Last year a friend of mine moved out to New York. I always enjoy reading her emails describing her new life. She never seems to be short of things to write home about.
Why is it then, that when it comes to writing our blog or articles for newsletters that we dry up on ideas? Though much of the content of my friend’s emails wouldn’t be suitable for sharing with customers, the concepts would.
She uses catchy titles that makes us want to open up and read it straight away. She only writes when she has something to report; she doesn’t just write for the sake of it. Her personality shows through with humour and a lighthearted touch. She maintains our interest with anecdotes and stories that we (her readers and friends) can relate to. When she’s been introduced to a new experience, she explains it without insulting our intelligence. She also includes photos to bring it all to life. These days there’s no excuse not to capture things on camera, and your hotel is no exception.
And at times she leaves us hanging on for the next installment before she tells us the outcome.
All these principles can be applied to your own newsletters, but if you are still struggling for content, here are a few ideas:
Recognise and reward loyalty
Start to build the relationship with your customers or guests as soon as they have booked by thanking them and giving them additional information. You can use any of the topics below to whet their appetite and get them looking forward to their visit.
• As their arrival date approaches, send further timely information about specific events, travel updates and opportunities for upgrades or complementary services (e.g., making a dinner reservation).
• Once someone has stayed or dined with you or attended an event, a simple thank you note is a great way to build rapport and an opportunity for some feedback, too.
Theme your articles and blogs
Establish different themes for your newsletters. If you segment your list (which I recommend) you can then target different topics to different segments to keep things relevant. Some examples:
• Breaking news: Set up Google Alerts for topics relevant to your target audience (e.g., what's going on in your town or whatever topic is relevant to your unique selling point or of interest to your target audience).
• Answer your most frequently asked questions.
• An A-Z series of your “expert” topic or special interest (providing your prospects and customers share the same interest).
Show your personality
One thing that will always make you unique is you and your team.
• Describe a day in the life of: your chef, housekeeper, sommelier, receptionist, events organizer.
• Ask staff for their top tips to share with customers.
• What's happening in your world both on site and out and about?
• Get your staff to tell their own story—their background, experience and how they came to be working in your hotel/restaurant/resort.
• Describe something that makes you different than everyone else.
From the kitchen
If you want to encourage guests to dine with you:
• Introduce your new menu and how it's been created.
• Select some seasonal dishes to try at home.
• Talk about your sustainably sourced foods and other supplier stories.
• Describe a trip to the market or market garden, and interview some of the growers about their produce.
• Ask your chefs and other staff for their views on food on holiday and new recipes/flavours to try out.
• Write some food-specific reviews, based on local ingredients.
• Laugh at your own mishaps or recipes failures with a funny story.
• Talk about a new product you’ve just discovered and how you are using it in your recipes, and explain why you love it.
Act like a travel agent
What are all the things that could help to sway a visit to your area?
• Give average temperature for the area if you have overseas visitors.
• Suggest some potential holiday itineraries with maps.
• Explain what's happening at other attractions in the area (and ask for a reciprocal arrangement with your neighbouring venues) and why it’s special.
• Tell them about specific things to do if they are coming with an elderly relative, young child or the family dog, for example.
• Write about specific festivals and events happening in the region, their origin, what they consists of, how guests can find more information, and what impact these may have on guests’ stay.
Become their personal local guide
Give visitors an incentive to visit and something to look forward to.
• Suggest some potential day trip itineraries highlighting local places of interest.
• Give the weather forecast for the coming week so guests know what to wear and what to bring.
• Tell readers about local events of interest.
• Describe local walks, with pictures of the views.
• Tell readers about unusual sightings of wildlife with pictures if possible.
• Give guest or staff reviews on things to do (e.g. walks, days out and local attractions).
• Tell the stories behind your local history and some of the famous local celebrities.
• Be controversial and talk about what’s happening in your area.
From the garden
If you are proud of your garden or outside space:
• Describe your seasonal activities (e.g. planting, pruning, harvesting from the vegetable garden).
• Give gardener's tips on pruning, pest control and garden maintenance.
• Tell readers what fruits and vegetables are in season, and how you are reflecting these in your menus (combine with kitchen blog for recipes).
• Show your garden in all its glory with photos.
• Show pictures of children having fun and enjoying the outdoors.
From the wine cellar
• Review of a wine from your list.
• Seasonal activities (e.g., the harvest, planting, pruning).
• Talk about this year's grape harvest—what's good, what impact the weather and other elements will have on the harvest and the wine.
• Expert's corner—tasting tips, buying tips, storing wines, what makes your wines different.
There’s nothing like a bit of social proof to demonstrate your abilities to please your customers.
• Ask customers for their feedback, and ask if you can use their quotes. Better still: video them.
• Write mini case studies of events and activities to help demonstrate the breadth of what you can offer in the way of activities or facilities.
• Tell the story of where one of your team have gone the extra mile for a customer.
• Show pictures of happy guests (with their permission, of course).
Team up with others who share your customer list.
• Ask them to write a guest feature article or blog (e.g., a wedding photographer on top photo tips; your fishmonger tips for buying fresh fish and fish recipes; your florist for tips on getting cut flowers to last longer, on flower arranging, etc.).
• Ask your local suppliers for their stories, too; this helps to give providence to your ingredients.
• News and awards from other local businesses including complementary businesses such as restaurants.
Doing your bit for CSR
Share your contribution to corporate and social responsibility
• What fund raising or charitable events have you been involved in, and what’s been your contribution?
• What changes have you made towards energy conservation?
• What steps have you made with suppliers to source only sustainable produce?
And of course, don’t forget to blog or email about what you are up to, what you have planned, what's to look forward to.
• What specials or offers you are running, and what’s in it for your customers to take up the offer?
• Has your hotel or restaurant been featured in the news?
• What awards have you entered and/or won?
• Describe changes and improvements you are making or you've now completed and what these mean to your guests.
• Tease your readers with tasters of future and current promotions, offers and packages.
• Report back on a recent success story (e.g. review or feedback from a recent event).
Out of sight is out of mind, so use your newsletter (and blogs) to keep your hotel visible and to communicate to your customers and prospects regularly. The more you communicate with what your audience wants to hear (opposed to spam) the more you build up an emotional bond and establish trust and loyalty.
Caroline Cooper is a business coach with over 25 years in business and management development. She is the founder of Zeal Coaching, specialising in working with hospitality businesses, and is author of the “Hotel Success Handbook.” For more information on Zeal Coaching see http://www.zealcoaching.com/.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.