Rural Tourism Marketing Tip: Greet Like WalMart

by Joanne Steele on June 29, 2010

How do you greet your customers when they first arrive at your business?

WalMart knows how important that first encounter is. If the corporation known for wringing every last dime out of suppliers is willing to devote one staff position to greeting, you can bet they’ve determined it will increase sales.

What can small rural tourism businesses learn from Walmart?

Make that first few minutes meaningful and valuable to your customer.

It’s easier to see how to do this in retail and restaurants, and still it is often overlooked or done poorly. You can do one better than WalMart by:

1. Saying “hello” like you mean it.

2. Don’t ask questions that can be answered by “I’m just looking,” “Yes,” or “No”.

3. Observe and speak to a perceived interest.

The person who greeted me at Courtyard Gallery in Lindsborg, Kansas, welcomed me, then watched me as I zeroed in on a piece of beautiful art glass. She came up and told me that the artist was local. She pointed out that other pieces by this artist were upstairs. I was hooked. I didn’t buy, but I took a card with their web address on it, and I may buy in the future.

4. Ask them to sign your guestbook with their email address regardless of whether they buy or not.

Adventure businesses and locally owned lodging are creating future business by their first encounter.

For adventure businesses and guide services, people have booked with you already. That greeting puts your customers at ease and sets the tone for your time together… and in the future. Guides are often very busy with preparation while waiting for customers to show up.

I’ve had guide experiences where the guides stopped what they were doing and walked to meet us, and others where I felt a little like I was interrupting something. Guess which company I continue to book with.

Locally owned lodging is being drummed into extinction by cookie cutter motels with someone at the front desk at all hours of the day and night.

It’s hard to have a life and run a motel. I’ve watched a close friend grow his business because of his compelling friendliness. If you go to Cave Springs in Dunsmuir, California and Louie is out cleaning the pool or fertilizing the garden, there will be a sign on the door telling you where to find him. When he sees you coming, he drops what he’s doing and greets you like family.

That first friendly greeting will increase sales, increase return visits and increase a sense of connection to you and your business.

On Thursday our marketing tip will include new info about Yelp, and how that connection you create with ONE customer could lead to many more.

A past post on this topic:

Customer Service: Can a Smile Make a Difference?

Photo by Gregg O’Connell

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