Traditional marketing is akin to throwing bottles in an ocean of information, hoping that people will receive the message inside, find it attractive and place an order for more bottles. In other words, traditional marketing is a highly uncertain activity, which can rapidly become an expensive endeavour.

In a world where hotels with ever decreasing budgets to spend on marketing, there is one technique they can employ to grow their business without shrinking their margins. Growth hacking, or growing a business customer base by using alternatives to conventional marketing tactics.

Here are 3 ways to start growing your business today, while staying in the Finance Director’s good books:

Newsjacking: riding on someone else’s notoriety

Press conferences to PR managers are what newsjacking is to growth hackers. It is about selecting a popular piece of news and jumping on the bandwagon to release your own spin.

An apt example was the pop-up beach set up by the Hilton Hotel on the banks of the River Thames in London (January 2013). The hotel set up the beach on Blue Monday, the so-called “most depressing day of the year.” Consequently, the hotel was mentioned in several stories with an association to the “Blue Monday”. The result: more than 3 million people were exposed to the newsjacking campaign.

Sometimes, a piece of news is not always required to promote the hotel. To create a buzz around the opening of its New York flagship property, citizenM parked limousines as mobile billboards reading “free Wi-Fi is a real luxury” in front of all major palaces in the city. The campaign went viral!

Hotel-related articles are rarely exciting on their own. Concentrate on popular news items relevant to the brand instead of pushing out half-exciting news stories via traditional media channels!

Inside-out marketing: customers as sales team

Traditional marketers rely on sales teams to acquire customers in a linear way. Growth hackers practise inside-out marketing to leverage existing customer bases to grow exponentially. Inside-out marketing uses the loyal customers already in the base – no matter how few – and draws them in with incentives to help spread the world.

Example: with its “Tweet a Coffee” initiative, Starbucks enables its registered customers to give coffees to their friends as gifts simply by sending a tweet. As a result, each coffee purchase is shared on the social media network.

Another one: global lodging and accommodation website Airbnb’s referral programme encourages inviting friends to register to the site, by giving both the sender and recipient $25 of travel credit. By creating personalised invitation vouchers and focusing on mobile user-friendliness, Airbnb increased bookings up to 25% in certain markets.

Drawing from Airbnb’s example, hotels could also incentivize its customers to invite their friends to stay in the same property or brand by offering them similar travel credit. Another idea is to offer additional benefits when booking (room upgrade, airport transfer etc.) on one condition: inviting the client’s social circle to also book a trip.

When it comes to selling your product, there is no need to shout about it. Instead, quietly inform your loyal customers. They will close the sales for you.

Co-creation: merge product with communication

Traditional marketers work for months on development of a new product/service, hoping that a big launch party will turn people into brand advocates over night. Growth hackers think that a launch party is the equivalent of playing roulette by putting all chips on one number and crossing their fingers to win the jackpot.

Growth hackers don’t dissociate product development and marketing. For example, Prodigy Design Lab, a spin-off of a real estate developer, launched a competition to crowdsource the interior design of a new hotel in New York City. Irrespective of who won the competition, it gathered a crowd of people that felt involved in the project and would ultimately want to share its development with their respective networks.

Restaurants could invite their clients to taste dishes before the launch of a new menu; clubs could involve their patrons to decide on the line-up of guest artists; and hotels could organise workshops to test, comment and improve mock-up rooms. In other words, don’t spend too much time and money tweaking every component of your new offering. Remember “no customers will care about your business until they feel part of it”.

A change of mindset

Newsjacking, inside-out marketing and crowdsourcing are just three examples of how growth hackers approach sales and marketing. Beyond being a set of tools, growth hacking is a mindset that focuses on the use of non mass-marketing tactics to grow, acquire and retain customers.

Youri Sawerschel
Founder of Creative Supply & Brand Strategist