Vail Valley: The case for a more holistic approach to marketing
Vail, CO, Colorado
It’s time to re-evaluate the lodging industry’s singular goal of “heads in beds.”
In today’s world of TripAdvisor.com customer reviews, Yelp restaurant reviews, Twitter tweets about all aspects of an experience and Facebook posts about experiences both good and bad, the traveler to the Vail Valley or anywhere else has immense power over traditional marketing approaches. It’s time to take a more holistic approach to marketing – namely, engaging customers with your brand and leveraging your marketing efforts.
Heads in beds has long been the mantra of hospitality professionals across the world, including the Vail Valley. This approach encompasses properties and organizations, both large and small, chain and independent, municipal and private. However, for the most part, a traditional heads in beds approach is focused purely on maximizing occupancy with less regard for maximizing the guest experience. A more holistic approach helps create repeat business through a clearly differentiated level of customer service from the booking process to the vacation experience to the word of mouth from satisfied guests after departure.
The “new normal” of shorter visitation, close-in booking dates and the shift in power from traditional marketing to user-generated content have created a conundrum for marketers. It is imperative to shift from “yelling” your message at potential visitors to creating an atmosphere of interaction with guests.
Guests don’t view their vacation experience as a one-week experience (or more likely, a four-day weekend) – they view their vacation experience from the time they start shopping, to the time they are here, to the time they upload their photos to Flickr and Facebook to share with their friends and family.
This redefining of the guest experience also requires a shift from traditional ideas of “return on investment,” or ROI . In the “new normal,” ROI should not only be Return on Investment but should include Return on Influence.
Return on Investment is, and always will be, a crucial factor in evaluating your marketing successes and opportunities. As budgets are tighter, you likely track all expenses to tie them to a return on investment. However, as guest behavior shifts, it is imperative for brands and organizations to recognize the importance of creating and tracking a Return on Influence as well.
Return on Influence is a powerful channel precisely because it defies power.
According to Mark Blevis and Steve Hardiman, social media sites are not owned or controlled like traditional media so they are harder to subvert and have fewer gatekeepers. The influence of an individual participating in that channel is not a function of wealth or celebrity, but a function of the individual’s, or organization’s, “social currency” – their credibility and contribution in the community of ideas.
This is not a case to involve your business in social media (although that is of increasing importance). And this is not a case for abandoning traditional media. Rather, it is a case for re-defining your marketing to create influence in a crowded marketplace. Create a voice for yourself, share news (even about your competitors!), interact with guests, make recommendations for activities outside your hotel/activity/restaurant/store.
In other words, develop your influence. In this case, “influence” extends past social media channels to the development of brand advocates – your repeat guests. Word of mouth, in the 21st century, has changed from just a few short years ago. A shift to a more holistic approach to marketing not only helps you create local guests, but creates the opportunity to manage your brand and to have your customers manage your brand via their (traditional and nontraditional) word of mouth channels.
This fundamental shift in thinking will allow our destination to stand out over our competition. And more importantly, will create more heads in beds.
Chris Romer is the director of the Vail Valley Partnership.