Experience Marketing At Its Best

21 Jul 2004|Lee Shupp

I’ve just finished a wonderful week on vacation with Backroads, an adventure travel company based in Berkeley, California. This is their 25th year in business, and they showed me both an astute understanding of creating create customer experiences and a REALLY good time.

Adventure travel is for hyperactive children like me, who enjoy outdoor sports, love exploring, crave new experiences, and prefer to go full throttle on vacation. You can pick a sport that you like (biking, hiking, etc) or go on a multi-sport vacation that combines lots of things. I chose a multi-sport trip to Alaska that included hiking, biking, white water rafting, sea kaying, and flightseeing in a small plane. I crammed more experiences into a weeklong vacation than I thought was possible. It was wonderful.

I heard about Backroads from a friend (word-of-mouth) who went on a trip and loved it. Once I had Backroads on my radar, I checked with other adventuresome friends, and they confirmed Backroad’s reputation for well-organized, well-executed trips. I checked the web site, which looked great, called their 800 number and talked to an enthusiastic, informed person, who booked my travel. Information arrived at my house quickly, and Backroads answered questions that I had knowledgably.

The trip was great. Backroads had obviously done their homework on hotels, restaurants, and outdoor companies who subcontracted services like white water rafting trips. I had great experiences, one after the other, from breakfast til midnight. We were very busy, getting up early in the mornings and having late dinners to take adantage of Alaska’s 18+ hours of daylight. We went full tilt boogie the whole time, and didn’t sleep lots. Our leaders got less sleep than we did; as we were falling asleep tired and happy they were preparing the van for the next day’s adventures.

The trip wasn’t perfect; accomodations in Alaska can be a bit rustic, and one hotel in Denali was substandard. (Cruise ship lines own the two biggest hotels in Denali national park; I just hope that they put a lot more thought into building their ships than they do into building their hotels 🙂 Since I travel lots, I know better than to expect any travel experience to be perfect. Flexibility and the ability to improvise are essential travel skills. I was able to adjust just fine.

The trip leaders provided positive, high energy leadership , were very flexible, and accomodated spontaneous requests. They listened carefully and compassionately when people offered feedback both pro and con. They made the trip really enjoyable. They can come stay at my house any time.

It’s evident to me that Backroads truly understands experience marketing. In summary:

  • First and most important, they deliver great experiences. Consistently.They exceeded my expecatations, which were high.
  • They rely on word of mouth marketing, and do not bother with mainstream advertising. Happy customers are the best- and most credible- advertising that anyone can wish for.
  • They know their sweet spot, and have segmented the travel market into a niche that makes sense for them, and more importantly, for their customers. Our group was very diverse, but all shared a love for the outdoors and the craving for adventure.
  • They have a great web site, and respond to queries quickly. They understand the power of the web.
  • They provide great customer experiences at every point of interaction, including web, phone, and in person. They plan trips well and execute the vision consistently.
  • They crave consumer feedback, and act upon it. They checked in with me before I left for my trip, and had an email with a customer satisfaction survey waiting in my in box when I returned. The tone of the surveys was relaxed, genuine, and pleasant. It was a joy to respond to requests for feedback, and I normally hate filling out surveys.
  • And by doing these things, they have another satified customer to add to the word of mouth chorus recommending Backroads. If you like adventure travel, go for it! You’ll have a great time with Backroads.

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