Forget hospitality marketing for a moment and think as a consumer - how do you like to feel when you arrive to a new destination?
Checking into your room is a breeze. The hotel staff is surprisingly helpful. Even amenities are better than expected. You get a friendly smile from the locals you meet. Your needs are met. You feel welcomed.
NB: This is an analysis by Justin Watkins, vice president of digital creative strategy at MMGY Global.
This is hospitality. It’s our industry, so how does our marketing make guests feel? Is it as hospitable as our guest service?
Even the best have work to do. When considering the many elements of a marketing plan let’s make room for hospitality.
First, why does this matter?
True hospitality triggers an emotional response that’s hard to forget. People remember how you made them feel far more than what you did or said. If you want to get scientific with it, dopamine is released in the striatum while emotion is being processed.
It’s our brain’s way of posting a sticky note marked "Remember this".
The striatum is the part of the brain that coordinates motivation. What a coincidence. We’re also in the industry of motivating action.
So how do we become more hospitable with our communications to invoke emotional appeal?
A little thing called empathy marketing.
Understand needs and interests
Empathy for the traveler starts with understanding their needs and interests. Easy enough.
Quantitative research paints an accurate picture of your audience. Just as important though is actual human interaction. Our marketing tools and technology are more powerful than ever.
But they can also detach and insulate us. This can hamper our emotional intelligence and perpetuate the problem of talking about ourselves.
Which explains why Facebook feeds become archives of cute things the cat just did. "Cats don’t eat pickles!!!"
Understanding leads to caring. By caring I mean caring about their interests over your own.
That’s hard for most individuals and even harder for organizations. Stakeholders have needs too. Metrics need to be met.
It’s a lot to juggle. But as the saying goes, sometimes you have to give before you get.
Now that we’re full of lovey-dovey empathy, we’re primed to communicate. Today that can occur at scale rather effortlessly. Rapid deployment can become automatic and machinelike.
It’s important to pause for a moment to ask, "Wait, does anyone care or benefit from this messaging beyond our own self interests?"
How does it look?
Right now I’m sensing you’re ready for some real world examples. Okay, how about on the web, reducing steps to accomplish a task?
Let your audience focus rather than distract with a barrage of calls-to-action.
When writing, speak in terms they understand rather than marketing speak.
And give them some credit by talking up to your audience. MailChimp is a company that does both of these exceedingly well. It’s a joy to use. You can feel the time and care put into every detail and word.
The competition has even started to follow its lead.
If you’re going to buy media that disrupts their flow, make it entertaining. It can pull at their heart strings or make them laugh. Just avoid informational which is talking about yourself in the least entertaining way.
Push beyond that.
In your social channels, listen to what they’re saying. Again, listening is a big part of this. If they have questions, find ways to flat out be helpful. Kansas City delighted guests during the 2012 MLB AllStar Game with its Social Media Command Center.
Guests asking for the best BBQ, bar recommends, or transportation info were answered promptly. Sounds pretty hospitable to me.
Being flexible with your marketing plan allows you to adapt to unique scenarios to offer personalized attention and surprises. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Campaigns can be executed flawlessly and remain completely emotionless. Like Carl Jung said: "The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it."
Carl Jung quotes always tempt me to dive back into brain hacking and analytical psychology, but alas, it’s not about me. It’s about you.
To wrap it up, empathy should come easy to our industry. Hospitality is our thing. What we’re offering is genuinely good for people. We can be better than a lot of the advertising that exists today.
The bottom line is to be as invested in the travelers’ needs as we are in our own bottom line. I know you will. You’ve already got a feel for it.
NB: This is an analysis by Justin Watkins, vice president of digital creative strategy at MMGY Global. Follow Watkins on Twitter.
NB2:Happy hotel image via Shutterstock.