Hotel Sales & Marketing: A Dozen New Niches

By Steve McKee President, McKee Wallwork Cleveland | May 19, 2010

If there's one thing we know about a successful hotel brand it's that it will attract copycats. And if there's one thing we know about copycats it's that they commoditize the market. That's not good for anyone.

The initial response to copycats usually manifests itself in some form of hand-to-hand combat. After all, who are they to invade our space? But whether it involves expensive branding campaigns or inefficient loyalty programs, competing with a copycat is a drain on the bottom line. If you can't win the battle in the trenches it may be time to reinvent your brand, or at least explore new concepts that can be both exciting and profitable.

The good news is that developing a new niche isn't a random phenomenon that can only result from lightning strikes of inspiration. Many ideas can be generated following a few simple principles.

Most hotel brands, like most companies in general, fall into the common pattern of trying to be better than their competition. In our advertising agency we specialize in working with stale brands and we've learned that what it takes to freshen them up is a focus not on being better, but on being different. In fact, we believe that any company can reshape its industry by looking at it in a new light, subdividing it in a way no one has yet thought of.

This is not a new idea; in fact, industry subdivision is a common occurrence throughout business history, and authors like Trout & Ries have written volumes about it. Consider the automotive industry: you used to be able to get one car, the Model T, in one color, black. Today you can get a cherry-red sport utility 4x4 with a built in iPod port. The auto industry's evolution has included a number of market subdivisions. Cars became cars and trucks. Trucks became pickups and SUVs. Pickups and SUVs became 4x4s and 2x4s. And now there are these new things called Hummers and crossovers. Just when it seems there are no more variations, a new one is introduced. It's endless.

The same thing has happened in the magazine industry, from general titles like Life and Look to highly focused publications like Dog Fancy. Same with the soft drink industry, from Coke and Pepsi to Diet Caffeine Free Dr. Pepper. It's happened with computers (from all things IBM to the handheld Treo), investments (Dean Witter to Schwab and E-Trade), and even meat-now we not only have red meat and white meat, but "the other white meat" and even green meat (Veggie Burger anyone?). Blockbuster, Target and the Weather Channel are all examples of companies that have fostered and taken advantage of industry subdivision.

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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.