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It's All About the Experience
By: Lyle Smith
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The Open Championship is being played this week in St. Andrews, Scotland. All the talk is about Texan Jordan Speith having a chance to bag the third leg of the modern, professional Grand Slam at the Home of Golf. But my memory is thrown back to my first visit to “the auld toon” and just how I managed to select accommodations for my father and myself. And it’s all related to a singular, exceptional digital experience.

The pre-9/11 world was very, very different than the world today, but it was a digital world. My father and I were traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland for a business event and, as victims of the golf addiction, we decided that we would extend our stay by several days to travel the hour and a half to the traditional and spiritual home of golf up the coast to the ancient city of St. Andrews. We would return on September 9, 2001.

But, where to stay?

Even in those days, the expense of staying and playing in St. Andrews was significant, particularly to the American market. Guaranteed starting times on the famed Old Course were difficult to come by and expensive to acquire through “official” means. Three days of golf with three nights' accommodation could run upwards of 2,000 pounds sterling in those days; almost double in American dollars.

As a veteran of many bed and breakfast (B&B) trips though Ireland, I understood the value of connecting with local small businesses. I began researching B&Bs and guesthouses in St. Andrews. I emailed and reached out to numerous businesses through their websites. The first and only personal response came from Charlie Huldahl of Cleveden House, just a few steps off the Old Course. He told me there was availability. He quoted me a rate. He said he’d do anything he could to secure starting times on the local golf courses and gave me some local insight into the Old Course lottery system.

I booked our rooms immediately. Why? Simply because he responded to my email first, and with a personal touch.

My dad and I stayed in St. Andrews for four days. We played the Old Course two days in a row, an unheard-of experience for all but local club members. We’ve become friends with Charlie and his wonderfully welcoming wife, Ray. We’ve returned several times over the years on a trip we always believed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We met Sir Sean Connery at the Dunvegan Pub. We bought each other dinner at Ziggy’s several times. We bought drinks for each other at numerous historic clubs and pubs along the way and we played golf together. We congratulated Charlie on his election as Secretary of the St. Andrews Club overlooking the 18th of the Old Course on the ancient links. We were clued into all of the local news online.

We’ve returned several times over the years and recommended numerous friends to stay at Cleveden House over the grand Old Course or Russacks Hotels. They have all enjoyed their experience immensely. They have all returned and recommended to others.

We all like to believe that there is some secret digital formula that can be automated, bottled, and sold. The truth is, it is all about the experience for the customer. If they value your contribution to their experience, if they enjoy and want to repeat their experience, they will reward you and anyone you recommend to them.

Business is about relationships. Creating returning customers is about relationships. Digital marketing is often not enough about relationships. Even if you are creating an automated, digital experience, it needs to feel to your customers like a personal experience. They need to feel valued. Otherwise you are wasting your energy. And your time. And your budget.

My friend, Charlie in St. Andrews, understood this. That is why I reward his business with my patronage. And my experience is only one. One guy who sent an email and got a personal response. How many others like me must there be?

The recommendation: simply pay attention to the customers and potential customers and how they reach out to you. Clearly, it makes a difference.

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About the Author

Lyle Smith is owner of Nymble Content Marketing, a creative and digital marketing consulting firm dedicated to implementing the most effective strategies for their clients. His background is as a writer, journalist and digital marketer with many of the biggest digital and technical agencies in the industry.


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