A Tale of Two Marketing Attempts

  |  November 3, 2011   |  Comments

Two hotels show how you can gain or lose customers with personalized messages.

As a consultant, I travel a lot. One of the slim benefits of being away from my home and family for extended periods of time is that I rack up a ton of points at hotel chains. As a result, I've attained premium status at two of the hotels that I frequently visit. I'm not looking to throw either one under the bus, so I'll refer to them anonymously as Hotel A and Hotel Z.

Interestingly enough, I typically make an effort to attempt to stay at Hotel Z, sometimes going out of my way to accrue those valuable points. Whereas, with Hotel A, I visit when conferences are booked there, or when clients have a preferred provider. Yet, what I've noticed is that these two chains treat me entirely differently in their marketing approaches. For both hotels, I recently booked a room only days before my arrival (which I frequently do, being a business traveler) and they each delivered a different experience. Keep in mind that both hotels send me emails and promotions on a regular basis, almost to the point of too many messages. But I still allow them to bombard me and haven't relegated them to spam yet, because once in a while there's a gem in there. In the last two weeks, preceding stays, both hotel chains sent me personalized messages. Here's what happened:

Hotel A: I booked a room just days before my arrival and was pleasantly surprised when a day or so later I received a message from the senior rooms controller welcoming me back to the hotel (I stayed there previously this year). The email was addressed to me by name and the message read:

As a valued [status] Member, I want to personally welcome you; I am delighted to once again be your hotel ambassador during your stay at [hotel name and location omitted]. We would be delighted to fulfill the special requests that you notated on your reservation. Please reply to this email with any request updates.

Wow! How cool is this, I thought...special requests? I could have my favorite beverage waiting for me; or some mints on my pillow...whatever I wanted! I'm special! While this is how I felt, I didn't actually request anything special, but I did take note of the personal and thoughtful gesture.

Hotel Z: Again, I booked just days in advance and received a follow-up message of an entirely different nature. The note again was addressed to me by name (which for the record, I appreciate over "Dear Valued Customer"), but this one from the hotel general manager read:

It is my pleasure to confirm your reservation at [hotel name omitted] and we look forward to welcoming you back to an exceptional experience in [hotel location omitted]. As an [status] member, you also have the possibility, should you desire, to upgrade to our executive [description omitted] view room for an additional [price omitted]. Guests taking advantage of this offer will receive 2000 bonus points as a token of our esteem. More details may be found by clicking the box on the right.

OK, I already paid more than I wanted for this room, but here the hotel is trying to upsell me to the "executive experience." Now, don't misconstrue; I enjoy being treated like an executive, but I wasn't about to succumb to this marketing tactic just to fork over more money to this hotel.

The motivation behind both of these messages was entirely the same. They're both trying to upsell me so that they can squeeze more dollars from my wallet. I get that. But they each went about it differently. Hotel A made me feel special and heck, I may have even paid more to upgrade to its executive room, just because of the kind and personal gesture that the hotel offered to me. Hotel Z, on the other hand, gave me the feeling that it didn't care much about my stay at all. What the hotel wanted was my extra money to make its upsell quota. This not only made me feel cheap, but made me wonder why I try so hard to book with this chain.

The moral of this story is that in today's world, you must treat people with respect. Just knowing my name, acknowledging my loyalty, and tempting me with bonus points isn't enough. Treat me like a person and I'll give you my repeat business any day.


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John Lovett

John Lovett is a veteran industry analyst and expert consultant who has spent the past decade helping organizations to measure their digital marketing activities. As a senior partner at Web Analytics Demystified, Lovett regularly consults with leading enterprises to offer strategic guidance for building innovative digital measurement programs. Lovett is also a trusted advisor to vendors within the digital measurement community. His deep industry knowledge and forward-thinking perspective help both vendors and clients alike to transcend mediocrity by changing the shape of business using strategic measurement practices.

Prior to joining Web Analytics Demystified, Lovett was a senior analyst with Forrester Research, where he was responsible for analytics and optimization technologies. Currently, Lovett is the vice president on the Board of Directors for the Web Analytics Association and has pioneered efforts like the Web Analyst's Code of Ethics with the WAA Standards Committee. He is co-founder of the Analysis Exchange program that is introducing eager students to analytics by helping non-profits with mentored analysis. Lovett is anticipating the publication of his first book, Social Media Metrics Secrets (Wiley & Sons, Summer 2011). He lives in New Hampshire with his wife, yellow lab, and three boys.

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