Branding an Experience

Get the details of hospitality right to make your brand experience pop.

Wendy Ruyle 7.27.2017

Delighting your customers through an experience is not as hard as you might think. It’s mostly basic hospitality. Here are some ways to put out the welcome mat.

Start at the Beginning

You might think the entrance to your business is the first place your customer starts to have an experience with your brand. It’s not. Go in reverse a few steps. They’ve potentially done all of these things first: heard about you from colleagues or friends and family, looked you up online, called on the phone, driven on roadways or taken public transportation, seen signage, parked their cars, and walked to your entrance. Before they’ve even stepped foot into your establishment they’ve had a myriad of feelings. Was it easy to get an appointment? Did the receptionist sound knowledgeable? Could they find you on a map? Was traffic heavy? Was parking expensive or hard to find? Was the sun (or rain or snow) beating down on the way in? Was the entrance easy to find?

Asking and answering these questions can lead you to ways to improve the experience at every step—even the steps that you don’t control like traffic and weather. Maybe you need to update your signage or think about an awning. Make sure your pin is correct on Google Maps. Consider valet or validated parking. Or for very special clients, offer them a Lyft ride.

Meet Basic Needs

Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If your customers’ most basic needs aren’t met, they aren’t going to pay attention to your product or service. Is your air free of fumes? Do you have beverages or snacks? Are your customers protected from the heat and cold? Do you have restrooms available and are they accessible and sanitary?

And don’t just meet these needs, exceed them. How about spa-quality soaps and lotions in the restroom? I was in a hospital waiting room recently and they had recliners and blankets available because they thought about the needs of the people waiting for their loved ones to get out of surgery—they needed sleep! And it was provided.

Consider All the Senses

Sight, sound, smell, touch, and even taste will play into an experience. What colors are you using in your interior design? Do they inspire the desired effect—excitement, relaxation, playfulness? How is the lighting? Too bright or too dim?

Sound can be music or other sound effects that coordinate with your brand. But sometimes sound masking is more important. You may need a quiet space to make your customers more comfortable.

What does the space smell like? You don’t just want to eliminate bad odors, you want to create smells that elicit emotion. It’s why you bake cookies before an open house. You want to tap into your customers’ pleasure centers so they feel comfortable and at home.

There are many ways to bring in tactile elements throughout your space. Fabrics on furniture and pillows are an easy example, but think about other places your customer needs to touch: door handles, railings, elevator buttons, touchscreen kiosks, shopping carts, shopping bags, napkins, utensils, and more.

And finally, taste. Make sure whatever your customer tastes in your space is delicious. Get a water filter, offer the best snacks, and tie it all back to what your brand represents. Is your brand playful and silly? Maybe gumballs are in order. Is your brand sophisticated? A dark chocolate for a mature palate might be more appropriate.

Customize the Experience

We all want it our way these days. The more you can do to give your customers choices, the happier they’ll be. This might be in your hours, ways to be contacted, places to access your business, menu substitutions, filtering products, or product tailoring. is a great example of this. This clothing line for women allows you to choose your skirt length, sleeve style, neckline, and fabric to make your own custom dress.

You can also make them feel special by putting them first. Put their name on a welcome sign. Customize your client gift to their tastes. Let your most loyal customers jump to the front of the line. If they are treated like they are your best customer, they will be.

Then Go Beyond

Figure out how to wow your customer. What can you give them that they are not expecting but will love? I will have a lot of loyalty to a garage that washes and vacuums my car with every service. It checks something off my to-do list without even thinking about it. I know of a dentist who provides a hot wax treatment on your hands while you get a cleaning. You’d never think of going to the dentist as relaxing, but now it is. If you can identify the wow in your business, you’ll gain not only a customer, but a brand advocate.

It really is all in the details. If you can get them right, your brand experience will be one to be remembered.

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