When Mr & Mrs Smith co-founders Tamara Heber-Percy and James Lohan first got their start in the travel and hospitality business, it was the early 2000s, prior to the arrival of social networking sites and platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Heber-Percy and Lohan were on a mission, however: to produce the type of content they felt was missing in terms of highlighting the types of hotels and experiences that “cliché urbanites” wanted to have.

“We wanted to cover the real stuff we didn’t feel was in the guidebooks,” Lohan said on stage at Skift Forum Europe in London. “There were just all these five-star driven brochures out there and the Internet wasn’t going the way it is going now.”

“We realized what we were looking for was an experience. Style mattered. Design mattered. There was this new wave of boutique hotels that made you feel special,” Heber-Percy added.

This eventually led to the formation of what is today Mr & Mrs Smith, and online collection and booking platform for more than 1,000 boutique hotels around the world. And to get to this point, Heber-Percy and Lohan have credited word of mouth as an essential building block.

“I think advocacy is still the best marketing,” Lohan said. “For our type of niche business, people should be talking to you. Social media helps for us as well. It’s all about people telling other people about you. It’s still the most powerful and cheapest marketing out there.”

The Secrets of Guest Loyalty

Hotel companies are brands that want to get customers talking, however, they need to know and understand the different types of loyalty that guests have.

“Loyalty is a tricky word these days, especially with a customer who has the Internet at his or her fingertips,” said Heber-Percy.

She said there are three types of “loyal” hotel customers: those who are addicted to their points, those who value service, product, or a particular brand, and those who are loyal only to price and price alone.

“People who will stay loyal as long as that brand is delivering — those are the customers we focus on,” she said. “If you go after the price-sensitive market, you are always going to pay for them with the online travel agencies [OTAs] and metasearch and Google. That relationship is very tenuous. We focus on customers who appreciate curation and customer service.”

Added Lohan, “If we can match people on parity and beat them on service, why would you go anywhere else for these hotels?”

Photo Credit: Mr & Mrs Smith co-founders James Lohan and Tamara Heber-Percy spoke with Skift Europe Editor Patrick Whyte at Skift Forum Europe. Skift