In an age where consumers influence purchase decisions more than brands, hotel marketers need to adopt guest centric marketing strategies. Daniel Kerzner is highly regarded in the hospitality industry for creating guest centric marketing strategies that build brands and generate revenue so we asked him to share his thoughts.

Read this article to learn:

✔ Why successful marketing starts with knowing your guests
✔ How to empower guests to become spokespeople for your hotel
✔ What hotels are doing to create shareworthy stories and how to do it

Daniel KerznerDaniel Kerzner | LinkedIn
Senior Marketing Leader
Global Luxury Travel & Hospitality Brands

John McAuliffe: If I were thinking of pursuing a career in hotel digital marketing, what advice would you offer me?

The hospitality industry is made up of people who have often been in the business for generations. I’m not one of those people. To help get acquainted with the business, I spent my first two weeks going from working at the front desk to housekeeping, to bellman etcetera. I seriously thought, ‘Do I have the wrong job? I’m actually here to work in marketing.’

So, if you’re coming from another industry, the first thing you need to do is learn the hotel business from the ground up and the inside out. It was ingrained in me from day one that you really needed to understand the business in order to market it.

John McAuliffe: What would you say gave you the greatest understanding of the industry?

The people. At the end of the day, hospitality is a people business. If you don’t learn the people side of it, you won’t be successful.

When I first moved to London, I spent two months living in the Sheraton Grand Park Lane Hotel. I made it my mission to sit in the lobby observing and talking to guests in the evenings. The knowledge that I gained was invaluable.

Still to this day, I try to connect with guests no matter where I am in the world. Whether it’s going for a coffee, a drink, or breakfast, sitting in a lobby or pulling together a casual focus group, I’m constantly making a point to hear what guests have to say and watch what they do.

John McAuliffe: Can you provide some insight on how hotels can use what they learn about their guests to develop their digital marketing strategy?

Daniel: I’ll share an example. When I was working with the W Doha, I always found they did a really good job building their marketing around their guests. One thing they learned about their guests is that they’re always on Instagram and they take and share photos of their food in the hotel’s restaurants. So they created an Instagram page for each of their restaurants and posted photos of the food and pricing. Their Instagram feed was essentially their menu, only better.

They also noticed their guests use WhatsApp to talk to colleagues, friends and family and wondered, ‘why they can’t do the same to speak with the hotel?’ So they launched a service called Let’s Chat, a text-based guest communication tool where they were able to better service their guests needs, and upsell/cross-sell through effective dialogue. When a guest wanted to book a wakeup call, they would ask over WhatsApp. This real-time interaction gave the hotel the opportunity to ask, ‘Would you also like arrange breakfast in your room?’ or ‘I see you’re leaving tomorrow. Would you like a car transfer?’ Most importantly, it was about speaking with guests on their own device, on their own terms.

Let’s Chat was later rolled out to hundreds of hotels and tens of thousands of guests. A great sign of a best practice!

John McAuliffe: Is a social strategy a “must” for hotels today?

Daniel: I would say empowering guests to tell your story is the “must.” Guests’ social networks are often larger and more credible than a hotel’s social network. I believe that our role as marketers is to empower our guests to tell our story. The reach and value that you’ll get through the guests telling your story is much greater than telling the story from the hotel’s perspective.

I believe that our role as hotel marketers is to empower our guests to tell the hotel’s story.

The Four Seasons at the Avenue George V in Paris is a great example of how to empower guests to tell a story. This hotel over invests in their lobby flowers because they want people to be “wowed” and tell that story. Guests (and people who walk in off the street) are always sharing photos and videos of the flowers on social media as you can see on the hotel’s Instagram.

John McAuliffe: What if my hotel doesn’t have an exciting story to tell?

Every hotel has a unique selling proposition – whether it’s their view, their food, their staff that come from around the world, and much more. That unique selling proposition needs to be front and center and guests need to know what that is when they walk in the door. I don’t think that there’s a hotel in the world that doesn’t have a story to tell. Know what that story is, tell your guests that story, and empower them to be your spokesperson.

John McAuliffe: Are there any specific steps I can take to take to empower guests to tell my hotel’s story?

Today, guests start sharing stories as soon as they arrive. They take pictures and videos and create content that they share with their social networks. We can direct those conversations without the guest knowing that we’re even directing them.

Know what your story is, tell your guests that story, and empower them to then be your spokesperson.

Here are the steps I would follow:

  • Know your unique selling propositions
  • Put them out there front and center
  • Enable and give connectivity to your guests to share with others
  • Help articulate the story for them with cues and clues
  • Leverage technology to measure and see the impact

John McAuliffe: Any concluding thoughts to share?

As marketers, we need to see the world through the guests’ eyes. If the guests’ eyes are on WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat or on a mobile device, we need to make sure that our marketing is built around that and certainly built for that. But let’s not get too comfortable with our strategy. If we want it to be effective, we’ll need to change it in a few months.

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