Monday, October 23, 2023

 Be a budget hero.

Budget season is upon us.

You may well be asked to do more in 2024 with the same budget you had in 2023. Here’s a good way to make that happen.

Invest in a clear strong Brand. A Brand can be a powerful, cost-efficient way for an independent hotel to get a competitive edge. Unfortunately, "Brand" is often misunderstood. So let's start with that.

Your Brand is not your logo, tag line, ad campaign, mission statement or company colors. It's a supportable differentiation around which you deliver a unique value. "Branding" is what you use to deliver your Brand – your logo, web site, ad campaign and the rest of it.

Here's why a Brand can be so valuable to you.

First, the moment you change the way you characterize yourself from, say, "a hotel with this many rooms in this place" to "a hotel that is unique for these reasons," you narrow your competitive set. Suddenly, you're not just another pretty face with special offers. Potential guests know why you're different. And if that's the kind of different they want, they'll likely pay a premium for it.

Second, a clear Brand, developed from the inside-out, will help you zero in on your best target audiences. And it's a whole lot smarter to target the right people than target everybody and hope the right people get the message somehow.

Finally, without a clear Brand, you could find yourself competing on price. Driving carpet tacks into your gums is preferable to competing on price.

A clear brand will also ensure that all your marketing tools work together and reinforce one another. Which will make everything work a bit harder and more efficiently.

In other words, a clear Brand is worth real money. Cash money. The big chains spend tens of thousands of dollars on Brand development. They know how valuable it is across all of their properties. But you don't have to spend anything close to that if you (ahem) know the right people who can do it.

A solid Brand developed this year can last you 8-10 years if it's done right and you don't turn your property into an amusement park or something.

Do a little math. How much better will your bottom line be if you can boost your occupancy even just 10%-15% and/or tour ADR by $5 or so.

Do this: Ask 10 or 15 people in various positions at your property to tell you what they think your Brand is. If they don't know, or you get a bunch of different answers or if what you get is something your competition can easily claim, well then, you haven't really defined what sets you apart.

Carve out a reasonable amount of your 2024 budget to develop or clarify your Brand. You'll get more out of the rest of it if you do. 

Be a hero.


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Clichés, buzzwords and ChatGPT

Clichés, buzzwords and ChatGPT

Just for grins, one of us was playing around with ChatGPT the other day to see what AI might come up with for a hotel or resort home page intro. Here are some of the results.

Write a 50-word overview of a lakeside mountain resort with a golf course.
“Nestled amidst breathtaking mountains, our lakeside resort offers an idyllic escape. Enjoy a luxurious stay while indulging in our world-class golf course, harmonizing leisure with nature's beauty. Immerse yourself in tranquility, savor stunning views, and tee off in style at this ultimate mountain retreat.”

Write a 50-word overview of a luxury beachside resort.
“Experience paradise at our luxury beachside resort. Nestled on a pristine stretch of white sand, indulge in exquisite ocean-view suites, world-class dining, and rejuvenating spa treatments. Immerse yourself in water sports, lounge by infinity pools, and relish breathtaking sunsets. Unparalleled elegance and natural beauty await at every turn.”

Write a 50-word overview of a luxury city hotel.

“Discover urban sophistication at our luxury city hotel. Nestled in the heart of the bustling metropolis, we offer opulent accommodations, exquisite dining, and impeccable service. Indulge in lavish amenities, from a serene spa to rooftop panoramas. Experience the pinnacle of elegance, where every moment reflects our commitment to refined living.”

As entertaining and amusing as it was for us, the sad thing is, you’ve seen copy like this. Lots of times. Features rather than benefits, clichés, buzzwords, too many overused adjectives, and so on. Written by actual human beings who should know better. At least AI has an excuse.
Nobody remembers readalike copy that doesn’t stand out. And it doesn’t do much for you. Having a creative writer working with a clear Brand — that is, what sets you apart — would help here. A lot.

Wherever it may be nestled, your hotel isn’t a cliché, so don’t rely on clichés to sell it. Resist the usual. Stand apart.The idea is to be memorable.

 Be honest, you’ve forgotten that mountain resort one already, and you haven’t even finished reading this. Well, you're done now, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Taking up the slack

There's never enough, is there?

Time, resources, people – whatever it is, often there’s just not enough of it to get all the things done you want done when you want them done.

What to do?

Fractional marketing support. On-demand expertise.

We’re not talking about simply looking for a freelancer for a project here or there, but hooking up with a boutique firm with a range of expertise who will give you a sweetheart rate in exchange for regular work.

You may have a relationship with one of the large digital companies for your website or email program, but it’s unlikely that helping you out with some creative thinking, like copywriting, design, media planning or Branding fits into their business model. They aren’t structured for fractional support. So if they’re willing to go off the menu, it takes time and costs big bucks.

Find a firm built to respond quickly and cost-efficiently. They’re out there. (We’re one.)

The idea, of course, is to establish continuity and familiarity with your property and your Brand. A steady, familiar partner, but only when you need them. On call, as it were

We once worked for a client for eight years on a string of projects, one after the other, as needed and on demand. It worked out well for everybody and if the property hadn’t been sold, we’d probably still be at it.

The point is, if you can get that balance of a regular partner who is only there when you need them, you can stretch your resources. And that's always a good thing.



Monday, July 24, 2023

Pump up the volume

 If you have something to say, say it loud.


Chuck, a friend of ours and a pretty smart Ad Guy, says that advertising is simple: "Make noise and make friends." He's right.

We'll start with the assumption that you've got something to say about your whatever it is you want to sell and why anybody should want to buy it.

But whatever you've got to say, it won't do you any good unless somebody hears it. It's like speaking softly in a noisy room and expecting people to notice. Won't happen. So be loud. 

"Loud" can mean a lot of things. You can take a creative, compelling approach to your content. You can appear where nobody expects you to appear. You can flood one particular media channel. Or you can flood them all. (This last approach can be kind of expensive. Creativity is a big money-saver.) 

Point is to demand attention.

Think of it as walking into a room where you want people to notice you and all that you have to offer. Are you going to stride in, maybe wearing a bright sweater or waving your arms or smiling and greeting everybody you see? Or are you going to slip in a side door in a beige hoodie and sit quietly on the floor until somebody trips over you?

If you've got something worth saying but aren’t going to go to the trouble to make sure people hear it, well, the whole thing seems sort of pointless, doesn't it? 

Of course, if you're happy where you are, stay where you are. There's nothing really wrong with the status quo if you're good with it.

But if you want to move the needle a bit, make a little noise. 

Maybe make a lot.


Wednesday, July 5, 2023

People read what interests them


Your social media posts are a variety show.

No disrespect intended, but potential guests or customers probably really don’t care who your Employee of the Month is. Well, they do, just not that much.

And they probably don’t follow you on social media just for a steady stream of special offers.

And chances are, they're a bit tired of seeing the same property shots over and over again.

But that doesn’t stop hotels and other businesses from loading up their social media accounts with that sort of thing anyway.

Don’t misunderstand. In this day and age, with social media and email taking front and center doing the heavy lifting of advertising for many businesses, you absolutely do have to get those offers on Facebook, Instagram and the rest. But we think it’s important to recognize that people don’t follow you strictly for a steady stream of promotions. 

They’ve expressed an interest in you. So be interesting.

Treat your social media account like a publication, with a mix of human interest as well as sales.

This is just our opinion, understand, but we think social media posts can be more effective if they are designed to give your target a feel for your personality. Help them get to know “you.”

Think of your social media like a variety show rather than a penny-saver coupon flyer that comes in the mail. Mix it up. Make it entertaining.

People read what interests them. Sometimes, it happens to be a social media post.


Monday, June 12, 2023

OK. I'm here. Now what?

 I came. I saw. I'm leaving.

Your website's bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who don't actually make it past your home page. Obviously, you don't want a high bounce rate. 

A tech-oriented company will have reasons for this and ways they’d address it, but we don’t think it’s strictly a tech issue. We see three possible reasons for a high bounce rate: 1) You're attracting the wrong people to the site. 2) Your home page isn’t very interesting. 3) A little of each.

Getting the right people. How are you attracting people to your website? Are you depending on SEO and a site heavy with keywords? Are you advertising? And if so, what are you saying about yourself? Is what you have to offer and what sets you apart clear? 

Sure, we're in the ad business, but it seems to us to be a fairly simple formula – minimize the “stumble-on” traffic with things like advertising or public relations that deliver a Brand message. Which would you rather have, a bunch of SEO visitors who may or may not be qualified, or fewer, but more qualified, prospects? Certainly (and we didn't make this part up, it's an actual Real Thing) branded searches yield more conversions than blind ones.

Your home page.
This is a strategic and a creative challenge.

Take a hard look at your site. What – exactly – is there that will entice a visitor to keep going? Does that first page feature some sort of hero shot - perhaps happy people doing happy things or listening intently while someone points at a white board? Or a couple smiling at one another as they enjoy the amenities of a senior living community?

Or does it tell a visitor what distinguishes your company from your competition? Does it make it clear what you have to sell and what makes you special? 

Be honest. If you didn't work there, would you hang around your site very long? 

This is not to say you don’t open with a photo or a gallery. Just don’t get into the Lookalike Boat with so many other websites. Human beings are curious by nature, but we don’t necessarily want to read through your website just because you have one. So give us a reason to dig in. Be creative, intriguing and entertaining.

Think of your home page the same way you might think about those first few minutes on a blind date or in a singles bar.

You know, critical to whether or not things go any further. 


Creativity is a Swiss Army Knife.

Creativity is a Swiss Army Knife.


When you think of “creativity” in marketing, you probably think about ads, websites, commercials and logos.

The thing is, creativity — the defeat of habit by originality — can solve almost any problem and smart money doesn’t just use it for, well, for ads, websites, commercials and logos.  Actually, there are a number of other spots in the marketing loop where creativity and innovation can — and should — be applied.

What is it about you that differentiates you from the hotel down the street? What can you say that most of your competition cannot?  Hint: It’s not your people, free parking, flexible meeting space, a sandy beach, or the lowest rates in town. Don't default to What's Expected. That's just a starting point. Read more about Brand here.

Ok, you know what sets you apart, now who cares? Who will that difference appeal to the most? Dig a little deeper, think about it sideways and throw out preconceptions and assumptions. You might find some hidden treasure. Another hint: It’s never just anybody with a bank account.

That is, what do you want to say? The more specific you are about your target, the better you will be able to craft a message that will appeal to them. Assuming you get your target’s attention (see below) what point do you want to make? And that point really should be built around benefits, not features.

So you know what you want to say, now how to say it in a way that will demand attention? Avoid “me too” and lookalike messages and delivery executions. What gets you excited when you watch Super Bowl commercials? Wallpaper spots? Nobody really notices the wallpaper. Just be sure to avoid gratuitous creativity. You know, like the Liberty Emu.


Maybe instead of relying on emails or social media posts for people who already know about you — or crowded channels packed with your competitors —  go elsewhere. For example, got a high-end resort? What other things are important to people who can afford a high-end resort and where are they exposed to them? Go there.

It’s not hard to see opportunities for creativity once you start to think about it. But a general rule of thumb could be to simply resist the usual. It’s a way of thinking.
Remember, creativity can solve almost any problem. It's not just about ads, websites, commercials and logos. 

Not by a long shot.