Here’s a copy of my monthly client newsletter. Hope there is some information in here you can use!
The Experience Economy is a term first coined in the book of the same name by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. Even though it was written more than ten years ago, the information they gathered and shared is still relevant. Basically, it shows that people are willing to pay more for a product or service if it is part of an experience. The most cited example is a cup of coffee. Coffee beans are a commodity that is traded at a set price, a pound of canned coffee is a bit more, a cup of coffee at a restaurant can cost up to $2. But a cup of coffee at Starbucks? People pay between $3-4 a day for their morning cuppa. Why is that? Pine and Gilmore say it is because Starbucks was smart enough to create an entire experience around getting that cup. The music, setting and community feel as you stand in line is worth more to many people. Add in the fact that you can sit on a cozy leather couch all by yourself or with a date and you have an entire experience for only a few dollars. Now that’s worth it, isnt’ it?
The Experience Economy is particularly important for the tourism industry. Visitors have tired of only looking at an exhibit in a museum or just staying at a hotel and hoping some activity presents itself. People want to come back from a vacation with something to talk about, not another souvenir or pictures of pretty scenery.
Fairmont Hotels is a well-known and upscale hotel brand, based in Canada. They have released a new program called Discovery Vacations which includes Cultural Packages such as helping on Turtle Patrol at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion in Barbados, or visiting a Masai tribe while staying at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in Kenya. Or how about attending a Barbecue Academy while staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs? You can learn from ‘International Barbecue Champ’ Rockin Ronnie Shewchuk.
So what can you offer? It doesn’t have to be expensive or rare. Think of 1. activities that the locals do for fun, 2. attractions, festivals and activities that visitors come to see. Start talking to a few of the people who plan these and see how you can put a package together. Unique ideas can often also get some press so keep that in mind as well. Price should not be your first concern when planning this, but the uniqueness of the experience.
Let me know some experience packages you offer or ones you have heard about!
Newspapers, televisions, websites. At one time, all these means of communication were new and untested. People said they wouldn’t last, or they were a waste of time. Then they quickly became the preferred method of reaching out to new and existing customers and the advertising world changed. That is what is currently happening with Social media- sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Foursquare. Have you ignored them up until now or are you embracing them in your marketing strategies for 2010?
Many tourism business owners say the same thing- I have no time. I am so busy running my business that I don’t have time to waste online looking at what everyone else is writing on their Facebook page, or tweeting about. However, that is where many of your customers are spending their time. Over 400 million people have a Facebook page and 50% of them check it at least once a day. Here are some other interesting facts about Facebook users:
- The 35-54 year old demographic is growing fastest, with a 276.4% growth rate in 2009
- The 55+ demo is not far behind with a 194.3% growth rate
- The 25-34 year population on Facebook is doubling every 6 months
- There are more females (55.7%) than males (42.2%) on Facebook
- The largest demographic concentration remains the college crowd of 18-24 year olds (40.8%) which is down from (53.8%) six months ago.
Twitter is a fast growing application as well. People write short (140 characters or less) sentences, or share links to online information. The perception is that people just write silly things like “I am drinking coffee and reading the paper”. True, some people do, but I suggest getting an account and ‘follow’ people in the tourism industry such as @usatourismboard, @travelmediaguru , @nytimestravel , @sallykberry (that’s me!) and tourism businesses at your destination. You can establish yourself as an expert in your business sector, and have a new way to reach out to customers. Research has shown the websites that have links to Facebook and Twitter accounts are seen as more professional and reliable businesses.
These social media accounts are free and there are many organizations that are currently offering social media courses to help you get started. Set yourself the goal of becoming familiar with these applications before the end of the year and you will be giving your business a competitive advantage.
My friend Elizabeth is a confirmed foodie. Not the type that has to go to the best restaurant in every city she visits, but the type that knows the best markets, best BBQ, or a little pub in London that serves wonderful kidney pie. So when she asked me if I wanted to go to Cleveland with her for her twice yearly shopping fest, I couldn’t resist. Now Cleveland is probably not on anyone’s top culinary tourism destination lists, but we found lots of places to leave our cash.
When we arrived in town on Thursday evening, my brother suggested we eat at Great Lakes Brewing company,right downtown. I figured since it was a microbrewery that it would have mostly pub fare. I was wrong- it was a locavore’s dream! Our waitress Mary explained that they practice reduce, reuse and recycle. Their spent hops and barley is given to local farmers for compost. The farmers return the favor by providing the restaurant with everything from vegetables to cheeses to speciality sausages. The back of the wooden board menu had a sentence or two about each vendor.
Bright and early Friday morning we headed to the Westside Market, Cleveland’s oldest publically owned market. Elizabeth had scoped out a crepe stand last time she was here so we stood in line for fresh made crepes and a cup of coffee. We took our breakfast upstairs and sat on the benches overlooking the market. We then spent over an hour shopping for cheeses,sausage, olive oils, breads and chile rellenos, all wrapped to take home. After that, we drove a quick 20 minutes over to Chagrin, where we stopped at Penzey’s Spices. This homey shop had every spice you could imagine, along with helpful staff and plenty of free recipes. Our last two stops were grocery stores that are not in upstate New York- Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. We filled a cart in each store with items we can’t get at home, along with a few splurges for the ride back.
So while I enjoyed my time as a tourist at a new destination, I also kept my tourism marketer hat on and had some ideas for attracting more culinary tourists. Hotels and B&B’s could have a farmers market package that includes a listing of local farmers markets with directions and hours of operation. Along with that, provide a small cooler with ice packs. The hotel we stayed at was nice enough to store our freezer packs in their freezer for the evening so they were ready for use on Friday morning.
I also realized that farmer’s markets are a place where visitors go so maybe destinations should set up a booth there from time to time with information about the destination and other food related events throughout the year. Get people’s email addresses and add them to your promotions. Does your destination have an organization like my region’s Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty? This website lists member restaurants who serve local foods and wines. It’s a handy list to keep at your front desk. Visitors are always looking for authentic local cuisine and I bet your area has a lot to share!
Potential customers decide to do business with you based on their perceptions. Are you just what they were looking for, or did they not even notice your advertisement/email/postcard/billboard/website? I work with a wonderful graphic designer that I originally found on Elance. Khrystyne developed the logos for my businesses, along with most of my customers logos.
Three months ago I would not have written this post for several reasons. First, I believe communication via text message is limited at best- it’s even harder to interpret people’s meanings than an email. Secondly, I think managers should speak directly to their staff whenever possible; texting seems like a way to avoid actual conversations.
However, I have changed my mind and now think that all frontline managers should be texting their employees as a way to build relationships, establish lines of communication and to show them you are willing to communicate with them in their world. What changed my opinion? Several things.
First, in teaching a group of unemployed and underemployed individuals about the hospitality industry, I learned that everyone has a cell phone – no one has a landline. They are not fancy smartphones, but simple cell phones. Prepaid phones do not require the credit check and stable housing situations that a landline requires. At least one student has a phone that was limited to text messaging only – she couldn’t afford the phone option. So for me to communicate with her after class, I had to text her. I found that when I started texting each of them, they became more comfortable with me in class and would text me with questions or issues over the weekend. They would send me a text if their bus was running late. That they were being responsible in reporting in impressed me. Now I don’t text nearly as fast as my teenage daughter, but I am willing to work at it.
Speaking of my teenage daughter; she works as a busser at a local hotel restaurant. Her manager, a young man in his 20’s, sends texts to the waitstaff on a regular basis. He informs them of schedule changes and asks if someone wants to work an extra shift. Considering that all the bussers are teenagers, this makes perfect sense. You can be sure they get their messages and they are usually quick to respond.
The subject of cell phone use at work has caused frontline managers many headaches. When frontline staff are working, they should not have their phones. They should be left in a car or an employee locker to keep them from checking in and sending messages on company time. But they also have great value in today’s world. Managers would do well to ask their staff to give them some texting lessons and use texting as a 21st century way to keep in touch with their staff.
I didn’t come up with that wonderful title myself; it is the name of the newly released book by Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos. I was one of the bloggers chosen to review his book and received a copy several weeks ago.
As I was reading, I kept thinking: should I write about this theme, or talk about this story and how it would resonate with my readers. Should I just do a summary review or pick one chapter and talk about why I liked its message. I kept a list of the pages that had a phrase or paragraph that I thought was important to remember. So here goes: page 85,98,119,137,143,150,173,177,179,187 and 197. I’ll pick a few and let you look up the rest when you get a chance to read this book ( you can order it from Amazon).
One of the first things that I noticed while reading the book was how simple Tony’s writing style is. It was not full of multi-syllable business speak, or lots of technical terms. It sounds like you are talking to your next door neighbor over the fence- very easy to follow. Even though Zappos is technically a large company, the book has many lessons for small business owners. The early days at Zappos had huge cash flow issues, problems with their warehouse and unforseen problems that came at the worse possible times. Tony said at one point they were in a race against time – trying to make their limited money last until sales picked up. Sound familiar?
One of the lessons I took away from reading Delivering Happiness is for a business to decide what their core competencies are. One of the goals at Zappos was to sell $1 billion in gross merchandise sales by 2010- a goal they actually achieved in 2008.
Tony says ” Looking back, a big reason we hit our goal early was that we decided to invest our time, money and resources into three key areas: Customer service (which would build our brand and drive word of mouth), culture (which would lead to the formation of our core values), and employee training and development(which would eventually lead to the creation of our Pipeline Team). Even today, our belief is that our Brand, our Culture, and our Pipeline (which we refer to internally as “BCP”) are the only competitive advantages that we will have in the long run. Everything else can and will eventually be copied.”
I will save the discussion on their theory that spending more money on customer service and its 24/7 call center is smarter than spending money on advertising for another blog post. Also, their theory that the role of a manager is to remove obstacles and enable his/her direct reports to succeed. Simple but brilliant. Check out the website for the book –Delivering Happiness . Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!