How to Define a Hotel USP

Before starting to design a campaign, a website, an ad or even a sales pitch you need to know why anyone would want to stay at the hotel. 

As hoteliers we imagine great marketing slogans, many of them incredibly clever to sell what we think is unique and would sell the hotel.

However there are two major faults in that thinking, the first is that clever doesn’t sell the second is that unique is subjective.

Trying to write a clever slogan feels great, but in many cases, in fact in most cases, when we’re writing those clever slogans we’re mostly writing them for ourselves. Your guests don’t book because of a clever tag-line. An honest fact that conveys the experience is a lot more than a clever tag line. 

About being unique, of course USP is about unique, but what is unique? Well that depends on viewpoints. You can be unique in your street, in your city or even for a category.

So while determining one’s USP isn’t necessarily a complicated task, it is a crucial task.

Every hotel needs to discover what is unique about them and promote that in their marketing and advertising efforts. It’s true to independent hotels, for hotel chains, for individual hotels within a chain and all the way to an inn or bed and breakfast.

Before taking on a hotel for which we will do the marketing and before starting any campaign we do a thorough study of the hotel to determine its unique selling point(s). Several factors get studied for this, however to the amazement of many of our customers we’re often looking outside the hotel.

Typically one thinks of USPs by comparing oneself against the competition or hotels around one’s own. If there is a more modern decoration the hotelier will tend to think of that as the USP. If the interior design was done by a famous designer many a hotelier will choose that as the USP. But there is something that is often omitted when working out a USP and that’s customer perception. 

CUSTOMER PERCEPTION

All your marketing and advertising needs to appeal to end users and not all end users – it needs to appeal to the people who would like to come to your hotel. What you need to take into account when you are working out your USP is what do your guests see and feel?

Trying to figure out your USP by just walking around the hotel and looking is better than trying to do it from behind your desk and thinking. But working out a successful USP means talking to people and finding out how they experienced the hotel.

Customer perception means going out to hear what the customers experienced and understanding what their views are on the subject. It’s not something one thinks up, it is understood by listening to guests and letting them speak.

A BENEFIT TO WHOM?

If one can understand properly who is to benefit from the USP one will have understood everything.

A USP needs to be something that will personally affect the life of the end-user. Not esoterically, not in some far-fetched way but right here and now. It’s got to do something for the future guest personally to improve his life now.

A USP must be something that will personally benefit the guest. It will either save them money, save them time or make their lives better.

COMMON MISTAKES

The biggest mistake we’ve seen in working out the USP is to forget that it has to be something that the guest will benefit from.

Using a historical fact as a USP. That Oscar Wilde lived in this hotel is not much of a USP because it doesn’t show much benefit to the person.
Focusing on interior design elements. Mentioning LED lighting or other fancy technology features as a USP doesn’t help understand the comfort.
Using the decoration theme as USP. That the hotel is decorated based on Marilyn Monroe or after the theme of cars is nice but the guest isn’t staying there to watch the theme.

KEY ELEMENTS OF A USP

There are three factors that determine a hotel’s USP and only three.

  1. Location.
  2. Comfort.
  3. Value.

A good USP integrates all three elements to form a clear concept of the hotel. If you are unique (and positively so) on all three points your USP is perfect. But that’s rare (in fact so rare if this is the case you don’t need any marketing at all). You’ll often find one of these points is totally unique and the other two are passable. It can happen that only one is great and the other two are not good at all, then put all your focus on what’s great as that could be enough to drive people to your hotel. 

Let’s go over these three points a bit more.

LOCATION

With your location you are telling the future guest that your hotel is going to save them time if you are not in the city center then show them how easy it is to reach the city center from your hotel. If there’s a direct subway line to the city center or other point of interest then use it to your advantage. If you’re just too far from anything of interest then you can still use it to your advantage but we’ll cover that in the other points.

COMFORT

The decoration and interior design fits in there. But remember you need to tell your future guest how they will personally benefit from it. Essentially you need to tell them how it will make their life better. Ultra comfortable beds in a luxury setting, 24 hour service, voted the friendliest staff in the city are all great ways to take advantage of comfort. However pictures say a lot about comfort and large images of the rooms and the comfort will do more than many words.

VALUE

This doesn’t need too much explanation. Is your hotel going to save them money? That doesn’t mean you’re going to only be cheap, it means that you could be the best value money can buy – while still having a high average daily rate. Remember that it’s about customer perception and that’s not necessarily objective. Here’s where a bad location can be an advantage, your hotel may not be in the city center but because it’s a bit further away it’s cheaper for a much better quality. Just like the classic ad campaign by Avis “We’re only number two but we try harder.” A hotel can use its negative position as an advantage in comfort and value.

SUMMARY AND HOTEL USPS

Everybody needs a USP – because guests aren’t interested in staying somewhere that isn’t the best nor the cheapest. As hoteliers and marketers it’s your job to find out where you are the best and how you are the cheapest in a particular sector.

But don’t sit and think! Go out and look, talk to people and read their comments. Once you’ve figured out your USP the rest of your marketing campaign will be a lot easier to execute.

Martin Soler