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Thoughts on which marketing direction to take?

yveskleinsky

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So far we have been really successful with our cabins. This has been in large part due to the website we currently have (we are the best of the worst). We are working on automating it, so it is even a more customer friendly experience. We are looking to acquire more cabins- and we are currently turning people away, so I suppose any additional marketing is somewhat moot as we are at max capacity now.

However, since we are planning for the future we are at somewhat of a crossroads when it comes to marketing our cabins. Should we:

1. Focus on a low price and great service.

2. Focus on great service and be priced like everyone else?

3. Focus on providing a great experience, be the cheapest place in town and give great service?

I hear so much conflicting advice when it comes to marketing that I'm a little confused about where our focus should be. I read stories like the one posted on the success stories thread, about Mattress Mac- but then I also read stories about pinkberry yogurt stores. Since our product isn't consumable like furniture or yogurt, maybe we shouldn't (or can't) focus on high turnover like Mattress Mac. But then again, our product isn't at the top end either like pinkberry- so we can't really focus solely on the experience.

I have some zany thoughts on advertising, which I think only works if you are selling a product based on price. I suppose we could continue focusing on small micro cabins to where we could compete on price- and it would still be profitable.
Any thoughts?
 

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GoldenEggs

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What do you want to be known for primarily? What do you want your guests to remember about your cabins?

For my husband and I, we are going to focus on customer service for our internet business. The retail portion does well but we are working on changing how we market ourselves to kick the retail portion into a higher level. The lowest price doesn't work for us. What has worked was when we focused on meeting the customer's needs.
 
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yveskleinsky

yveskleinsky

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We are focused on customer service- but since we run our business out of the area, there is no face-to-face connection (or service) with customers- unlike everyone else in the area who has a mom and pop shop. However, our website will be the most user friendly. We've noticed that in our business there isn't a lot of loyalty. People want to vacation, they want a cabin- whichever company answers the phone first wins. Price is also a huge factor.

I suppose if we are to be known for anything it would be that we go the extra mile at a good price. I want to create a place where family vacations are affordable and the experience is memorable.
 

MJ DeMarco

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This is such a hard question without first examining your cabins as well as your location as well as the average client who rents cabins. If they are families vs hunters, the answer might be different.

That said, are you looking to target cheap customers? Or more affluent clients? One note about cheap customers: They are very brand disloyal and will move from business to business seeking the best deal to save $10. I never recommend a business/pricing strategy based on the cheapest price because it attracts the worse type of clients.

For me personally, I'd focus on #2 -- the best service and the best cabins and charge a HIGHER price. The people that pay your price which is higher than the competition, will be loyal to your cabins and wont drop you like a hot potato the minute a better deal comes along.

The trick in pricing your cabins higher than the competition is to add VALUE to your offering and highlight that. Then, you back it up with the great service you mention. How do you add value? Here are some I can think of...

"1,000 thread count bed linens in all cabins for your utmost pleasure"
"Complimentary newspaper and hot coffee delivered every morning"
"All cabins have satellite HD TV"
"Each cabin fully stocked with board games for your families gaming pleasure"

(Again, not knowing your typical client profile, its hard for me to speculate on what would be value)

Price and Value can be positioned in the consumer mind, if you are smart.

Here's a little story about how you can trick the consumer mind about price and value ...

There is a company here in Phoenix that takes average furniture that you can find at any Roomstore, Gallery Furniture, Ashley (Etc) and they furnish a multi-million dollar house with it. Then they have an open house with the purpose of selling the furniture at higher prices. The drop street signs all over the neighborhood "Luxury Home - Furniture liquidation".

The tactic of cross-referencing a luxury, multi-million dollar house with this furniture CREATES the mindset in the consumer that the furniture is worth more. Also, seeing the furniture in action within the huge luxury house adds value in the consumer mindset. Its the same old, average furniture, marketed in a position of affluence and luxury - it automatically becomes worth more.

Its all about MARKETING and MARKETING POSITION in the consumer mindset.

The pricing of consumer goods and services is worthy of a book in itself and most business owners will fall into the trap of thinking the only path to tread is to be the cheapest. It isn't.
 

Rawr

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I have to agree with MJ here, you don't want the guys who pick your business only because it is the cheapest. These types of people generally try to squeeze as much as they can out of you.

RK in this issue of Entrepreneur has a column on it - he basically says that "Free" attracts Freeloaders.

Looking at your case, I would go with BEST and then let the people who can afford it enjoy it. Remember - there is a lot of money in this world, and people have no problems spending money on GREAT things or services. If your cabin provides the best experience people will come.
 
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yveskleinsky

yveskleinsky

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MJ- First, thank you for taking so much time to give such a thought out answer- I know you're a busy guy!

Here's some more info on us:

Our average customer is a middle class family, (From Texas) generally with kids and pets.

Our cabins are run-of-the-mill and comparable to what others are offering.

I would love to get to the point where we could offer a host of other services- as I would love to create a great place for families to spend quality time together. (Lodge, game room, free cocoa etc). Currently we are having such basic issues with staffing- to rely on them to provide a newspaper or coffee is out of the question! ...If we had clusters of cabins co-located with an on-site manager then that would work....Maybe that is the direction we need to head.
 

andviv

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So far, what has worked? what has NOT worked?
what is the average # of nights your customers spend in your cabins?
How many hours do they drive to get there?
Is there a chapter in your local chamber of commerce for people in your business? Who owns 'the' main/best cabin business in your area? what do they do better/worse than you?

Why do I ask all of this? because you used the word 'comparable', so this triggers in my mind the 'yeah-me-too' syndrome, so maybe you will need to research what others are offering that is working, and find your own [ame="http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Ocean-Strategy-Uncontested-Competition/dp/1591396190"]Blue Ocean[/ame] (I think that book's idea is very interesting and exercises to identify what you do and how to find your niche are eye-opening).
 
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yveskleinsky

yveskleinsky

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So far, what has worked? what has NOT worked?
what is the average # of nights your customers spend in your cabins?
How many hours do they drive to get there?
Is there a chapter in your local chamber of commerce for people in your business? Who owns 'the' main/best cabin business in your area? what do they do better/worse than you?

Why do I ask all of this? because you used the word 'comparable', so this triggers in my mind the 'yeah-me-too' syndrome, so maybe you will need to research what others are offering that is working, and find your own Blue Ocean (I think that book's idea is very interesting and exercises to identify what you do and how to find your niche are eye-opening).
I will check out Blue Ocean after I respond here! As far as the other answers:
1. Avg. nights: 3
2. Hours to drive: 8
3. Don't know about a chapter in the COC, but I am a member- will check it out.
4. The big dog in town is Spruce Cabins owned by Teri. She owns about 10 cabins and manages about 20 others as well as runs a RE office. It seems as though she is moving more towards managing her own cabins- similiar principal as apartments! All are identical and co-located. Her website is great, our is probably in 2nd place (will by #1 as soon as Apto finishes!) Teri also offers a repeatable experience- her business is very much an "S", but it works great. She personally checks the cabins after each cleaning and is very involved. They are also there onsite to deal with any of the little things that come up- like people who can't figure out the TV remote, or they don't know how to make a fire etc.

The need we are hoping to fill is making the reservation process easier- our site will be totally automated (like hotels.com) where people can make reservations 24/7. We also decided that instead of housekeepers, we will hire and train people to be cabin prep people. Each month we will decorate the cabin in an appropriate theme. ...Right now we are concerning ourselves with just the basics!
 

nomadjanet

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Maybe I missed it in the reading but who have you defined as your target client?

I am middle aged, I like to travel for all different reasons. I like to fish and hike and boat, I don't camp. I like the cabin idea because you have comfort near the camp idea but not camping.

I like to have some things arranged for me when I travel. I could go somewhere & fish without a guide but I don't I pay $400.00 extra because I want to be taken right to the fishing spot with the best fishing. I want the guide to supply my tackle & take care of me.
When we travel anywhere we spend sometime on our own but we spend some extra money on a local guide to see more than we can by ourselves.

So these are add on services that your clients may be looking for. Not that you would provide them but that you could have a relationship with someone that does that could give your clients a more pampered experiance.
 

andviv

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The need we are hoping to fill is making the reservation process easier- our site will be totally automated (like hotels.com) where people can make reservations 24/7. We also decided that instead of housekeepers, we will hire and train people to be cabin prep people. Each month we will decorate the cabin in an appropriate theme. ...Right now we are concerning ourselves with just the basics!
Maybe Russ can add a lot here, as I think that the personalized service is what could make the difference. By making the process complete automatic you will NOT be targeting that customer that wants to be attended and ... how to say it.... is 'pampered' the word? I don't know... kind of making them feel 'special'. Your automated process probably targets the Do-it-yourself type instead... so kind of agreeing with nomadjanet here.... you probably will have to define a targeted audience that is not your current customer (not that there is anything wrong with that).

The Spruce cabins, by being detailed-oriented and present in the place at all times, are probably targeting that other kind of customer. The one that wants help right away. You focus in the process and automation would give you a different niche, the DIY's How can you bring (attract) that type of people to your cabins?

Again, Russ' input here would be very valuable as, for what I understood, his success is based on the personalized service, right Russ?
 

Luke12321

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Great information here. Myself, when I am planning a vacation...I like to compare prices. I will never book the first hotel (cabin, condo) that I find online. I think most middle class people search for value though. I will pay more than going rate if I am going to get something I value in return.
 

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yveskleinsky

yveskleinsky

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I would love to provide extra services of value- maybe guided trips, daily maid service, stocked coffee bar, gameroom, etc. How do I arrange for all these things and not be there? I'm concerned about overpromising and under delivering. Right now we are just focused on the basics- getting housekeepers to show up and getting pipes not to break! Janet- any ideas on how to retrofit pipe insulation, or thoughts on how to get them to not break?...we are leaving the heat on and water dripping and still no bueno.
 

nomadjanet

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You can buy pipe heat tapes that plug into the electriciy and have a built in thermo that keeps the pipe just above freezing. We only freeze once every 5 years or so but we have put some in up in the hill country where people have weekenders, it gets a little colder up there.
What you need to do for the added value is to interview the local guides and get a working relationship going with someone. You don't want to sell their services if you are not there to oversee the experiance, just charge the vendor a finders fee for refferrals. If you can get a really good relationship going you might then offer to set up the appointment and handle collection. Many local guide services are not set up to recieve credit cards If you can get them to discount their charges or if you can pop uip their charges by 10% or 20% plus and on the credit card fee it may appeal to them and be a little bonus for you and the vendor. I would be cautious of this unless I knew the vendor would produce, you don't want to take money for services you can't deliver. We recently sold a job on a sub contractor that did not produce after we had collected money from a client and paid a draw to the sub, we had to eat the loss, kiss the client and hire another sub. Once you put yourself in that position you have to asume the responsibility it's usualy worth the trouble but it can bite back.
Janet
 

Allthingznew

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From this tread and the multiple income thread I think you have an opportunity to target a crowd other than the Texans. Sure there are challenges, but there are with every opportunity.

Service of a different kind is coming through these threads. People say they want guides, concierge, pampering, but not luxury necessarily. To target these people your cabins are not run of the mill like all the others around, they're quaint, they have charm and they each provide their own experience.

You may do better to try to partner with someone locally who is business minded who would see the opportunity and where they fit in it rather than hiring an employee to provide the services for you.

I think there is a crowd that would fly in, rent a car, and drive for 2 hours just to get away. These people are also willing to pay more and I doubt you'd have to change much in the cabins for them, if they knew what to expect. They may also stay longer.

There may be little things that can make a huge impact that are inexpensive too. Hotels often have an iron, blow dryer, you know, the stuff you forgot at home, you could have some things along those lines, a disposable camera for one. Imagine the argument you might save just one family or couple that forgot their camera.

Target business people, writers, people who have the money and need the getaway. You just might do well in New York. You've got quiet, scenic, relaxing, open, compared to their noise, cramped hustle and bustle. These people are used to higher prices and are willing to pay for what they need, and you have something they need, they just haven't recognized it yet.

You could also have a blog along with your website. Use the blog to show the experience they can expect. With a blog you have to keep adding content, so you could post articles about the area and activities. You could post an article each time there is an event in the area that's a draw. You could also have your customers share their experience either in the form of the comments, or a post.

A visit to your blog should make someone want to make a visit to your cabins.
 
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yveskleinsky

yveskleinsky

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++rep Allthingsnew! GREAT advice. I have a lot to chew on with all these ideas so I'll keep you posted as things progress!
 

tbsells

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I suppose if we are to be known for anything it would be that we go the extra mile at a good price. I want to create a place where family vacations are affordable and the experience is memorable.

I think this statement identifies what your core values are and what your goals are for your business. Also, you recognize that you are not "hands on" or "high touch" enough to provide truly outstanding service or for that matter to offer much in the way of extras. Also, you stated that your cabins are "run of the mill." To me, all these things add up to a feeling that this is not going to be a premium product at a premium price. Its also important that the business be relatively simple and easy to duplicate. With that in mind and with the focus on family how about some minor extras that families will enjoy such as:
1) Stocking the cabins with an assortment of games such as yahtzee, electronic deal or no deal, candyland, chutes and ladders, pictionary, puzzles, etc. These are all inexpensive things the family will not bring with them but they will use and be pleasantly suprised that they were supplied with the rental. A good night of games with the family in the cabin will help foster good memories of your business. People should do this at home but don't because we are all to busy. You are providing them an opportunity to reconnect with family. Priceless and memorable to the customer. Inexpensive for you.

2) Stocking the cabin with a DVD player and a selection of movies such as Top Gun, Rocky, ET, Jurassic Park, etc. Maybe a selection for kids such as Barney, Veggietales, etc. This is not too expensive but does add value for the consumer and might differentiate you from the competition. I am assuming the cabins are fairly secluded so this could be a nice convenience.

3) Charcoal grills and/or fireplaces. You could sell firewood and charcoal somewhere on site. This could be an additional revenue source.

As far as marketing, could you affiliate with nearby golf courses, lakes, hunting reserves, or other recreational service providers? It seems that the same consumer might be interested in all these things. As far as price, I agree with the others that the cheapest customer is often the worst customer. I would price it moderately and in line with most of the competition. You would have about the same price but a more memorable product. Also, I think good rustic local decor is a good idea. With any type of lodging cleanliness is extremely important.

I don't disagree with anyone recommending premium service and product for a premium price. Obviously, that is one way to make money. I just don't get the feeling that you want to go that direction with this project. Just my opinion.
 
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yveskleinsky

yveskleinsky

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Thanks TB- yes, we currently do all of the above. We even leave out stuff for smores, and cider and coco packets at no charge.
 

Allthingznew

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++rep Allthingsnew! GREAT advice. I have a lot to chew on with all these ideas so I'll keep you posted as things progress!
Thanks! Mind putting in on my account too? :smxB:

When I finally get things up and going with my own business/cashflow, I think I'd like to make stay in one of you cabins sometime.
 

Yankees338

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Jul 24, 2007
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I think this statement identifies what your core values are and what your goals are for your business. Also, you recognize that you are not "hands on" or "high touch" enough to provide truly outstanding service or for that matter to offer much in the way of extras. Also, you stated that your cabins are "run of the mill." To me, all these things add up to a feeling that this is not going to be a premium product at a premium price. Its also important that the business be relatively simple and easy to duplicate. With that in mind and with the focus on family how about some minor extras that families will enjoy such as:
1) Stocking the cabins with an assortment of games such as yahtzee, electronic deal or no deal, candyland, chutes and ladders, pictionary, puzzles, etc. These are all inexpensive things the family will not bring with them but they will use and be pleasantly suprised that they were supplied with the rental. A good night of games with the family in the cabin will help foster good memories of your business. People should do this at home but don't because we are all to busy. You are providing them an opportunity to reconnect with family. Priceless and memorable to the customer. Inexpensive for you.

2) Stocking the cabin with a DVD player and a selection of movies such as Top Gun, Rocky, ET, Jurassic Park, etc. Maybe a selection for kids such as Barney, Veggietales, etc. This is not too expensive but does add value for the consumer and might differentiate you from the competition. I am assuming the cabins are fairly secluded so this could be a nice convenience.

3) Charcoal grills and/or fireplaces. You could sell firewood and charcoal somewhere on site. This could be an additional revenue source.

As far as marketing, could you affiliate with nearby golf courses, lakes, hunting reserves, or other recreational service providers? It seems that the same consumer might be interested in all these things. As far as price, I agree with the others that the cheapest customer is often the worst customer. I would price it moderately and in line with most of the competition. You would have about the same price but a more memorable product. Also, I think good rustic local decor is a good idea. With any type of lodging cleanliness is extremely important.

I don't disagree with anyone recommending premium service and product for a premium price. Obviously, that is one way to make money. I just don't get the feeling that you want to go that direction with this project. Just my opinion.
DAMNITTTTTTT....I just wrote a long a$$ post, but it got deleted when I went to spell-check because I had to install the add-on for it (if you haven't noticed, I don't spell-check a lot ;)).

Anyway, I'll try and reiterate what I was getting at before. First of all, great suggestions Allthingznew and tbsells.

tbsells - While I definitely understand where you're coming from with your suggestion, I think there are other ways to look at it as well. Maybe some people wouldn't mind paying a little extra for some addition perks as far as service goes...

Yves, perhaps you would consider something like this:

Essentially, it'd be like packaging up all of the services (with perhaps a few others) that you currently offer. However, it would also serve as a marketing tool when trying to appeal to different crowds. For instance, you could offer a specific package for the City-type couple looking to get away for a few days that would include more luxurious services such as massages and golfing, and also include a couple of delivered meals from local restaurants.

Then you have the families. For younger families, you could offer packages that include games, local attractions that would appeal to younger kids, pre-planned activities such as biking or hiking, and anything else they may be interested in.

You could also pre-stock the cabinets and the fridge with foods and snacks that each market would likely appreciate.

In my opinion, though, the most important aspect to this would be the ability to market these packages well. That would require catchy names like "The Family Cabin Retreat"...okay, bad example...I said catchy names, but I think you get the point. Personally, I believe that offering a couple of specific packages that appeal to different crowds would enable you to avoid the slower seasons and grow even faster.
 
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yveskleinsky

yveskleinsky

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Great feedback Yankees (as usual :) ).

I like the idea of having a menu of services, as I think it would be needed- and appreciated by guests.

My little hamster is running overtime on it's wheel, so as soon as I start implementing ideas, I'll let you guys know what I do and the results I get.

++rep :)
 

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