7 Mistakes Marketers Make When Trying to Attract Families

By Matthew Rosenberger Consultant & Publisher, ABC Travel Guides for Kids | March 25, 2012

Too often money spent on marketing is wasted. When marketing is based on conventional wisdom and old assumptions rather than advances in the understanding of consumer behavior, sales suffer and money that could have been spent more wisely goes down the drain. Marketing based on age bracket or generation is blase. The current market demands marketing departments pay attention to emotional elements of their potential guests, i.e. how can I afford to take my family on vacation when I might lose my job? Understanding your guests changing needs and emotions indicates an empathy and growth that will lead to great success in any market. Too many in the industry are insensitive to the subtle nuances of the importance of the family vacation on the psyche of the American family. Too many marketing departments refuse to take initiatives and think outside of the box and the same 7 mistakes occur again and again, regardless of market conditions. Avoiding the following seven patterns will help your property save money, stay competitive, and enjoy a healthy share of the lucrative family travel business.

1. Not correctly identifying and exploiting your "WOW" Factor

Okay, it's easy for Nickelodeon Family Suites to know why families love their property. Nick goes above and beyond by executing a winning game plan with an exceptional staff that loves kids. From mass sliming, to custom drinks for the kids, they leave no stone unturned with character breakfasts, live shows, a 4D movie theatre, an unparalleled pool and water park and fun suites with bunk beds, video games, TVs and more. The "wow" factor at Nick hotel will blow most competitors (and there are a ton of competitors in the Orlando region) away. The Nick Hotel in Orlando is an attraction itself. But too many properties fail to identify and capitalize on a "wow" factor. Hotels in the Orlando region that don't have the resources or brand strength in the family market that want to attract their piece of the family travel pie must implement another strategy. Consider a "wow factor" easily attainable by a number of hotels in the Orlando region and born of three components: great value, great location and great customer service. Staybridge Suites epitomizes the successful implementation of these factors to create a "wow factor" that separates it from its competition. With two properties near Disney World and the attractions of Orlando, excellent customer service and great value Staybridge Suites has done everything right to get noticed and exploit a "wow factor" very different than Nick Hotel. While no kid is going to confuse the Nick Hotel and Staybridge Suites, visits to both properties can be equally rewarding for families.

2. Not Forming Partnerships

In this tough economy where marketing budgets are getting cut and spending freezes are in place not forming partnerships with your CVB, as well as other family friendly attractions, restaurants or businesses is inexcusable. Pooled resources and combined efforts are what will win customers attention in the highly competitive family travel demographic. Consider the steps Great Wolf Lodge has taken recently. Already a premier water park destination for families, the GWL has an amazing partnership with National Geographic Kids. Their joint marketing campaign and programs are compelling and exciting and combine all the elements that most families want-entertainment and educational activities. The alliance also places GWL at the forefront of the "go green" movement, with programs and literature specifically educating and engaging kids and families.

3. Not Paying Attention to Latest Trends and Innovations

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.