triangle-blog-header-christopher-place their inn overlooking the smokies
Matt Heffner

Matt Heffner

How Christopher Place Resort Uses the Relationship Booster Triangle to Reach & Delight Their Best Future Guests

Table of Contents

As OTAs become more and more standard for travelers to book their accommodations, lodging properties are struggling to connect directly with their guests. Sites like Expedia and Booking(dot)com make it easy for travelers to find and book their lodging, but they don’t allow lodging properties to communicate directly with their guests.

Loss of Communication = Loss of Income

This is costing lodging properties more than just the hefty commission charged by these OTAs – it’s costing them the ability to build a relationship with their guests that would result in a captive audience who is emotionally invested in the lodging property’s success and who is eager to return and bring friends along.

OTAs cost you more than a hefty commission – they cost you the opportunity to directly communicate with your guests.

The Relationship Booster Triangle is a critical piece in taking back control of your marketing pipeline, getting more direct bookings, and developing loyal and raving guests/fans. Through the three points of the triangle, you’re able to deepen relationships with past and current guests allowing you to increase your cash flow and turn first-time guests into repeat customers who invite their friends to join them.

 

Relationship Booster Triangle

The Relationship Booster Triangle combines three essential elements of direct marketing to cultivate, communicate, and curate a relationship with past guests that will result in long-term financial gain:

Relationship Booster Triangle Graphic

  • unique message/strong offer: delivers a limited-time incentive to book a reservation or make a purchase OR shares a strong emotional connection
  • email marketing: provides an avenue for regular relevant communication with pasts guests and individuals interested in your property
  • social boomerang ads: identifies guests’ engagement through emails and website visits to serve relevant ads related to your current promotions/offers

The regular implementation of this integrated hospitality marketing strategy helps lodging properties cultivate relationships built on trust that will result in a loyal and raving audience of guests.

→ Get the 21 Point Checklist for the Relationship Booster Triangle. A blueprint guide to implement this method for your property. Sign Up Here.

The Wrong Way to Market

Most lodging properties start backward with their marketing and communication. They focus on attracting new people instead of continuously reaching and delighting their past and current guests.

Think about your local cable company. They are frequently running promotions to get people to “switch and save” by ditching their old company and signing a contract with them. But what about the customers they already have?

Loyal customers aren’t getting their attention – in fact, they’re getting the leftover scraps. Instead of being offered discounts for their loyalty and repeat business, cable customers frequently experience their bills getting higher and higher every month. The longer you’re with a cable company, the higher your bill becomes.

It’s no wonder people are willing to jump ship so frequently within the cable industry!

Most businesses aren’t as obvious as the cable company, but most marketing and communication efforts are aimed at the acquisition of new customers rather than repeat business. They’re not looking to build relationships with the customers they already have – they’re just looking for new faces to try and win over.

Your Most Valuable Guest

Your past guests are your most valuable commodity as a lodging property owner.

Let me repeat that in a different way… your best future guests are your past guests.

Your best future guests are your past guests.

☑ These guests have already made the choice to stay with you.
☑ These guests have already given your their money at least one time.
☑ These guests have traveled to your property and enjoyed the unique offerings you provide.

You own a lodging property to delight your guests, right? It turns out that doing that (delighting your guests) with your marketing is the key to your property’s long-term success.

In fact, there are three potential guests you should be trying to reach:

3 Best Customer Groups Graphic

  1. past guests
  2. individuals influenced by past guests feedback & reviews
  3. individuals directly searching for your services

Delighting your past guests with your marketing is the key to your property’s long-term success.

Introducing Christopher Place Resort

On the outskirts of Gatlinburg & Sevierville in Tennessee (an area known for its year-round tourism), Christopher Place Resort is an upscale intimate resort in the Smoky Mountains, making it an ideal getaway for couples and business travelers.

While they’re conveniently located, yet tucked away offering a quiet retreat, they can’t just coast off the vast numbers of people coming to the busy tourist area.

The independent owners of Christopher Place Resort purchased the property after having been married on it. They’ve since invested a great deal into the property, making it what it is today.

Choosing to focus on direct bookings instead of OTAs, Christopher Place understands the lifetime value of reaching and delighting their past guests:

  • Reaching people directly to build their business
  • Maintaining control and not needing to rely on OTAs, big events in the area, or other intermittent referrals
  • Building and maintaining an asset they could enjoy for years to come
  • Building a relationship with their guests over the long haul

They enjoy their business more having loyal guests, and it’s a better model for their long-term business success.

Christopher Place understands the lifetime value of reaching and delighting their past guests for long-term business success.

Communication That Builds Relationships

Let’s imagine you are communicating with your partner. Now we all know that there are many things that have to be communicated about day in and day out. 

Schedules. Menus. Birthday parties. Gatherings. In short, logistics. 

But you also know that there needs to be relationship-building communication if you want to, well, build your relationship. Share what you’re learning, sharing memories, building dreams. 

Without that relationship-building communication, your relationship won’t grow. 

That’s also true for your past guests.

If you are only talking to them about logistics – opening for the season, letting them know about a special or a remodel, you aren’t having relationship-building conversations. 

But if you invite them to dream with you, share their memories with you, let them know what cool thing you’re working on in the kitchen or to make their stay more comfortable, well, now that’s another story. 

This kind of communication takes work. It takes planning. It takes thoughtfulness and intentionality. 

And it will grow your business because you will turn your past guests into a raving, loyal fan base who not only can’t wait to get back but haven’t stopped telling people about since they left. 

This is not a monthly email or newsletter. This is a way to communicate and build relationship with the people who are most likely to come again and again. 

Invite them to dream with you, share their memories with you, let them know what cool thing you’re working on in the kitchen or to make their stay more comfortable – now that’s relationship building communication. 

 

Crafting an Exceptional Story

If you’re always selling and never sharing, you’ll quickly lose your audience and your past guests will tune you out. Combining your inn’s unique setting with each individual’s personal story is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reaching and delighting your guests

When Christopher Place Resort hired us to handle their direct marketing, we helped them to plug their property into the Relationship Booster Triangle. One of the ways we did this was to help them craft an exceptional story highlighting their guest as the hero and themselves as the guide.

We crafted emails showcasing their unique property and location while highlighting the benefits for their guests:

  • property specifically designed for guest’s privacy and comfort
  • offers designed to meet guest’s travel needs
  • best times and events for guests to travel to the area
  • experiences in the area for guests to enjoy

In addition to sharing how their property and the surrounding area could help their guests be the hero of their getaway, we showcased past guests’ reviews to deepen trust and provide value.

Share Your Story

Consistently reaching and delighting past guests through email keeps your relationship fresh in their minds when they want to travel. If you are regularly sharing your story with them and inviting them to be a part of your story, they will be eager to return to your property and share your property with their friends.

If you are regularly sharing your story with past guests and inviting them to be a part of your story, they will be eager to return to your property and share your property with their friends.

Reach Them Where They Are

Direct marketing of past guests not only keeps you front-of-mind, but it’s also one of the most effective strategies for creating loyal, raving fans who will return to your property and tell others about you:

  • control over the message, means, and mode of communication
  • cost-effective communication (reaching those who have already expressed interest)
  • targeted location of ad placement (where they spend time online)

Short-Term Gain or Lifetime Value?

Most lodging properties aren’t focused on a long-term relationship-building marketing strategy.

They’re missing out on the fully-stocked pond of hungry fish in their backyard and are fishing in a huge lake with just one or two lines in the water instead. They might get an occasional bite resulting in a short-term gain, but most of the fish they catch won’t feed them for more than a day or two.

Ocean Pond Side by Side Image

Contrast that to the lodging property who understands that their best future guests are their past guests.

Instead of being constantly focused on catching new leads, they’re cultivating relationships with their past guests, turning them into loyal, raving fans.

Instead of being constantly focused on catching new leads, they’re cultivating relationships with their past guests, turning them into loyal, raving fans.

Focusing on building a long-term relationship with your past guests is the best way to build a steady stream of income-producing, loyal fans. These past guests will come back time and time again, and they’ll tell all their friends to do the same.

Do the Math: Lifetime Value

Let’s say Mr. & Mrs. Smith came and stayed on your property for 2-nights at $350. That’s a short-term gain.

But what if you built a relationship with the Smiths through the Relationship Booster Triangle, and as a result, they returned annually for the next five years? That’s $1750.

What if they told all their friends about your property and two of their friends each booked a 2-night stay. That’s an additional $700.

And then you’re able to build a relationship with those guests through the Relationship Booster Triangle, resulting in multiple return visits and telling their friends about your property.

Can you see how reaching and delighting your past guests – people who already know, like, and trust you – can quickly add up and bring you new business?!?

That’s lifetime value.

More Than a Reservation

It’s important to note that the Relationship Booster Triangle marketing method isn’t just a sales tool. Through the regular implementation of this method, lodging properties are able to hold their guests’ hand through the entire getaway process – from dreaming, to booking, to staying, to raving.

Part of building a relationship with your guests is helping them to plan their vacation, not just their stay. Using quality, seasonal, curated, or inn-specific content that will help them dream is how you guide them to their unforgettable getaway.

One of the ways we’ve helped Christopher Place implement this strategy is through the careful curation of unique and timely articles.

Planning ahead is key as all inns have high, shoulder, and slow seasons. We encourage Christopher Place to think ahead when it comes to what they share with their guests. August is a key time to start sharing fall-themed content (such as color tours tips, fall festival dates, etc.) as guests are starting to dream about their upcoming fall getaways.

Waiting until October to share this content would be too late to encourage reservations and would result in a loss of bookings during this otherwise popular travel season.

Not every guest will make a reservation for this fall. That’s not the goal. The goal is to help them dream about the next time they visit in the fall. Maybe it’s this year. Maybe it’s next year. But either way, they’re picturing their next fall getaway with Christopher Place as the obvious choice for accommodations because of the relationship built over time.

Identify Your Pain Points

Christopher Place Resort has been a client of Red Oak Local’s integrated hospitality marketing service for several years, and when they identified times and seasons when reservations were down, they were able to utilize the Relationship Booster Triangle to rally their loyal and raving fans (aka past guests) to fill the gap.

Mid-Week Fall Getaway

As the summer months wane, travel to the Smoky Mountains tends towards the weekends, leaving gaps in mid-week reservations. Christopher Place identified mid-week reservations as a pain point, and they utilized the Relationship Booster Triangle to serve their past guests through a strong offer, email marketing, and boomerang ads.

  • unique message/strong offer: Mid-Week Fall Getaway (discount on 2+ nights stays during the fall months, Sun-Thurs)
  • email marketing: a combination of sales copy and relevant content spread over the course of a month
  • social boomerang ads: retargeting ads on Facebook and Instagram using tracking pixels and email addresses to keep the offer popping up in front of past guests and interested individuals

The emails and ads didn’t do a hard-sell to unfamiliar individuals. Instead, the emails and ads were targeted to reach past guests and their friends and were crafted in such a way as to invite them to dream about a mid-week fall getaway to the Smoky Mountains.

The sales copy was enticing without undercutting the value of the resort (save when you stay during the week), and the relevant content provided additional ideas of things to do in the Smoky Mountains during the fall months (including color tours, places to hike, best restaurants in the area, etc.).

Holiday Gift Card Offer

The winter months are another slower season for Christopher Place Resort. In general, people travel less during this time of year, so cash flow tends to slow down. Christopher Place Resort wanted to find a way to increase their cash flow while recognizing the reality that their reservations would likely stay lower.

They decided to utilize the Relationship Booster Triangle to reach their past guests with a holiday gift card offer. This offer was promoted during the holiday shopping season – from Black Friday to Christmas – inviting past guests to purchase gift cards to be redeemed the following year.

  • unique message/strong offer: additional % added to the value of each gift card purchased when redeemed by the end of the following year
  • email marketing: a series of four emails throughout the promotional period, from soft to hard sell, including additional relevant content to entice recipients to open
  • social boomerang ads: retargeting ads on Facebook and Instagram using tracking pixels and email addresses to keep the offer popping up in front of past guests and interested individuals

Through the emails and ads, we encouraged past guests to dream about the year ahead – would they be making another trip to stay at Christopher Place? With whom could they share a Christopher Place experience through the gift of a partially or fully funded stay?

As the promotional period progressed, the sales language in the emails and ads turned from “let’s dream” to “don’t miss out,” creating a sense of urgency and limited-time value.

→ Get the 21 Point Checklist for the Relationship Booster Triangle. A blueprint guide to implement this method for your property. Sign Up Here.

Here’s an overview look of one of our Triangle playbooks that we execute over the course of a month:

Pitfalls to Avoid

While I highly recommend regular implementation of the Relationship Booster Triangle, there are a few common pitfalls I’ve seen lodging properties fall into when attempting to do so:

  • over diluting their brand by pushing specials or offers all the time – highlight one strong offer at a time and rotate emotional connections with offers over time
  • never offering a special, or making your special offer too complex and causing confusion – keep offers simple and easy to understand and redeem
  • being stingy with an offer – guests value generosity and will reciprocate in kind
  • only communicating with specials and/or sales copy – relationships are built through a continuous cycle of communication

Not One-and-Done

Utilizing the Relationship Booster Triangle is not a one-and-done deal. The true benefit of this marketing strategy for small lodging properties is in the consistent implementation of communicating well with your past guests.

If you devalue your past guests to reach new potential guests, you won’t build a loyal and raving fan base. If you constantly offer “the best deal ever,” you devalue your property, and you lose the trust of your guests – past, present, and future. If you only communicate when you have an offer, your guests won’t care.

As I’ve sad before, delighting your past guests with your marketing is the key to your property’s long-term success. And that takes consistent communication over the long haul.

What Now?

Just as you provide an exceptional service and experience for your guests, we provide an exceptional service and experience for our clients. We come alongside lodging properties like yours to free them up to focus on what they’re amazing at – crafting an exceptional guest experience.

Let us help you take it up a notch with our Action List:

  1. Download the free 21 Point Relationship Booster Triangle Checklist & evaluate your current communication strategy.
  2. Schedule your free strategy call and we’ll help you develop a customized plan for your property to help you enhance your marketing strategy and better connect with your best future guests.
  3. If you’re ready to make the next step in your online marketing and implement the Relationship Booster Triangle, we are here to help you build relationships with long-term value. Please reach out to us directly to get started.

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