Ben Franklin once said “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
Ever realize that if only a tiny percentage of your past guests (the ones you’ve already got “in the hand”) came back to stay with you even just once…
They would effectively be worth double the value of a fresh lead (or “two in the bush”)???
Well I did…
Back in December, I predicted 2014 would be “The Year Of Guest Loyalty“…
And in The 80/20 Rule Of Vacation Rental Marketing (which has been Tweeted some 125 times — I seriously have no idea how that happened) I argue that 80% of a successful vacation property’s business should come from 20% of its clients…
Past guests are a VALUABLE group of people!
Among others, here are a few reasons why I love the topic of guest loyalty so much:
Loyal guests are predictable: both your expectations of the guest AND their expectations of your property are perfectly optimized
Loyal guests cost nothing to maintain: unlike the cost (both time and money) of acquiring a new potential guest, a repeat guest costs next to nothing
Loyal guests are sensitive: since you have done business with the loyal guest before, owners and managers can be much more understanding and pleasant to deal with, a very comforting thing
Loyal guests do marketing for you: There’s nothing better than third party promotion, and loyal guests love to toot your horn in their own social circles
Now, if you’ve been operating your vacation rental for more than a year or so, chances are you have had a loyal guest and you know what I’m talking about.
And assuming everyone is on the same page about how wonderful repeat guests can be, I wanted to address 7 MORE keys to loyalty – in other words, a blueprint – or ways you can turn those one-time guests into life-long supporters:
1. Pass along information
Part of making past guests feel like friends is treating them like friends. And who hasn’t forwarded an interesting article, news brief, or photograph to friends they thought might enjoy it via email? Simply load up your email marketing campaign with up-to-the-minute links or tid-bits when relevant. Share stuff and keep the relationship rollin!
2. Turn the traditional sales funnel upside down
Most people view the sales funnel upright (lots of leads funneled into a few loyal clients), but in order to really build loyalty, you’ve also gotta turn it upside down. That means once you’ve captured a happy guest, you must open your arms, broaden your offers, and expand your horizons to give them plenty of room to connect.
3. Keep them along for the ride with a story
The road to building guest loyalty is paved through the town of Storytelling. Learn to stockpile funny, interesting, or inspiring stories about your vacation rental (or area) to establish personality, trust, and front of mine awareness. Sign up for my Free Storytelling Course here and get 5 brief emails with all my secrets.
4. Solicit their feedback
There is no more powerful way to tie someone into your cause, than to have them actually take part in your cause. Ask former guests how you can improve, survey their opinions on that new Jacuzzi you’re gonna buy, take a poll as to what color the kitchen should be painted…etc. Those guest who contribute have gone the extra mile — they have proven their allegiance — and should be treated with white gloves.
5. Provide a reason to return
If you thought I was gonna recommend a “loyalty card” like the Marriott, you are wrong. It’s easy to say, “come back soon now, ya’hear!” But offering a concrete reason to return (apart from just a discount) is imperative to building that long-term relationship. In our case, it is to see how this stupid highway has progressed and to meet our new amazing employee Humberto. Maybe for you it’s soft shell crab season or a special festival or simply a new sunset deck!
6. Social Media
It’s rare that you hear me trumping social media on this blog, simply because – based on time budgeting – I have not found it to be as effective as other techniques. But social media can be leveraged when talking about brand loyalty and keeping in touch with your former guests. Start a Facebook page, Tweet, maybe even run a little promotion like the following suggested by my subscriber CJ Galbraith from Colorado Cabin Home:
“I plan to send an email to previous guests offering a Vacation Photo Contest. Send me your favorite shot from your vacation with us (giving us permission to use it, with credit, on our website and social media) and if your photo is one of the top 3, we’ll offer you an extra day gratis on your next booking. Besides the plus of having pictures of happy previous guests, or perhaps awesome nature photos that they took, it will get them looking through the photos, reliving the memories, etc.”
7. Show appreciation
It’s easy to forget that being appreciative is integral to guest loyalty. If you’ve ever felt that a business was into you just for the money, you’d most likely ditch them quick. So be grateful for their business, send hand-written notes, reminisce about their past vacation. Show that you care and they’ll show you allegiance in return.
Unsurprisingly, many of these business habits are true about life and relationships as well.
I’d like to ask all my subscribers to comment below if they have any good guest loyalty tips to share…