On the popular American Public Media radio show “Marketplace,” host Kai Ryssdal likes to end his interviews with corporate CEOs by asking them to describe their companies in five words or less. Last week, he posed the question to Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good. Her answer was awful, not because it was controversial or negative toward a competitor. It was bad because it was boring. She described Duke Energy as an “industry-leading, innovative energy company.”
Maybe image doesn’t matter in the electricity business, but she could have been a little more colorful in her answer. Doing so probably wouldn’t tarnish the company’s image and would have made her seem more human and not such a technocrat. Perhaps she could have said, “Providing power to the people,” or maybe “Get a charge from us.” You get the idea.
Image does matter in the hotel business. After all, you’re selling an experience: comfort, romance, relaxation, celebration, achievement, even productivity. Thus, you should make sure every marketing opportunity you present to potential customers sells that experience.
Of course, a cute five-words-or-less description can fall on its face if it isn’t backed by action and execution. It’s not only important to determine what your hotel is, but you also need to live it through the facilities, amenities, service, cleanliness or whatever else represents the core of the experiences you claim to offer.
It must be shouted loudly in every marketing channel you use, but especially in social media, which is where consumers—particularly young ones, but also people of all ages—believe they can get the inside information on any product or service they’re considering for purchase.
This notion of assigning a personality to a hotel is not new. Joie de Vivre Hotels, the boutique brand founded by Chip Conley and now part of Commune Hotels, launched the brand by using magazines as inspirations for its hotels. It wasn’t overt or schlocky—covers of the magazines weren’t hanging in the lobby—but Conley and his design teams used the publications as their muse in defining the product, its vibe, food-and-beverage offerings and, most of all, its style of service.
So how do you describe your property using five words or less: maybe “Fun, romantic, relaxing” for a beach resort, or “Sexy, mysterious, breathtaking” for an urban boutique or “Work hard, play hard” for a conference center. Rally your operations, marketing and social media teams to brainstorm your concept.
In a story we published last week, Hotel News Now contributor Brooke Snow pointed out another exercise you can use to determine your property’s ken. She provided a tutorial on Facebook’s new Graph Search function, a tool that enables users to better search for people and things they like, such as hotels.
To fully participate, businesses need to provide detailed imagery and other content, including a 155-character description of the business, or what Snow called “the elevator speech for your hotel.” That can be the basis to help you develop a snappy, but accurate synopsis on what separates your hotel from the competition.
Bottom line: No matter what you call your hotel (or hotel company, for that matter), ensure it accurately describes what guests can expect, be certain you and your team can deliver on that promise and, above all, don’t be boring and don’t ever call yourself “innovative and industry-leading.”
Email Ed Watkins or find him on Twitter.
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