How to Drive Word of Mouth Recommendations

By Robert Patterson Vice President of Content & Social Strategy, MMGY Global | February 26, 2012

The Importance of Word of Mouth

According to the 2011 Portrait of American TravelersSM, a national survey of 2,539 U.S. households, family and friends were selected as the top source of information for "Ideas and Inspiration" (52%) and "Insights and Advice" (54%) when making travel service purchase decisions.

The conclusion is significant: no form of media is more powerful than human relationships. The influence of personal recommendations may trump your marketing efforts, but that does not mean you can't positively affect consumer behavior and attitudes. Influencing consumer word of mouth is a powerful tactic hoteliers must adopt to ensure long-term success.

Create a Culture of "Wow"

A satisfied guest is one whose basic expectations have been met. They paid for a hotel room and they got a hotel room. Transaction complete. Merely satisfying a guest's expectation is not going to lead to word of mouth recommendations. To influence guests to become your advocates, you need to exceed their expectations with "wow" moments.

Creating "wow" moments requires a culture of happiness embraced from the top down. From the general manager of the property to the newest hire, guest elation needs to become your property's mantra. This is not news. Every successful hotel knows that customer service can make lifetime customers or public relation nightmares. However, in practice, many hoteliers miss the mark and settle for status quo satisfaction.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.