How small things make a big impact for accommodation businesses

The Magic Castle Hotel

In Los Angeles there’s a hotel called The Magic Castle Hotel. It has thousands of rave reviews from guests and constantly sits in the top 5 places to stay on TripAdvisor. In a city with plenty of quality accommodation options, it’s remarkable that such a humble hotel ranks so high.

And, it is humble.

There’s nothing special about the rooms. There’s no amazing view. It’s not very modern, in fact it’s a little dated. And while the amenities are clean and functional, it’s nothing to write home about. So why does The Magic Castle rank so high? It’s pretty simple actually. The owners have created a unique and memorable experience, which the guests love and can’t wait to tell their family and friends about.  

In the pool area there’s a red phone on the wall with a sign, “Popsicle Hotline”. Guests simply pick up the red phone and ask for a popsicle. A few minutes later a staff member with white, butler-style gloves, delivers a tray of popsicles to choose from. It’s a 24-hour, poolside, popsicle delivery service! And it’s free.

They also do other things guests rave about, such as a complimentary laundry service. Guests can drop their items at the front desk and their clothes are washed and folded the same day. Again, it’s free. There’s also a regular magic show in the atrium. And there’s complimentary coffee, freshly brewed and delivered to your room. They also offer free soft serve ice cream, a soda machine, a board game menu, and so on. You get the picture. I’m guessing you are already convinced that if you ever find yourself in LA, you want to stay there too.

Little things make a big impact

This story of The Magic Castle Hotel highlights how small, thoughtful things can make a big impact. It shows us how simple it is to stand out and be memorable. It reminds us that surprising guests with generosity and small acts of kindness inspires them to tell others about their experience.

Most of your guests have a powerful marketing device in their pocket or handbag. Your job is to inspire them to use it to tell others about your place. If you offer an experience guests love, if you surprise them with memorable moments, if you give them an experience to share, they will. And those few who don’t like to post their holiday pics online, will happily tell their family and friends in person about their great experience staying at your place.

This story of the Magic Castle Hotel, which I first heard from Dan Heath on the Science of Success Podcast, reminds us that little thoughtful things make a big impact. You don’t need a big budget or a professional marketing agency. You just need your imagination, a clear strategy, and a willingness to go over and above. It doesn’t have to be complicated or wildly expensive, it just needs make your guests smile.

Word of mouth has always been one of the most effective forms of marketing. If you give people a reason to talk about your place, they usually will.

So, what’s your popsicle hotline?


This is an excerpt from an upcoming book called The Little Big Book of Marketing for Accommodation Businesses by Darryn Altclass. The book is part of a new series due out late 2019. 

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