For any business, the home run measure of success for any marketing tool is the generation of an immediate sale. Sometimes that means the purchase of an item or the ordering of a service. In the hospitality industry, that immediate sale translates into a reservation for a stay. Those are the home runs, but the game is won in multiple innings, the cumulative effect of singles, doubles, runs batted in, and strike-outs.
What are those lesser, long-term measures of marketing success that, taken cumulatively, can often exceed the impact of the immediate sales? Allow me to outline a few of them.
Engagement is the encouragement of long-term customer loyalty. It can be argued that short-term sales can sometimes be in conflict with the interests of long-term customer engagement. For example, coercing an immediate sale through the use of deep discounting will almost never lead to long-term customer loyalty. Rather, it likely leads to either one-time sales or the development of customers who will only purchase again when you offer another deep discount. Customer engagement can be built through expertise in your field, the presentation of useful information, the delivery of frequently updated content, and interaction with your customer base.
Brand awareness is essentially the development of a company’s name recognition and reputation. It is far easier to accomplish for an established name brand with hundreds or thousands of locations to build brand awareness than it is for an individual start-up business. Think in terms of McDonald’s versus Charlie’s Burger Joint. Brand awareness goes beyond simple name recognition. It requires that consumers not only recognize your business name but also that they will be more likely to recall the name in the future and correctly associate it with the special attributes of your business. For example, you might be one of a dozen and a half campgrounds in the area, but you want to be remembered as THE place to camp in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I have routinely documented instances where a campground that changed its name over 10 years ago continues to get business from people who recall the old business name (and are directed to the park’s website via the old URL, which we maintain.)
Customer evangelism is good old word-of-mouth advertising on steroids. The term has obvious biblical origins, where surrogates are engaged to spread the good news, in this case regarding your business. Evangelists do not take their roles lightly, and they do not agree to take on their responsibilities without first being truly converted themselves. They have to really believe in a product or service before they will agree to act as voluntary advocates on your behalf. Their evangelism can take many forms, from direct referrals to social media posts to loyalty programs to affinity groups. A park’s seasonal campers might be one such affinity group. The bottom line is that any of these are unpaid customers who are perhaps your company’s best possible spokespersons, primarily because they are spreading the word based upon their authentic personal beliefs.
Sharing some characteristics with both engagement and evangelism, customer loyalty is the result of an ongoing reassurance that your business is meeting the needs of its existing customers. A new website, an eye-catching billboard, or a well-crafted video or TV commercial can serve to not only generate new business but to reassure your existing customers that they made the right decision in choosing your business. Make them proud of their decision and help to give them a sense of belonging and involvement. This, in turn, is an added step toward taking loyalty to the next step … evangelism.
Sometimes potential customers are not ready to make an immediate purchase or buying decision. For example, it is not easy to persuade people to buy snowmobiles in the summer. Beyond the attempt at timing your marketing efforts for when they will be the most effective, lead generation is a means of qualifying a broad list of prospective customers into a narrower list that is more likely to make a future purchase. Do you ask them to become involved? Try to encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter, join your e-mail list, or sign up for special offers and incentives. In any case, a potential customer who has taken the initiative of any such “next step” is that much closer to becoming an actual customer.
In summary, do not be discouraged if every marketing effort does not translate into immediately measurable sales. Marketing is a cumulative, long-term effort, not some sort of “all your eggs in one basket”, “get rich quick” scheme. Present your business in a professional, consistent manner, and it will eventually reap the rewards of a bountiful harvest.
This post was written by Peter Pelland