One of my early mentors as a young GM was an abrupt and direct company director who insisted that everything we did in the hotel had to be perfect. He proof-read every menu and brochure, and wasn’t the least bit happy to find spelling or grammatical errors. If we got an actual fact wrong, we’d never hear the end of it. We had a huge argument once over whether or not to introduce a breakfast buffet because he was concerned that it would not present well enough. He eventually relented but only after we agreed that it would be perfect!
Whilst this was extremely frustrating initially, I soon appreciated the value of this approach and when I moved on from this hotel I started doing the same thing with my staff—at least until I was comfortable that everyone was on the same page.
Now not all staff were happy with this, but they were engaged and challenged. By continually stressing the need to be perfect in our presentation and representations, staff knew their actions mattered and that everyone shared a single purpose: To provide excellent hotel service at every turn, in every detail and in every interaction.
Getting employees to take pride in the brand, to the point where they automatically exceed expectations, is a vital component of marketing any property. The employee mindset becomes its own form of marketing. It’s marketing from the inside-out.
Ordinary marketing does, of course, have many useful applications—but also serious limitations. Companies spend millions to promote themselves via traditional and social media. At the same time, they often forget to engage the very staff that create and define the service being marketed to the outside world. This is essentially “outside-in” marketing—and it doesn’t work. Customers have become too important and influential, and if the service or product is subpar, if the airwaves are rife with customer complaints, the brand will erode. It will go on withering until the property starts marketing from the inside out.
Accomplishing this inside-out or ‘holistic’ type of marketing can be achieved by any hotel or hospitality business. We simply need to ask ourselves the following five questions when preparing our marketing:
Does the physical presentation of our product realistically represent who we are? (eg; is it correct grammatically and factually? There is no point trying to represent yourself as a five star hotel but then misspell prosciutto; nor is there any point in showing a picture of a beautiful view if there are none!)
Can we deliver it? (Can we uphold the promise?)
Do all our channels deliver the same message?
Does our staff believe the message?
Does our online feedback reinforce the message?
These questions are closely interrelated. Each one represents a key factor in how your hospitality brand is perceived by influential reviewers (i.e. ordinary customers).
If you can answer ‘yes’ to all five questions, you’re doing an excellent job marketing from the inside out. The products and services you provide, including all interactions with staff, flow into a committed identity and standard of service. If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, it’s time to strengthen your marketing from within. This might involve repairs and renovations, updated photos online, or the addition of a new amenity or service.
If you answer ‘no’ to question #4 specifically, it’s time to think about employee dynamics. Employees are among the most important components of a marketing feedback loop that starts and ends with happy customers saying good things about your property.
Drilling down further into question #4, you can ask yourself three additional questions:
Do you understand that employees want and need to be involved in creating and defining an excellent hotel brand?
Do you understand the unique stresses and challenges of working with guests (especially guests that behave unreasonably)?
Do employees understand that the guest’s/client’s journey begins the moment they encounter anything to do with the hotel/product?
By simply asking the right questions, we can see that Inside-out marketing is a balance of service standards, truth-in-advertising, and employee morale. The accuracy of your physical representations is inextricably linked to your perceived honesty because you tell the truth. And the happiness of your employees is inextricably related to the happiness of your customers and the integrity of your brand.
In order to be brand ambassadors, employees should be engaged, responsive to feedback, and highly aware of their importance in the marketing chain.
It seems obvious to me then that there is no point in spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a great marketing campaign unless all the elements are connected and operating at a high level. In fact, the marketing bar should always be set high. I’m glad my earlier mentor set it high for me, and I hope that we as hospitality professionals become more skilled at drawing out the very best in our employees, our brands and our own professional performance. They are after all, our marketing.
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