Website lessons learned from booking a hotel

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DesignUser ExperienceWeb Design

For a little bit of background, I like to go surfing, so I visit Wales as much as possible. My family and I stayed in a place called Llandudno, which I had never been to before, and we were going to ‘Surf Snowdonia’, a man-made inland surfing lake. Llandudno is a very beautiful seaside town and is very much an up-and-coming town as I write this. This is what we found…

We were staying in a very nice hotel along the seafront, which is around a mile long. All the buildings were essentially the same, all tiered and beautiful looking Victorian houses. I would say 99% of them were hotels. Every single one of them had a restaurant and a bar. Now the problem you have got from a marketing point of view is, how do you stand out from the crowd?

They’re all in the exact same sector and they all have the same architecture, though on slightly different pricing levels. Some of them were really cheap, as little as £35 per night which is unbelievable. Essentially, however, they are all serving the same thing.

During our stay, we were trying to find somewhere to eat but there wasn’t really anywhere on Trip Advisor and your hotel generally tries to push you to eat in their on-site restaurant.

Actually, that’s not really how most people work nowadays. You don’t necessarily want to be in your hotel for all of the night. You want to go around and try some food and experience different things. However, because everyone was doing the same thing, no one stood out from the rest. Even though the hotels were really nice, the hotel restaurants were not doing anything different to all of the other ones. There are hundreds of these restaurants that serve the same type of thing.

We found one place that had taken an old hotel and turned it into a restaurant, going to town on making it really different. It was all about the seafood, niching it down, looking at the whole market. This restaurant had made itself special and really different to what the rest of their market did. It had a fancy bar to start the night, a stunning, very differently styled main restaurant, a smaller private room for big parties to hire, and a second, more relaxed bar as well. Although this place in any other town would be the norm, no one else in the area had done this. All of them had a hotel and a restaurant, so this felt different.

We went there on our first night but unsurprisingly, it was fully booked, so we booked it for the next night. It was at a slightly later time than what we would usually eat at, but because it had the connotations of being different and niche, we really wanted to visit. It hadn’t really built up reviews yet which is why we didn’t find anything on Trip Advisor, but the fact that it was so different, so niche, we really wanted to go.

We were talking to the owner a little bit and they said that since they’ve been open they’re fully booked 99% of the time. They always leave a couple of seats for people like us who just turn up, but they were already booked up until the following month. Now I’m pretty sure most of the other hotels didn’t have that. Most of the places had open signs. It’s surprising that in a saturated market like that, the hotel was offering the same services but made themselves appear special and niche, making a huge difference. I think all of us can learn from this. We’re probably all in heavily saturated markets now and by doing something slightly different, even if it’s just the way we portray ourselves, can make a huge difference to our success.

This leads me to a slightly different example. We have a client who provides a cold calling service, essentially phoning someone who you don’t know to try to sell something to them. If we’re honest, most of us don’t really like those types of people, they’re quite pushy and you just want to get them off the phone.

What our client did, which is really different, was establishing their niche and only working with marketing firms or marketing departments. Their service had to be part of a step-by-step process, a long-term goal. They could cold call people to book an appointment, push people onto a website to sign up for a webinar, or to be part of their direct mailing list. The other thing that really makes a difference is that the service is based on a cost per lead. Instead of being paid for a certain number of days’ work, they’re being paid on their skill level.

They’re stating: “For every person that becomes a qualified lead, you will pay X amount of money to us.” All of a sudden, they’ve removed any of the pain points that their client may have had, handling it in a very different way. If you look at their competitors’ websites, they’re all pushing cold calling. They focus on the number of calls they can make in a day, how efficient they can be with what they’re doing today, and making sure that people get their maximum number of people called. It’s all about the telephone and pushing people. Whereas what our client has done is to make the service more about results. They’ve focused their message on how they link in with current marketing campaigns. They’re essentially providing the exact same product, but they’re advertising their sales in a different way and since doing so, their sales have gone through the roof.

I think this is what’s going to become really important. Even if you’re not necessarily niching hugely, coming across in a slightly different way to the rest of your market is what’s going to be hugely important. I would recommend heading down to Llandudno to check it out and look at the fact that every single place is just a hotel. Try to take on board that we are all in a saturated market that’s selling the same thing. The worry will always be ‘apples and apples’; the client has nothing to compare to that makes us any different. So, how do you guys become the “orange” in the market?

Just to finish off, my one last note is that I always point out to clients that ‘customer service’ is not a niche. Your argument of ‘We provide a better customer service’ isn’t a niche because nobody goes into business to provide bad customer service. Therefore, when you say that ‘we’re different because we really care’ or ‘we’re different because we’re providing better customer service than the rest’, whilst that may be true, it’s not enough for your client.

We need to come up with something that’s tangibly different. If customer service is your current niche, I would say that your marketing isn’t strong enough and that you need to think about how you’re being portrayed. So good luck and head to Llandudno!

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