I recently visited a beautiful attraction which relies heavily on nature and a love of the outdoors. The owner has been thinking about how to increase profits and visitor numbers and reduce reliance on passing trade and sun.
He was considering a major investment in an indoor play area. You know the sort of thing: vibrant colours, noisy children, masses of plastic. Many family-friendly attractions are opening similar facilities and he felt under pressure to consider doing the same.
One of the phrases that stayed with me after reading James Caan's autobiography was "observe the masses, and do the opposite". This can take courage but is so often worthwhile.
The plastic play area wouldn't be at all appropriate for his setting or business. It wouldn't really cater for his key target markets, and may even put off some of his older visitors who enjoy the calm environment.
We talked about his passions and interests and it quickly became clear that there are many other angles to consider and new ideas we could put in place (I won't tell you here now - still secret), which would build on the owner's own knowledge, attract very specific markets and set this attraction apart from others. It will take courage to try something different - but the investment required for a major play centre would be larger and arguably take more courage.
Back to the reason for thinking about this - how to mitigate against wet weather. If the attraction develops something completely new and different, something with clear target markets, we'll be able to attract higher spending pre-booked groups who will come regardless of the weather. We'll be able to extend the season and develop a new range of profitable products to sell alongside entrance tickets. We'll be focusing on profit, not just higher visitor numbers. And the owner will feel really comfortable with what he's doing, and able to invest more passion and enthusiasm in his own business.
So before you spend a fortune to follow the crowd or do what you think people want, take a moment to think what you could do that's different, special and follows your heart. It takes courage to swim against the tide but when you do the rewards can be MUCH bigger.