10 tips to build a unique selling proposition
10 tips to build a unique selling proposition
07 JULY 2014 6:38 AM

With endless distractions and screen bombardment, you have at best five to 10 seconds to impress a prospective guest.

Central to building your property’s awareness and sales generation is its “voice” or unique selling proposition. Specific to the hospitality industry, a USP is defined as the single most identifiable benefit a property can give to consumers. 
With endless distractions and screen bombardment, you have at best five to 10 seconds, or one short phrase, to impress a prospective guest—not much time to communicate the full extent of your brand value. But this should be enough for you to get across one clear idea or selling point. 
From a marketer’s point of view, an ironclad USP makes our job so much easier, as it will help determine all subsequent priorities and logistics. Contrary to what you might think, by consigning us to work within the mold or theme of a proscribed USP, it frees our minds to think up bolder, creative and more aggressive promotional placements. If you don’t concisely define your USP, it blankets everyone and ultimately means you convince no one. 
Check through the following list to see where you might improve.
1. Basic checklist. We’re in the conceptual stage here. Everything is on the table. So, in order to narrow the field, you need to find your priorities. First, you need a brain trust: a small group of individuals who know the industry and are devoted to the problem at hand. Next, what might qualify as a USP? What feature do you feel is the natural choice to select for this task? Importantly, what feature is most marketable as a consumer benefit? Brainstorm with your team about what is most critical for your property toward boosting sales or if any departments have any specific priorities. Lastly, this is the point where you abstractly define your time frame for the next planning steps.
2. Build your calendar. Once you have your timeline in a rough sense, you can work backward from a certain launch date or execution period to determine how much time to allocate to each of the upcoming tasks. This is the stage where you think in terms of a 12-month lifecycle, accounting for seasonal variations and disruptions. Assigning checkpoints or stage deadlines helps to ensure no single element in this planning process lags behind.
3. Define objectives. You not only have to think in terms of what your new USP will be, but also its projected outcomes. Using past experiences in addition to comp set data and forecasted trends, what do you hope to achieve? Once you assign individual teams, what will their goals be? For this still early phase, I like to utilize a SMAC approach—specific, measurable, achievable, compatible—although there are plenty of other systems that work, too.
4. Develop initial offers. Now comes the nitty gritty of the specific details of your USP. At the onset, you brainstorm and encourage participation to find your brand’s voice. Keep an open mind; no idea is a bad idea. At the completion, however, you should have a clear and concise concept to work with and guide the remaining stages. The product here should be your elevator pitch.
5. Refinement. Once you have your one-sentence or 10-second campaign slogan, it’s time to see how you will tune and adjust it for the outside world. Again, you should be open-minded during this process so no good ideas are neglected or lost due to groupthink. Specifically, you should aim to apply parameters to your budding USP in terms of how it will benefit customers—that is, judging your selling point from the perspective of the consumer, not the hotel brand—and how it compares to that of your competition. This is the last dedicated big picture phase as you try to decipher what your USP will be and how it will connect to all other selling points for your brand.
6. Get creative. The latter half of these 10 steps is where the execution of tactics and logistics truly begin. Now is the time to open the doors beyond your brain trust and involve more departments. Source ideas in-house as well as from external agencies. Your objective here is threefold. You can generate enthusiasm for your USP and get your team behind it. You also want to harness the power and diversity of your team as you never know where the best ideas will occur. Concurrent to these two activities, you should now start to create the framework for offers based on your USP, with each themed appropriately and vetted by senior managers.
7. Tactical elements and budget. Prior to any full-fledged creative execution, you need to sort out the logistics, distribution strategy and fiscal resources allocated to every path chosen. Each channel is different in terms of what creative expression will gain traction as well as how much money is required to play ball. Major channels you should consider include: direct marketing; brand.com; traditional advertising; Google Adwords; past customer mailers; trade shows; telemarketing; Cvent programs; e-blasts; and public relations.
8. Build the creative. Knowing what channels you are committed to for the initial launch will help focus your creative efforts and the budget for your creative efforts. And now that you have refined the concept behind your USP, the most important matter is consistency in the expression of your USP and the themed offers pertaining to it. All your creative should be informative but also eye-catching and provocative. Too many facts will bore an audience, while all style and no substance will not work in your favor to build awareness. 
9. Execute the campaign. This is where it all comes together. You place your media, upload website updates to the server and get your sales team out in full force. Have them bend the rules, as selling should be fun. Executing a campaign can be a stressful time, both in terms of workload as well as the uncertainty of it all. Be aware that equally as important as a smooth launch is the setup of a lead-following system so your team won’t forget to close any prospective sales.
10. Measure results. Record, record, record! Specifically, try not to look only at the numbers. Often it is easy for participants to only fill in the numbered items on response cards without expressing how they truly felt. To alleviate this problem, scrupulously read through written comments and actively listen to people, whether they are guests, sales leads or team members. Lastly, know that launching a new USP is not a one-shot deal but a constant evolution. Your campaign must be adapted to correlate with any measured deviations or unexpected results. This can be frustrating, but don’t give up. Nothing is perfect at the outset; it is only through constant tweaking and hard work this comes to be.
Larry Mogelonsky is the president and founder of LMA Communications Inc., an award-winning, full service communications agency focused on the hospitality industry (est. 1991). Larry is also the developer of Inn at a Glance hospitality software. As a recognized expert in marketing services, his experience encompasses Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, as well as numerous independent properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Larry is a registered professional engineer, and received his MBA from McMaster University. He’s also an associate of G7 Hospitality, a member of Cayuga Hospitality Advisors and Laguna Strategic Advisors. Larry’s latest anthology book entitled “Llamas Rule” and his first book “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR 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.  

1 Comment

  • Thomas A. Gardiner July 9, 2014 9:44 AM

    GREAT article... Larry makes the CASE for the Hospitality 10-Step Program... CASE being the 'Cultural And Social Evolution' as Larry states, "it is only through constant tweaking and hard work this comes to be." Exceeding Guest Expectations is the Hospitality Staff Career calling that feels great when the Guest rebooks... Guest Retention is the GOAL.

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