Running a hotel, and particularly a regional venue where local economic conditions have reduced customer spend, is difficult. Competition is fierce and staying one step ahead of your competition is hard. However, despite this, there are always some operators that seem to consistently maintain their trade and there are a few common threads about how they do it. Here’s my top 5 tips for maintaining your trade (and hotel value) in tough times:
- Don’t let the offering get stale. View the hotel like a stage show. If the offering is the same week-in and week-out, then your customers will get bored. The top operators always have some new event or promotion that they are working on : from a new seasonal menu, a new music entertainment series, to gaming promotions and special events such as wine dinners, BBQ competitions and calendar events (such as Halloween, American Independence Day, Melbourne Cup etc.)
- Reward Loyalty. Most modern gaming venues have sophisticated loyalty programmes for their gaming patrons, but why not look at developing programmes for other parts of the hotel such as the bars, bistro and retail areas. If is often the little things that make a big difference to our customers : like recognising the birthdays of your regulars in the front bar with a birthday cake and round of drinks, or free nibblies on Friday night for groups of 6 or more coming in for knock-off drinks, or loyalty wine packages for regular retail customers.
- Keep up with Regular Maintenance. In tough times it becomes even more important to keep your venue looking ship-shape. Particularly, don’t neglect the areas of the hotel that are noticed by customers such as gardens, driveways, painting, furniture and signage. At a minimum you should be budgeting to at least reinvest your annual depreciation charge back into the hotel.
- Target your Marketing. The media landscape is changing and so are the ways that our customers are choosing to get their news. Traditional channels such as TV and newspaper advertising are giving way to social media that offers more direct and cost effective targeting of customer groups. To be effective on social media you need to post offers and information that engages with the customer:
- Use professional videos and high quality photographs where you can;
- Create an “offer” that requires a response (i.e. printing off a voucher, tag a friend, or respond with their name);
- Time your post to appear at peak times for your target audience – usually around travel time to/from work;
- Boost your post to in your local trade area; and
- Co-ordinate the offer with corresponding in-house advertising.
Resist the temptation to do it yourself. Proper presentation and marketing is very different from iPhone photos and WordPress websites. Social media has an unquenchable appetite for content. Keep it real and keep it fresh.
- Benchmark your venue against other top-performing venues. To stay on top of the game, keep a keen eye on what other top venues are doing. Keep in touch with other venue operators at industry events and measure yourself against the top operators. There is always something new that you can learn or adopt for your venue to stay on trend.
Remember your hotel is an asset. An asset that has to earn a rate of return commensurate with the risks that you are undertaking. It should not be considered a cash box, nor a social outlet (although we sincerely hope it’s both). It’s your single biggest asset. Make it work hard!
Please note that this publication is intended to provide a general summary and should not be relied upon as a substitute for personal advice.