Sometimes the lodging industry can feel like an epic battle between David (small independent hotels) and Goliath (mega-chains with recognizable logos and uber-deep pockets), but there’s one area in which boutique hotels have a distinct advantage. While hotel chains have to manage franchisees and create branding and marketing guidelines to ensure cohesion and consistency, boutique owners aren’t bound by such restrictions.
Hoteliers should take the time to create an out-of-the-box experience that speaks to guests throughout their booking process, stay, checkout, and beyond. Below are three ways hoteliers can deepen this connection with guests.
1Find and Highlight Key Differentiators
There are approximately 9,832 boutique hotels in the United States, but none of them are quite alike. What sets a property apart from the competition? Perhaps it’s the garden out back that infuses a hotel’s farm-to-table room service menu with flavor, or the fact that a property caters to romantic getaways with welcome packages of sparkling wine, strawberries, and sleigh rides for two in the wintertime.
To identify what makes a property different, look to the guests. See what they talk about on social media, ask repeat customers why they keep coming back, then play up the thing everybody loves so even more people can benefit.
2Offer Personalization Whenever Possible
A study by Evergage found that 72 percent of marketers already customize their email campaigns, 57 percent continue that personalization via the company website, and a significant percentage also tweak web-based and mobile apps to adapt to consumer preferences. And according to Epsilon research, 80 percent of consumers report that they are more likely to patronize brands that offer personalized experiences.
For instance, hotel staff can use guests’ names whenever possible. Put it on their room service tray, use it to confirm reservations, add it to promotional emails, and tuck a personalized welcome note in with the room key. When someone books a room, email a thank you note along with a guide to the area and a link to a short questionnaire asking them about their preferences. Use their answers to recommend activities or services, send enticing discounts, or set up their room with allergen-free soaps before they even have a chance to ask. Use technology to keep a database of preferences. Every time a guest returns, gather more intel to help understand them better.
Imagine the feeling a guest gets when they stay at a hotel for the fifth time and the room service chef already knows to leave the black pepper off the scrambled eggs and the morning paper is delivered before their 7 a.m. wakeup.
3Employ Sensory Marketing
Sight, smell, taste, touch, sound—each of the five senses plays an important role in how guests perceive every single thing they encounter. Create an immersive experience by evoking emotion whenever and wherever possible. That could mean offering aromatherapy in guest rooms, swapping out cheap bathrobes for ones woven from Turkish cotton, or stationing a piano player in the lounge to play standards for guests enjoying a pre-dinner drink.
Hospitality is not a formulaic industry but one that relies on executing a series of touchpoints. Focus on creating experiences guests not only won’t forget, but that they’ll eagerly share with the world.