Why storytelling is key for guestroom sales
Why storytelling is key for guestroom sales
13 MAY 2019 7:30 AM

Want to enhance guestroom sales? Here’s why you should deploy the age-old storytelling technique.

Hotel selections, hospitality brand affinities and all manner of purchases related to travel have a large emotional basis underpinning them.

To best leverage this towards enhancing sales, you must find ways to bring about greater positive sentiments and resonating feelings for your property, especially your guestrooms which are likely your primary revenue stream.

To do this, I suggest you deploy the age-old storytelling technique of conveying specific details about your product. For guestrooms, this now means finding new platforms that can promote your rooms’ features and attributes. Let’s see how this works.

Specificity is the story
Have you ever read an article or attended a seminar where a complex topic is discussed in abstract terms then clarified and reinforced through an example? It’s hard for our brains to visualize grand, ethereal ideas, but when we give them with a miniscule, corporeal analogy, the concept crystallizes. Even Albert Einstein did this when he presented the theory of relativity by describing it in terms of a passenger on a train watching a passerby and vice versa.

Applying this storytelling principle to the notion of selling guestrooms and other ancillary products under our purview, it’s easy to understand why talking in generalities doesn’t work. Vague language doesn’t excite our imaginations. It doesn’t cause sparks to spread throughout our cerebrums. It doesn’t give us a morsel to latch on to and connect with past memories. In other words, it lacks emotion.

Every sentence you write to describe your product should be imbued with tantalizing details along with any number of descriptive adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs and onomatopoeia to compel customers at their core to like then book. Better yet, let your visuals do the visualizing for you. The reason why a picture is worth a thousand words is because it would take that quantity of language to properly elaborate upon all the objects, backgrounds, colors and tones in the shot. To go a step further, if still images are so enticing, guess how positively videos and interactive tours will be perceived.

Every room tells a story
Having traversed the world over and stayed at some veritable once-in-a-lifetime hotels, I am in continual awe at the endless wealth of incredible properties available to travelers. If only they knew about them!

While you undoubtedly have beauty shots of your hotel’s ornate façade and its glimmering lobby, these alone are often not enough to convince a potential guest to pass over the pertinent credit card details. Rather, it is not just the exterior and the public spaces that should tell your emotionally-driven story to fully hook an audience, but the rooms themselves.

This is, after all, the place where guests will sleep. It’s where they will shower, change their clothes and escape for a quiet respite before rejoining the fray. If a hotel is the overall story, then the guestrooms are the protagonist, and fleshing out their point of view will engender trust with the end user.

Do you like stories with bland or ambiguous heroes? Probably not. Hence, continuing to talk about your room’s product in generalities or with minimal photography won’t help to deepen one’s appreciation of your hotel prior to arrival. Drilling deeper, many hotels are blessed with guestrooms that have exceptional qualities not expressed by the proscribed categories within the PMS or the broad room-type selection widget in a booking engine.

“Attribute-based selling” is a key component towards further evolving accommodation sales efforts because it allows hoteliers to develop substrata within a given product class and thereby boost direct bookings. Moreover, adding meaningful specificity to the story—in this case, showing and elaborating upon individual guestroom features—lets you both increase rate due to the heightened emotional connection a prospective guest will feel and perhaps apply an incremental charge for letting guests select the exact room post-reservation, much like how airlines sell specific seats.

Let the space tell the story
When talking about unique rooms, many hoteliers may be disheartened because their places of work instead have an abundance of near-identical units housed within large-scale developments, either as urban towers where floors are seemingly indistinguishable from one another or as sprawling multi-structure resorts where the only immediately discernable differentiator is the building name.

Don’t let this stop you from exploring the prospects of attribute-based selling. Two very fundamental features can be utilized to develop these guestroom subcategories for enhanced room rates or for adding a new revenue stream. This can be through paid-for, pre-arrival room selections, where guests request a certain view from the room as well as its definitive position within the property. To tell the story, examples are essential.

Viewpoints have long been a boon for resorts. For example, ocean-facing rooms can net upwards of double that of a room looking out on the parking lot. But why isn’t this model applied in a more subtle way for those urban towers where a slightly higher floor can mean being able to see beyond the adjacent building? Furthermore, a system for specific room selection could help to avoid any potential complaints when a guest is displeased by the illustrious vantage of the packaged rooftop HVAC unit because he or she would have had the opportunity to choose otherwise.

Related to this, a room’s definitive position can be leveraged for incremental sales because, for instance, some people will want to be close to the elevator while others will yearn for the additive tranquility of being at the end of the hall. Proximity, or lack thereof, to amenities is also a prominent attribute worth offering your guests—for a small price, of course! And much like how the airlines carved out the premium economy class when you go in to choose a specific seat, so too could you use interactive floorplans to sell standard rooms on certain floors with club access or prompt your customers to upgrade to a suite.

Ultimately, when it comes to storytelling, seeing is believing. The more you start to develop richer descriptions and visual representations of your guestrooms, the greater your prospects at filling those rooms. Not only that, but these tactics will help you drive rate, increase direct reservations, upsell your top-tier products and potentially create a new revenue stream through post-booking room selections.

As has been alluded to regarding the airline industry, what’s needed to actualize all this is a platform that enhances your hotel’s narrative through specific guestroom photo galleries, 360-degree tours, videos, interactive floorplans, 3D spatial mapping, dollhouse room models and other modern means of conveying a sense of geography.

Tell a specific story, one with differentiated attributes for each room, and you will undoubtedly see healthy gains over the next business cycle.

One of the world’s most published writers in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the principal of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes five books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017) and “The Hotel Mogel” (2018). You can reach Larry at larry@hotelmogel.com to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking engagements.

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