Be compelling

Be compelling

I recently read a story about a city that was experiencing great growth in the higher-end hotel segment, leading to quite a bit of “over” supply. What followed were strong recommendations on how existing and older hotels could play defense with various marketing strategies. All the recommendations were good … except something was clearly missing.

The one thing that was missing for me was advice on innovation. What could hotels — chains or independents — do that would have them stand out from the rest? To me, this is the very heart of the kind of creativity that calls forth new trial as well as return visits. 

Even within segments — luxury, select service, extended stay — there needs to be a distinct vibe. Start there, and then you can then build what will set you apart from the masses.

One company hired me to turn around a hotel in the U.S. Southwest that was performing dead last in a portfolio of 50 hotels. It was a well-known brand on a heavily trafficked street. Even though I had lived in this town for several years, I didn’t even know the hotel was there. It was white-bread, non-descript, surrounded by medical buildings and an IHOP.  

Oh, and did I mention, the hotel was in a lock-box situation with the bank? In other words, there was no money to spend — only the asset manager’s weekly criticism on “not enough cuts.” (Why is it banks and the majority of asset managers and consultants focus more on what makes the least difference? A focus on generating revenue is the one-two punch.) 

With zero cash, the first thing the team and I determined was to not rest on the laurels of brand recognition to drive our results or cut expenses to the point of low morale. (The hotel was already running on 1.5 linen par.) Instead, we created a “luxury” feel beginning with the arrival experience even though the hotel was a midscale brand. We created a resort feel around a courtyard pool, brought in live music, invented new kinds of innovative F&B offerings, fired the PR agency, did our own grassroots public relations and … Whammo! Our sales department now had distinctions to sell against all the other hotels in the area. The hotel moved 35 points to number 15 in the company’s portfolio in nine months.

Is marketing a good answer? Always. But first consider how to drive results through innovation. Creating distinction gives you something compelling to talk about. To be compelling is to be a driving force, to command attention and have a powerful and irresistible effect on people. Yeah, that’s more like it.