We’ve gotten through the first 3 parts of the cycle, as we’ve reviewed in Parts 1 and 2 of this series. Phew! Now your guest has dreamed of their vacation, researched their trip and decided you are the best option for them and confirmed a reservation, securing their dream vacation. Your job is done, right?
WRONG! The first 3 stages of the cycle are complete, but there are 2 more to go and you need to be at the top of your game to ensure the completion of the cycle and your success for future guests and visits.
Stage 4: EXPERIENCE
Why is this stage important?
- Travelers post updates to social media during their stay
At this point you’ve got the customer right where you want them…at your hotel! It is now The responsibility of the hotel staff to create a memorable experience for the guest on site. Everything they do will impact the guest satisfaction. Guests these days post everything on social media, creating a buzz that you may or may not want! Make sure your team delivers so that the “word of mouth” is positive and maximized to your advantage. Ask yourself:
- Do you provide good service?
- Is your property remarkable in any way?
- Have you exceeded the customer’s expectations?
The greatest impact to a guest’s experience happens on property and will influence their decision to return to your hotel in the future and share their experience with friends as they continue through the cycle.
So how does a hotel impact a traveller’s experiences in stage 4?
- Product – You’re only as good as the product you’re selling. If your hotel is dated, dilapidated and disgusting then no amount of friendly, attentive customer service is going to win your guest over. Take care of your product.
- Service is king – Make sure that the friendly, accommodating attitude conveyed through your website and social media channels is reflected in the service the customer receives once they get there. Keep a consistent voice online and offline.
- Tie offline marketing with online marketing –Promote your social media channels in the offline world. Make sure your guest is invited to participate on your Facebook and Twitter pages, offer Foursquare check-ins at your restaurant. You have people at your hotel that like your product, remind them to participate in your social media communities as well.
Stage 5: SHARING
Why is this stage important?
- 53% of leisure travelers say they share pictures of their vacations online
- 49% of leisure travelers enjoy reading about others’ online experiences, reviews, opinions and general travel information
This is the point at which your guest, who just experienced their dream vacation, can help plant the seeds for someone else to start their journey down the 5 stages of travel. Whether it’s a well-written user review, a great photo of the hotel’s pool deck, or a quick tweet about all the great restaurants right next to the hotel, harnessing this word-of-mouth marketing is the key to a successful social media marketing campaign, and perpetuating the 5 stages of travel for others.
So how does a hotel encourage travelers to share their experiences in stage 5?
- Tell them where to share: Similar to the final bullet in the previous stage, let guests know where they can share their experiences. Hotels should have Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, TripAdvisor and other icons present at the front desk and in the rooms, to alert guests that they can engage with your property and share their opinions through those participating channels. Make it even easier for guests by providing a friendly URL or a QR code that takes guests directly to those sites. You may have a card in the room near the high-speed internet instructions that mentions your presence on these social media channels. You may have the landing page, once they log into your wifi, be your Facebook page.
- Ask for their participation: Front desk agents should encourage satisfied guests to share their opinions on the various social media channels. Encourage guests to share positive experiences with others.
- Reward creative user-generated content: Host a contest to reward the guest who posts the funniest, wackiest, most entertaining photos, story or experience about the hotel or the city on a social media channel of your choice. This not only gets guests to interact with your brand, it encourages them to spread the word about the hotel. The prize itself can lead to better participation, but sometimes just the idea of winning can go a long way towards spreading the love.
- Collect info: Be sure to collect info from customers who may be interested in dreaming about traveling to your hotel in the future. Make sure key information is obtained by the front desk team including email addresses, Twitter handles, anniversary and birthdays (no years) so that you can communicate with them and plant the seeds of travel when appropriate and start the cycle all over again.
What does this all mean?
The typical vacation planning and travel buying cycles are pretty complex. At its most basic, a typical traveller’s path to vacationland can be broken down into 5 stages. Appropriate targeting of guests at each of these 5 stages helps increase reservations.
Some may think of online marketing as selecting the right keywords and optimizing a website for those keywords. But you can never be truly effective by only focusing on a single point in a traveller’s buying cycle. Neglect to target the user at the other stages of their buying process and you’ll miss out on a huge opportunity to digitally greet them at every step of their journey.
Properly targeting potential guests at each of these 5 stages is crucial to ensuring that they not only book at your hotel, but perpetuate that buying cycle for the next vacationer too!