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 February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.