conversation going, and you’ll already be far ahead of what everyone else is doing.