Dare to Be Different

“You can differentiate on anything… but you must differentiate on something!” states Bonnie J. Knutson, Professor at Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business with work featured in industry publications as well as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN and NPR.

Online, most hotels appear undifferentiated to travel shoppers who want to know: what makes one hotel in their consideration set different or better than the other comparables?

“In a business environment filled with countless competing hotel brands, the only way you can really win big is by making an emotional connection with your guests. In other words, you have to capture their hearts. Lists of features and benefits alone cannot differentiate your brand and drive revenues anymore,” says Knutson.

Take Kimpton Hotels and Resorts, for example; their “Hosted Evening Wine Hour” is just one of their “feel-good amenities” that differentiates their trendy hotels from comparables. At the end of every day, each hotel’s General Manager offers guests a delicious glass of wine – a tradition started by Bill Kimpton back in 1981 when he made a point of greeting everyone with a glass of wine at the end of every day. The guests love it – check TripAdvisor!

“Consumers of the 21st Century are less motivated by the products and services than in the social links and identities that come with buying them,” states Knutson.

Starting in February this year, Kimpton introduced their “Wines That Care” selection featuring a different socially- responsible winery each month. Kimpton’s wine hour isn’t just any old wine hour; it’s one that supports a good cause – environmental preservation and sustainability. Cheers to that!

Like Knutson says, it’s not the lists of features and benefits your hotel offers, it’s the feel-good services and amenities that differentiate one hotel from another and make the emotional connection needed not only to win guests over, but to keep them coming back for more.

What are you differentiating on? Maybe it isn’t a socially-responsible wine hour… it can be anything, but it must be something. The possibilities are endless. Identifying your points of differentiation is the first step to better merchandising your hotel online.

Source: Knutson, Bonnie, Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU, Make Your Guest a Member of Your Hotel’s Tribe.

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