This is what you will typically see if you visit Positano on the Amalfi coast of Italy this summer. This may look like paradise and the ultimate freedom for a tourist business but for the local excursion companies product, pricing, place and promotion are all prescribed, with very little freedom at all. Find out how one company has achieved differentiation with two simple disciplines you can use for your own business. And then maybe, you too, can get to the beach pretty soon!
The Amalfi coast of Italy is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in the world. It’s no wonder that tourism, along with associated industries, is the primary source of income for 95% of the citizens of the towns scattered along this coastline. The majority of hotels, B&Bs, villas and even restaurant properties are still family owned. So location, normally the first consideration for the leisure industry, is regarded as a heritage factor rather than a positioning strategy.
When it comes to the boating companies that provide coastal excursions and transfers, location is also prescribed. The location of your booth on the beach is at the discretion of the local municipalities rather than birth right. Real estate is rare and beachfront commercialisation is strictly controlled. A mere 9 square meter allocation may only be secured on a concession basis, following a laborious and sometimes illogical process.
The outcome, as you can see in this photograph, presents these marketers with an extreme challenge. Not only is physical positioning prescribed, but you also have your primary competitors breathing down your neck. All that is required to find out what your competition is up to is a turn of the head or a few minutes of silence to listen to their latest sales pitch!
The control extends to promotion as well. Private cruise companies are not permitted to accept automatic on-line bookings and payments as this is regarded as a scheduled service. And scheduled services are the, protected, domain of the government subsidised ferry services. Your only option is to field each and every enquiry as an individual excursion or to encourage traffic to your beachfront venue for when the tourist arrives. And pray that they don’t find your neighbour’s kiosk more attractive at the final moment!
Finally both product and price are interlinked and pretty much at parity as the destination choices are a given and, unless you are going to drastically sacrifice profit, you need to keep your pricing at parity to your competition. After all there is only one Island of Capri, and the route to get there is pretty clear.
I have been watching this scenario for a number of years and have to say that I admire the resilience of the handful of players. I have to confess to favouritism for Cassiopea-Positano. They are personal friends of mine and are unusual in that they are open to new ideas and to trying everything they can to stay ahead of their game – in Paradise.
Despite the very stringent competitive environment, they have grown in leaps and bounds over the years and have managed to achieve differentiation. I would like to share two simple tools they use:
Keep your story fresh. Even though they are working with precisely the same “canvas” as their competitors, the Cassiopea team weave an interesting story around the points of interest along the Amalfi Coast and around the island of Capri. Not only does the team paint mental pictures of Romans at leisure or Pirates invading but also share more current snippets of where celebrities have lived or stayed. They practice the art of storytelling day in and day out for at least 16 hours a day!
More importantly they tell the story three times. The front desk personnel set the scene for the skippers, providing a high level promise of what they are likely to see without stealing away the full story. The skippers then embellish the story, albeit sometimes in less than perfect English. And finally when clients come back to the desk after the trip, the front desk team encourage them to relive their chosen highlights, ensuring the leave with positive memories and a predisposition to posting a positive report on TripAdvisor.
Whilst the team repeats the same story 7 days a week, an untold number of times a day, for the six solid months of the season, they work hard at keeping the energy and enthusiasm levels high – as if they were telling the story for the very first time.
The learning? Ensure everyone tells your story with the same energy and enthusiasm of your very first pitch.
Make every client feel loved. The level of interest expressed with each and every client is at a level that you would expect for someone embarking on a two-week luxury cruise, let alone two hour coastal meander! Once again there are three points of engagement where this takes place.
Rather than rushing through the sales pitch, the front desk personnel always begin with finding out more about the clients. Where they are from, how long they are staying on the Amalfi, who they are travelling with and generally getting them to open up and tell their own story. This is slow-sales, Italian style.
On board the skippers are trained to look out for body language. Does the client appear nervous, why are they quiet, do they seem disinterested? On occasion they have people who choose to be distant but as far as possible they attempt to create engagement and build further connection.
To reinforce the relationship the clients are encouraged to call back at the beach kiosk. Here they experience huge gratitude from the front desk and assurance that they are now part of the Cassiopea Italian family!
The learning? Even if the amount your client is spending is comparatively small, the client always has choice. Feeling valued, appreciated and comfortable can make the difference and secure the sale. Even more importantly future sales from referrals.
The next time that you think Paradise is an easy sell, bear in mind that you are not always aware of the challenges. If circumstance prescribes parity for you, putting these two fundamental disciplines into play will project an energy for any product or service to create differentiation, which is heaven for any brand builder. #Tourism #Storytelling #Italy #AmalfiCoast #Differentiation #Experietialmarketing