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Building and Communicating an Authentic Brand

By Alex Gaggioli, October 12, 2015

Marketers, social media enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs alike will tell you that creating an authentic brand is what creates success. But, more often than not, that advice has little follow-up. What does it ACTUALLY mean to be authentic, to come off as real and in-tune with your guests?

We’re glad you asked. Not only will we tell you that authenticity is the key to success, we will provide you with actionable tips to give your guests more value.

Tip #1: Create a personality

A hotel's personality is essential to creating a successful brand

Your property should have a unique brand and a personality. A brand is how a consumer differentiates your product or service from another. Your brand should tell a story led by a distinct personality.

Kiss metrics shared great insight into how to formulate your brand’s story. People trust other people, so your brand should be personality driven. The story should not be dominated by you or one single god-like entity, but by different buyer personas that resemble your customers. Most properties attract several different types of travelers. Use these different travelers to create different personas to tell them different stories. For example, a business traveler has different values and needs than family travelers do. Therefore, they will be attracted to different messages and experiences.

“Your story is inspired by the presence of people who participate, create, connect, and develop the saga of growth and success” Kiss Metrics

The great thing for you as a hotelier is that travelers are really good at sharing their story. It has become so natural for consumers to share their experiences with others online through pictures, blogs, and video making it much easier to tap into their motivations.

Creating a brand personality and customer personas is much easier said than done, we get that. It also takes a lot of time and creativity. However, putting in the extra effort to understand your property’s value and your customers’ motivations will help communicate with your guests in a more meaningful way.

A more in-depth guide to the art of storytelling and creating a brand persona can be found here on Forbes.

Tip #2: Stop interrupting your guests

Stop interrupting your guests

Advertisements and most messages from brands (in any industry) often feel like an interruption. Commercials interrupt your show, ad-roll interrupts your YouTube videos, pop-up ads interrupt your website viewing experience, etc etc. When you send emails, post on social media, or communicate with your guests any other way, are you offering guests real value or trying to push a promotional message?

Your brand is not your amenities or your rates or your promotions. Your amenities may influence your brand in a significant way, but you need to communicate the brand without significantly relying on the nuances of your business.

Share experiences and leave out the promotional rates and pushy business messages.

Your brand is a story and it should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Who you are as a property owner can and should affect your brand. There is a reason you went into business, and it wasn’t to offer a $49 bunkbed special.

Here’s how you can stop interrupting:

Instead of creating a Facebook post about your monthly promotional rates, replace it with a post containing the top events in and around your property. You can entice potential guests to check out your room rates by first presenting them information about the type of experience they expect to have.

This way, you provide real value to your potential customers. While it is important that a guest knows your rates, you first have to interest them. Price is only one factor that influences bookings and you should spend time building a relationship with your community.

This is just one example, there are a million ways you can engage a potential customer without selling them.

Tip #3: Be different – Not better

Be Different

A lot of brands will spend the majority of their time trying to convince consumers why they are better than the competition. This strategy boils down to convincing a potential guest that your property has better amenities and better rates than the property next door. But, it does tell them why you are different. Sure your beds might be more newer, but how does that affect the guest. It certainly does affect the guest, but you need to communicate how.

Focus on how your are going to offer a guest a different experience. Different sells.

You can achieve this a few ways. Let’s think about hostels for a moment. Most properties offer the same basic amenities: comfortable beds, clean facilities, and a friendly staff. So, stop focusing on those attributes. Focus on what your guests are actually passionate about!

Most hostel goers are passionate about embracing local cultures and meeting new people. Now, if I was a hostel owner I would focus on stories and bring to life the experience someone can expect to have at your property. Share your personal journey as a hostel owner and how your travels influenced your own hostel and the service you provide. I feel like I’ve written that sentence ten times before, but I really believe it.

Every time I talk to someone who owns or runs a hostel, they have an amazing story to share. I think hostel owners especially have a unique point of view and understanding of how travel changes lives. It simply makes sense to share that passionate story to attract new visitors.

It’s equally as important to share your guests’ stories. And this doesn’t always have to be blog posts, there are so many other ways to share including but not limited to:

Instagram

  • Post portraits of your guests and share the highlights of their trip in the caption
  • Share or repost guests’ photos from their trip. Don’t limit the photos to your property.

YouTube

  • Candidly interview guests — what’s their story, how does it impact your property 
  • Share vlogs that highlight your point of view and what it’s like to run and experience your property. 

Snapchat

  • Like the YouTube vlog idea, share pictures and videos of daily life at your property as well as special outings.

Periscope

  • Video broadcasting is the next big thing (or so they say). Video broadcast an event at your property, everything from happy hour to an excursion to the world’s largest waterfall.

Tumblr

  • If your property has an artsy clientele, share your story in a creative way on this more niche platform

Facebook

  • Share posts with links to all these stories you are creating
  • Steal the ideas from Instagram above

We know it’s impossible to be great on every social network, and you should really only focus on using a few channels to ensure success. BUT, while that remains true, you should try out new social networks and new ideas to see what works for YOUR property.

Gary Vaynerchuck preaches that both people and brands need to give new platforms an honest chance before counting them out. While it’s good to follow industry trends, another brand is not your own and no two experiences are exactly alike. You can’t be different if you only do whatever everyone else does. So, be willing to trail-blaze and try something new.

Tip #4: Create long-term experiences, not a short-term campaign

Build and share experiences

This tip comes from B2B Marketing Insider. Brands who invest in creating a full experience benefit in the long-term. Again, this feels like something that only properties with huge budgets can achieve, but there are many things a small property can do to build these long-term experiences.

Like in the personality exercise above, you need to step back and ask yourself what your travelers want. While it is easy to post endlessly about yourself and your property, it is more effective to create posts that engage your audience with value.

The easiest way to do this? Share more story-oriented content about your guests and their travels rather than information specifically about your property. Your website exists so that people know your amenities and prices, your content exists to provide value and reel them in.

Conclusion:

Building an authentic brand is no easy task. But, in order to draw more guests to your property, it is essential to sit down and ask how you can continuously provide your guests value. You and your property probably already provide value to your guests, but how do you go above and beyond to exceed their expectations?

In order to win, you have to stop selling and start providing value. (You can thank Gary Vaynerchuk for that advice)  

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