It is weird, it is off-beat, but let’s talk about geek culture and what you can do to tap into this niche world to bring in more business to your hotel, shall we?
How Can Hotels Attract More Annual Convention-goers and Gain their Loyalty?
Why does a hotel want convention-goer loyalty in the first place? Because 1) most convention-goers (a.k.a. con-goers) attend these events annually so you know they will come back, and 2) they develop attachments to hotels in a very unique way.
Conventions add vital fuel to the geek community. They enable like-minded people to travel across the country to obsess over the stories they love just a little bit more than the average bear. Before geek culture and the internet infiltrated mainstream society, conventions were one of the few sanctuaries where nerds could come together, meet, view episodes, buy merchandise, and converse about nerdy things in a safe space away from judgement.
The internet now makes it easier for like-minded people to connect and buy merchandise from the niche media they love, but conventions have not lessened in a world with internet. In fact, they have grown larger.
Hotels are important to a con-goeing nerd’s overall experience. They remember the ones they like and the ones they do not like. Cosplayers and photographers rely on hotel decor for photo shoot backdrops. They know which ones have mini fridges, multiple mirrors, and free breakfasts. Hotels become their home for a weekend.
For gargantuan conventions like San Diego Comic Con and Atlanta’s Dragoncon, hotels in the immediate area are rarely hurting for reservations. However, hotels further away from these massive conventions or hotels near small conventions can reap some benefit by appealing to those who attend and gain return visitors year after year.
As an example, there is a small, cute, classic resort hotel in Chicago’s west suburbs called Pheasant Run. It is known more for its New Orleans-themed room, golf course, and suburban vacationers, but local nerds know it holds small to mid-sized anime conventions and historical reenactors conventions during their off season. People who had went there for conventions fell in love with the look and feel of the hotel and booked it for their wedding venue years later. Food for thought.
What Do Geeks Want out of a Convention Hotel?
Here is what nerds want in convention hotels:
- Affordable rates – cons are expensive! They want to save where they can
- Free WiFi – to post pictures
- Free breakfast – money saved = more money to spend at the convention
- Mini fridge/microwave – to make as much food as possible and save money
- Lots of mirrors – so multiple cosplayers can apply makeup at once
- Two-room suites – so some people can sleep early, while others stay up
Conventions are rituals for nerds and they often return to the same convention year after year, so there is a real advantage to gaining their loyalty. If you can win the heart of a nerd, you can have their reservations for life.
How Can Hotels Attract More Con-goers and Gain their Loyalty?
Develop a Good Relationship with the Convention’s Organizers
Develop a good reputation with the convention’s organizers. If the hotel does not follow through with something they agreed upon, con-goers will hear about it and that changes the way they feel about the hotel. If they hear good things about how the hotel treated the convention, they will book again, if not, they will try somewhere else.
On top of that, building a good relationship with convention organizers increases the likelihood of getting recommended as a hotel to convention guests. Whether your hotel arranged a set of room blocks with this convention or is more of an overflow hotel, the organizers could recommend you to guests on their website and social media channels. Not only is this good for referrals but for general link building as well.
Provide Customized Hospitality for the Con-goer
Do something special for the convention goers to enhance their experience. You can create specialty cocktails with nerd names like “The Hulk” or the “Wonder Woman” or host a Star Wars themed ice cream fundraiser for a charitable cause, such as Give Kids the World, like the Chicago Marriott Suites O’Hare did on May the Fourth.
As another idea, you can set up a “Cospitality Lounge” with bare essential items for cosplayers who need to perform last minute surgery on their costumes. The McCormick Place in Chicago set up a cospitality lounge for C2E2 and it was a crowd favorite at the convention! Hotels could easily provide this amenity for this niche as well. Simply set-up a table with duct tape, hot glue guns, safety pins, bobby pins, and a curling iron for cosplayers to use to fix their costumes.
Further customize your guests’ experiences by hosting a geek entertainer at your restaurant or bar. While most conventions have events going on into the evening, a few cut off the programing at 7:00. If that is the case, there will be a lot of people eager to hang out more with friends after the convention. Hosting a geek entertainer after those hours would bring in potential business.
Hold a Contest to Gain Bookings
Con-goers are in the mindset to play, show off their costumes, and have fun experiences, so it is the perfect time to host a contest. Every year, the Hyatt Regency O’Hare holds a “Cleanest Room Contest” during ACen where they offer a free weekend’s stay to the three cleanest rooms – and it is brilliant! Not only does it entice people to book at one of the more expensive hotels around the Rosemont Convention Center, it also encourages con-goers to keep their rooms clean.
Build Your Social Media Fan Army One Savvy Nerd at a Time
Take advantage of social media! Hotels yearn to grow their social media audience with loyal fans who engage with their accounts and draw in revenue from this channel. You know who loves social media? Geeks!
If you are hosting a convention or are near one, use this opportunity to do things with social media your hotel has never done before!
The Hyatt Regency O’Hare offered a special rate code on Facebook for social media fans. These fans told other people to like the hotel’s Page and use the rate code, and those people encouraged more. Year after year, this hotel builds up an army of loyal, excited social media followers who will keep up with their Page in the future (and they did not spend a penny on ads).
What is the goal of all this? It is to build positive reputation amongst the geek community who has reason to book at your hotel at least once a year, maybe more. When this community needs to stay at a hotel for the convention next year, they choose you. When nerdy college kids grow up, get jobs, and book meetings, they choose you. When they get engaged and need to book a wedding space, they choose you. Geeks remember.
How Can Hotels Can Appeal To Year-Round Geek Culture Attractions?
Geek culture has fads, geek culture has annual conventions, and geek culture also has year-round attractions like theme parks and museums appealing to guests both near and far.
Our advice? If your hotel is near a geek attraction, create a very special landing page for that attraction and target that niche audience so you become the authoritative hotel for that attraction. Just like you would create a sports page to target people coming into town to see a game, create a landing page for guests coming in to see the attraction.
Blue Magnet got down and nerdy with the Embassy Suites Arcadia to create a successful landing page and social media campaign to gain new guests coming into town for the Irwindale Renaissance Faire.
Our contacts at Embassy Suites Arcadia came to us and said, “We used to have a Renaissance Faire Package, but we can’t get in contact with the Renaissance Faire to renew the package. We would like to gain that business somehow.” We knew just what to do.
We created a unique landing page with all the information a guest would need to know about the Faire, and went the extra mile to speak geek – literally! We added faire photos, played with Shakespearean-inspired copy, and created custom sidebars that linked to real pages with clever copy like, “Booketh thy lair!” (instead of simply saying, “Book Your Room”) and “Feast Like a King: Nourish Thyself!” (versus “Enjoy Complimentary Breakfast”). We also included a fun link to a website that lets you “Talk like Shakespeare”.
All of this was to provide valuable information to the audience and make them think, “This hotel understands me. This hotel will enhance my Ren Faire experience!” Our team also published content on Facebook and Twitter about the hotel’s close proximity to the renaissance faire and targeted an audience interested in geek culture. We put a little adspend behind the Facebook posts to reach more people.
Within just 3 months, the page’s visitors soared and the Renaissance Faire saw the social media posts and the well-constructed page, sent the hotel additional photos to use, and reinstated the package. The hotel gained 150+ bookings from the project in Q2 of 2016. Here are some of the stats:
- 685 pageviews, 22% check rate
- 395 sessions from renfair.com, 74% check rate
- 67 sessions from Facebook
- 13 sessions from Twitter
With this landing page in place, all the hotel needs to be wary of is upkeep when Ren Faire season comes around the following year and post out a few posts on social media.
Common Fears About Geeky Landing Pages
If your hotel is afraid a non-geek might find a geek page and choose not to book, the page can be left off the main navigation so only those looking for the page can find it. Only someone searching, “hotels near irwindale renaissance faire” will find it. That way, you can still target your niche nerdy audience without the fear of turning away non-geeks.
Generally, people only click on pages they are interested in. The chances of a non-geek being turned away by a geeky landing page is like a bride-to-be not booking a wedding at a hotel just because they host business meetings too.
The biggest takeaway from this is to speak the geek language. Understand what these guests want and how to sell the experience to them. Do not just slap together a landing page telling them to book. Exemplify how staying at your hotel will enhance their experience at the geek attraction, and they will choose you over your competitors.
If you are a near Universal Studios Harry Potter World, create a landing page about that! If you are near Disney, get on the ground floor of establishing yourself as an authority on the new Star Wars park they are building.
If you have a haunted hotel, own it and create a page about the lore behind the supposed ghost at your hotel. Give tours. Rent out the “haunted room” as a special package for paranormal enthusiasts. As an example, the Crescent Hotel in Arkansas markets itself as “America’s Most Haunted Hotel” and gives haunted tours.
In short, get geeky and weird. There is a large audience out there that will appreciate it and book with your hotel over others because you are providing something unique that appeals to their corner of the world.
A Final Piece of Advice
Do not be afraid to push the envelope and get little weird! You can capture audiences for geek attractions year round that other hotels are too timid to go after.
Many hotels are stuck on a comfortable, but erroneous train of thought that their websites have to be ordinary in order to come off as professional. They have no problem creating sports team landing pages – and do not get me wrong, sports fans are a great audience to capture. But tons of hotels are going after that audience so there is more competition. It is also harder to get your hands on official team photos for your pages because of the sports industry’s strict copyright laws.
Geek attractions like renaissance faires, conventions, and nerdy fads are more popular than you think. It is also easier to get your hands on photos because geeks are generally forward-thinking, savvy, social media sharers who are more than happy to send you high quality images for a page promoting their attraction.
If you need help tapping into geek culture and want to push the envelope with your digital marketing strategy, contactyour friendly neighborhood Blue Magneteers! We are happy to be your geeky guides to help you navigate this niche frontier to reap benefits for your hotel.