The Vail Valley will fight through this slump
Vail, CO, Colorado
Since the latest financial meltdown quite a few people in the community have begun asking, “How do we get through this?”
Each situation, business sector and balance sheet is different, but, drawing on my more than three decades of experience in brand development and having worked with or for clients who made it through some pretty tough times, I have a few suggestions. They are all different, but have one thing in common: They rely on your commitment not to become a victim. I believe that as soon as you think about failure, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to roll with the punches, outthink your competition, strengthen and present your core values and differentiate yourself from your competition.
The more you cut back or stay invisible, the more your competition will eat your lunch, and the longer it will take you to recover. Remember, market size is probably shrinking, so you need more of someone else’s share to make it through. Here are the basics:
– Get out there and stay out there. Use every messaging tactic that makes sense. If you advertise, advertise at least as much as you have in the past, if not more. If you can’t buy more ads, make the ones you place better ” less copy, bigger type, interesting photos, a more clever approach, etc. If you rely on word-of-mouth, give your customers something to talk about. If you rely on traffic, do things that build traffic (First 50 customers get…).
Treat preferred customers in a special way. Let them have a sneak peek. Open early or stay open late just for them. Keep to your best stuff and be relentless in presenting your value proposition. And, negotiate your media placement hard. Don’t ask your media partners to discount, just ask them to add value to your buy (bigger ad, advertorial, bonus insertions, better placement, etc.). They want to keep you as a client, so let them show you how they can help you market.
– Resist the urge to discount. You may not be able to win that war against a better-financed competitor and, especially in high-end product and service sectors, you weaken a key brand attribute. Also, once you’re perceived as a discounter, going back to standard pricing will create resentment within your target audiences.
Keep your pricing, but ship free, or deliver free or provide complimentary evaluations or create a frequent-buyer program or package a sale with free installation or service for a year. Just remember to package for true value and be prepared to adjust your offers in response to competition or lukewarm reception in the marketplace.
– Go big or don’t go. Daniel Burnham, the legendary architect and urban planner said, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.” The Epic Pass was a bold move. Zero percent financing is a bold move. “Free batteries for life when you buy the watch,” is a bold move. Buy one/get one is the same as 50 percent off if you buy two, but it’s somehow bigger, creates more purchase excitement and doesn’t devalue the product. Make an offer that will get attention and make it meaningful.
Once you have the customer, it’s much easier to get it to pay off down the road.
– Lastly, but maybe the most important of all, treat your customers/clients like the gold they are. Haven’t seen your clients face to face lately? Do a “go-see.” Call a customer and tell them there’s some great new stuff they haven’t seen. Write a letter and include a special offer. Throw in a dessert with dinner, or a complimentary breakfast you didn’t announce. A newspaper with a personal “Thanks for coming” note attached. Be clever, be personal and make it count.
I really don’t know the best idea for your business, but you do. I do know what will happen if you expect business as usual and aren’t aggressive, and it isn’t pretty. Best wishes for a great new season.
– Nov. 19, 8 ” 11 a.m. ” A View from the Top, customer service seminar presented by Carol Verret, nationally known resort service consultant and trainer, Vilar Center, Beaver Creek. This is Vail Resorts Merchant Ski Pass qualifying event. Call Ruth Carlson, 970-477-4002 to reserve your seats.
– November 19, 5 ” 7 p.m., Business After Hours Mixer at the Snow Sport Outreach Society office in Edwards. Free to Vail Valley Partnership members.
Michael Kurz is CEO and president of the Vail Valley Partnership.
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