In hospitality we use clues to surprise people...we read them to help us deliver a memorable experience. But, it works the other way around as well. Customers use clues to make buying decisions. And not always the ones a business owner wants them to use. Case in point. The other day I decided to change my insurance company...not because of price or bad coverage...because they insisted on using a fax machine (or worse, the U.S. Postal Service). My decision was based solely on a seemingly trivial point of technology. But my problem wasn’t the fax machine. The fax machine was just a clue. A clue into how the organization they approach business. Do they choose easy over right? Do they do the hard work that gives me what I want? Or, do they stay in safe harbor, expect me to jump through hoops and hope I won’t go away.

Starbucks on the other hand continues to earn my respect, not because they make the best coffee (they don’t), but because they learn, evolve and give me what I want. The other day I forgot my wallet in the car (probably because I was so frustrated about using a fax machine). No worries...Starbucks lets me pay via my smart phone. Pretty slick...saved me a journey back to the car. I also like that innovative idea of the little stoppers that go into the lids so you don’t spill the coffee all over your suit. It’s clear they do the hard work to figure out what their customers want. And I bet they don’t use fax machines.

The more choices, the more clues matter.

Advertising Isn't Dead...It's Broken

The old model, selling people features and benefits, doesn't work anymore. There's too much clutter. Unless you're a gazillionaire, you don't stand much of a chance. However, you could change your approach. You could adapt to a new marketing order and use advertising for a completely different purpose. You could use ads as an opportunity to begin a conversation... instead of selling products. A quick rewind of recent advertising history might help put this into perspective.

Prior to radio and TV, if you had something to sell to people outside your immediate area, you bought print ads and billboards. It was a straightforward system, the more ads you bought, the more you would likely sell. Soon, competitors started advertising too. And, "what" you said about a product was overshadowed by "how" it was said...the advertising profession was born. Things started changing with the advent of TV. Slowly, as more and more companies could afford to advertise, we started to see ads which were designed to entertain instead of sell. Some companies figured it was better to get people to talk about the ad, not just the product. That required loads of creativity and was hard. But, those ads rose above the clutter. They convinced us that the people behind the products were interesting, imaginative and funny...that they were real people, not just big companies. Their ads created an emotional connection and started a conversation. Those companies won. Life was good. The internet (specifically, wide distribution of broadband) changed the game again. The cost barrier to entry was lowered to practically zero. Companies of all sizes and even individuals could get into the act. Viral marketing as we now know it was born. But, cheap led to a very low signal to noise ratio...lots of junk and more clutter than ever. Instead of working harder to start a conversation, companies abused the system and tried pushing old tactics in a new medium. And then, the death spiral became cheaper, which meant you could buy more ads, which led to more clutter and an increasingly ineffective mechanism. More and more people stopped paying attention.

Fast forward...If you think of customer conversations as the lifeblood of your business, you understand all this. You know how important it is for customers to go out and tell your story. Respectively, that's what you spend most of your time and money on...engaging with customers and reinventing your product and story to keep things fresh. And, as a new marketer you know that advertising is your chance to connect with people and stimulate conversation. You understand that it's not just a space to interrupt someone and sell them something. You've studied marketing history and know what not to do. So, you wouldn't waste time and money placing boring ads that look and sound like everyone else's. Instead, you would try this sort of thing.

Real People

I'd be much more inclined to respond to this if a real person would have written it...perhaps the nice man who quickly processed my car return inthe parking lot. But,that would be hard. It's so much easier and cost effective to send out form letters.

Dear Michael Chaffin,

Thank you for your recent car rental at Thrifty T-RIC.
We continuously strive to improve our service to you.

Please take a moment to complete this brief survey. Your thoughtful response is very important and will help us serve you better in the future.

We hope to see you the next time you travel.

Click here to begin the survey

Estimado Michael Chaffin,

Gracias por su reciente alquiler de coches en Thrifty T-RIC.
Nos esforzamos continuamente para mejorar nuestro servicio para usted.

Por favor, tome un momento para completar esta breve encuesta. Su respuesta reflexiva es muy importante y nos ayudará a servirle mejor en el futuro.

Esperamos verte la próxima vez que viaje.

Para español, haga clic aqui


Rising Above The Clutter...for employers

Need to hire someone? Place an ad in the local paper, or a few regional or selected national rags. Post an entry on Monster, HCareers or Call a friend, and if you have some extra bucks, a recruiter.

Or, you can create a job specific billboard like this one and get everyone you know to spread the word. Most companies, department heads and HR departments won't take the time to be this creative. Good for you...less competition.

Lying is Never a Good Strategy...especially in a deteriorating economy

CenturyTel | Chat Online

Phone companies are notorious for stretching the truth...Centurytel is no exception.

Most of the time, lies aren't this obvious. Most of the time they're buried in ad copy, subtle tag lines or internal memos.

Unfortunately, bad times seem to bring out the overpromisers in droves. Please don't allow yourself to fall in this trap. Make the best out of what you've got. And, try to improve upon that every day.


Picture 1

Alltop is Guy Kawasaki's recent and clever idea to provide an on-line round-up of rss feeds by subject. They've created a channel for each topic (new ones added daily) to make it easy to scan the latest posts for each blog or rss enabled site...something you really can't do with let's say Google Reader. I find it an efficient way to research and explore. Give the Hotels channel a look.

Why The Resume is Dead

I've riffed about this before. Since then, I, was included in a group of business and HR experts who were invited to weigh-in on the subject by the Albany Times Union. I encourage you to read the interesting and varying perspectives (find them about halfway down the page on the Class conflict blog) on whether resumes remain effective. I found Brandon Mendleson's (the graduate student reporter who invited me) post a nice summary of the problem...and a pointer to the solution.

Static websites can't compete with 2.0 experiences in conveying what you might feel when using a product or service. Text doesn't work well without pictures. Sound and animation (video) brings a product to life. Why would you expect words in a word document to accurately portray your personal micro brand? To oversimplify, one dimensional tools don't work well in a three dimensional world...and, we're fast approaching the fourth dimension.

Christmas Cards


I'm not one for writing Christmas cards...or any cards for that matter. I think it comes from having such bad least that's my excuse (my mother never bought it either). In any case, why not abandon or at least augment the hand cramp tradition with a video. Simple idea really...probably been done. Create a short "Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday/Insert any special occasion" video for each of your clients and post to Youtube. Get line staff involved, dress up as Santa...have some fun with it. I bet it gets passed around more than the paper version.

From The Drawing Pad...The Left Hand Should Always Know What the Right Hand Knows


It used to be tougher...meetings, memos, phone calls and lot's of time put into keeping the other side informed...just so you could keep from looking foolish. Now, there's hardly an makes it easy and fast. But, somehow, people still find ways to create the gaps...those companies eventually die.

Hospitality Uses for iPhone way to show people pictures


Technology is great, especially when it helps you tell a story. And, the iPhone is really good at it...I think superior to my old Blackberry. One of the things I like to do is use my iPhone to show people's like having a portable brochure or portfolio. I use it in the lobby, on a plane and even when I'm hosting a BBQ for my neighbors. I can imagine sales staff, concierge or anyone with an opportunity to spread the word using this tool.

I'll share other uses as I stumble onto them. Meanwhile, if you have any ideas, please pass them along.


I wonder why we still send people through queues? In a day and age where time is so short, no one likes to stand in line, wait on hold or talk with people who can't solve their problem. So, why do we insist on forcing customers to a home page, to an operator or customer service desk when the specialist they need is elsewhere...and now easily accessible?

We used to send people through a funnel to count them, space them, slow them down and to ensure that everyone eventually ended up in the right place. We had to generalize because there wasn't an effective and efficient way of anticipating special needs and directing traffic. The by product of the degeneralization process was well trained but often unhappy customers. Now, mobile phones, computers and PDA's let us do all of the measuring and channeling in a fraction of the time, which makes people happy. They've also raised the expectation bar significantly...peer to peer is fast becoming the interaction with exactly the right person, right away is the standard.

So, why do I still have an office number when your chances are better to reach me via mobile phone? Why have an admin who answers the phone when voice mail accomplishes the same result? How often does an admin offer to transfer you to voice mail? Why do we send everyone to the home page, when separate landing pages (or micro home pages) make more sense? Why route all incoming calls to the hotel operator, when virtually every specialist could have their own number?

If someone needs a concierge, list their names and numbers on the website to make it easy to find just the right one (show if they're on duty). Need a sales person or the GM? Put it on the website. Want to book a meeting? Don't go the home page...go to to see a list of the people that can give you an answer.

I realize there are instances when you can't know in advance what someone is looking a generalist steps in to direct traffic. But, probably 8-9 times out of 10, we can be smarter than that...if we set-up the most anticipated one on one connections and spread the word how to get there.

Interested in learning how to do 100 push ups? Don't go to any old fitness website, go to

Interested in learning how to ride a unicycle? Go here.

Send people directly where they want to go...getting there is not always half the fun.


Resumes and CV's tell you the what. But, how do you answer the more important "why"? We can read your "objective". But, why are you passionate? We can read what you did last year and the year before. But, why did you leave your last job? We can read that you like to cycle and hike. But, why are you driven toward those interests?

Of course, interviews answer the why. But, why wait for something that may never occur? Why not answer the why questions right up front? Why not save everyone some time and money...and perhaps land you the coveted interview. Prior to the current day access to bandwidth, the risk of telling your why story at the beginning was far too great. Cover letters longer than a few sentences are rarely read. Resumes are judged heavily on brevity and straightforwardness. And, phone calls are intercepted by admins and voice mail and are rarely returned. In other words, telling your story in any format other than in person isn't really possible with the traditional resume approach. Not so any more. With the broadband access we now enjoy, content distribution and consumption is easy. The challenge is to wrap it up in a nice package...tailor made for the intended audience. Des Walsh recently pointed me to a new beta project, VisualCV. I think it's a you the chance to add video, references, etc. However, I didn't see a blog or photo journal option. Or, how do you capture Twitter, Facebook or Friendfeed posts? What about Google shared items or Swurl? Your platform needs to be comprehensive and it needs to allow for format flexibility to demonstrate creativity and passion for certain things...a personal website which looks like it's professionally designed. Wordpress works great...but, takes some know how and work to make it fit.

And, let's not forget about content. If you don't have a blog, start one. If you don't take pictures, buy a camera. If you don't sing, try. If you haven't done anything remarkable or interesting, how do you expect to get noticed?

If you Google your name and aren't on the first page of results, you're behind.

How's Your Banwidth?

Complimentary WiFi is no longer a nice to's a standard. If you don't have it, better get it. But, with the proliferation of both notebook computer users and their appetite for user generated content, music and video your  next problem is likely to be how "long it takes to download anything". Check your speeds in various locations. Be sure to check at peak usage periods. High-speed "Broadband" is currently defined by the FCC (USA) as a minimum download time of 768 kbit/s. If you aren't achieving that, it might be the router, the actual pipe coming into the building (T-1, DSL, etc.), the amount of usage or a combination of all three. Broadband connections are quickly becoming standard in the home and office. So, it's sure to be noticed if not provided in a hotel.

A couple of places to check your speed: (try downloading the space shuttle image)

Staying Ahead

is easier now than ever before. Technology has made it not only possible, but relatively easy to know a great deal about your guests. I've pointed out before that Google alerts and simple internet searches give you an excellent advantage to surprise people. But, imagine my state of shock when I experienced just that while buying a car at Shortline Automotive last week.  I flew to Denver and walked in to the dealership for the first time to pick-up the vehicle after making the deal over the phone and internet. I had never met Rob (I think he's the GM). But he seemed to know a great deal about me. And, instead of the usual "how's the weather" conversation, he asked me things about my profession, why I chose a hospitality career, etc. We talked about service and how it set businesses apart from one another. He really seemed interested...and he really seemed to care. He did all this without making me feel like he'd hired a PI to make sure my credit was okay.

I don't remember much about the transaction or the long drive to Pagosa Springs. But, I do remember how engaging Rob and Kent were, and a car dealership?

Business Intelligence


indieHotelier #42 is up...had a great discussion about business intelligence technology with Julie Squires, Dan Morrison and Jill Wilder and Cam Troutman of Aptech Computer Systems. Aptech specializes in hospitality software that makes operational and financial analysis and decision making much easier and more efficient.

Click on the logo to go to the indieHotelier website. Or, on the podcast button to download and listen to the show now.



VibeAgent Picking Up steam

VibeAgent (we interviewed Adam Healey, the founder, on indieHotelier #36) seems to be picking up steam in the world of travel sites. They're now the the 5th largest hotel site online in terms of bookable inventory. TechCrunch recently dubbed them..TripAdvisor 2.0. And, I hear they're about to launch a spiffy new map application. You might want to check them out if you haven't already.



This week's indieHotelier is up. Warren Dehan and Shelly Edwards of Northwind Maestro lead us in a stimulating conversation about the impact of social media, web 2.0 and the increasing use of the internet on hotels and their guests. We cover some interesting ground including the future of call centers and travel agent services and how hotels are challenged to maintain price integrity with so many distribution channels.

Click on the logo to go to the indieHotelier website. Or, on the podcast button to download the MP3 and listen right now.



Wiki Power

If you don't know what a wiki the video below for a really simple and fun explanation. Then, go to Chrispitality for a great hospitality example. Here's another one listing all of the things to do in different cities around the world if you only have 2 days to see the sights.

Here are just a few ways, hospitality professionals could make use of a wiki...

  • Community Recruiting- Build a site for your town, county or island with all of the hospitality jobs available. Totally fluid and up to date.
  • Workforce Resources- Again...for the benefit of your local hospitality workforce...everything they need to know from training, certifications, education, social gatherings, what to do after work, room mate searches, etc.
  • Committee Projects- Safety, Employee Picnics or virtually any collaborative projects within your organization.

Oh, and all of this is pretty inexpensive. Here's a free wiki website maker called wetpaint.