(Originally written in May, 2012, while at the Norman, Okla., CVB.)
My Achilles Heel is ice cream. And when I HAVE to drive by a Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Story to get to our office, that’s a problem. Every once in a while I cave and drive through.
The young gal the other day handed me my peanut butter cup mix and said, “Wow! That looks good!” I retorted, “What? You’ve never had one?” She responded, “No.” And I drove off thinking ‘how in the world can she adequately sell their products if she’s never eaten them!?’
Then I quickly turned the thought on myself and wondered if I’ve ever “eaten all of my destination’s products!?” Sure, I can tell about the Smithsonian caliper displays at our natural history museum or the art museum or the lake or the live music but can I emotionally convey the experience?
Am I experienced?
Attractions… I believe I’ve been to every attraction although one I just went to within the last six months – three years after I arrived. We have a large casino just across the river / city limits. I’ve yet to play Blackjack or a slot and I certainly haven’t experienced any of their live music in the lounge. On our website we list the “Must Dos”. I’m embarrassed to share I’ve only done 4 of the 11!
Festivals / Events… I’ve yet to go to our Jazz Festival (although that will change this summer when David Sandborn plays!) Norman boasts a Second Friday Circuit of Art. Haven’t been to one. Summer and winter concerts. Nope. I haven’t even been to our County Fair! Gasp!
Restaurants… This I’ve done well! I actually attempted to eat at every restaurant in the diners guide in the first year I was here. I came close but as you do, you get your favorites and don’t get back into a place for quite a while to see if the burger or omelet is still serve-able let alone if the concept has completely changed!
Hotels / Bed and Breakfasts… Really… is a Hampton Inn a Hampton Inn a Hampton Inn? Well yes, but what truly makes your Hampton Inn a unique experience from the other Hampton Inn down the road? (Okay. Hampton Inns aren’t unique but you get what I mean…) Helen Hunt and Al Gore slept in one of our B&Bs. It’s cool to say to a potential visitor but have I experienced Helen’s or the Veep’s experience?
Intangibles… What’s the other intangibles we as destination marketers need to experience in or about our communities? Have you experienced game day traffic? How can you truly relate to a visitor if you haven’t sat in that traffic? Road construction? What does the visitor need to know about dodging the orange barrels? Is a museum docent better than all the others? Do you know he/she works every Tuesday? Go ahead a recommend a visitor go at that time while he/she’s there! Is there a time of day that the sun hits a work of public art just perfectly? Tell a visitor where to stand and that that’s when they should take the picture!
We almost need to budget staff field trips don’t we!? But really, isn’t that what differs us from TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon or any of the other hundreds of online review sites? Doesn’t that make us and our DMO relevant again!?
Get out of the office and go experience something!