“You don’t need to write a new book every year, just keep turning the page and start a new chapter.”
Is constant reinvention the key to success?
Twenty years ago, the first program I ever sold was a combined itinerary in Australia and New Zealand for Florists Telegraph Delivery Association (FTD). Back then, FTD was the go-to company for floral arrangements and plants. Today, their expanded product offerings include everything from jewelry to wine and even spa products.
The program, appropriately named “Down Under,” was a huge success and met with rave reviews from Gavel International’s Michael Richardson. However, my involvement came to an abrupt and disappointing end when they announced next year’s locale. Since I was only selling the services of ID Tours in Australia & New Zealand at the time, Michael needed a DMC elsewhere. I knew immediately that expansion was essential for my career, and within a year, Exclusive Destinations was born.
It’s impressive how FTD completely transformed the flower business in the past 20 years and became one of the world’s most recognizable brands. And I would be remiss if I didn’t applaud Michael, who went on to craft a 26-plus year career at Gavel International, where he now serves in an executive capacity.
Though, as a naive entrepreneur in my mid-20s, I wasn’t yet acutely aware of the strategic importance of repeat customers. It was a true wake-up call and a pivotal moment I often refer back to as we continuously expand at Exclusive Destinations. It made me realize that reinvention of a brand, and consequently, of oneself, is vitally important.
Here are few important initiatives that keep me and my team on the reinvention track:
1. Widen your scope.
With the new wave of acquisitions and collaborative partnerships--companies and organizations joining forces--there are multiple approaches to leveraging the power and influence of our peers. Across multiple disciplines, you’ll often see companies address innovation by strengthening their base and integrating processes to enhance customer outcomes.
Exclusive Destinations recently partnered with CSI DMC, which overnight expanded our services to domestic offerings. While “overnight” is an illusion, of course, we methodically identified synergies and implemented strategies to harness the strength of both organizations. The end result has been highly beneficial for both of our companies.
If you aren’t quite ready to partner with another organization, a simple tweak in your business model might be the best approach. Spend some time outside the confines of your industry researching and following companies in other industries. FTD began as a collective agreement between independent florists, because they realized a joint effort could advance the entire floral industry. Fast-forward to today’s mighty tech companies, who collaborate exceedingly well because they are committed to growth and innovation with a first-to-market approach.
The bottom line: Reinvent your limits. There is strength in numbers. Don’t be afraid of the collaborative approach to plant the seeds of innovation that ultimately make you more appealing to your customers.
2. Play where no one else is playing.
In the book “Disrupt Yourself,” author Whitney Johnson says, “Be driven by discovery. One of the key aspects ascribed to disruptors is that they play where no one else is playing.”
A decade ago, we designed an Executive Retreat to reach our client base in a unique and appealing way. Our programs were unique in the sense that we brought competitors together in an arena where the focus was on them, not us.
Unlike hosted buyer programs, where speed-dating type appointments often limit networking, or advisory boards where executives gather to offer their hosts strategic advice, we designed a program focused on personal and professional development.
We built our event with a purpose, considering business goals and pain points for C-Level travel executives. We concentrated on solutions, not products, and introduced speakers who did more than entertain--they facilitated and engaged business leaders to leverage the talent in the room.
For two consecutive years, we hired Whitney Johnson, an expert on disruptive innovation and personal disruption, because her message resonated so deeply with our group.
Have you ever attended an annual event with the previous year’s speaker? I would venture to say probably not. Did we take a risk bringing in Whitney for a second year? Absolutely. However, it was a calculated risk that paid off. Our repeat attendees were thrilled to keep the dialogue going with Whitney, even a year later. The content continuity personalized the experience.
Though bringing in a keynote speaker may be necessary to create the buzz, think about the best fit for your audience. Are your attendees from different divisions of the company? Are you mixing buyers and suppliers in the same room?
The bottom line: Approach reinvention from a fresh new perspective. Consider innovative solutions that meet the needs of all attendees, not just the majority in the room. Be unconventional. Change up the space, save room for surprises, and keep your eye on the target--building an exceptional experience with a measurable ROI.
3. Know your identity.
When IMEX America hit Las Vegas back in 2011, the show filled a gap in the market and became only the second stateside show with a hosted-buyer program. IMEX America has a firm hold of its position each Fall and exhibitors and attendees alike descend on Las Vegas for the ultimate networking experience. (Note: You can read more about our thoughts heading into IMEX 2016 last year, on the blog here.)
Each year, it’s increasingly challenging to navigate the halls with more than 12,000 in attendance rushing to appointments, business sessions and social events. We’re a relatively smaller brand often competing with the bigger brands. (Think farmer’s market vs Whole Foods.)
Rather than compete with the big fish, we decided to join them. Corporate social responsibility had always been the focus of our IMEX annual event since its inception. In 2016, however, scheduling challenges forced a change in plans, and we could no longer host an event on our desired evening. IMEX offered CSR sponsorships and we opted to support their programs. We invited our partners to join us as we built a fence at a local Las Vegas park to support Outside Las Vegas and packed hygiene kits with Clean the World.
We achieved our goal and connected with our industry partners in a meaningful way. Reinvention might include an attention-grabbing booth, a #cleverhashtag or a fun promotion, but “reinvent” can also mean revive, renew and energize.
When Exclusive Destinations turned 20, we created a brand-new logo. Our 20th year went fast, and when it came time for 21, we discussed plans for our “new” logo. Ultimately, we decided to stick with our logo and just cross out the 20 and make it a 21. It was simple, cost-effective and maintained brand familiarity, while adding a level of curiosity and playfulness.
The bottom line: Pay equal attention to your own agenda and the event agenda. Take competition out of the equation and understand the goal is obtainable without making waves and swimming upstream.
To keep pace with the ever-changing business landscape, reinvention endures through innovation and disruption. However, all great ideas need a strong foundation. The bedrock of any successful company thrives from a solid business model. As you reinvent, integrate your strategy, goals and corporate culture to write the next chapter of your playbook.
Lynda Baum is founder and president of Exclusive Destinations, based in Silicon Valley, Calif. Celebrating 20 years in business, Exclusive Destinations is a consortium of elite destination management companies all with a similar philosophy: to provide the utmost in customer service while creating meaningful experiences worldwide. In addition, she works closely with global destination partners and tourist organizations to enhance their marketing and sales activities in North America.