Trial and Trust

I finally had some time to look through a big city newspaper this morning (I just don't see the need most other days. Plus, the hometown rag is only published weekly). I saw a lot of ads for restaurants and hotels...most of them offering discounts to get you in the door. The problem is most people aren't likely to try something new  just for a few bucks off. Especially not in hospitality where there's a significant investment of something very precious...time. It's just too risky.

Consider a different approach...leveraging friends. Instead of shouting at strangers and hoping a few take the bait, why not use the power of a trusted referral to induce trial. Every study (and common sense) will tell you that word of mouth is far more effective than traditional advertising.

So, here's the idea. Make a coupon for that same offer you placed in the paper (on the radio, tv, etc.), hand it  to one of your current guests and tell them they are welcome to pass the gift along to a friend or colleague. A lot of on-line stores do this extremely well, like Netflix and Amazon. But, outside of the electronic world, it doesn't happen as often. Not sure why. Maybe it's because it forces you to do two things...1. be really good at what you do (no one's going to refer the experience to a friend, no matter the incentive, if you're average, or worse), and 2. engage your guests (you've got to do more than stuff a coupon in a dinner check or in the express check-out envelope). In other words, the experience must be good enough to overcome the natural instincts most of us posses to avoid looking like a fool when we make a bad suggestion...and, the staff must be willing to hold a conversation with someone to evaluate the potential for a referral and then to act upon it when it's appropriate.

That's it. Pretty simple really. Be the best at what you do and give your customers an extra reason to spread the word. And, one more thing. Notice that my suggestion doesn't give the coupon giver any paid incentive (the discount or special offer isn't meant for them). It's not necessary. Once you've established that your guest is really happy with you, they're happy to recommend you to others. They really don't need to be paid to do it. The discount or special offer becomes agift they can take credit, the value is in the gift giving, not extra money in their pocket. The act of giving is far more powerful and valuable than a cash bonus.

Trust is an extremely important part of trial. So, leverage the relationships and the trust you've already earned...hire your customers.