Regardless if you are happily wallowing in the grass, or happily wallowing in the mud – there is a lesson to the story. What a great article written by Bonnie Knutson (excerpted below) with a great message.
Customers like to be rewarded!
What struck me as the valuable premise from the article, was that we should think about and develop our sales and marketing strategies based on the reward! Now don’t misunderstand, I am not talking about “extra gifts, amenities, or discounts”, I am talking about recognizing what the customer perceives as the reward for staying at your hotel and flaunting those rewards in your sales pitches!
In the article, it speaks about these rewards and the reasons your guests choose your hotel:
“When a guest has any touch point with your hotel – staying overnight, having lunch in the dining room, using the fitness center, booking a room through the hotel’s website, or reading an advertisement in a travel magazine, s/he experiences consequences of the act. Future behavior depends on those consequences. The more your guest feels rewarded, the more likely s/he will become loyal, spend more money, and become an advocate recommending your property to family and friends. The less s/he is rewards, the more likely the opposite happens.”
To put this in perspective, I think we need to think about the hows and whys of sales….. people buy from people they know and like, and people buy based on value (not necessarily price). You can be the lowest priced hotel on the block, but if the guest doesn’t recognize the value, they are going to go somewhere else even if it is priced a bit higher.
With our sales and marketing efforts, we need to always flaunt our value-added benefits (rewards). And, we have to communicate these benefits to potential guests in a confident and comfortable manner. I have often said, “make sure you are fluent in your 60-second elevator pitch”! Write it down and make sure you practice saying it in person, on the phone, or in a social/networking situation. Sometimes you don’t have more than a minute to engage a prospect and you need to make the most of that time. Once you have them engaged, you can move on to other items. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression – so make yours shine.
Lastly, I want to remind all of you out there in hotel-land….. make yourself a cheat sheet to use as a guideline when you are making sales calls and dialing for dollars. Make it bullet pointed and not commentary…. the intention is not to read to our customers, but to converse with them in a comfortable, natural and friendly manner. Keep it taped to your wall or computer, keep a copy in your notebook and refer to it as a roadmap to your sales calls. You can always vary from the route depending on what transpires during the call, but you’ll never veer from the destination or get lost if you keep track of where you are going!
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A Farmer, Three Pigs, a Pick-up, and Your Hotel
By Bonnie Knutson, Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU
There is a story about a farmer who wanted to breed his three female pigs. He loaded the sows into the back of his pickup truck and took them to visit several boars at a nearby farm. While the pigs were getting acquainted, the first farmer asked the second, “How will I know if my pigs are pregnant?”
“That’s easy,” said the second farmer. “They wallow in the grass when it takes and they wallow in the mud when it doesn’t.”
When the farmer looked out the window the next morning, he saw his pigs wallowing in the mud. So he loaded them into the truck and took them back to the boars. But the following morning, the pigs were still wallowing in the mud. Undaunted, the farmer again loaded the pigs into the truck and drove them back to the boars for a third time, hoping for positive results.
Now it happened that the farmer had to be away from the farm overnight. As soon as he awoke the next morning, he anxiously phoned his wife and asked, “Are the pigs wallowing in the grass or in the mud?”
“Neither,” replied the farmer’s wife. “Two of them are in the back of the pickup, and the third one is up front blowing the horn!”
Out of this story come two lessons that psychologists and parents of toddlers learned long ago, and hotel marketers are now learning. First, every behavior has consequences. The female pigs visited the boars (behavior) and like it (consequences). Second, future behavior is a result of the consequences of past behavior. If the consequences are rewarding, chances are the behavior will be repeated. If they are not, chances are the behavior won’t be repeated. In the pigs’ story, the sows’ visit to the boars was very rewarding so they were anxious to repeat it.
But what does this have to do with your hotel, you might ask. Everything, I would answer.
The moral of this story is: You get more of the behavior you reward. When a guest has any touch point with your hotel – staying overnight, having lunch in the dining room, using the fitness center, booking a room through the hotel’s website, or reading an advertisement in a travel magazine, s/he experiences consequences of the act. Future behavior depends on those consequences. The more your guest feels rewarded, the more likely s/he will become loyal, spend more money, and become an advocate recommending your property to family and friends. The less s/he is rewards, the more likely the opposite happens.
Jim Barnes, author of Customer Think, admonished us when he says, “I have noticed recently a phenomenon that seems to be more and more evident. Many [guests] now realize their value to a [hotel] and are determined to capitalize on it. [They] expect to receive some special reward as a result. Possibly because of the sheer volume of material written on the value of loyal customers and possibly also because they are now rewarded for repeat buying by all manner of organizations through so-called ‘loyalty’ programs, returning [guests] often bring with them an abiding sense of entitlement.”
Isn’t this just all common sense? Sure it is. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.” You are a hotel manager. I am a hotel guest. How many examples can each of us cite where we have not felt rewarded for being a customer of anything? Do we go back there? Of course not. We go where we feel valued, special, where we feel our loyalty is appreciated. We repeat our behavior that gets rewarded. And so do your guests.
So how does your hotel get this guest-relationship marketing strategy working? By first activating these same lessons with its employees – the people who serve guests – from maintenance to dining room servers to front desk staff. People generally behave the way they are rewarded to behave. Michael LeBoeuf, an international authority on business management, points out, and I agree, that the greatest obstacle to effective performance in most organizations is the mismatch between the behavior the organization needs and the behavior it rewards. Some cases in point:
Boards of Directors tell their top level executives to focus on long-term results, but pay them big bonuses based on yearly earnings.
University administrators say that professors are to be dedicated teachers, but tenure, promotion, and raises go to those who do the most research and publishing.
Voters tell their representatives in Washington to reduce the national debt, but re-elect those who bring the most federal money into their district.
Every business, hotels included, has reward systems for its employees – both formal and informal. It may be a raise, a simple pat on the back, balloons placed on a desk when they book a large event, or tickets to a local theater. It may be as big as a promotion or as simple as asking how an employee’s sick child is doing. Whatever the system, it doesn’t take long for almost every worker, from bellman to supervisor, to figure out what is really being rewarded and behave in the way the system teaches him to behave. When you wonder why people behave the way they do, you need only to find out what is being rewarded. Too many hotels will hire people, expect them to deliver top service quality to guests, but reward them for something else.
Rewarded guests multiply and spend more money and return more often. Rewarded employees stay and give great service. It is as simple as that. So the next time you are developing your marketing plan, think beyond advertising campaigns, brochures, websites, newsletters and the displays in the lobby. Think beyond menu prices, room amenities, and gift shop offerings. Think about what behavior you want from your guests and what behavior you want from your employees. Then think how you reward them. With these answers as a guide, you will develop more effective marketing plans – one out front door for guests and the other out the back door for employees. And you may even find some guests in the back of a truck, with one up front honking the horn!
Your REVPAR will thank you!