If you want to continue successfully attracting, engaging with, and converting internet-savvy travelers in 2018, you have to be willing to invest in marketing strategies and tactics that you haven’t tried before.

The truth is, online consumers are getting tired of the way that companies and brands have been marketing and selling to them over the past two, three, and even ten years. The internet has become a crowded place in the past decade, and too many brands are using the same tactics to reach and connect with the same audiences in the same places. As a property manager, it’s up to you to convince travelers that you’re different from everyone else, that you understand their problems and interests better than everyone else, that you care more than anyone else, and that what you’re offering is better than what they can get anywhere else.

One of the best ways to cut through the noise and attract new prospective guests this year is by putting the time, planning, and money into crafting and sharing original, compelling stories for your target audience to find and consume. It’s a marketing strategy that more brands across every industry attempted in 2017 in order to stand out and get ahead, and it’s one that more companies will consider testing in the year ahead.

The problem is, storytelling is a pretty broad subject. There’s a lot of content out there that can help you understand how to tell stories and determine what makes a great story, but what you need is a clear and actionable guide that will help you understand how to leverage storytelling to achieve goals that relate specifically to your business, your audience, and your industry.

This blog post will help teach you how to use storytelling to connect with more travelers, drive more online reservations, and grow your business in 2018.

How Storytelling Can Help Your Business

In 2018, travelers don’t want you to sell them on your accommodations, amenities, and property features—instead, they want you to sell them on the unique experiences you have to offer—experiences that they won’t be able to get staying anywhere else.

That’s where storytelling comes into play. In addition to continuing to invest in the effective marketing tactics and strategies you’ve been using to successfully drive traffic to your website, capture leads, and boost online reservations, you should also be crafting and sharing more stories in 2018.

Why is storytelling so useful for businesses in the travel/hospitality today? Here are a handful of reasons:

  • Stories grab attention. As mentioned, the internet is a noisy place. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are flooded with identical and formulaic updates from brands and businesses just like yours—all vying for the attention and money of the same audience. As a result, online consumers and social media users have become experts at scrolling past updates that they don’t think will be valuable enough to spend any time on. By creating and sharing more stories, you can present your target audience with content that they aren’t used to seeing.
  • Stories build trust. As the internet continues to become increasingly saturated by businesses and brands, online consumers are hungry to connect with authentic businesses that they can get to know and trust on a personal level. Storytelling-driven content forces you to focus less on selling and more on giving people a glimpse into the human side of your business. The more people trust you, the more they are willing to talk about you and book reservations with you.
  • Stories allow you connect on an emotional level. On a related note, storytelling also allows you to connect with people on an emotional level. Stories pull at the heartstrings and make it easier for people to relate and understand what your motivations are, what you care about, and why they personally should care. As a property manager, you don’t always have the opportunity to meet your guests before they decide whether to book a reservation with you. As such, it’s your job to use the tools and strategies you have at your disposal to connect with them and help them understand what makes you and your property special.
  • Stories spark conversation. Because social media sites are more crowded than ever before and content from brands looks so identical, consumers are spending less time engaging with the updates they see pop up from businesses and brands in their newsfeeds. Stories can help you pique interest and get people talking again. When engagement on your social media updates increase, your reach expands, and when your reach expands, more people look into who you are and what you have to offer.
  • Stories require extra creativity. Storytelling content is not easy to fake or replicate. It requires creativity, time, and planning. When you’re forced to be more creative, you’re forced to create more original, more interesting, and more effective content for your audience.
  • Stories can’t be easily replicated. Original stories are also harder to steal. An average blog post can be easily lifted, stolen, or replicated by your competitors. But stories are different because they usually relate specifically to your business, your guests, and your team.

Now that you know more of the “why” behind storytelling, it’s time to start digging more into the strategy and execution side of things.

How to Create Compelling Stories

As mentioned, creating storytelling content requires more creativity, more strategy, more involvement from other people, and more time. To ensure that you’re getting the most out of the resources and energy you put into your storytelling efforts, keep these recommendations in mind when creating compelling stories for your property:

Know your audience. First and foremost, take the time to understand who your audience is. Before coming up with story ideas, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my ideal guest (age, gender, location, hobbies, income, shopping preferences, etc.)?
  • What do they want from the brands and businesses they buy from?
  • What values and principles do they share?
  • Where do they consume content now?
  • What type of content would make the most sense for them (video, photo, text, email, blog post, social update, etc.)?
  • What are their interests, hobbies, and pain points?
  • What do they need to know in order to be convinced to book a reservation?

Find your characters. Every story needs a good character that the audience can follow along the way. As you think about creating more stories for your property, think about who the characters are that you could feature (ex. loyal guests, families, property owners, employees, local celebrities, etc.). Who would your audience be most interested in hearing from?

Develop themes. What kind of stories do you want to tell? More importantly, what kind of stories do your prospective guests want to consume? Do they want to read stories about families? Adventures? Relaxation? Entertainment? Think about the themes that you can bake into the stories you create for your audience.

Choose your format. How do you want to tell your stories? Do you want to focus on visual content (photos and videos)? Audio? Text-based? Think about what your audience would prefer, but also spend time thinking about what is most realistic for you and your team. Do you have the tools and equipment needed to create a video story, or would you be better off focusing on a Q&A-style blog post? Be realistic and choose a format that makes the most sense based on your capabilities.

Hire the right people. Think about who you know that could help you craft and promote your stories? Do you have access to a photographer or videographer? A writer? Someone who can reach out to and interview the people you want to feature in your stories? A big part of making your stories successful and effective will depend on your ability to assemble the right team.

Let the story unfold. When it’s time to actually create your story and interview the people you want to feature, have a general idea of the theme you want to follow, the questions you want to ask, and the story you ultimately shape, but don’t let it hinder the creative process. You may find an entirely new angle or stumble across a better theme when you sit down with the people you’re featuring. Don’t resist it. Let it happen. You’ll end up with more authentic and more compelling stories in the end.

Go above and beyond. Don’t try to fake storytelling. Don’t go through the motions and create something semi-interesting that you hope will help you achieve your goal of connecting with more people and boosting more reservations. Instead, go above and beyond. Make something magical. Feel confident that your story will capture the attention and hearts of your audience and drive them to take the actions you want them to take.

Resist the temptation to sell. Finally, resist the temptation to sell. Your stories should be used to drive reservations, but your audience shouldn’t feel like your content is overly or forcibly promotional. Focus on the value above all else, and the sales will follow.

Now that you know more about how to create effective stories for your audience, it’s time to start thinking about ideas.

Story Ideas to Get You Started

When it comes to coming up with ideas of stories you can share with your ideal audience, the possibilities are seemingly endless. At the end of the day, the story ideas you develop and the stories you produce are going to depend on your property, your team, and your audience. There’s really no right or wrong answer.

Here are 12 story ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Tell stories about your origins. Help your audience understand why your property exists and where it came from. Who created it, built it, and who evolved it into what it is today?

2. Tell stories about what you’re known for. Help travelers understand the ONE thing that they can experience or try at your property that is unique only to you. It could be a meal that you offer, a service you provide, a view they won’t get anywhere else, or something else at your property that your guests have come to love and rave about.

3. Tell stories about your team. Help prospective guests get to know your team better. Let them hear from and see the people who work hard to make your property and guest experiences great.

4. Tell stories featuring your guests. Share stories from guests who enjoyed their stay at your property.

5. Tell stories about your local area. Help your target audience understand why they’ll love the surrounding area, and what they’ll miss out on if they choose to travel somewhere else. Feature local business owners and community members.

6. Tell stories about travel. Share interesting stories about travel from your guests, your team, or other travel influencer/bloggers who have traveled to your area and stopped at your property.

7. Tell stories about your renovations. Give your audience a sneak peek at the renovations you’re working on, or help them understand what your property used to look like in the past before renovations were made.

8. Tell stories about your values. Help interested travelers understand what you care about, how you operate your business, and how you treat the people who walk through your doors.

9. Tell stories about a day trip. Give your audience an idea of the type of adventures they can go on while staying at your property.

10. Tell stories about an event. Help your audience understand what kind of events occur in the local area that they can see and experience, and which events you specifically support.

11. Tell stories about your day. Give your audience a glimpse into the day-to-day operations of your property.

12. Tell stories about experiences. Help your audience understand what kind of things they’ll experience and what kind of memories they’ll create when they stay at your property and explore the surrounding area.

As you think more about these ideas, start to think about what it would take to create them with your team. Pick ideas that stand out and make the most sense based on your property, your surrounding area, and your ideal guest. You should also start to think about how you’d like to capture these types of stories. Remember: it could be something as simple as a photo with a caption posted on your social media profiles. Or it could be a more polished video that you can put on your website and share out in email campaigns. Again, the options you choose will depend on your resources.

Promoting Your Stories

As you create stories, don’t forget to put clear promotion plans in place that you can execute on when your story is ready to be shared. You should share stories in email campaigns, in blog posts, in social media updates, on your website, and any other channel that you leverage regularly to engage and nurture relationships with guests. Without a clear promotion strategy in place, you risk missing out on opportunities to get your stories in front of people who are actively trying to figure out what makes you and your property different and special.

Over to You

What stories have you been creating and sharing with your audience? Tell me in the comments below.