Strengthen Your Direct Bookings: Use Customer Personas
Ever seen the movie “The Wolf Of Wall Street”? There’s a scene where protagonist Jordan Belford (played by Leonardo Di Caprio) asks a friend to sell him a pen. His friend then tries to sell the pen by mentioning supply and demand.
Well, the real Jordon Belford had a different take on it:
“The real answer is, before I’m even going to sell a pen to anybody, I need to know about the person, I want to know what their needs are, what kind of pens do they use- do they even use a pen?”
This same principle also applies to getting more direct bookings through your hotel website. If you want your hotel to appeal to the right people, you need to have a solid understanding of who those people are.
Why not appeal to everyone? Basic business sense will tell any hotelier that no hotel is for everyone – and if it’s trying to be, the hotel is probably as bland and generic as it’s possible to be.
Instead, your hotel might be geared towards middle-aged couples who love boutique B&Bs, or young people who are looking for something a little funky. You might cater to business travelers, those with young families, or a combination of a few different demographics.
Who are the people your hotel is for, and what are their motivations? What are they most concerned about when travelling? What objections do they have about staying with you?
A solid customer persona will answer these questions. When you have a deep understanding of your guests, you’ll have information about their needs and their buying behavior. You’ll be able to build targeted marketing campaigns, increase traffic to a website built for the right people, and raise your direct bookings.
So, where do you get started?
What is a Customer Persona?
So what exactly is a customer persona?
Here’s the definition from a leading expert in the field of buyer insights and behaviour research, Tony Zambito:
“Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are: what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.”
In other words, it’s a fictional model that represents your customers, or group of customers. If you have customers with separate goals and needs, then you’d have a matching customer profile for each segment. It’s pretty common for hotels to have 3 or 4 customer personas they’re trying to reach.
However, while they might be fictional representations, they definitely aren’t derived from fiction. Customer personas are engineered by real, raw, complete data about who your customers are. Not who you think they are.
They usually hold demographic information, like age, gender, occupation, location and income. They also do a terrific job of capturing your customer’s needs, wants, motivations and objections with regards to your business.
The primary goal of customer personas is to put you in the shoes of your customers when making important business decisions.
What Customer Personas Aren’t
Poorly made customer personas are ineffective and fail to increase business. Why? Because they are made up of irrelevant, poorly sourced data- or even worse, no data at all. Just gut feelings and instinct.
Marketing specialist Aradath Albee put this best when she said that: “I see a lot of personas that are what I kind of call ‘Ouija Board’ personas, because they are based on stuff that marketers would never know.”
They have nothing to do with what you think your customers want. But are based on what your customers actually want.
Why You Need A Customer Persona
Knowing the needs and goals of your guests isn’t a quick fix, instant-boost kind of thing, but it’s more important now than ever before, and the long-term benefits are enormous.
Hotels everywhere are failing to firmly grasp the basic motivations and desires of their customers.
Edelman’s consumer marketing study surveyed over 10,000 people across 8 different countries. The study found that 51% of people felt that brands are underperforming when it comes to asking about their needs; and that only 10% of brands are doing this well.
This means you can cut through the clutter and make a huge leap indirect bookings if you know how to use customer personas right.
To understand how personas can impact your hotel conversions, let’s imagine you have a hotelier friend called John, looking to improve booking rates at his hotel.
John decides to crank his marketing up a notch. He assumes his hotel caters to business owners who earn $30,000-$40,000 a year and have a 1-2 children. So, he switches things up and starts to shift his marketing towards business owners who travel frequently.
But after a few months…things go south.
His booking rates plummet, occupancy is down and he’s hit the lowest of low seasons in a time people would normally be making bookings for their summer holidays.
Why did this happen? Because our friend didn’t base his decisions on data, or even very much first-hand knowledge. If he used customer personas, he’d find that while his guests are business owners in that income bracket, they love staying at his hotel mainly because of the hotel’s family friendly atmosphere, not its business-related features.
John could then push the family friendly angle in his marketing, and be almost guaranteed to see more bookings because he based his marketing moves on cold, hard data. That’s the power of customer personas. You learn exactly who you’re dealing with, why they’re dealing with you, and how to deal with them in a manner that increases business.
Building A Conversion Boosting Customer Persona
Your customer persona data comes from a mix of quantitative and qualitative research. This means interacting with your guests and asking them questions, as well as examining your analytics
If you’re not sure about what kind of quantitative and qualitative data you should be getting all this information from, here are two great guides to get started with:
- Analytics Unlocked- How to Use Google to Find Your Perfect Customer: This piece is a great primer on how to use data from your Google Analytics account to build the quantitative side of your persona.
Tip: A good rule of thumb when you’re building your customer personas is 90% data, 10% knowledge – that way, you can be sure your personas are based on fact, not speculation.
Here’s a look at some ways to get the qualitative data:
1. Face to Face and In-person Interviews
Getting in the trenches and talking to guests lets you glean valuable information. Especially when it comes to knowing what makes them stay, what motivates them, and how they think of you as a hotel. In-person and phone interviews might seem like more work, but they’re worth the effort.
You’ll get a level of depth and detail in your answers that isn’t common with surveys and questionnaires.
Surveys are another great customer persona research tool. They allow you to collect information about a large amount of your guests at the push of a button.
Surveys are also great because they can be sent to different customer types and personas:
● If you want to improve your conversions and get more bookings, you can survey brand new guests or potential guests who didn’t buy from you
● If you want to boost guest loyalty, you can survey frequent buyers and see what makes them stay.
● If you want to ramp up your profit per guest, interview guests who frequently spend more money with you. You’ll see what makes them “tick” when it comes to spending extra cash.
3. On-site Web and Exit Surveys
Imagine if someone came to your hotel. He briefly looks around and makes a few inquiries, but doesn’t seem satisfied. So he starts making his way out. Before he’s gone for good, though, your trained staff amiably approach the potential guest and ask why the hotel didn’t seem like a good fit, and what would make him want to stay.
The feedback you’d get from a system like that would be golden, and on-site web and exit surveys allow you to do something similar on your hotel website.
They let you see what’s going on in your prospect’s mind at critical points in the sales process.
This gives you powerful information to base your marketing decisions on. We also recommend engaging in some good old-fashioned testing to find the best types and structure of questions for your hotel.
Using and Applying Buying Personas
Okay, you’ve created a great customer persona. Now it’s time to put it to good use. You can do this by using the information to improve:
Your Overall Guest Experience
Your persona will give insights to the main reasons why your guests buy from you, why they like your hotel, and why they chose you. You can then use this to retain more guests by tailoring your overall hotel experience to what your customers like.
Websites are already powerful tools for hooking guests. You can now use your customer persona to optimize your website results and convert more visitors into guests.
Your Overall Marketing Strategy
Use your new knowledge to power up your PPC campaigns, brochures and special offers.
The last thing your prospect reads before hitting the buy it now button or leaving your site forever is your copy. The stronger your copy, the higher your sales will be.
Leo Schachter Diamonds used this strategy when creating their customer persona and got some jaw-dropping results. By creating customer persona-based copy, they rocketed visitor conversions from 0.86% to 54.1%. That’s over a 5000% increase in conversions.
If you think you’ve got a firm grasp on your guests’ needs, maybe think again. Thinking and guess work is not enough. You have to have a concrete understanding of your guests. And customer personas are the way to do that.
Need expert help creating customer persona based marketing? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!