How strong is your brand?

Last week I had the good fortune of traveling to Minnesota to visit my old stomping grounds, Valleyfair.  It was wonderful to see all the fantastic people I used to work with, as well as all of the positive changes and additions that have taken place throughout the park.

One morning in the hotel, I overheard a question that really got me thinking about brand loyalty.

A guest walked up to the front desk and asked the employee where the closest Caribou Coffee was.  Ironically, not 15 feet from where he was standing was an assortment of FREE coffee.  He didn’t have to leave the hotel or pay a dime for it.  Yet he was willing to do both.

Before I determined that this was really about a particular cup o’ joe, I thought about other reasons why he would choose to leave the hotel.  One possibility was that he was meeting someone… but then he would have asked for a particular address, not just the closest one.

So it seems he was choosing to go out and buy a certain product when a free alternative was already well within reach.  Hmmm….

What was driving that decision?  If it’s truly about the coffee, then it has to be some fierce product/brand loyalty (or he had tried the coffee at the hotel and it was really that bad).  Is YOUR company brand strong enough to get people to choose you over the other (and possibly cheaper) alternatives?

Every business has competition.  In the attractions business, we often discuss that even if there isn’t another similar business in the area, we still compete with any place that potential guests can choose to spend their leisure money and time.  And often, that decision comes down to trust.

Can they trust that you will deliver what you promised in your advertising?  If they have visited you before, they have personal experience to help (or hinder) that decision.  If they haven’t, they are relying on your ads, recommendations from friends and online postings from other visitors.  If they do choose to visit you, then it’s time to make sure you are living up to your promise… so they’ll choose you again.

No one likes to be promised something only to have that promise broken.  Our friend who was seeking the nearest Caribou location had built up a trust with that company and their products enough to know that it was worth the trek (and the price).  They delivered on their promise in his mind, and he was paying them back with his loyal patronage.

What are you promising to your guests, and are you delivering?

Thanks for reading!

About the author: Matt Heller is not a coffee drinker, but he plays one on TV.

Believe it or not, most people DO want to be lead

Leadership ain’t easy.  That’s not a revelation to anyone who has been in a leadership role for more than 30 minutes.  What might be interesting to hear is that contrary to what we might have seen in our leadership tenure, most people are okay being lead by others.  In fact, they may even crave it.

This became evident on a recent trip to Busch Gardens in Tampa.  While walking through the park, there was a time when my friend Darren was walking a few paces in front of the pack.  I figured he knew where he was going and had assumed the leadership role to blaze the trail to get us there.  At that point, I stopped worrying about exactly where we were going, and just trusted that if I followed Darren, I would get there.

Then someone else in our group asked Darren if knew where he was going.  “Not really, just walking” was the response.

Until that moment, I was totally confident that I was safe and would end up where I was supposed to go.  Now I wasn’t so sure.  (Although walking through a theme park isn’t a super-dangerous undertaking… setting a new course toward a nearby roller coaster was a snappy process.)

My point is this: when I thought Darren knew where he was going (whether HE knew it or not), I was perfectly content to let him lead.  So…

Let’s think about your employees.  Do they WANT to be lead?  I think the answer is yes, but they have to be confident that you have their best interest at heart.  They have to know that they can TRUST you.

If you answered no, they don’t want to be lead, then there could be some trust issues at play. Think about those you follow without question and those you resist.  What’s the difference?  For the people you resist, have they let you down in the past?  Are you not really sure about their motives?  Is there some lingering feeling that they just aren’t being 100% honest?

Here’s the interesting part.  I followed Darren when I THOUGHT he knew where he was going – it was my perception.  Whether your employees perceive you to be trustworthy or not, that’s their perception.  Which also happens to be their reality.

Their reality will drive their willingness to follow you.  To make sure they think you are trustworthy:

  • Speak to people respectfully – Understand how your tone communicates even more than your words at times, and that your emotions influence your tone.  It may sound simple, but a good rule of thumb is to speak to people the way you would like to be spoken to.
  • Do what you say you are going to do – It’s one thing to not do something, it’s even worse to SAY you’ll do it, and then you don’t.  People remember that kind of stuff for a long, long time. (And they don’t like it).
  • Admit when you are wrong or you don’t know something – Nothing communicates “don’t trust me” faster than not being able to own up to a mistake or lack of knowledge.  People don’t expect you to be perfect, they expect you to be human, and humans make mistakes. They just want you to be honest about it.

Thanks for reading!

About the author: Matt Heller has spent the last 24 years blurring the lines between work and play.  His extensive knowledge of amusement parks and roller coasters is impressive to some, slightly scary to others.

Is all fear bad?

Recently I heard Tony Robbins talking about fear… about eliminating fear to achieve a breakthrough that would change your life.  This hit home with me as a few years ago I realized that so much of what we do (or don’t do) as human beings is based on fear.

What also occurred to me is that there are really two types of fears: fears that motivate you and fears that hold you back.

Under the right circumstances, fear is a useful emotion.  It’s instinctual, and it’s entire purpose is to keep us out of harms way.  If we were not afraid of a lion in the jungle, we’d get eaten.  Fear drives us to survive… in some cases.

As we’ve also stated, fear can hold us back.  It’s still protecting us from harm, but is the harm REALLY that bad?  Are we in danger of losing a limb (or our life) or being embarrassed?  Some would say that being embarrassed is much worse, probably because they have never had their arm ripped from its socket by a hungry 500lb kitty cat.

Fear the motivates could be called a “healthy” fear.  If you have a fear of failure that drives you to work hard and be the best you can be, that’s a healthy outcome of the fear.  If that fear causes you to never try anything because you can’t stand making a mistake, then it’s not so healthy.

The worst fear of all is the fear of the unknown, and we play into that fear A LOT.  This happens when we don’t rationally know what an outcome might be, so our mind fills in the blanks for us.  And guess what?  We’re really good at making things MUCH worse than they really are to justify an action (or inaction).

So here is where you get to think about yourself… what are your healthy and unhealthy fears?  What motives you to move forward and what holds you back?  Once you figure out what’s holding you back, ask yourself a few questions.

  • What’s the worst that could happen?  If death or dismemberment is off the table, you should be able to handle it.  Taming the fear of the unknown is all about perspective.  Once you see that you aren’t going to die as a result, the rest of the consequences don’t seem so bad.
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  You probably already know what SHOULD be done, but your fear is driving you to choose not to do it.  This allows you to remove your self-imposed rationale.
  • (As a follow-up to the above question) Why aren’t you doing it?  If you know what to do, why aren’t you doing it?

Answering these three questions tells you some very important things: The outcome won’t be so bad, you already know what to do, and there really isn’t anyone standing in the way except you.

Once you realize that YOU are the only one standing your way, guess who can fix this problem… Yep.  You.

About the author: Matt Heller admits to having a healthy fear of large wild animals that he can’t out run (which is most of them).