It’s amazing how much time and energy gets poured into deciding the price of a hotel room. There are STR reports, RMS Reports, and booking engine reports to go along with the hundreds of tools that are solely focused on how much you are charging for your room. There are stacks of reports on top of other reports all showing pricing data – past, present and future. You want to know anything to do with pricing? There’s a report for that.
Now, where is the value report? You see, selecting your competition based on the size of your bed and the bathroom sink is an idea that has passed it’s prime.
Boutique hotels (a term that needs to be retired) took a lot of time defining their hotels and restaurants as being truly different and holding certain value that a braded cookie cutter hotel is never going to match up to.
Taking the time to educate your guests can make all the difference in value perception. Better perception = Better Price = Better Profits.
A lot of the traditional boutique hotels under pressure from stakeholders over the years have descended on the price level competition. When your biggest USP is your price, then it’s all that you will be judged on. A room rate becomes your only significant value.
Pricing is an extremely shortsighted play. Anyone looking for long term profitability needs to look at the value that they are providing to their guests.
Here is how you can start to turn your team’s focus on highlighting your value versus going into price wars that hurt long-term profitability:
Don’t Make Up Value- Be Who You Are
Just last week I saw an email from the “corporate” director of sales for a small no name hotel asset in the middle of nowhere wanting his website look like the Four Seasons and Jumeriah Hotels- both super high end luxury products. This happens often when clueless marketing “directors” start to consider the website as an extension of their ego’s. ( Note: It’s a guarantee that their egos are much larger than their value as employees). The value of your hotel is not a fantasy that you would like it to be. It’s who you really are. There are independent hotels and there are cookie cutter brand hotels. Every time each one tries to be something it’s not- It always ends badly. Lying about value is actually worse than not showing any value so please keep the marketing types and their ego’s in check. This is a clear reason why you should not call a Holiday Inn Express a “boutique hotel”. Hotel brands are already exhausting every day guests with mundane name/ brand variations of the same product. Step up and embrace who you are. Value will be best competition differentiator you have that cannot be easily replicated.
Better Value Segmentation
Segment of go home. The key is in understanding that your hotel/lodging product is likely not a good fit for everyone and that’s OK. Before embarking on expensive capital expenditure or shelling marketing dollars on a “branding” agency as yourself if you clearly know who your target audience is?
I am not just talking about who is checking into your hotel today. What about guests checking into your hotel in the next 10-15 years? Who are you targeting? You can never relate to someone unless you narrow down your focus. Pretending to be all things to all the people is where things gets complicated and you start to use price as a flotation device.
Leverage Your Location & Story
Simple test. Get your friends to walk up to your hotel front desk and ask “ Why should I be staying at this hotel” . What you hear back might surprise you. Many times what you hear has never been mentioned on the website or on your value pitch.
What’s you frequency Kenneth? Do you have a story to tell? Does your hotel location ( city, area etc.) has a story? This is what you should be telling your guests online and in person.
What your guests tell Tripadvisor when they check out is a whole another story but in 90% of the cases a good story helps with value perception and reflects in your online reviews. Start training your guests to leave the reviews that you what them to. Do not wait after the fact; you have a first mover advantage that you need to hit. Own and leverage your location. Be the expert the your unfamiliar needs. I know everyone has a smartphone but most humans are still looking for a human touch, cue in Bruce Springsteen.You should also be telling your guests about the history of the company that helps build some confidence in your lodging product. Why are you in the hospitality business is a good starting point.
Have Confidence In Your Product & Rate
If the only way you can highlight the value of your product is through wavering on price, then you will always be struggling to compete. Anytime a hotel resorts to selling rooms to someone that will advertise them for $7, the value lost is irreplaceable.
When you get your guests to the booking stage and are about to get money in your account, do it with conviction. Matching your price to value is a cycle that needs to start at every page of your website and lead all the way into the booking engine.
Highlighting your property’s features and what you bring to the table. One golden rule here is not speak poorly about the competition. The minute you give any time discussing the competition, you have already lost the sale.
Emphasize Your Human Touch
When talking about the hotel assets it’s possible to show your product to be superior product by mentioning the high thread count sheets, fancy toiletries, fast WiFi and other bells and whistles.
Your competition is always providing some level of a basic product which might be a few levels above and below you. This is hard for your guests to understand and truly differentiate. The example I like to give is of two Starbucks on the opposite end of the street. Everyone has a favorite location and even though the product is same, it’s always the people that make the difference.
People will do business with someone who cares about them. This is where your human workforce comes into play. It’s your greatest differentiating factor and you should use it at every given opportunity.
Running any form of a lodging operation means that you are a) competing globally with people who can outspend and out market you. B ) you business is going to be seasonal. Your guests are willing to pay more for a product if they think it gives them a truly special or significant value—and if you present it to them in just the right way, the revenue if yours to take. Pricing is the short term and will let you win a few battles every now and then. Value on the other hand is always going to be the deciding factor in winning the war.