If you work in the Club and Hotel industry, then you are undoubtedly aware of the increased competition from restaurants, cafes and the latest US trend of gourmet food trucks making their way to our shores.
With the rapid advances in web-based promotion and other technology-based marketing tools, it can be an overwhelming experience to create a marketing strategy that competes against venues that are utilising these tools to their optimum advantage.
While putting up fantastic promotional posters, starting a fancy new Facebook page for your venue or building your very own mobile application are all great ideas, they will have minimal impact if they used independently and not as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. In other words, they need to be more than just a pretty face.
The warm fuzzy creative stuff is just the tip of the iceberg.
To begin with, you need to distance yourself from your product. Put your marketing hat on and look at your venue through the eyes of an outside consultant. To assist with taking an objective view, I have listed the seven ‘golden’ Ps that every hospitality manager or marketer needs to consider to ensure you are hitting the mark with your marketing activity and not just another pretty face in a sea of competition.
What on earth are you selling and who is interested in it? Are you offering something that your core target market wants; does it solve an issue, add value or enrich their lives? That is the core of your product offering. Have a look at what your competitors are offering and do something different, do it better or don’t do it at all. Whatever it is, whether it’s providing the most entertaining bartenders, best Chinese food or signature promotions, bring your brand promise into it and deliver it well.
Start looking at current trends and see how you can develop a product/service that will cater for demand now and into the future. This could include: Gaming machine products, room layout and ambiance, new bar service techniques, new technology innovation, web-based loyalty programs or find a way to adopt social trends into your venue (the cinnamon test anyone?). Your customers will appreciate the effort you put in to providing them with a fresh and exciting experience.
When I say Price, what I really mean is Value. Develop a habit of continually assessing the prices of your services and products and what value they bring to your customer. It’s important that they reflect the current market and what your local competitors are offering. Is your pricing strategy going to bring in the kind of customers that you want to attract? Is that two-for-one promotion still running without a strategic objective behind it?
Consider different ways of communicating pricing from a physical sense (price tags, tickets, blackboard, menus, digital etc) and from a process perspective (eat now-pay later, honesty systems, the ‘suspended coffee‘ model).
Find out if there are any new markets you can offer new value propositions to. Consider group or social discounts, community pricing or leveraging the ‘members pricing’ model to deliver something different.
It’s surprising how simply moving a point of sale (POS) could drastically increase your sales. Take a tour of your venue from a customer’s point of view. Are your entry and exit points easily identifiable and accessible? What’s the condition of your DOSAs and Restrooms? Be strategic in designing how and where you distribute your services. Examining your traffic flow analysis and integrating on and offline transactions could make your venue more efficient, making customers more likely to give you repeat business.
Queue management is just one example of how you can strategically manage the service environment.
Now THIS is where we all feel most comfortable. This term can be misleading because it’s more than sticking up a few posters or sending an email about Tuesday’s $10 Steak Sandwich. For this area of your marketing strategy to be effective, you must include but also extend past the traditional advertising tools and promote your venue from a public relations perspective. This might involve a communications and community engagement plan, including tactics such as experiential displays, launches, sampling or educational material that promotes reward or loyalty programs.
Communication should be consistent across all channels including physical collateral, staff, signage and digital formats such as websites, email content and social networks. Promotion is often our first port of call because it’s the “action” – we make posters, we create emails, write great copy but a good marketing strategy needs to consider all 7 elements of a service environment.
It is true that first impressions last. One of the best marketing successes in terms of branding is technology giant, Apple. Consider every product that Apple produces and you’ll notice each item shares the same aesthetics and bare the brand’s iconic logo. Their product packaging is designed so that you have an experience even as you open your new iPad box. When you visit an Apple store and make a significant purchase you can expect to be embarrassingly applauded and cheered by Apple store staff as you leave.
You can create a tangible experience for your customers by making them aware of exactly who you are and what you offer, and sometimes this only needs to be a small thing. Examine branding elements of your venue such as staff uniforms, your venue’s logo design, internal and external signage right up to how your menus present. Remember that a brand is a public promise of what you deliver every single day. Make it special.
Surprisingly, this is often the most neglected step of the marketing mix in service environments because it is the hardest. Human Resources will have a significant effect on your marketing strategy. It’s vital to consider who is best suited for what role and develop detailed recruitment strategies to determine the best fit for the individual and your venue. In addition, the best companies promote what a fantastic place it is to work which in turn attracts quality staff and communicates a positive message to your customers.
How can you leverage your people to bring home the message that your venue is different? I can guarantee your customers will remember the clever and polite waiter long after their lukewarm coffee was served. What’s that saying – “It’s difficult to soar with eagles when you work with turkeys”… thanksgiving dinner at your place then?
Process refers to the way in which you deliver your service. More often, you only have a short period of interaction between customer and staff before they are left to their own thoughts. One handy tip is to create a Service Blueprint to better understand what happens and when. Look for areas where you can enhance the engagement with each moment you deal with your customer. Get your staff understanding that they are an important part of that process – they could be touch point number one or more importantly the last point of contact before your customer leaves. That’s your moment of truth so make that moment memorable.
It’s a good tip to mind your Ps with each marketing strategy and workshop how you are going to deliver on each one of these concepts.