Monday 14 October 2013

How to Create Great 'Brand Positioning" for your Hostel

What does this mean? Well, your brand is not your product (in this case your hostel) – it is the perception of your product. So, you need to identify how you want people to see your product before you start your marketing campaign. Then you can work out effective and fun ways to achieve this.

The first step to creating your ‘brand positioning’ is to create a ‘Statement’. This means a lot of brainstorming, honesty about what your unique value and proposition are, and get all your team’s ideas together. Put together a list of everything that is important for your business, your team, for you and your customer. Synthesize your results to include everyone’s point of view, give it a couple of days to think about it, then come back and decide your ‘Statement’.

When you have all the information in front of you – it should read like this:
- Your Target Market
- Definition of the market you are in
- Your Brand Promise
- Reason to Believe (RTB) the brand promise

This sounds simple – your market is backpackers, the age range and demographic is mostly open, and you’re offering a place to stay that is hopefully safe, fun, friendly, clean and good value for money. And your reviews, ratings and testimonials on your website and social sites provide the Reason to Believe.

What are you really selling?
You and your competitors are all selling beds – but ultimately, what is the experience you are selling? What do you really offer that is different from other hostels? Is your demographic really ‘everyone’? Who are you targeting? What nationalities are you promoting to? What translations do you have on your website? Do you encourage group bookings? What are you known for? What activities do you offer or can you recommend? You must work out all of these things before you begin to market yourself. Also make sure you identify what you don’t want to be known as – if you’re a party hostel then make sure you tell people if they want to sleep, to stay somewhere else!

Stay focused. The more focused you are, the more individual and distinctive your brand will be.  Try to find your exact section of the market, your promise and one or two reasons why that promise is believable. Remember you are also positioning yourself against competitors, so make sure you have a good understanding of their positioning too.

Product Message
Once you have established your positioning, put together the following, and make sure everyone in your team knows about it:

- Key Statements:  your benefits/unique selling points in a couple of key statements. These will be repeated      like mantras in all your marketing.
- Differentiators:  In marketing speak – what makes you different from the rest?
- Positioning:  Make sure everyone knows what you want to be known as.
- 25 words:  This is one sentence about you that says it all.

Now you have you message and product identified, you can build your brand.

Build your Brand
Now you have created it, you have to make sure you use it. This means keeping your brand identity ‘true’ (don’t stretch your logo!) and populate it across everything from your facebook to your invoices. This should be consistent – you will want it to look professional in everything you do, and to remain clearly identifiable. Read our article on ‘Building your Brand’ to see the checklist of what to do.

Manage your Brand
Once you have decided on your brand positioning, and have begun to build it, make sure you keep it well managed. Your “Reasons to believe” come in here, because your brand makes a ‘promise’ that the experience will be positive, and as you described. If you tell your customers you have an amazing party atmosphere and when they arrive you bar is under refurbishment, they will be disappointed. You need to manage expectations when they differ from your usual promise (such as when you are having renovations done etc.) and if something goes wrong, as it sometimes does, you have to recover your customers’ trust by managing the experience. Things can go wrong and you can still get a good review, but only if you manage it correctly. If you had a bad customer experience with a well known brand, you know they will respond to it immediately and try to gain your brand trust again – usually with discounts, exclusive offers or something free. Decide your standard protocol for dealing with complaints at front desk, online, through social networks, and make sure you send out consistent, positive responses to manage your brand.

Also, don’t forget that managing your brand is also a positive experience, not just crisis management! When you get positive reviews, thank the customer, share it on your website or social channels, and make sure the customer feels it was worth telling people. Good reviews and feedback from happy customers are your best friends, remember 51% of people follow friend’s recommendations when it comes to where to stay.  Your customer will feel more inclined to visit again, recommend you, read your email marketing rather than thinking it’s spam, and remember it as a positive customer experience, even after their visit! This is marketing gold dust, so don’t think the customer experience ends when at check-out. Find out more about Positive PR in our free article online.

Good Luck!

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