With the luxury hotel market estimated to reach $115.8 billion by 2025*, it’s safe to assume that high-end meeting and event planners are driving at least some of that growth. Yet as the market gets increasingly sophisticated, reaching luxury planners requires an effective, targeted marketing campaign, smart relationship building, and advanced digital solutions.
“Technology has advanced so far, and there are now many ways to differentiate yourself and your product on various online platforms,” says John Annichario, regional vice president of sales and marketing at Salamander Hotels & Resorts, in a recent Skift report sponsored by Cvent. “In the luxury segment, this is extremely important, because buying decisions are often based on emotional responses to the product and the salesperson. Luxury buyers prefer personalization. They want to feel, see, and touch what they are buying, and they want to communicate with knowledgeable and talented people.”
Here are three ways to use technology to attract and engage with luxury planners:
1. Sell the Destination Experience Online
In an interview with Business and Luxury Magazine, Miro Antić, founder and partner of the M2Communication luxury events agency, says luxury planners are looking to build unique experiences.
“Our mission is to take the guests on an unexpected journey, transpose them to another dimension, and make them active participants of an exciting story. The goal is to experience the brand and create close relationship with the customers, and in the luxury segment, an important aspect is the strengthening of the brand’s prestigious position,” he says.
To reach these planners, it’s vital to communicate a unique “destination experience,” as well as provide highly personalized service and work in partnership with a planner’s vision. Any collateral or platform messaging should reflect the skill and talents of your staff and your ability to help create an unforgettable experience.
Visuals play a large part in building this narrative. Make sure all marketing photos of your property are high-quality and well-staged. Showcase high-end amenities and services. Leverage those photos not only on your website and online sourcing platforms, but also on social media. They will be particularly compelling on the more visual platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest. Whenever possible, produce high-quality videos as well, since they can more effectively capture the experience.
2. Be Where the Luxury Buyers Are
When marketing to luxury planners, it’s important to choose the right places to advertise. You can buy endless ads, but if they aren’t on the websites and channels that luxury planners are using, you can’t reach that audience.
For example, did you know one-third of Bing users have an annual household income higher than $100,000? And among U.S. adults who make more than $75,000 a year, 75% use Facebook and 84% use YouTube, according to the Pew Research Center. Research this kind of demographic information and think about luxury retail sites, such as Gilt.com, where planners may be searching for ideas and supplies. Like all marketing efforts, you want to find out where luxury planners spend their time — whether they’re reading a luxury event magazine or attending a luxury event planning meet-up — and go there.
This is also why your messaging on event platforms is so important. Stay away from words such as “bargain” and “economy” and keep the focus on what makes your experience unique. You need to establish your hotel’s identity on its own, not in comparison with the competition. While this may seem counterintuitive, the luxury market is less about positioning and more about creativity. Emphasizing your unique identity will infuse your marketing strategies with authenticity and excitement.
3. Use Technology to Connect One-on-One
In the luxury segment, perhaps more than anywhere else, one-on-one service is paramount — but that doesn’t always mean it must be face-to-face. A 2018 Deloitte survey of the luxury market found that 30% of luxury buyers are millennials and members of Generation Z, and they expect to be able to interact with a brand digitally across multiple platforms. That number will jump to 40% by 2025.
Customer connection and highly personal service extends to the digital experience, and the same holds true for connecting with luxury event planners, who may be part of this demographic or serving them with the events they’re planning.
That doesn’t mean, however, that your marketing efforts should live entirely in cyberspace. The Deloitte report suggests that these younger generations want to blend their online and offline experiences. Thanks to new augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, luxury brands — including hotels — can offer customers a more personalized, integrated experience. For instance, it’s possible for planners to visit meeting spaces virtually, visualize different room setups, and simplify the negotiation process.
As the luxury segment continues to grow, engaging with luxury planners will require a combination of highly targeted marketing strategies and one-on-one, personalized service in person and across digital platforms.
*Market research firm Grand View Research Inc.