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Wednesday Wisdom: Everything You Need to Know About Group Guest Personas

Building effective marketing strategies for select-service hotel has become harder than ever. Guests are expecting more personalized and custom-tailored experiences every day, and sharing their thoughts on social media when they love (or hate!) their stays. Personalizing experiences for your guests is hard enough, but for group bookings there is the added challenge of appealing to a wide range of people within the group.

In order to keep up, hotels are facing a need to utilize technology that lets them efficiently segment customers and provide better guest experiences. With the right tools and targeting, hotels can effectively create custom experiences tailored to the audience.

In order to understand how to best approach potential clientele, hotel managers have taken to building data-based models of their hypothetical guests in an attempt to better understand who their guests are and how to best advertise to them. These guest personas allow hotels to craft custom marketing strategies and guest experiences for the groups that matter most to their business.

What is a hotel guest persona?

While it may sound complicated, a guest persona is simply a set of fictional character biographies created as archetypes of different target guest groups. This means that a persona is not attempting to represent an individual guest or individual user; they’re the result of analysing data and insights from multiple guests or users that frequent your hotel.

A guest persona identifies segments of your business by common attributes. By identifying groups of travellers by attributes, you can then examine the standard guest journey (the life of the hotel stay from booking, through stay, to post-stay review) and optimize it for each segment. This will help you improve the guest experience, maximize revenue per guest, cultivate great reviews, and earn repeat group bookings.

Group Segmentation Workbook

Why do I need group guest personas?

Without robust guest personas, most hotels have one generalized marketing plan for all of their guests (or all groups, in the case of group sales and marketing). While it is helpful to have this plan, it is often too generalized to give hotels the information they need on how guests choose their hotel, what aspects of their stay are most important to them, and how to increase bookings. Creating a custom or personalized experience becomes almost impossible if you don’t have the data or personas to understand the audience you are trying to reach.

Forward-thinking marketers and hoteliers are finding ways to segment customers and build custom experiences around guests’ interests and preferences. This way, a business traveler meeting a client isn’t receiving the same activity recommendations as a family of five on vacation, and a large wedding party is getting a very different set of welcome emails than the weekend warrior in town for a marathon.

An ability to reach audiences with the right message, in the right place, at the right time enables you to make a strong impact and lasting impression. This goes beyond the general demographic information that might be included in your current marketing plan. It is of course helpful to know that your hotel’s most engaged audience on Twitter is women in their 20s. But, what we want to do is look beyond the statistics. We want to remember that we’re marketing to human beings, and with that comes an opportunity to understand what experiences make them tick, what motivates them, and where they seek inspiration and information that they trust.

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Begin with the research: Find the data to craft your personas 6 ways

The thought process behind creating a guest persona is quite simple. First, we’ll look at data sources like your website analytics, social media, and your group bookings CRM. Then we’ll add a story to that data with qualitative insights from your staff, guest reviews, and group planners. Lastly, we’ll put all of that information together into a format that marketers, owners, operators, and other stakeholders can use and understand.

1. Use Google Analytics

The analytics for your website contain a wealth of information about what drives interest in your property, how guests find your website, which referral links result in the most bookings with a given demographic, and which demographics tend to visit your hotel. This is more quantitative data, the numbers involved in the demographics of your guest personas.

If you have advertising features enabled you can focus on analysing demographic and interest reports filtered by conversion value and/or goal completions. This will help you identify any important demographic insights (age, location, gender and device used) specifically for the users who are actively engaged on your site or booking directly. The interest report will also provide you with your users’ affinity categories, showing other common interests of your users based on their browsing activity across the Google Display Network prior to visiting your site. This can help you identify complementary areas of interest which could help when targeting publications, or promoting certain activities.

2. Use Social Media Analytics

While you can’t isolate users on social media who have actually visited or intend to visit your property, looking at your following using social media analytics gives you a good demographic overview which you can compare with the insights you’ve gathered from your Google Analytics.

You can look at age information, location, and gender on most social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Additionally, Twitter will provide information on household income and various interest categories. While this data doesn’t provide a complete picture of your guests, it does begin to give you an idea of the types of guests that you might want to include in your personas.

3. Pull Group CRM Data

Your Sales and Catering Group CRM contains a goldmine of information about group stays at your property. Analyzing your CRM data can show you trends that you might otherwise not have noticed. For instance, maybe a lot of the sports teams that stay with you come from one area of the country. Or maybe your business groups tend to all be from one field or industry. Looking for threads of a story in your CRM will help add a bit more detail to the personas you have begun to develop with your Google Analytics and social media data.

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4. Talk to staff

Your staff are talking to guests and helping them with their stays every day. They are a tremendous source of helpful information when developing your guest personas. Whether compliments or complaints, your guests’ feedback is a great starting point to guide you in understanding guest behavior. Staff will notice the more qualitative side of your guests’ personas, like their behaviors, motivations, and frustrations. Make sure your staff understand that you are asking about the guests in order to understand them as a whole, and that you’ll need to know both the positive and negative things they say in order to get an accurate picture.

5. Analyze Guest Reviews

Guest reviews are another great source of qualitative information, especially motivations and frustrations. Look for emotionally loaded phrases like, “I hate it when…” or “I love that…” to give you insights into the way that your guests think and the things that they value. Negative reviews are often more helpful than positive ones in this regard. While a positive review might just say, “we had a great stay” (not a lot of information), a negative review might point out specific things that the traveler had hoped for (i.e. “there was nowhere to charge my phone”). Try to pair these behaviors with the traveler archetypes you have begun to set up. For instance, look for all the reviews that mention a business trip, and then note the motivations and frustrations for those travelers in your “business traveler” persona.

6. Talk to Group Planners

For group travel, your best source of information will be event planners and other group organizers. These individuals can answer specific questions about why they chose they property, what benefits are most important to them, and frustrations they have had with other properties in the past. All of these answers can come up naturally in conversation, if you include it as part of your group sales process.

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Develop the profiles: 3 Elements of a powerful guest persona

Now that you have all the information about your guests, you will need to organize it into a format that your marketing and sales staff, operators, and hotel executives can all use. The standard format for one of these personas is a one-page profile, including a (usually fictitious) name, (usually fake) picture, a short bio, and the information you have gathered. Keep these tips in mind when you’re creating your personas:

  1. Start small – Start by identifying 2-4 personas. You can always create sub-personas later
  2. Remember, we’re not trying to represent every guest – Focus on typical traits, rather than trying to cover every group or guest that you’ve encountered 
  3. Don’t get too hung up on the usual labels – (e.g. Male vs Female, Millennials vs Baby Boomers,etc). You might find the best personas for your property span across these labels rather than be defined by them
  4. Remember personas are dynamic, not static – What you’re building here is a starting point, you should regularly revisit personas and use new insights to make necessary changes and keep them as relevant as possible

1. Purpose of Stay

The purpose of your group’s stay should be the main factor for segmenting them into personas. Those arriving for a wedding are naturally going to act very differently than a sports team, a family reunion, or a business conference.

2. Demographics – Age, Group Size, Travel Distance

Besides the obvious demographics of age, gender, and profession, you may want to include factors more specific to group bookings – group size, travel distance, and length of stay can all be important for understanding the group as a whole.

3. Behaviors, Motivations & Frustrations

Data will be very helpful for making your personas, but it only goes so far. The qualitative information you got from speaking to your staff and event planners, and from looking at guest reviews, will make the key difference between a generalized sketch and a fully fleshed-out guest persona. What behaviors do you notice among the group? What motivates them to stay at a particular hotel? What aspects of their stay are important to them, and which things are most frustrating when they go wrong? If you can begin to infer these things and craft a story for each persona, you are well on your way to having a better understanding of your group bookings and crafting a more personalized stay.

Now you’re ready to grow group bookings with a smart segmentation strategy.

Get access to a wealth of information about your group bookings with Social Tables’ Sales and Catering Group CRM software. Ready to use your personas to drive marketing and sales? Check out our tips on building a competitive advantage strategy for your brand.

Group Segmentation Workbook