Today’s post was written by Andrew Martin – GuestJoy’s Customer Experience Manager
I have a confession to make. It isn’t easy to admit it in this sector but… I’m an Airbnb traveller.
The forbidden logo
There. I said it. Please don’t judge me too quickly! I use Airbnb when I travel for leisure. For me, it’s about simplicity and convenience. I want to stay somewhere central, cheap, and basic. When I travel for leisure, all I want is a place to sleep at night, and I am out and about discovering during the day. I don’t want your upsell! During the holiday I had in Spain in April, I visited Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid. In all 3 cities, my wife and I sought somewhere to stay in the best location possible so that we wouldn’t lose any time making our way to the sites we wanted to visit. But this was not the only way that I travel. In my previous role, I had to do a lot of travel. The length of stays ranged from a night to a week, and when I was on those trips, my guest persona changed. Suddenly, I was happy to spend some of my own money on upsell offers, because I wasn’t paying a cent for the trip! The same goes when I was on my honeymoon, which was a 3 week trip around Japan. Was I trying to put a smile on my wife’s face with surprises and experiences on that trip? You bet I was! And the majority of what I spent was with the hotels we were staying at.
Know the personas at your hotel
There is probably a wide range of types of guests who stay at your property. Naturally, some types will stay with you more than others. When it comes to upsell, these are the guests you are most likely to target. Let’s choose a few common guest personas before we go any further: Couples on holiday: They feel as though they’ve earned themselves a break, and part of that includes staying at your hotel. It might even be their first trip away without the kids! Celebrators: These guests love the idea of staying in a hotel as part of birthdays, anniversaries, etc. They’re always looking for ways to make their stay more memorable. Wealthy retirees: They’ve worked hard, the nest is empty, and now enjoying themselves is their prerogative. The subconscious motto of “We’ve earned it!” drives them to spend more on a special experience while at your hotel. Knowing the guest personas at your hotel allows you to formulate offers that really appeal to their needs or desires. This should be any hotel’s priority when it comes to creating an upsell strategy. But determining what you intend to sell is only the first step. Today, hotels need to do more than just present guests with a product or service that they might be interested in.
Think about why many guests choose a hotel over an Airbnb
Remember before, when I was sheepishly confessing to you my preference for Airbnb when I travel? That’s all well and good for me. But for a hotelier, the advent of Airbnb and its competitors has taken a chunk out of hotel revenue. Your revenue. And they did it because they saw a segment of travellers who weren’t really interested in extra products or services. Here’s a quick hypothetical: How many Airbnb travellers have ever ordered a bottle of Prosecco? How many of them upgraded their room? Did any of them ever book a dinner in the Airbnb’s restaurant? We know, of course, that none of this has ever happened – because that isn’t why they stay at an Airbnb property. The same logic can be applied to a large proportion of your guests: Many of them choose to stay in a hotel because they want the hotel experience. They want to feel cared for; they want the chance to enhance their stay; they want to be able to rely on your services. This is where hotels need to cement the biggest advantage they have over Airbnb.
Don’t sell a product or service; sell an experience.
Upsell gets harder the moment you forget to target the experience. Now, more than ever, it’s vital to connect with your guests’ emotions in order to engage them and foster the urge to buy. As the old adage goes; “Don’t sell a stay – sell a memory!”. With that in mind, we’re going to look at how to package your offers in a way that appeals to guest’s heart.
Prosecco: The current queen of in-room drink orders
At the moment it’s hard to beat the popularity of these Italian bubbles (Bonus tip: The new king will be Cava – be ready!). But even this humble beverage can be helped by selling the experience rather than the bottle itself. Selling the product: The good: The guest knows exactly what they’ll get, I suppose? The bad: It’s about as interesting as reading up on income tax laws. The image is purely utilitarian. Selling the experience: The good: The description empathises with the guest’s arduous journey and invites them to relax and enjoy their favourite sparkling white. The offer name is charming and the image used humanises the experience; the guest is relieved to have that glass in her hand. The bad: …Your staff will be busier fulfilling all those orders for Prosecco? If that’s at all a bad thing?
Packaging offers to sell more
The concept of the “Extra Value Meal”, a set combination of menu items, was created by one McDonald’s restaurant manager in 1991. Sales at that McDonald’s increased dramatically, as customers didn’t need to stare at dozens of items on a menu board to figure out what they wanted. This same concept works for experiences in your hotel. It’s one thing to sell a room upgrade with extras; another thing entirely to sell a package as an experience. Let’s have a look now:
Upgrade the experience – not just the room
Let’s now look at our Celebrators. The fact they are already at our hotel to mark a special occasion is already enough to know that they will be interested in enhancing their stay. And, what better way to do that by upgrading not only their room, but their whole experience? Selling the products/services: The good: Not much, honestly. The bad: Guests won’t be excited or emotionally involved after reading such a description. Selling the experience: The good: The emotional connection will be made, because the description focuses on the experience and the benefits of the package, rather than just describing each part of it. The bad: We didn’t have a better image to display, but I’m sure you can picture the scene with the cake and Champagne being displayed in the higher category room.
The Wealthy Retirees
These couples are more than willing to spend more when they stay in hotels, but only if you sell the right experience. They want high-quality experiences, and your offer should be written accordingly. Let’s see what the difference is: Selling the products: The good: Honestly, there is basically nothing good about this offer. We’ll explain: The bad: Starting with the image. Guests don’t need to see a picture of your restaurant; they’ve probably seen one somewhere already. Instead, show your guests the food they will be served! Whet their appetite with a simple image. Next, the offer title. It’s alright, I suppose; but it could definitely be improved. Then, reading the description – what’s the big mistake here? No information about the actual dishes! And zero effort to sell it as an experience. Let’s see how it can be improved. Selling the experience: The good: We’ve got a lot to list here!
- The image is bright and attractive, and actually shows one of the dishes
- The offer title is in French. It seems so simple, but ask almost anybody which language they associate with fine dining, and French comes to mind more often than not.
- The language used in the description appeals directly to the guests: curates a new dining experience; focus on high-quality local produce; 3 sumptuous courses; your dining experience; excellent local wines. These are the key phrases that our target demographic will react to most when deciding if they want to book their table.
- The dishes are actually listed! The guest knows what they will get!
The bad: What do you think?
How to convert some of your offers into experiences
Now, not every offer can be described as an experience. Just how sexy can we make an airport transfer look?! However, it’s always worth having as many offers as practically possible which sell the experience the guest wants to have. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a marketing genius to do it. Just follow these simple guidelines:
Simplify the language
- Try not to go into too much detail about the offer or the components of each offer. Remember – enough is as good as a feast!
- Focus on the benefits of the experience, rather than the offer, or components of the offer.
“Humanise” the offer
- Use conversational language – don’t just write a dry list of things the guest will get.
- Use the appropriate tone for your hotel and target guests. Be mindful of the tone of your words, whether you involve humour, or keep things high class, and so on. Decide how you’d like guests to perceive your hotel, and write using a tone that instils that perception in the mind of your guests.
Don’t be afraid to be creative
Remember, your guests are at your hotel because they want the hotel experience. How creative can you get with what you offer them? Test out new ideas and see what clicks with them, and what doesn’t.
We are the experts in selling experiences.
If you’ve had a mini-epiphany after reading this, but are not sure where to start – talk to us! We’re more than just a software company. We’re experts in helping hotels master upsell strategies like this and increase revenue. But more importantly, we’re great at helping you connect with your guests. So… What are you selling?