As the world reopens after the pandemic, many in the hospitality industry are faced with new challenges. Although some venues have been able to reopen at full capacity, others are in a holding pattern, while still others have had to temporarily close again. While the idea of returning to normal has great appeal, the reality is that normal has changed. So what does this new normal look like?
There are predictions and projections based on market trends and medical data, but truthfully, there is no singular, definitive picture of what the future holds. How can you plan when you don’t have all the answers? Quite simply, you plan to pivot.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it has made agile processes essential. It has also allowed us to really think outside the box, to find solutions we had never before considered. Prior to the pandemic, virtual events were a kitschy idea that only a few had tried and many quickly vetoed as too expensive, not feasible, or impractical. But now, everyone has hosted or attended at least one virtual event in the past year. And in the post-pandemic world, virtual events will continue to make regular appearances in our lives as hybrid events come into vogue. Together we took a seemingly impossible idea and made it accessible, and we did it because of the pandemic. And that brings us to the key to successful marketing in the post-COVID era: positivity.
The hospitality industry could have been completely gutted by the shutdowns and travel restrictions. All the previous plans for marketing, by necessity, were tossed aside. Marketing teams were staring into the void. With a blank whiteboard, there are two possible outlooks - “Oh no, we have to start over” and “Oh wow, we get to start over”. And the most successful brands know that the second mindset is imperative for growth and creativity. Once all the preconceived ideas were gone, marketers were given the freedom to really tap into their potential and create practicable solutions. So how can you take this newfound freedom and put it to work for your brand?
As seen in the example of the blank whiteboard, how you frame your words can make a huge difference in how your message is received. When advising customers of updated safety protocols or new state and local guidelines, choose your words carefully. Mask etiquette is a hot topic, and many are unsure of how to address it. Whatever your chosen policy is, make sure your intention is clear. For instance, instead of saying “Masks are not required”, consider language like “Masks are optional; however, for the safety of our staff and guests, we do recommend wearing your mask.” By using positive wording and being thoughtful in your communication, you can offer clear guidance for your customers. This can help prevent any confusion before it happens.
The idiom, “Expect the Unexpected” could certainly apply to the last 18 months, and to that, we add “Predict the Unpredictable”. By no means do we suggest having no plan and pinning all your marketing to a wing and a prayer. Quite the contrary, we know that planning is essential for business success. However, in these uncertain times, it’s important to have a malleable plan, one that can adjust course when needed while still striving for your overall goals. One of the best ways to ensure that your plan meets those qualifications is to be on the lookout for disruptions and stay open to change.
Change is inevitable, and seemingly much more frequent. By learning to ride the waves of change, your business is better able to survive the storm, instead of being knocked out by it. Embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. Test new ideas, track your findings, and test again. Use optimism to inform your planning. And don’t be afraid to go digital.
As we’ve seen with the explosion of virtual events, many people have expressed a desire to continue to attend in such a way. Providing your customers with a hybrid experience may be just the ticket to getting more people in the door. By sharing live music through Instagram Live, a summer concert series gets music to even more ears, gives the venue the opportunity to share the great experience, and encourages more people to check out the next event in person. Embracing digital tools can really help boost exposure and engagement for your brand.
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it also encourages creativity and thus innovation. More venues have come up with solutions during the pandemic that provide for the safety and comfort of their guests. Some hotels offer drone room service delivery, virtual event options, and remote check-in. Others have looked to expand their touchless technology, installing motion-detecting light switches, automatic opening trash receptacles, and contactless bathroom fixtures. While the overarching goal is to create an exceptional customer experience, many of these solutions would have seemed like something out of a sci-fi novel just a few years ago.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be creative. Listen to what your customers are saying and use the feedback as a springboard for your ideas. Learn your state and local guidelines for safely reopening and let it inspire your own protocols. Tap into technology when you can and find new ways to tackle your concerns.By embracing your creativity, you give yourself, your team, and your brand permission to flourish.
We don’t know what the next year will bring. But we do know that brands will be more agile, more responsive, and more creative than ever before. While it’s easy to focus on all the negative aspects of the pandemic, the resilience we have witnessed continues to amaze us. So, be clear, adapt when needed, and most importantly, thrive.
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