Time Share Marketing Can Be Fun Again!
This is Part One of a two part article on the Ten Rules of Time Share Marketing.
I try to stay on top of all kinds of “marketing” but in time share – lo-and behold, there really isn’t very much. The broader worlds of travel and tourism do some, and lots of advertising. But time share marketing isn’t like that.
People know what time share is (so they think), how it works and what it’s about. Well, sort of…
The sheer lack of marketing means that lots of time share buyers get lost, get angry, think they were ripped off, scream fraud at the top of their lungs – and on down the list of things that happen because you don’t really do marketing.
And lots of people in hotels and travel agencies just do ads – and put ads in really stupid places (like on Facebook) – and never really learn what marketing is. That’s what this article is about.
I started this article by looking at a bunch of innovative lists of rules and new rules of marketing more generally. But before I even get to that, let’s look at what Marketing actually is. We’ll start with the basics…
Marketing is all of the activities related to the creation and support of an environment where sales are more likely.
Importantly, marketing is not an evolution from advertising. It’s not a smart, cute way of doing advertising that’s more subtle. Marketing is an environment. And I’d bet anything that your time share environment is mucked up by some seriously counter-productive advertising that is NOT where it belongs.
With that understanding though, I was looking at some lists of marketing “rules” and best practices around the internet. One of the best of these is by Steve Tobak over at FoxBusiness.com. Steve is all about hi-tech and silicon valley businesses and time share is never going to leap to the cutting edge of anything. It’s a working class product for people who are not going to buy vacation homes but who want the ease of use as if they did.
Here’s my brief summary of what time share will learn from industries actually doing marketing. I started with a crib from Steve, because his list is good, but these are my absolute “hard rules” specific to marketing in the vacation, travel and tourism sectors..
1) Brands are way more important than you think.
- Most time share doesn’t get further than a name, and often enough that’s just three or four letters. Brand is reputation, as Tobak points out, “It’s the sum total of your customer’s perception of and experience with your company: its people, products, and services.” See below.
- Your brand is the very personification of your company.
2) “People buy from people, not from companies.”
- You’d think that with all the arm-twisting salesman, some time share managers and operations people would have learned this. But the point is absolutely lost on most of the people trying to re-sell glamor and beachfront paradise on behalf of “Big Bucks Development International.”
- Put your people out front, and make your brand into a person. If your own people can believe in that person, then you’re home free.
3) If you wouldn’t sell it – then it’s a marketing space – NOT ADVERTISING SPACE.
- Advertising (and any kind of “promotions”) in inappropriate spaces RUINS your brand. DON’T DO IT. This includes your website, your locations, your offices, your sales room, and for God’s sake, don’t send ads out by email – EVER. Even your brochures should be about you and values, not about what you want. If you wouldn’t sell it, then don’t slap an ad on it. On the contrary, use it for BRANDING.
- Not promotions, but things that highlight the good taste and image of your BRAND and the values it represents. But not your locations, hotels or resorts. That always makes you seem desperate.
- Likewise, make your website about your BRAND and VALUES. Not about your promotions. Websites are a little more complicated because they all have the dual purpose of providing information for confused (lost) existing customers and generating leads (new customers). Those are two very different tracks to run. The last thing you want is people getting confused by what YOU WANT (promotions). We don’t care what you want. Remember that.
4) Emphasize what you do DIFFERENTLY – Time Share is an ANNUAL VACATION.
- It amazes me how few time share operators are willing to admit that they sell an EVERY YEAR kind of product. It’s not an ad-hoc vacation. Yet by continually harping on your palm trees and balcony views, you force yourself to compete against nicer hotels and vacation spots that will probably always be cheaper than you.
- Now go back up to our working definition of “What Marketing Is” and picture your salesman doing the math on his yellow pad. Your salesman is doing marketing. The math is marketing. An every year product is different, cheaper, lasts 15 or 20 years and it’s not something everyone else has got.
- Let’s say this again, bigger…
You need to Emphasize What You Do Differently from the Competition.
- Note: Time share is normally NOT competing with other time shares, but with ad-hoc travel agencies and hotels and all of the noise of the travel sector. Distinguishing yourself from them should be easy, but not if you’re plastering ads everywhere and looking exactly like the competition.
Now about here, you realize I am talking about After-Sales marketing and existing customer support and education. Why would I be doing that?
Even though you employ a truly hard-knuckled, bloodthirsty sales team, and you probably support them with satellites and an army of market research and tons of “marketing materials,” you’re still sending those sales people out into the desert of people burned by other salesman, listless from your confused and unhappy present-day customers and possibly even jaded by your own sagging reputation. Here’s the point…
5) Your Existing Customers Could and Should Be Selling For You.
Return to the Definition of Marketing, above, once more please.
- Your existing customers are the environment that you control.
- What they want is the complete information to make their annual week of vacation seem affordable, predictable, enjoyable and possibly lavish.
- You already know they are bringing other possible customers along with them.
- If you want to increase sales, how about making these people actually like you? Imagine welcoming them with a bit more than a room key and a sales pitch.
Ok, just cause you’re a money kind of guy, word of mouth advertising is 92% more effective than any other kind, or something like that. Think about it. Why on earth would these people be selling for you after how you’ve treated them? Let me get to that…
Photo top of this page: Zen Room – Kreutzwald Hotel Tallinn, © Flickr Creative Commons lic, by Flying Saucer