Ever seen the movie “The Wolf Of Wall Street”? There’s a scene in the movie in which the protagonist Jordan Belford, played by Leornodo De Caprio, asks a friend to sell him a pen. His friend then tries to sell the pen by mentioning supply and demand.
Well, the real Jordon Belford (who the movie is based) on had a different take on it: “The real answer is, before I’m even going to sell a pen to anybody, I need to know about the person, I want to know what their needs are, what kind of pens do they use, do they use a pen?”
That’s not all... “That’s the truth of it. It’s like trying to sell someone a house and you don’t know if they’re in the market for a house, what kind of house they want, how many kids – so how can you sell someone a house? That’s the point.”
This same principle also applies to landing more hotel bookings. If you want people to rush to stay at your hotel and breeze past your competition, you need to have a deep understanding of their needs.
What are their motivations? What are they most concerned about when travelling? What objections do they have about staying with you? Basically, you need a solid customer persona. This will give you a “submarine-deep” understanding of your guests, and provide you with insights about their buying behaviour so you can get more bookings.
So what exactly is a customer persona?
Here’s the definition from a leading expert in the field of buyer insights and behaviour research, Tony Zambito: “Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are,what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.”
In other words, it’s a fictional model that represents your customers, or group of customers. If you have customers with separate goals and needs, then you’d have a matching customer profile for each segment.
Now they might be fictional representations, but they definitely aren’t derived from fiction. Customer personas are engineered by real, raw, complete data about who your customers are. Not who you think they are. They usually hold demographical information. Such as age, gender, occupation, location and income. And they do a terrific job of capturing your customer's needs, wants, motivations and objections with regards to your business.
The primary goal of customer personas is to put you in the shoes of your customers when making important business/marketing decisions.
Most customer personas are ineffective and fail to increase business. Why? Because they are made up of irrelevant, poorly sourced data; or even worse, no data at all. Just “gut-feelings and street smarts”.
Marketing specialist Aradath Albee put this best when she said that: “I see a lot of personas that are what I kind of call ‘Ouija Board’ personas, because they are based on stuff that marketers would never know.”
They have nothing to do with what you think your customers want. But are based on what your customers actually want.
Knowing the needs and goals of your guests? Doesn’t sound like a fiery marketing tactic that’ll lift up conversions does it?
But it’s more important now than ever before... Businesses and brands everywhere are failing to firmly grasp the basic motivations and desires of customers.
Edelman's consumer marketing study surveyed over 10,000 people across 8 different countries. All who’ve engaged in at least one brand engaging activity in the last year… The study found that 51% of people felt that brands are underperforming when it comes to asking about their needs; and that only 10% of brands are doing this well. Which means you can cut through the clutter and make a huge leap in converting more guests if you know how to use customer personas right.
To understand how personas can impact your hotel conversions, let’s imagine you have a hotelier friend called John.
Now John wants to improve bookings to his hotel. So he decides to crank his marketing up a notch. He assumes his hotel caters to business owners who earn $30,000-$40,000 a year and have a 1-2 children. So, he switches things up and starts to shift his marketing towards business owners who travel frequently...
But after a few months...things go south.
His booking rates plummet faster than a featherless bird and he wouldn’t be surprised if he saw a tumbleweed stroll through his hotel.
Why did this happen? Because our friend based decisions on his “gut”. If he used customer personas, he’d find that while his guests are business owners in that income bracket, they love staying at his hotel mainly because of the hotel’s family friendly atmosphere, not its business related features.
John could then push the family friendly angle in his marketing. And be almost guaranteed to see more bookings because he based his marketing moves on cold, hard data. That’s the power of customer personas. You learn exactly who you’re dealing with, why they’re dealing with you; and how to deal with them in a manner that increases business.
Most of your customer persona data will come from qualitative research. This means interacting with your guests/potential guests and asking them questions.
You can do this by:
Face to Face and In-person Interviews
Getting in the trenches and talking to guests lets you glean valuable information. Especially when it comes to knowing what makes them stay, what motivates them, and how they think of you as a hotel. In-person and phone interviews might seem like more work, but they’re worth the effort because you’ll get a level of depth and detail in your answers that isn’t common with surveys and questionnaires.
Here are some great customer interview tips to help you hit the ground running.
Surveys are another great customer persona research tool. They allow you to collect information about a large amount of your guests at the push of a button.
Surveys are also great because they can be sent to different customer types and personas:
● If you want to improve your conversions and get more bookings, you can survey brand new guests or potential guests who didn’t buy from you
● If you want to boost guest loyalty, you can survey frequent buyers and see what makes them stay.
● If you want to ramp up your profit per guest, interview guests who frequently spend more money with you. You’ll see what makes them “tick” when it comes to spending extra cash.
Need help getting started? Here’s a detailed guide to using surveys for your business and here are 7 done for you travel and hospitality surveys you can use right away.
On-site Web and Exit Surveys
Imagine if someone came to your hotel. He briefly looks around and makes a few inquiries, but doesn’t seem satisfied. So he starts making his way out...
But before he’s gone for good, your trained staff amiably approach the potential guest and ask why the hotel didn’t seem like a good fit, and what would make him want to stay.
The feedback you’d get from a system like that would be golden right? Well, on-site web and exit surveys allow you to do the exact same thing on your hotel website.
They let you see what’s going on in your prospect’s mind at critical points in the sales process. Which gives you powerful information to base your marketing decisions on. You can even test the type or structure of your questions to get more feedback.
Okay, you’ve created a great customer persona. Now it’s time to put it to good use. You can do this by using the information to improve:
Your Overall Guest Experience
Your persona will give insights to the main reasons why your guests buy from you, why they like your hotel, and why they chose you. You can then use this to retain more guests by tailoring your overall hotel experience to what your customers like.
Websites are already powerful tools for hooking guests. You can now use your customer persona to optimize your website results and convert more visitors into guests.
Your Overall Marketing
Use your new knowledge to power up your PPC campaigns, brochures and special offers.
The last thing your prospect reads before hitting the buy it now button or leaving your site forever, is…Your copy. The stronger your copy, the higher your sales will be.
Leo Schachter Diamonds used this strategy when creating their customer persona and had some jaw-dropping results. By creating customer persona based copy, they rocketed visitor conversions from 0.86% to 54.1%. That’s over a 5000% increase in conversions.
If you think you’ve got a white knuckle grasp of your guests, stop. Thinking and guess work is not enough. You have to have a concrete understanding of your guests. And customer personas are the way to do that. Need expert help creating customer persona based marketing?
Give us a shout. But not too loud...don’t want to wake your hotel guests do we?