Clean sheets, a hot shower, something to eat in the morning—these are the basic things all hotel guests expect, which is why every hotel provides them. But offering just the basics is not going to make your hotel stand out against a wave of new competition from vacation rentals and boutique properties.
A hotel’s brand is what distinguishes it from every other lodging option; it defines what makes the hotel appealing and valuable. While simple advertising that showcases rooms and rates—and introduces your property to new consumers—is important, it is only one piece of a larger puzzle. An equally important piece is branding: creating an image and a lifestyle that guests want to be associated with.
Of course, branding a hotel is not quick or easy, but it doesn’t take a one-of-a-kind guest experience or a world-class marketing department to get noticed, either. Use these simple tactics to help differentiate your property.
Tell a Story to Potential Guests
A brand is more of a narrative and less of a sales pitch. Instead of simply highlighting what your hotel has to offer, it tells a story about what it’s like to stay there. The story should incorporate the hotel’s history, philosophy, geography and aesthetic—communicating to guests what the end-to-end experience looks and feels like both on and around the property. Ways to tell this story include writing articles, publishing pictures/videos and even recording podcasts.
An important part of crafting a compelling narrative is knowing exactly what guests will find interesting and attractive. This starts with rich guest profiles. Collect data and endeavor to really understand the people who visit your property. With the right information at your fingertips, creating an impactful story that reaches the right people becomes much easier.
Use Guests as Brand Ambassadors
Effective branding feels authentic and engaging. Unfortunately, anything less can feel like transparent marketing. Using guests to communicate what your brand stands for makes it feel real, especially to potential guests wondering what a stay is truly like. In order to get guests to speak up, first you need to deliver an exceptional guest experience (which in itself is no small task). Then you need to encourage guests to write reviews, post pictures and engage with your brand online.
Thanks to the internet, everyone has a voice. This means that people are free to leave negative reviews on public platforms like TripAdvisor, but it also provides an exceptional opportunity to turn guests into brand ambassadors. Leveraging the power of online reviews is one of the most effective ways to build your hotel’s brand.
Get Consistent Across the Board
A hotel brand isn’t one thing—it’s everything. Brands are present online and offline, in tiny details like the typeface on the logo and in fundamentals like the room quality. If the brand aims to encapsulate the hotel, it must be present in everything the hotel does. Consistency is key.
Most importantly, the image that hotels craft for themselves needs to carry over into every aspect of a guest experience. Everything from great housekeeping to lenient check-in times ultimately adds to the perception people have of your brand.
Focus on Social Media
A show-don’t-tell approach often works best when it comes to building a brand, and social media is the perfect platform for communicating what your brand stands for without turning it into a slogan. Show people what the sights and sounds of the hotel are like. Keep people up to date about all the excitement and activity in and around the property. Most crucially, engage with your social media followers as well as your online critics (in a positive way). An active presence shows people that your brand is alive and tuned in to what guests care about.
Be sure to focus your branding efforts as much on the OTA sites as you do on Facebook and Instagram. OTA sites allow you to get your brand in front of a lot of new eyes, while a social media platform like Facebook provides an opportunity to target more specific guests.
Live the Brand
This point cannot be stressed enough—a brand is not a fabrication, it’s a distillation. The image that hotels create for themselves must be the one they deliver to both first-time and long-time guests. If the brand promises fun and relaxation or, conversely, luxury and sophistication, it needs to be on display during booking, at check-in, through room service and in every touchpoint between the guest and the hotel. And every member of staff needs to be a living embodiment of the brand. While rooms, rates and marketing efforts are all important, it’s your employees who are best positioned to turn a hotel stay into an unforgettable experience.
Hotels assume the hardest part of branding is creating a cohesive and compelling message. In reality, the hardest part is carrying out that message. Once you get great at branding, guests arrive at the hotel with clear expectations of what the experience will be like. How well it lives up to promise determines whether guests leave delighted or disappointed. The point is—if you’re going to be ambitious about branding your hotel, you need to be just as ambitious about operating it.
RoomKey PMS is a comprehensive property management system that helps you translate your brand into your property and vice versa. To learn how, contact our team.