If your goal is to get visitors in the door, you need to set an expectation that exceeds that of all of the other options. Your prospective guest is vetting you against a variety of alternatives, all competing for the same discretionary dollar. It is your responsibility, then, to create an expectation that the experience the guest will have by visiting you is higher than the experience of going somewhere else.
How do you define what “somewhere else” means and what establishments make up your total competitive set? When I’m working with clients on answering this question, I trace it back to a few key questions:
- What do guests expect when they visit your attraction?
- Do guests visit because they need to or because they want to?
- What else can guests do besides visit your attraction?
At first glance, these look like very surface-level questions with obvious answers. The answer to what to guests expect usually yields responses like, “an enjoyable, leisurely time.” The next question, which of course the answer is generally “want,” brings up a deeper point with a mindset that we’re not always in. Of course your guests are visiting because they want to, but what about you? What about your staff? Does your staff come to work because they want to or because they need to?
Hopefully the answer is want to an extent, but at the end of the day, your staff and your guests are arriving at the same location for two very different reasons. If one of them doesn’t visit, there are negative financial impacts. If the other doesn’t visit, it won’t have any negative effect on their life.
It’s a little harsh, but also true. Your guests do not need to visit you. Leading this cold truth into the next question, the number of answers for what else guests can do can be higher than we usually anticipate at the start. Let’s identify the 3 layers of alternative options:
Direct competitor. This is someone who operates exactly in your space. If you’re a museum, it’s another museum. If you’re a bowling center, it’s another bowling center. If you’re a trampoline park, it’s another trampoline park. This is the most obvious “alternative” to your attraction.
Indirect competitor. Peeling back a layer, these are additional entertainment or leisure offerings in your geographic region, priced within similar range as you, but with different offerings. If you’re an aquarium, this could be a movie theater. If you’re a miniature golf course, this could be a zoo. You’re all fighting for the same dollar and time.
Everything else. Seems a little vague, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. This includes businesses or activities that have nothing to do with our industry, but still occupy money and/or time from prospective visitors that at the end of the day, we’re competing against. If I’m sitting at home binge-watching Netflix, I’m not visiting a theme park. If a stressed out student has a large project coming up, they’re most likely not going to an FEC. And if I just got a speeding ticket, that might occupy the funds that would have been spent on a sightseeing cruise.
Summing it all up, at the end of the day, the amount of competitors you have is literally infinite. Your guests could visit you, your direct competitors, a similar establishment, or literally any other thing that could occupy their time or money.
The cards are not stacked in our favor. However, I’m not presenting this fact solely for the purpose of presenting bad news. I intend to convey it as more of an observational truth. Every guest that comes to you does so on purpose, not by accident. And to bring everything full circle, I leave you with one final question to ponder:
Why do guests want to visit you?
Josh Liebman specializes in guest experience within attractions, tourism, and hospitality, including service standards, complaint resolution, and driving guest loyalty. Josh is a serial entrepreneur, podcaster, consultant, and speaker. Josh has worked for some of the top attraction operators in the world, including, but not limited to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Merlin Entertainments, and Cedar Fair. Josh has been integral to the openings of multiple attractions in various leadership capacities. Additionally, Josh has consulted for many of the world’s leading hospitality brands, including Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Waldorf Astoria, and many more. Josh is Co-Host of the AttractionPros Podcast, which brings the audience into the room with the top leaders, executives, and influencers in the attractions industry.