Chapter 4 explores how content marketing, a relatively new concept, can be used to inject much needed freshness into any loyalty model.
Chapter 4
Put your content to work
The intersection of content marketing and loyalty
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A shift in loyalty marketing
The case for “content”
Last week we took an in-depth look at why the current loyalty model is dated. This week we’ll explore how content marketing, a relatively new concept, can be used to inject much needed freshness into any loyalty model.
For those of you just coming aboard, check out the links at the conclusion of this chapter to catch up.
What’s the fuss over content marketing?
Let’s start with a brief definition of content marketing for the uninitiated:
“Content marketing is any marketing that involved the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.”
(Thanks, Wikipedia.) As with many things, the textbook definition does not do justice to the concept.
Man on a laptop
Your ultimate goal is to educate and entertain your desired audience.
The truth is, content marketing takes many forms, but ultimately is about educating and entertaining your desired audience—“desired” being the key word. In order for content marketing to be effective you must know who you’re addressing in order to deliver content relative to their interests and respective of their time.
Consistency, continuity, and scale
Key to any content marketing strategy are three tenets. Let’s quickly define each and then we’ll visit where this intersects with advocacy and loyalty.
Consistency
Consistency simply means that you’re sharing valuable content with your audience on a regular basis. This is where some companies tend to fail because producing new content to post regularly is challenging. As a result, a stream of unmeaningful posts are plugged constantly, which is the gateway down the dark path to spam.
Continuity
Continuity as it relates to marketing is is the delivery of concepts that are related or connected—cohesion. Think: branding. Keeping your story cohesive makes it easier for your guests to identify with your brand. If you’re quirky and edgy, embrace that. If you’re a bit more conservative and refined in your approach, let it show.
Scale
Scale can be really, really tough. In this sense it means that you’re able to do all of the above at a volume that will have a measurable impact, all while still holding true to your message and not alienating your audience.
Advocacy conquers content
A strategic approach to advocacy can address all of these in spades, starting with consistency.
When you’re encouraging your guests to become advocates, they will in turn create excellent and highly relevant content. Initially this takes the form of a share with friends and family about an experience they had at your hotel. It’s immediate and timely, and they’re doing the distribution for you.
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The stories your guests capture resonates with and inspires like-minded travelers.
Any feedback or imagery the guest volunteers to you as part of the advocacy process can also be repurposed as part of your own content marketing strategy. By allowing your advocates to tell their story, you have a diverse range of experiences that like-minded travelers identify with.
Also remember that you have a steady stream (hopefully!) of guests coming through your doors every day. If every guest has an opportunity to become a budding advocate and content co-creator, you’ll have a consistent stream of material to share.
So by simply executing on your message and encouraging your guests to share, you create a powerful mechanism for telling your story from the perspective of those that matter most—your guests.
So by simply executing on your message and encouraging your guests to share, you create a powerful mechanism for telling your story from the perspective of those that matter most—your guests. This has the added benefit of ensuring service and quality levels remain constant.
Building a brand is a long-term proposition. For this reason, it’s crucial that you are able to scale your content marketing strategy. You must take the time to understand your guests so that you can connect with them on an emotional level. After all, emotional connections are the most powerful and the only real basis for true loyalty.
So why is advocacy so highly effective at addressing scale, one of the most difficult aspects of content marketing? A few reasons. For one, travel is highly experiential, and thus people are more likely to share those memories. It’s also the sort of content that encourages additional sharing. A former Facebook executive once stated that a single piece of content can reach 10,000 people if only shared 3 times. That’s serious scale.
56% of people cite family, friends, or colleagues as a source of travel inspiration.
And this content is precisely what potential guests want to see when they’re shopping around. According to a recent Google study, 56% of people cite family, friends, or colleagues as a source of travel inspiration. By leveraging a captive audience at your hotel, you’re consistently able to get the right content in front of a like-minded audience of future travelers.
The intersection of content marketing and loyalty
According to a NewsCred report, 82 million millennials consume online content monthly in the US alone. That’s great, right? Well, nearly half of them don’t find any of it compelling enough to share. If they aren’t sharing it, is it really speaking to them?
Girl riding a bike
Having content that speaks to millennials is vital as more begin to travel.
There’s a good chance your loyalty program includes millennials. If it doesn’t, it will, and that number will be growing rapidly over the coming years. This particular demographic has money and they will be earning more money as their careers mature.
So why isn’t as much of the content being put into the digital space resonating with them?
The simple answer is that the message is not well aligned with what that audience wants to hear. It feels spammy.
Spam isn’t just unsolicited messaging anymore. The term “spam” now also covers any and all messaging that simply isn’t relevant.
If you’re asking for information, there’s an expectation you’re going to use it to speak to me and not at me.
For hotels this means making an effort to learn more about your guests. Loyalty programs are a fantastic tool to facilitate this. However, bear in mind that if you’re asking for information, there’s an expectation you’re going to use it to speak to me and not at me.
Advocacy plays a part in getting information from your guests without asking directly. When you tap into your guests to share their experiences at your property, they will voluntarily offer very telling information about their likes and preferences. When guests are asked in the right way to highlight their experiences and share them with their friends, there’s a good chance you’ll get better insight.
Man holding his child
See more guest stories from Cystal Lodge's live Photo Explorer.
After you’ve captured this information, you’ll gain a better understanding of the segmentation within your loyalty program. On top of that, the new content you’ve sourced can be used as part of a comprehensive strategy to put the most relevant message in front of the right members and potential guests.
The loyalty status
Conversely, you can leverage your members’ statuses in your program. Start by acknowledging their status in your messaging. It’s all about recognition and this is an easy win for you.
Next, suppose gold tier members receive 20% off at your spa. Look for relevant guest-created content about the spa, embed those stories into your content marketing strategy for those members, and then remind them that they have the exclusive benefit of 20% off.
Man holding his child
Sourcing content from your guests will speak volume to similar travelers.
Another example may arise if you know a portion of your members typically travel as a family. Source family-centric content from your advocates and use that in your outreach to those loyalty program members that fit the profile. Remind them why you’re the place for families.
This not only encourages more stays from your members but it strengthens their brand affinity. You’re speaking to them on a more personal level with a message that connects in all the right ways.
I’ll conclude with one final statistic. 71% of millennials claim to prefer brands they “know and trust.” You must deliver content that resonates, that entertains, and that inspires. Just remember, not all of your loyal guests connect with you in the same way, and trust can be fleeting. Ask them and, more importantly, listen when they tell you their stories.
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Know someone that might be interested?
Share the knowledge with your colleagues and start the conversation.
 
Action items
  • If you’re not doing content marketing today, make an honest effort to educate yourself on it and decide if it’s right for you. Hotels have some of the most incredible stories to tell and this is a fantastic vehicle for doing it.
  • Take the time to look at any segmentation you’ve already done within your loyalty program. What do you see that’s actionable and what gaps need to be filled? Start encouraging members to become advocates and share their stories.
  • Listen closely to what your guests are saying, not just in surveys, but with experiential storytelling as well. This reveals much more about them in a natural way and will help to inform your efforts to communicate with them down the road.
  • Integrate what you learn into your content marketing strategy. Personalization is key and this is a great first step in that direction.
 
What's next?
  • Improving, personalizing, and extending interactions with guests
 
A look back
Feeling like you missed something?
 
Sources
  1. What is Content Marketing, Really?
  2. Using Content Marketing to Build Trust, Loyalty, and Profit
  3. Content Consistency Creates Loyal Customers
  4. Building brand loyalty in a cross-channel world
  5. Hotels.com on does Loyalty in travel still exist?
  6. How NewsCred does content marketing
  7. The Millennial Mind: How Content Drives Brand Loyalty
  8. The 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision
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Richard Dunbar
Director of Partnerships

Hi [firstname,fallback=there]—Richard here from Flip.to. I’ve been in the hospitality space for over 15 years, including many at one of the largest providers of independent loyalty reward programs worldwide. After picking up my fair share on loyalty, I’ve been able to put it all together with revenue management, e-commerce, and now advocacy. Have thoughts about the e-course? Let me know!
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