3 Steps to Building a Customer Persona for Your Hotel
What makes your hotel guests tick?
The question looks simple enough – until you try to answer it. However, when answered correctly, it can create a huge shift in your hotel business. Why?
To answer it, you have to know who your guests are. You need to know what their needs and wants are, and how booking with your hotel will benefit them.
This is why customer personas are essential to boosting bookings. They contain that key information, built from your analytics data and your own first-hand knowledge, to give you the edge over your competitors.
Why You Need Solid Customer Personas
“With personas, businesses can be more strategic in catering to each audience, internalize the customer that they are trying to attract, and relate to them as human beings.” (Krux marketing team)
Customer personas are detailed, data-driven representations of your target audience. Essentially, they illustrate the buying decisions that your guests make when they consider booking with you. Personas can seriously boost the effectiveness of various elements of marketing like copy, design, and targeting.
Previously, creating personas was only done by large companies with big budgets. However, creating personas is no longer a luxury, it’s a must. This is especially true in fiercely competitive industries like hospitality and travel.
Research from the Edelman group shows that brands and businesses are failing to grasp the most basic motivations, objections, and desires of their customers. Their consumer marketing survey – which questioned over 11,000 people in over 8 different countries – found that 51% of people feel brands are doing a poor job of asking about and fulfilling their needs.
Further research even reveals that 40% of consumers say most promotions don’t deliver anything of interest. These are two mistakes that independent hotels can’t afford to make.
Personas are pretty important: that’s obvious. But as research shows, most business are lacking when it comes to creating and using them effectively.
That’s why we’ve listed the 3 key steps for building guest personas that will help you increase hotel bookings and fill up your rooms.
What Your Customer Persona Should Contain
Before diving into the specific steps for creating customer personas, here’s an overview of what your persona should cover:
- Family members
- Salary/household income
- Primary goal (relevant to your hotel)
- Past experiences with hotels
- Problems and frustrations when booking holidays and hotels
1. Survey Your Guests
Whether online or off, surveys are great for digging insights from the minds of your guests. Because instead of blindly guessing how your guests feel, you get to see how your guests frame their needs and regard your hotel.
Surveys are also handy for tweaking specific areas of your business. For example, if you want to improve your profit per guest, you can survey guests who regularly spend more than average with you. Find out what they’re buying, why they’re buying it and how you can apply that to other guests.
Use on-site and exit surveys to find out what turned away potential guests who didn’t book with you – what went wrong? Were they simply at an early stage in the purchase funnel? Or did something about your website turn them away from booking?
To improve guest retention, survey customers who have been with you a long time. Ask them what makes them come back for more. You can either conduct post-stay surveys by email, or, if you’re a smaller operation, by telephone.
2. Glean Insights from Your Web Analytics
Web analytics are a low-hanging fruit ripe for creating personas.
Don’t make the mistake of doing all the complex tasks like surveying, interviewing, and data gathering, without peeking behind the digital curtains of your website. Check out our guide on using Google Analytics to find your perfect customer, a step-by-step analysis to help you build your personas.
By looking at your web analytics, you’ll learn:
- Where potential hotel guests come from
- How long they stayed on your site
- What keywords brought them to you
- How long they stayed on certain pages
Data isn’t all there is to building a customer persona, but you can’t build them without it. Customer personas aren’t built on guess work – in fact, the entire reason you’re making them is so your marketing and sales efforts aren’t based on guess work! Here’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when building your personas: 90% data, 10% knowledge.
3. Conduct Individual Interviews
When it comes to the ‘knowledge’ aspect of understanding what motivates your guests, what makes them book with you, and what makes them stay, nothing tops in person or phone interviews. Not all of your guests will be willing to do this, especially without any reward – consider offering a voucher or an entry in a contest for those that participate to drive up results.
They may seem like a lot of work, but they are worth it. When interviewing someone, you’ll get a more intimate and honest response due to the more personal setting. This will give you data that is superior in quality to surveys and other types of research.
To make the interviewing process more efficient, you can split the task among your staff, or interview a set amount of people a day and reward with them with an incentive.
Interviews aren’t necessary to building your persona: the most important part is the data. However, asking your experienced reservations staff or any of your staff who have long term experience dealing with your guests for their input will always be helpful. Interviews are the cherry on top.
Now you know how powerful a customer persona can be, and you know how to create one. Ultimately, though, a persona is only a tool for better marketing communication and targeting. It’s how you use the informational insights to inform your hotel marketing that counts. We’ll be publishing a piece soon on how to do exactly that – keep your eyes peeled!
What tips would you give to fellow hoteliers to create stronger customer personas for their guests? Let us know in the comments below.