No one is oblivious to what is currently happening. Gyms, restaurants, schools, and events are closing or getting canceled left and right and people are not traveling. Small B&Bs to chain hotels to vacation rentals are all feeling the heat as we go through these challenging times. To be honest, we don’t have the answers. No one does. We don’t have a secret snake oil marketing technique to fix your occupancy numbers or a patented cure, but we thought that we could use this time to talk about the bigger picture and offer what advice we could give. We’re all in this together and we’re struggling with this at our company, which is also a small business. We’ve already taken steps to protect our team by implementing a work from home policy. On top of that, we’ve also taken steps to offer customers some relief by announcing some options directly to them today. It’s the least we can do as we navigate this crisis as well.
Personal Tips to Keeping Your SanityThings are scary right now and the uncertainty about the future is getting to most of us. The Odysys team has come together to share their tips to keep a healthy mindset and produce an environment of growth and productivity despite the current obstacles. We just wanted to share a couple of our tips. Stay positive – I know this is easier said than done, but this will get better. Limit your intake of news – I’ve found that just flat out ignoring social media has done wonders for my anxiety. But trust official health information sources like the CDC, your city/county/state official sites & accounts. Look after your neighbors – not just those next door but your community. Everyone is hurting from this, and donating time or even a couple cans of non-perishable goods can help us all get through this. Get outside if you can – With gyms closing a lot of people are missing out of their exercise routines. Public lands are our saving grace during this period of time. My wife and I have been going to the park down the street, going for walks – there are all sorts of people outside enjoying the weather in Portland. Walking dogs, playing tennis, running the track, etc. The grass is still growing, my allergies can attest to the fact that the trees are still blooming, etc. Spring cleaning/DIY projects/interior design – Take up a new hobby. Learn how to knit, play guitar, take up an interest in birding, take an online class to learn a new skill, practice yoga, paint. Clean your house and get all of those hard to get spots. You know; behind the refrigerator, tops of the cabinets, you know. Take advantage of this time – Work on your brand, work on your website, write those blog posts you’ve been putting off, create those ideal guest personas, figure out why you’re in business and look to that motivation to figure out what exactly you can during this time to exemplify your brand. For those who want to spend time working on their marketing – I’d like to offer up the Odysys Academy to any and all properties in our industry. This content is typically only available to customers. It is a roadmap to driving direct bookings to your property. It is essentially a collection of lessons. This is now available to you whether or not you are an Odysys customer. We will make this content available free of charge through the month of April: [updated: I stated April 1 in the podcast but decided to extend already] Get access to Odysys Academy at https://odysys.com/academy Marketing & branding may feel like a dirty subject in a time like this. But hear me out. Now is the time to focus on your brand. Now is the time to be a leader for your staff, your partners, your peers, and your community. As the crisis runs its course, it is important to remember your brand values in the face of pressure. Now is the time to think long-term about your marketing. Promotions & deals will likely be ineffective in the short term. You can’t reach a market that’s locked inside and panic scrolling social media or obsessively watching the news and convince them to come and stay at your property right now. Likewise – don’t start discounting your rates to unsustainable levels. Rates are not the issue right now. That’s not why people are not traveling. This isn’t the right lever to pull or dial to turn. Sooner or later this crisis will pass – hopefully, sooner than later – and guests will start to return. After being denied the activities they love – travel, experiences, restaurants, culture, social interaction – they may even come out in droves. So how do you invest in your brand in these times? How do you prepare for a return to business when you don’t know when that’s going to be? These are big questions and uncertain times indeed. One thing is certain – great brands build equity during a crisis like this. Stand out by exemplifying your brand values. Let’s just start with the practical stuff. Let’s be factual and not emotional right now. Let’s offer empathy without reinforcing panic.
1. Update your message, communicate to your list & social media and on your website:I believe the new reality is that cleanliness and healthy social distance has now entered the public consciousness to the point where the traveler will be hyper-aware of these items. Not just now – but in the future as well. Everyone is going to have coronavirus PTSD. Everyone is going to walk into a lodging property or conference or sporting event or conference and think to themselves: “How much coronavirus is in here? Is it really all gone?” So first – you’ve got to showcase your commitment to cleanliness. Give them the nitty (not so) gritty details about cleaning your inn. Stuff that most guests would be bored reading before the outbreaks. Highlight your cleaning standards. Give out name brands of disinfectants used and go into detail about how often you clean. If you sanitize your whirlpool tubs after every use with a special high-quality cleaner, make note of it. If you have them, highlight your property’s options or amenities that meet social distance guidelines like ingress/egress that doesn’t involve common areas. Highlight Your Social Distancing Measures. Do you have cabins or camping options on your property? Is your property on a large amount of land where people can be alone and appreciate nature? Are you accomodating guests by serving breakfast delivered to rooms instead of in the dining hall? Have you placed alternative check-in procedures that don’t require close contact? These are great examples of options for traveling and maintaining social distance. Updated Policies. Don’t punish guests for cancellations. Make it easy/free to rebook for a later date or to exchange for a gift certificate. Reward this behavior. Lift deadlines & restrictions as you can, emphasize direct booking, etc.
2. As a hospitality brand – promote travel, wellness, and supporting your community.Encourage travel & getting out – This is in your lane, even if it doesn’t drive business to your property. There are ways to responsibly travel & practice social distance right now. People will want to get out of their houses and change things up. Be charitable– if one of your values is to be involved in the community, use some of this time to help out. This might mean different things to different people. That may mean offering rooms to folks that need to isolate themselves or making food and coffee for those working at hospitals. Offer Gift Certificates- Offer a 10% discount on gift certificates right now. People pay $90 and get a $100 gift card to your inn to use at a later time. Guests are happy with their discount and stay, and you have some incoming cash to float you in the meantime. Perhaps get together with other local businesses you partner with or your local chamber/association to create a page or an entire website for purchasing gift cards for local businesses. Your fellow businesses can post a link to their gift card page and you can all promote it to your lists/social accounts/local media together. Get Creative With Promotions-I had a friend pack up his entire family and take them to the coast this week so his kids wouldn’t be tempted to go to friend’s houses, to get away from the madness, to tune out, etc. If you have a way to offer peace of mind to guests – this may be it. Other people are being told to work from home, offer for them to work remotely at your inn with a Work Remotely Staycation Rate.
3. Communicate your plans- let your guests know what is going on in your world and how you’re doingYour Website- Creating and linking to a blog post from various places on your site is a simple way to post an update or create a Covid FAQ page. Your email list- Send your update to your email list. If you’ve ever talked to me about marketing or been to one of my webinars, you’ll know I’m a big advocate for building your email list and sending out monthly newsletters. It’s times like these where that approach can pay off. Email is your best pipeline to communicate with your fans, followers, past and future guests. A one-off email is appropriate in this situation but other than that, don’t overwhelm your list. Stick to your monthly cadence. Your social media accounts– Weekly updates are fine. Don’t be promotional right now. Focus on information, updates, and promoting travel, wellness and your community. Share inspirational posts, funny videos to make people laugh, or maybe even share your newly found talents with your subscribers. Your associations & local media- There’s power in numbers. There are stories to tell. Work with your DMO’s, associations, chambers etc to promote healthy travel.
4. Helpful Resources- some tips on maintaining healthy spaces, getting assistance, and how to weather the storm
- American Hotel & Lodging Association: ahla.com they have resources for members and some data. As a larger association, they’re also spearheading efforts to get assistance from the government. So hopefully some help/relief is on the way.
- US Small Business Administration: https://www.sba.gov/ – Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources
- Entrepreneur.com: There’s a webinar (March 19) Weathering the Storm as a Small-Business Owner https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/347684
- Association of Lodging Professionals: Has a resources section and posted a Webinar recording “What ALP is doing and what your property can do in the face of COVID 19” https://paii.wildapricot.org/Covid-19
- Legal advice from FisherPhillips “8-Point Plan For Restaurant And Hospitality Employers During The COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak”: https://www.fisherphillips.com/resources-alerts-8-point-plan-for-restaurant-and-hospitality
- Independent Lodging Conference Resources for Hospitality & Small Business Impacted by COVID-19: https://ilcongress.com/resources-hospitality-small-businesses-impacted-by-covid-19
- Destination Development Association: Webinar – “What to do immediately to help save your tourism industry, and downtown businesses” https://www.destinationdevelopment.org/
- eHotelier Free Course: Coronavirus Awareness for Hoteliers: https://academy.ehotelier.com/coronavirus-awareness/