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Virgin Hotels had its grand opening in April this year. While the company name states ‘hotels' (plural), what actually opened was a hotel (singular).
One hotel opened.
Despite how common that sounds, Crowds appeared for this opening. The web exploded with articles covering the opening. Virgin Hotels is now being lauded as being one of the best hotel experiences you’re likely to find.
Sometimes, by people who’ve never even stayed at the hotel.
What’s the secret? And what can website owners learn from this launch?
By taking control of their perception, they took control of their reality. When Virgin Hotels launched, I read about it. In multiple places. I’ve never stayed at their hotel, but I’ve definitely heard of them.
They have one hotel, yet they’re in the news more than huge hotel chains are right now.
They put themselves on the map for me, and they’ll be at the top of my list of options next time I’m in Chicago.
It’s fair to say that, if you want to add value to your community, that sharing that value is the only logical next step. You get to add more value if more people know about you.
Getting attention can cause a big splash for your website. Control your perception, and you control your reality.
Here’s a few steps you can take from this technique:
Tell everyone in your community about the value you have to share. If you can help them, it’s a disservice to not let them know about it.
Share the value you have to share with everyone who’s positioned to tell anyone in your community. The people who already serve your community will share a mutual interest, whether they’re non-competing peers or reporters that love your market. In either case, you’ll find opportunities to extend your reach by getting your message out.
Despite not having been to their hotel, I already have the sense that they’re quite different from their competitors. How did that happen?
By having their marketing focus entirely on what sets them apart from their competitors rather than what they do that everybody else does. I may not remember at all times the specifics of what’s different about them, I do remember that their campaign focused on being different. The ‘better’ kind of different.
Better because they said so. Better in that they took ownership and pride in the ideas they implemented in their hotel. Whether other small hotels have done some of the same things or not doesn’t matter: Virgin Hotels took ownership of the differences.
Let’s take a look at some steps you can take:
It’s likely that your customers have seen a lot of the same headlines as they search their way through to the right solution. By focusing on what makes you special, your experience will be suitably set apart from the rest to be memorable, whether it’s in a good way or not!
Virgin Hotels is focused on what they do differently. Prospective customers are then given the choice between “a Virgin Hotels-style hotel visit” and “all the other hotels”. The latter camp becomes a price-comparison affair, or simply a case of whichever is closest. The former is a new segment in the minds of your prospects.
Which odds do you prefer?
Richard Branson (the face of the Virgin companies) mentions in his book, "Losing my Virginity", that running a business requires getting the details right. Specifically, he compares running a business to painting a painting, where you must get all the little details right to create a masterpiece.
For Virgin Hotels, the core premise of “getting a hotel” is nothing new, so they chose excel in the details. For example, hotel beds are apparently designed to allow you to sit up against the head board comfortably, while using your laptop. Similarly, you can order room service from an app on your phone, rather than having to figure out what button dials who on a hotel room corded phone.
It extends to the visual design of the hotel rooms, too. Rooms were designed to resemble a spa more than a typical hotel room.
Comforts you always wondered about are present too, such as there being no rigid check-in / check-out times.
The details are important. These little tiny details should be right in a hotel experience, and they should be right in a website experience too. Let’s look at a few examples:
Your site is your baby, it’s not theirs. You’ve looked at your site every day for the past however-long. Your target audience hasn’t. You may make some decisions “because it’s just how we do it”. None of that matters to your target audience.
When crafting the details of your website, and every iteration thereafter, look at things through the eyes of your target audience. That’s what we try to do with every one of our clients, and it’s never let us down.
Chances are, you’re not the only player in your space. Often, the more players in a space, the more they all start to look the same.
Virgin Hotels hotel rooms look like spas, not hotel rooms. And why not? Everyone prefers a spa day to a hotel. Look for new ways to deliver the promise of your website for your target audience.
“Culture" is something that many feel suffers when working digitally with others, compared to in person. In most cases, that view is correct.
But it doesn’t have to be, and it certainly doesn’t have to be for your website.
According to Branson:
Foster an inclusive, family-like atmosphere and a sense of playfulness, because your staff’s happiness will be critical to sustaining your company’s success.Richard Branson (source)
Virgin has six values that denote “Virgin-ness”. Each Virgin business has to adhere to these values in order to match the brand’s culture:
Since Virgin Hotels’ staff is based in Florida, New York and Chicago, they decided to deploy a ‘teammate portal’ to allow their staff to socialize across various states, and keep their corporate culture alive.
Your team IS your business. It’s important that you nurture your team from disparate employees to team members to second-family, if you want your website to operate in unity. Let’s look at a few ways you can maintain culture across borders:
Whether it’s an internal creative employee or an outsourced data-entry worker, be a friend to your team. As the owner of your site, you represent the standard for your team’s culture. Your team will look up to you as a son might to his father. Be the team member you want to have.
Whether it’s a group get-together, get-away, or Skype/Hangouts session, get some real face time with your team.
International teams can fall victim to the “timezones don’t let us socialize” excuse. Turn on the video camera and hang out, as a team. While you may not see deliverables come directly from this time together, the increase in camaraderie will pay-off in the deliverables to come.
Image Credit: LATimes
Virgin Hotels takes “the extra mile” quite literally: if you’ve got somewhere to be, they’ll ride you around town in a bright red Tesla Model S.
All Virgin Hotels guests have access to the Tesla drop-off service seven days a week at its Chicago location.
For a hotel company, the expected experience lies within the four walls of the hotel itself. By going further for their customers, they improve their level of service for their customers by providing both much needed value and a memorable experience.
This technique maps into the world of the web really easily. There’s a plethora of ways this technique can improve a website experience. Let’s look at a few examples:
If your business is online-only, consider having your website reach beyond the “four walls” of a typical website by leveraging other technologies to reach customers. Let’s look at an example.
We have a client who runs a successful SaaS product. One of their unique selling points is that their customer service outmatches that of their competition. And in a competitive market, too. While creating their web experience, we made sure that visitors were always one click away from a real live human being. When we interview their customers for performance data, customer service always comes up.
Brick-and-mortar stores close. An extra mile of being open 24/7 has never been easier than for a business with a website!
Automate some of your early engagement steps for your customers. If your prospects are on the other side of the planet, automated onboarding steps will allow them to get the same level of service and care as they would if they lived just down the street.
I’ve enjoyed watching the launch of Virgin Hotels unfold, and I’m delighted to see the correlations we can draw between the world of hotels and the world of the web.
I hope you can take one of these techniques and integrate them into your website, whether by yourself or with the help of a web partner like ourselves. Let’s summarize:
What techniques did you spot Virgin Hotels take that could be applied to your website?
There’s a lot of stuff to do to make your web presence work.
A lot of it may be entirely new to you.
You can’t just wing this stuff. Well, you can, but you’ll discover very quickly how ineffective that is.
But - if you have all this spelled out for you, step-by-step, you can see exactly how to make this work.
We’ve created that step-by-step guide for you.
It’s yours already. No charge. All you need to do is download it.
If you’re not sure it’ll be worth it, or if you think it’ll just be one long pitch, that’s understandable.
There’s a lot of that in our industry.
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If you didn’t know already, we’re here to help difference makers make a difference. That’s it.
So download it now, while it’s still available, and let us know if you have any questions. We’re here to help you succeed.