Is your ski resort ready for the season? What keeps you up at night?
I’m speaking tomorrow at the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Club. I’m looking forward to hearing the key note speaker, Bob Roberts from the California Ski Industry Association as well as seeing my colleagues in the industry. I hope everyone is as excited as I am about the start of a new season. In my presentation I’d like to make three points that I’m passionate about and keep me up at night.
3 things that in my opinion can help your ski resort in today’s economy succeed. 3 things that we as marketers and business owners need to invest in, understand and encourage.
- Invest in Customer Service. This is one sure way to generate positive word of mouth. In this tough economy our customers demand better than ever customer service. I continue to get disappointed every time I go to San Francisco and visit the retail environment there. Invest in customer service training for your employees. It will pay off for your business in the long run. Track customer service with surveys. Award your best performing employees. Establish benchmarks. At Diamond Peak we have a mystery guest program where I personally select a customer for the day to keep an eye out for employees going above and beyond their regular line of duty. Once they spot this special employee they hand him/her a card with $25 bucks they can use anywhere at the resort. Coming from the customer, the message is a lot stronger than coming from their supervisor. We don’t announce the program to our employees; we let word of mouth spread it every year. This program is extremely successful. In addition, we have mandatory customer service training that is taught by our General Manager at the beginning of the season. With every ticket purchased we hand out a card asking our skiers to go online and fill out a survey. We pride ourselves on high customer service and it’s one parameter in the customer experience we feel is within our control. People like to be treated nicely. They expect it and demand it. They tell their friends about it. Don’t disappoint them. Understand the Power of One – that one individual can make or break their day and you can win or lose a customer for life.
- Understand the power of Social Media and Word of Mouth Marketing. Now is the time to embrace new technology and the new ways people are demanding information and seeking to engage with brands. 44% of the online population is engaged on social networks. Close to 20% of the adult online population are word of mouth marketing influencers and this number is expected to grow in the coming years. Facebook is the number 3 website in terms of traffic, just past Google and Yahoo and before MSN, Live.com, Amazon, eBay and Graigslist. Your business needs to have presence on social media networks like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, FourSquare. You need to have a blog. Start building your online community. Start practicing “permission marketing” like Seth Godin refers to it. Ask people for permission to market to them. Stop interrupting them. It’s a vicious cycle when you try to shout at people and interrupt conversations. Don’t use the traditional marketing approach in the new media – it won’t work. People will turn you off. They will stop following you and stop being your friend. The ski resort industry is in a good position to show how fun and memorable the sport is. Use new media to get the image out and tap into people’s emotions with videos, photos and more user generated content. At Diamond Peak we are actively engaging with people on social networks. We are having fun doing it while establishing trust with our customers. Once they trust us they will be more likely to come and ski at our resort too. Join in the conversation. Friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch our videos on YouTube. Let’s have some fun. Skiing is about fun.
- CEOs and Business Owners – Encourage Smart, Honest, Aggressive, Transparent, Permission Marketing. Marketers – get 5-6 smart people in a room and start brainstorming how to increase your market share, create memorable programs, cut cost and stand out. Let’s be honest about our snow reports and ski conditions. Guess what? People can and will report ski conditions for us, right from the slopes. They will post videos, Facebook updates, Twitter posts, photos and write blogs about their experience. Now is the time to be more aggressive with our marketing efforts. The Bay Area is close and yet miles away when it comes to trying to convince a family to come and ski. We are competing for attention with other industries, other brands, other ski resort destinations. It’s easier for a family to put the kids in front of the TV and play Wii or in front of the computer than to plan a trip to Lake Tahoe. Now is the time to build mind share. When the economy improves, and it will, they will remember us and the mind share will turn into a wallet share. Diamond Peak is known as Your Tahoe Place for kids and beginners. Diamond Peak has friendly staff. Diamond Peak created a new product this year called The Holiday Season Pass. Instead of blacking out the pass during the holidays when it may be the only time people can drive up for a ski vacation, we developed a product that’s good only during the holidays – 28 days for $249. That’s less than $9/day. Unheard of, right? Different? And finally, Diamond Peak has the most unique event in the Tahoe Basin – Last Tracks. We have some great programs in place for our customers to start the word of mouth marketing. You can discover them all at diamondpeak.com and help us spread the word – tell your friends and family about them.
To help with the networking and learning from each other I started a marketing chat room on Twitter with the hashtag of #mrktchat. It runs for an hour every Thursday at 2pm PST. I hope you can all join us and we can all learn together as we are trying to figure out the new technology and tools available to us as marketers in the travel and tourism industry.
What are your thoughts? How are you getting ready for this season and this economy? What are you doing differently? What keeps you up at night?