As a startup or small business, you need to focus to win

I attended a hospitality industry conference this past weekend and met some amazing people. Hospitality is not one my of areas of interest, but I attended with an openmind. Everyone I met, weather they worked for a large corporation or a small business, all had the similar issues that I think about on a regular basis. One example that stuck with me was about branding and how to think about segmenting your product for your target audience.
The hotel industry has a very interesting challenge, they have essentially one product – rooms. But the major hotel chains have multiple brands focus on distinct target audiences and price points. I kind of knew this internally, but when the speaker gave examples, it really made sense.
For example, Starwood has 9 different brands bucketed into three categories – luxury, mainstream, extended stay. Within the ultra-luxury category (my categorization), they have three different brands – St. Regis, the Luxury Collection, and W Hotels. While they are all focused on the big/free spender, they have specific targets within that big spender audience. The St. Regis is focused on ultra high touch and service. The Luxury Collection’s target audience is world travelers who want local experiences. The W is focused on young/urban trendsetters who like fashion and music. It’s no coincidence the W hotel lobbies resemble a night club.
A large corporation such as Starwood has the resources (money and people) to go after multiple audiences. But what about a small company or startup? Startups need to focus. Pick a single audience/niche/target and solely focus on that until you either win (i.e. become an authority) or fail (i.e. can’t make a business out of it)
In contrast to Starwood, there is a small property in Aspen, CO called The Little Nell.  Most people, including myself, have never heard of it (I did a quick poll of some friends). The Little Nell is “the” place to be in town, if you can afford it, of course. How did they get that reputation? Amazing customer service and doing “the little things” according to Yelp. If you ask regulars or locals about where to stay, they’ll recommend The Little Nell over any other hotel in town.

So the morale of the story is to focus on a specific audience, be excellent at what you do and delight the customer.
I don’t think any of these things are new, but it was interesting to me how it applies across industries and companies of all sizes.

Don't forget to ask for feedback

Yesterday I received a Groupon from Baja Fresh in Manhattan.  Why does Baja Fresh need to send out Groupons?  Probably because they get mostly tourists and one time visitors and Groupon is a way to drawn in locals.  Natives usually don’t go for the chains.  I wonder why?

I’ve redeemed a few Groupons in the past.  Most of them were for one-off eateries that I found interesting.

I’ve never once received any follow up from the establishments where I’ve redeemed.  They already have my email, they know I went in and tried their food/services.  Why not ask me what I thought?  Ask me if I would come back? Ask for my opinion. If need be, give an incentive.

You’ve already paid Groupon to collect a list of potential customers.  Don’t just throw it away, use it to gather feedback.  Then implement what would bring back customers and add value.

And yes, I was lazy and didn’t get the Baja Fresh Groupon in time.