Traffic and Coat Tails

Just how important is traffic? In some cases, it's real important. I heard it was extremely important to John Q Hammonds...for years (maybe he still does) he developed hotels by following interstate highways and building where traffic peaked...or was about to. A pretty good strategy judging by his portfolio.

In the end, the importance of existing traffic depends on the type of experience you create and whether you're trying to reach the masses, or a niche. An average product relies more on chance to be successful. Hence adding a flag affiliation to improve your odds...but, that's a subject for another post. So, the more traffic that comes by your front door, the greater the chance someone stops in to buy. Most fruit stands survive on this premise. Now, choose a location with lots of traffic and a place that people actually want to be...then you dramatically increase your odds. I think that's what JQH does so well. And, that's what most of the chains work so hard to do...find cheap land in a location with lots and lots of, they collect 5%-10% of every room sold.

There are generally two paths to development. You create the reason people come...and your own stream of traffic. Or, you ride the coat tails of another...whether it's an interstate, Mt. Rushmore or a beach. The more "reasons" you create for yourself, the more insulated you are from someone else's peaks and valleys. Biltmore Estate is the primary reason people visit Asheville, North Carolina. And, as long as they remain interesting, they'll generate visitation...and the town benefits. On the other hand, you probably don't need to look very far to see examples of the opposite end of the coat tails spectrum. Most roadside hotels and convention center properties fit into this category...relying on the destination someone else has created and their location to be exposed to the most traffic. Of course, there are hybrids...unique and interesting properties that also rely on some outside factors. Some of the JQH propeties are. In fact, you could argue that a remarkable hybrid is the best of all scenarios...a good strategy, but it does require some luck.

So, on the surface, it seems easier to go the coat tails route. It's cheaper, quicker and requires far less imagination to get started. But, in the end, your destiny relies heavily on another...that's risky.

Consider some additional thoughts...

  • Making something average is easier and cheaper than building something extraordinary, interesting and different...that's why there's so much of it.
  • Making something just good enough and getting a lot of traffic feels safe.
  • People pay less...far less, for average stuff.
  • It's likely, very likely, you can't make yours the cheapest...someone else is already doing it. And, it's extremely difficult to be better...and cheaper.       
  • Making something different is hard.
  • Being the best at something is really hard.
  • More and more people want remarkably different things.
  • People pay more for what they want...a lot more.

So, I ask myself everyday....what category do I want to be in? And, what am I doing to get there?