Saturday, September 30, 2006

Tampa Police Museum

Seeing this on the downtown map, I just have to check it out.

There is an old cruiser on display (apparently it just barely fits through the front doors) but the officer didn't know how they got the helicopter inside.

I buy a t-shirt as a gift, and notice that the cash register receipt says, "Thanks for investigating." :)

Tip of the day: Even a small business can customize items, like receipts, to reflect their business theme.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Driving the Experience

While in Tampa, I saw two different examples of van/bus advertising. The first was the airport shuttle for the Hampton Inn.

They wrapped the van with an ad for all the things you can do and enjoy while staying at that hotel. Pretty smart, as those airport shuttle vans drive around all day and create thousands of impressions. Most shuttle vans (like the Westin's where I stayed) simply have the logo of the hotel to identify them.

Another day I made use of the Hooter's Trolley. In order to get the lunchtime crowd over to a new development called Channelside, Hooter's pays for the rapid transit system to provide this free shuttle, which loops around from the downtown business district to Channelside.

It's very charming inside, and I appreciated the free ride. While that wouldn't get me to eat at Hooter's, I'm sure that trolley looping around the business district does draw attention from their target audience.

Tip of the day: If you have a vehicle used for your business, consider how it might do double duty as creative advertising.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

First impressions: a moving target

Tampa, FL: Tuesday. Arriving at the Westin Harbour Island by free airport shuttle. The driver is very friendly, and offers cold water and pretzels. A great experience so far.

Pulling up into the circular drive and what do we see? This sewage treatment boat/floating restroom. Hmmm.

The staff are super-friendly at check-in, although my reservation is a little messed up. Free wine in the lobby is welcoming and sets a nice tone.

The green apples are a colorful, delicious touch for hungry arrivals.

Wednesday. That sewage boat is still sitting there. You have to have an amazing experience to overcome a sewage boat in your driveway. They recover well from the reservation screw-up, send up a new toothbrush lickety-split when asked, and fix the shower head promptly (it was spraying all over the ceiling this morning.) But am I more or less forgiving, starting out with the sewage-boat first impression?

Thursday. Overall, I have a very good hotel experience and would stay there again, as the recovery in those moments of truth was very good. The sewage boat is now gone, so my last impression is a good one.

Tip of the day: While it may be a temporary situation that a dumpster is in view or a sewage boat is parked on your front driveway, it's not temporary to your customer. It's their permanent first impression. And that impression colors the rest of their experience with you.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Attention to detail, in pastry

Tomorrow I'm off, camera in hand, to the American Zoo & Aquarium Association's annual meeting in Tampa. I'll post about any notable experiences when I return.

When I was last in San Francisco, I found this little organic pastry shop called Miette in the Ferry Landing Building.

It's a great example of brand consistency carried through every detail.

A little flyer explains their approach to pastry.

The bag, the sticker on the pastry tissue, and the pink box, are high-quality.

The overall experience allows you to imagine you are Audrey Hepburn, shopping for a little something for dessert.

Yes, they charge a fortune for their products. But every detail gives you the message that it's worth it. If you visit their Web site you'll see that they carry through this branding there as well.

Tip of the day: As Disney says in their book Be Our Guest, "Everything speaks." Look at all the pieces of your business, and see whether you can improve the small details to give a better overall impression of quality.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

A little personalization goes a long way

Earlier this week the San Diego Evaluators and Exhibits Group met at the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum. When we arrived, we each received a laminated name badge.

What a great way to set up our experience as memorable! Not only does it give an easy visual reminder to Midway staffers that we were part of a special group, it also tells other visitors that something different was going on, something they might want in the future.

While high-end hotels regularly do this type of thing, it makes a nice impact when you aren't expecting it.

We enjoyed our time on the Midway seeing their new exhibit: Officer's Country. But the takeaway memory for me was this simple VIP pass.

Tip of the day: Consider how you can personalize your experience from time to time for your customers. It makes an impression.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

What's your first impression?

This weekend we went up the coast to Carlsbad, California for lunch. We parked in the parking lot behind the restaurant, which was located in the front of a hotel. To get to the restaurant, we walked out the driveway to the sidewalk, and then around to the front of the building to the restaurant entrance.

This is the first thing we saw: peeling paint and dumpsters.

No matter how good the restaurant was (it was okay), or how clean the patio was (a little grimy), there was no way that they could overcome this first impression.

Tip of the day: Make sure that you walk in from your parking area, and notice everything a potential customer can see. You might be surprised at what is making your (poor) first impression.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lessons from Costco, part 3

Welcome customers to and from your business. Costco’s entry and exit system doesn’t feel like a special, privileged club. To me it feels like I am a criminal they are temporarily allowing access to the store. Having “greeters” who do nothing but check to make sure your card is valid doesn’t make you feel welcome. Having your cart searched and every item ticked off your receipt as you exit leaves you feeling dirty and untrustworthy.

Feel free to post your comments on Costco. Do you like or dislike this shopping experience?

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Lessons from Costco, part 2

This is a continuation of my post on my Costco experience.

Feature special products. When you walk into Costco, there are a few items up front that perhaps are special, or limited-time offers. But why not have a changing sign that tells you the items that just came in, and where they are located in the store? Identifying short-term sales just makes the product that much more attractive.

Tip of the day: While Costco may feel that it's not worth it to them to do what I'm suggesting, as bargain-hunting is part of the experience, don't treat your customers this way. Offering limited-time specials is a great way to increase interest in certain products.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Great example of "voice" in business communication

In my presentations (and my upcoming book) I talk about the importance of creating a unique voice for your business. This voice can be thought of as the person (real or imagined) who is "speaking" throughout your communication.

I wrote a post about Rockfish Restaurants, whose voice conveys the sense of humor of founder Randy DeWitt.

Another great example is the hilarious Q&A page of, a Web site that sells one item per day until it's sold out. The extra benefit is that Woot took something that is usually pretty stale and made it worth reading all the fine print.

Tip of the day: An authentic voice doesn't come from copying another company that's doing it successfully. Instead, look at who you are and what you stand for, and create something that's authentic to you and your brand.

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Lessons from Costco, part 1

I’ll be honest, I truly dislike shopping at this store. The only reason we bought a membership this year is to buy a single product that we can’t get anywhere else. I have never understood the appeal of having to pay to shop at a store. But I know that the Costco experience is part of American culture, and I think some lessons can be gleaned about what not to do.

Orient your customers to the offerings in your store. Costco has numbered aisles that apparently are only for internal use. They have no signs on them identifying items in that aisle. I stopped and asked a staff member whether there was a map of the store showing me what was in each aisle? His response, “Well, what are you looking for?” Hmmm.

I'm guessing the reason for the lack of orientation is either that it’s too much work to put a map together, and they want to save money, or that it’s broken on purpose, and they want people to have to wander around each and every aisle so they shop more. From my point of view, better orientation would mean I would shop there more often, as I would know what they have to offer.

Tip of the Day: Providing great orientation for your customers increases the value of your customer experience. They'll feel more comfortable and want to return more often.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Jeff Kallay on the Hendrix College experience

Jeff Kallay writes a blog called the Experience Economy Evangelist. This post is too good to miss. See how Hendrix College is creating a start-to-finish experience that is clearly paying off on the ROI.

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Seth Godin has done it again

He doesn't just comment on all the things he sees that are "broken," he suggests how to fix them. Reading his blog just taught me how to be a more effective blogger by explaining how to use something called trackback (which I was familiar was but couldn't figure out how to use). His post about ballots being designed wrong is so right, and funny, and just sad. I applaud his quest to make the world a better place for all of us to use. So, this post is in honor of Seth. Let's see if my trackback worked :)

Tip of the Day: Use your communication to offer skills or ideas to other business owners or customers that they might find helpful. Guess what? You just increased the value of your brand, simply by being nice.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Home Depot adding more staffers to the floor

In last week's paper, I read about Home Depot's new initiative to put more employees out on the floor, in response to complaints that you can't get help when you need it. They are also putting in call boxes so that customers who need help can ask for it. This is great, and a step in the right direction.

What the article didn't mention was what type of training program are they committed to? Will those new staffers know the store and the merchandise, and have knowledge about building and home repair? Because Home Depot isn't just about being able to find what you need, it's about having someone explain how to fix the faucet, what parts you need, and, by the way, do you have the right wrench for the job?

We'll keep an eye on Home Depot. If you have a great experience there, notice more employees, or like or dislike the call boxes, post it here.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Break your brand with one tiny flyer! Here's how

As I walked into one of my favorite stores, Target, I noticed a young employee who was handing out small flyers to customers who were entering. I assumed it was a promotion. (The fact that he was listlessly engaged in this task is the subject for another blog.) Here’s what I was handed:

Can’t read it? It’s no better in person. It must have been copied off of an original that was on dark red paper, so the copy is nearly illegible. Here’s what it says:

Target Stores
Come join us!
Target in Mission Valley is now seeking fun and friendly people for a variety of positions in our store.

It goes on to list the type of positions and the benefits, and ends with:
Apply in person for your on the spot interview!

Hmmm. I immediately thought of the cool Target TV spots, the only commercials that I actually watch. Surely those savvy corporate designers could come up with a template that could be customized for a particular store and printed up properly? Surely someone must have noticed how poor the quality was on these, and that they might not draw good new employees to the store? Didn't someone notice it was crookedly cut? At any rate, this small slip of paper broke this great brand for me, just a little bit, making me think that this Target was a little bit shoddy compared to others.

Say it isn't so!

Tip of the Day: Every single message, in every media, is part of your brand. Never "whip something up." When you create a graphic identity, have your designer create some flexible templates, on software you can access, so that you are always putting out quality pieces.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Treadmill + video camera = 2 million viewers

Aaron Dignan's new blog, Brandplay, has a great video from the Swedish rock-pop band OK GO. You'll recognize them from that JC Penney commercial that's been playing endlessly. The "treadmill" video is hilarious and worth watching, and Aaron makes the point that great buzz isn't about spending a lot of money.

Tip of the day: Don't feel constrained by a small budget. Having a lot of money to spend can make you less creative and lose your edge. Think about ways to market your business that depend on a great idea, executed well. Consider using new media like YouTube.

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