By: Doug Pace – Bayshore Solutions Vice President & COO

Last week my team had the opportunity to have a strategy discussion with the owner of many local restaurants.  The individual was a very astute business man and was well versed in his market, audience, and business metrics.  In our discussion, he asked what our point of view was when marketing for the hospitality industry and I felt our resulting conversation made for a great blog entry…

It’s all starts with a story!  When you are marketing a destination (i.e. museum, restaurant, theme park, or even a city) you need to start with the story or brand.   The story allows you to set a picture in the guests mind using characters, setting, action and emotion.  Creating a story provides a basis for your marketing strategy and its associated tactics.  Just as in life, the story will vary based on who is telling it and who they are telling it to – but the basics remain and help to set expectations.

What to do, what to do?  Once you have created your story, you must first think about the guest and their decision making patterns.  Why do people choose to visit one restaurant over another?  Why do people choose to go to a museum over a theme park?  In many cases we see that successful engagement depends on execution on at least 2 of the 4 following elements – connection, awareness, need, and social commentary.

  • Connection– This element is centered on the destination’s relevancy with the individual guest.  Is the guest familiar with the destination? Do they have a history with the destination? Do they have a connection with the story?You can’t be all things to all people, but you want to make sure that you have a strong emotional connection to our core audience.  Your brand story provides the basis for this element, but historic connection (i.e. my dad used to take us here) plays a strong role.
  • Awareness – A guest’s life is overflowing with options. What should they have for dinner?  Where are they going on their next vacation?  What is a unique experience for their spouse’s birthday?In order to ensure that your destination is top of mind, you have to stay in front of guests and remind them of our story. You want to be in front of the guest when they are making their decision.  This can be through a variety of channels, including leveraging digital display advertising, email marketing, remarketing campaigns, and content syndication to ensure that you have a place in the consumer’s priority list.  A great deal of thought must go into the message, the channel, and the timing – and that is unique to each destination and their audience.
  • Need – In some cases the guest will have an immediate need for your services and you need to be sure that you are easily found.  Considering most guests will leverage the Internet in their decision making process, you need to place high priority on this channel. Search Engine Marketing and Pay Per Click Advertising allows you to be found if the guest is searching by keyword leveraging services like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.  Content syndication will help you if the user is searching through articles to find a solution.  You also want to make sure you are included on popular listing sites like Yelp and Google Maps.
  • Social Commentary– The world has changed over the last few years and social channels play a large part in shaping guests’ decisions.  Online reviews, comments on Facebook, and posts across twitter can significantly impact a destination’s attendance or a restaurant’s nightly revenue.Most companies will put great efforts to encouraging their guest to post online reviews, but more importantly one needs to create a process to respond to online reviews.  If the review is positive, then thank the guest and encourage them to return soon – this builds an individual connection to your destination.  If the review is negative, apologize and encourage the consumer to connect with you offline to correct the situation – this shows everyone that you care.  Individuals understand that mistakes and exceptions happen, but what is most important is how an organization responds when they are made aware.

Entertain me!  Now that you have engaged the guest and have gotten them to a destination, you need to consider how technology can play a role in their experience.  Large theme parks have done an incredible job of this – creating wearable devices that act as your ticket, a charge account, and your room key.  But it is important to note that with the mass popularity of smartphones, iPads, and tablet devices, technology is now available for smaller destinations.

A specialty restaurant can create an application that allows a guest to see the history of their food, see video on how it is made, and browse the wine list.  A cruise ship can create an application that visually shows the users location on a ship, select an event, confirm the reservation, and have the devise show them the easiest way to get there.  A museum can leverage an application, GPS, the camera on a phone/iPad, and virtual reality to create an amazing self-guided tour.  Users are becoming more connected, so destinations should take advantage of this in their story and allow for a connected experience while on site.

Keep me coming back for more!  After the guest has had a great experience and returned home, you want to reinforce the experience and create a long term connection with your brand.  It is important to remember that post experience marketing is not just about direct response, but it is more about emotional connection.  Is there a way we can remind the guest of the experience they had with us?  Maybe send them a photo of their night with you, maybe invite them to have the same dessert they had last time, and maybe let them know when their same room/seat/table is available. Showing someone that they are appreciated as an individual creates a stronger connection than any coupon.

In fact, studies have shown that coupons can entice a single visit, but coupon users are less likely to be brand loyal and only go where the next coupon will bring them.  Post experience communication can easily be managed via technology using a CRM platform – there are many specific for the hospitality industry.  A good CRM will allow you to keep data on your customer and segment them based on historic information.  Once you have the database then email marketing, text marketing, or invitations to downloaded applications all work to entice return visits.

The team at Bayshore Solutions can create an experience for your visitors through digital marketing, extending your brand story, and destination marketing.  Contact us today to get started!

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