Sure you’re doing squats (right) but how’s your business shaping up for a COVID-heavy winter? Unlike fitness, there’s still time to build some meaningful burliness into your winter marketing for your ski-town business even though it’s November. This winter is gonna be busy with plenty of stir-crazy and anxiety ridden guests, so it pays to look further down the slope now.
Take Stock – Where is your business at?
Take one solid hour and make sure you know where your business is listed online. I’m talking website, yelp, OpenTable, Booking.com, Google My Business (for sure you’re on there whether you’ve claimed it or not) Tripadvisor. Go through each of them and read them over to make sure they’re not wildly inaccurate or misleading. For example, I just changed a restaurant’s dress code on OpenTable from “business casual” to casual because you can wear your ski boots inside. I also updated the hours and added a link to the current menu. Basic, but key.
Put links to your online profiles in ONE clickable place, like a spreadsheet or even a word doc, so you’ll faff around less next season.
Buckle down on your COVID communication plan
This winter will require you to quickly and clearly communicate changes in operations to your guests. Before you’re in crisis mode, choose the appropriate (and easiest) ways to communicate those changes to your guests. If your business is mostly advance reservations, see if you can export a list of emails for upcoming reservations from your reservation system, or at least have a plan in place for how you will contact your handwritten reservations (“I will call every single one over the phone”). If updating your website with COVID related information is too hard or confusing, make a COVID highlight on your Instagram profile or update your bio on the business’ Facebook page. At a minimum, try and keep it consistent with what you promised your community at the beginning of the season.
Set COVID-era expectations now by clearly telling guests what you know will be different this winter, and also where they can get updates throughout the season.
Keep the tone real AND positive when you can
Emphasize the good features of any changes to operations you make so people see the new value it offers. For example, the first draft of some ad copy for a restaurant said something like “we’ll be really busy so you need to make a reservation” but it missed the opportunity to sell people on the fact that the restaurant was now, for the first time, offering guests the convenience of reserving a table online.
Aim to show guests how their experience will be better thanks to your changes instead of leading with negativity
That said, if you need to pull the COVID card and shut down or alter operations significantly because you are experiencing personal tragedy (by your definition) go right ahead – if you’re fair to your guests and have kept them informed prior to this point, everyone will understand or else they’ll be a jerk, which probably means that they are experiencing their own kind of personal tragedy.
Give a lil’ something back to your community
It’s easy to think of the things that COVID has taken away, which is why it feels great for you and builds guest loyalty when you can find ways to give people a little extra. This is an exercise in creativity, and also knowing your guests, but look for opportunities to treat your guests in a way that’s affordable and supports your values and offsets the annoyance of COVID-related changes. For example, gift certificates to other local businesses instead of straight discounts, sharing joyful nuggets of news about your business every week on your social media stories (new pillows in the hotel? Adding art from a local photographer to the lobby?) is a good way to have new content that stands out because it’s positive and personal. Who knows, it might even be the year to start sending out a holiday message, whether it be through email or mail mail. Don’t be afraid to add actual value either, like upgrades and free good coffee in the lobby.
“Spark joy” in your guests wherever you can, whether it’s through uptempo posts or actual free stuff because times are hard