Hot Lessons from Hotel Lobbies

Adele Revella

Have you ever spent time browsing the racks of promotional pamphlets that litter the lobbies of lower-priced hotels? Every possible option is arrayed before you, but unless you’re especially committed to the search, it’s hard to justify scanning them all just to find one option you’d care to consider.

Stay in a slightly better hotel, and these same brochures are concealed behind a desk where a clerk can grab those that answer your general request. This is only a marginal improvement, since you’re still expected to glean the answer from the same generic brochures.

Ah, but if you’ve ever stayed at an exceptionally nice hotel, you may have been lucky enough to encounter a knowledgeable concierge who, after asking a few insightful questions about your goals for sight-seeing, dining or shopping, makes a recommendation perfectly tailored to your needs.

Sales and marketing professionals who want to personalize interactions with each of their buyer personas would do well to hang around this concierge desk for an hour or two. Watch for guests’ reactions when this expert asks a few simple questions about their expectations and responds with a simple and concise recommendation. Notice the way the concierge communicates only the facts related to a particular question, concern or priority expressed by each guest.

Then consider the power this hotel has over guests’ buying decisions by eliminating their perceived risk of making the wrong choice. A helpful concierge offers a number of useful lessons about earning the buyer’s trust and speeding them on their way to a buying decision.

Traditional market segmentation is dead; long live the buyer persona. The hotel doesn’t assume that guests of a certain age, gender or other demographic attribute will all want to visit the same restaurant or attend the same events. Instead, the concierge’s responses are based on just a few questions about the guest’s desired outcomes, concerns and decision criteria. These facts are precisely what the hotel needs to respond with a message that resonates with the guests and inspires them to take action.

This is why companies need insight into their target market’s mindset about the buying decision they want to influence, and why it is not helpful to simply profile buyers based on who they are.

Too much content causes confusion, and confused people don’t buy anything. As seen in the hotels stocked with pamphlets about every possible attraction, when people are presented with too many choices, the need to consider all of them introduces risk and friction into the sales cycle.

Companies need to ensure that only a few of the most desirable options are presented to the buyer, which has the surprising added benefit of reducing the amount of content and sales tools their teams need to build and manage.

Insight into your buyer’s expectations is a powerful competitive advantage. Even if you don’t work for a restaurant or theme park, I’m sure you can imagine the challenge of producing a pamphlet that would stand out on those lobby racks. This isn’t all that different from trying to produce the most beautiful website or the most persuasive messaging for your website, demand generation programs and sales plays.

But when you have insight into to your buyer’s specific expectations, you know how to respond with messages your buyers want to hear, immediately distinguishing yourself from the pack (or the rack of brochures).

At every step in your buyer’s journey, they look for answers that will clear up their confusion and guide them to a low risk, effective solution. If your sales pitch or marketing campaigns are targeted to your buyer’s job title, company size or industry, consider the alternative: thinking like a concierge might be the best way to earn your buyer’s trust.  

Adele Revella is CEO of Buyer Persona Institute and the author of “Buyer Personas” (Wiley 2015), which was named a top-five business book of the year by Fortune magazine. Follow her on Twitter @buyerpersona.