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Never say ‘goodbye’, or even ‘see you next time’ … always keep in touch. We stay in hotels, motels and B&B’s all over the country every year, and the only place we hear from is the Hilton (Queenstown). The Hilton chain has one of the largest systemised loyalty programmes in the world – they know that repeat business is the easy business; that a well-structured loyalty programme seduces only just after price and location.

There is, of course, an accommodation ‘chain’ doing even better than The Hilton or The Hyatt … this privately held ‘chain’ now has an estimated worth of $10 billion and is expected to reach 5 million rooms per night by 2018. That chain, of course, is Airbnb. Despite the global average room rate being higher through Airbnb than traditional accommodation providers – its exponential growth since its birth in 2008 has made it a poster-child for the sharing economy … and Airbnb hasn’t even developed a sophisticated loyalty programme yet. While it’s silly to speak in hushed tones … like the shared economy is another Y2K, it would be equally silly not to take the threat very seriously. Markets change; consumer behaviour changes – don’t let the promise of 4.5 million tourists in New Zealand lull you into a business slumber. Your beds need to be filled.

You may be an independent operator; your business is different, but the market is the same, and it’s going to move on without you if you don’t learn from the big boys. There is an enormous lesson to be learnt from the success of the larger chains and Airbnb.

The first lesson is loyalty and the second is psychology – both require you to build your data-base and USE it – you may have CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, but ten-to-one you aren’t using it to its full potential; if at all.

Customer Relationship Software is important because it encourages guests to stay connected to your business. Your usual business intelligence can be pulled into your marketing data base and used for exclusive offers, promotions, feedback on loyalty programmes and an insight into the psychology of your clientele. Don’t let your guests feel like you have forgotten about them, keep your guests engaged. For every lack-lustre loyalty programme that hasn’t really worked – there is a CRM solution.

There is an even more powerful reason to ensure you have an intelligent CRM campaign working and that lesson is learnt from the ‘shared economy’ and the rapid rise of Airbnb. It is not business as usual.

There is much talk about the psychological pull of the ‘cult’ product. Cult-like brands attract evangelical-like support, brands like Lululemon, Vans, Harley-Davidson, Vespa, Coca-Cola, the VW Beetle, Apple … and the pull of the ‘shared economy’ like Uber and Airbnb. While you cannot compete with a global marketing campaign, you can work with the market and not against it. Much of the momentum behind the shared economy has been the instinctive attraction we have to ‘meaning’ found in community ways of living, the little people, trust and shared value. All this deeply held psychological power can be used to the advantage of the independent operator. In marketing speak, it’s about beating the psychology of the market. You need to ensure that your business creates a social identity – built on trust and shared value.

The market has never before so strongly demanded relationship building from a business with overtly strong ethical roots. Don’t be swayed by meaningless fashion, but take heart from the market’s strong desire for meaning and community benefit. Don’t be fearful of the powerful ways in which others have used technology and psychology – respond by being just as smart … and even more authentic.   

Independent operators are in an excellent position to explore grass-roots, person-to-person community, but you can’t do it by saying goodbye … your CRM software is your pulpit – use it.


14/07/2016 Mrs Hospitality