When I first started working with the Marketing and Education Departments at KHM Travel Group (My host travel agency and previous employer prior to founding Stack Strategies), a huge topic of discussion amongst our team was always the term "Luxury" as a category of travel sales. The Director of Education at the time, now Vice President of Agent Engagement, Bill Coyle expressed the importance of knowing what luxury is and being able to differentiate what is not luxury. A long-standing reason I have been inspired by Bill is because he epitomizes luxury.
For a long while, I thought I understood. I learned the luxury travel brands under the guidance of Bill and the KHM Travel Group team. I traveled overseas and experienced fine dining. I went to country clubs, private events, and had private schooling through high school. I finally even had name brand purses. But the truth is, it was not until recently that the meaning of luxury started to reveal itself to me.
In my daily role at Stack Strategies, I create business owner's websites based on the business's brand, services, mission and vision, overall business plan, and operation strategies. During our planning stage, I dig deep into the details behind the business owner's mindset to uncover these details.
I must admit, I have pondered how to define what is "luxury" for quite some time. In addition to my career-oriented curiosity of building a luxury business, moving downtown Cleveland, Ohio from the small countryside towns I grew up in taught me what luxury meant rather quickly. From the atmosphere to the culture to the service, simply put, things are different. And like Bill would say, unless you've experienced the difference between ordinary and extraordinary, it is hard to put it into words.
In this blog post you're reading now, I am taking on the task of defining "Luxury" and what it means to have a Luxury Brand and Service. Like Stack Strategies' creative content writer Meghan once wrote in the Behind the Strategies Blog Words mean everything. It has been my goal for quite some time to pin down what words, images, and actions are behind a luxury service and brand. After my own personal luxury experiences and business building opportunities, my thoughts are ready to be shared.
The character of luxury
To be luxury and to provide a luxury service has a particular approach; the brand, services, and business plan should be very well thought out from the start. The energy is suave and swift. The technology and tools are creative and cutting-edge. There's absolutely a touch of modern, but the taste of traditional is still involved. The luxury is defined in details of the business plan and its operations. Through each and every interaction, luxury is demonstrated exactly as its expected. The people involved in providing the luxury service go above and beyond. Luxury is always Instragram-able. Luxury never fades or goes out of style.
The cold hard truth is that it is a shallow world out there, sweetheart, and first appearances are everything. That means you, your look, and your business's look better say luxury. From your outfit and accessories and style to your expression to your tone of voice, you must keep the whole image you want to portray in mind when representing your luxury look. I'm not saying buy a male or female Gucci suit today but definitely do when you're making the big bucks. There are plenty of creative ways to dress the part from a thrift store or outlet mall -- trust me, it's how I landed a saleswoman position selling Kias at my local car dealer at the age of nineteen with zero sales experience. It's about playing the part.
First impressions are influenced by not only your physical appearance, but also by the way you present your business. Your brand should have the look of luxury; this means no bold color combinations and not overly detailed in design. Use straightforward words and modern fonts. I always recommend having a few branded, custom-made print pieces for your business on hand. Think business cards and rack cards or brochures. If your purse is small, that is not an excuse; we are luxury business people; print some cards and keep them on your person at all time. Your cards should simply say who you are and how to contact you. Bonus points if you use a QR Code or have a dot card that auto-uploads your contact information and connects you on social media directly with a tap.
To be prepared, to try your best, and to feel your best is how you look the part of luxury.
The next key point to luxury is in the description. When you describe your business in luxury terms, you should have a short description pre-prepared for the moments you will talk about your business. The secret is in as clearly and concisely saying your business name, what you do, and maybe a brief explanation to your services.
If you're hoping to start talking the talk, I firstly recommend picking up some books or subscribing to Audible and start reading. If you are involved in a particular industry, like travel, you can also start listening to podcasts about your industry (in addition to the books). Reading is proven to increase your knowledge, expand your vocabulary, improve your relationships, decrease stress, and so much more. If you can't find time to read more, listen to Audible when you are driving, cleaning, or the normal times you listen to music; force your kids or spouse to listen in too. Reading and listening to professional writers and speakers are crucial in talking the talk.
Next, I recommend practicing the way you talk about your business and listening to it via a recording. It's really important you draft some key points about your business in order to describe it. SS, for example, is a company that creates digital tools and websites, provides marketing education and advice, and supports and grows small businesses. Practice saying it; record yourself and listen to it. It wasn't until I was on webinars every week that I started listening to myself. I started working on my vocabulary and my tone right away. Soon after, I started leading in-person live educational sessions. Trust me when I exclaim, it's an incredible experience to speak on your trade and it feels great to be prepared for.
My last tip on talking luxury is going to sound funny coming from me; you may already know that I have a lot to say... lol. The last tip here is try to keep interactions and what you need to say short. At my part-time job (Yes, I also have a part-time job, too!) I provide a fine dining experience for our guests at a modern, Italian restaurant called Lago here in downtown Cleveland. In other words, I am a server at Lago. (See what I did there?)
What I have quickly learned through that position is that the guests are specifically there to enjoy our atmosphere and they are also there to enjoy their company. I say the majority of my conversation at the beginning, and keep my comments short at the end, responding only to questions that guests approach me with. If they order a bottle of wine, it's my duty to provide glasses, present the bottle, open the bottle, and provide a bottle service for the remainder of their meal. I think of what they need before they have to ask; furthermore, this approach allows them to focus on their experience more. My guests appreciate my nature, because like I said, they are there for the dining experience and to enjoy their guests. Guests want a special touch, so sometimes that includes a birthday cannoli, setting out flowers, lighting a candle, or for kids, making a specialty mocktail. This is a luxury experience that people enjoy and come back for.
When you're talking the talk, you need to firstly know what you're talking about. You need to say it with confidence. And then you need to let you clients do the talking from there. Now, we're talking luxury.
The idea of luxury can't just be made up. Your business can't include a side of luxury; luxury has to be the main focus for your experience to come across accurately. It just doesn't work.
If you've had luxury experiences, (and the opposite of luxury experiences) you know the difference. Luxury service anticipates your needs before you have them. Luxury experiences allow you to relax and enjoy the moment. It's easy to get what you need and there's not a lot of stress involved. If you plan on running a luxury business, these qualities need to be at the forefront of your business plan.
Because luxury is such a lifestyle and requires a lot of attention, I don't recommend offering anything other than luxury in your luxury business. You can't have deals and sales all the time. Luxury is what it is because it holds its ground as well as its cost.
From the perspective of people that want and pay for luxury, they are looking closely at the details. It's about finding the perfect product or service that has the answer to what they want. If you're providing a luxury service or product, it is important to do some research on what makes your clientele satisfied. It's offering your clients a cold water upon arrival. Allow them to speak first, and be prepared to take notes and answer questions. Luxury is not having to repeat yourself when you ask for something. When it comes to providing a service, try to anticipate the clients needs ahead of time.
I recently watched a limited series on Netflix called Inventing Anna (Recommended chick flick!) that was supposedly a true story. Anna, the main character, fooled celebrities, millionaires, business people, and even banks pretending to be a luxurious, German heiress. Everything she did portrayed luxury, she walked-the-walk and talked-the-talk. People acted accordingly. Is that a crime? You'd have to watch the series to decide for yourself. What I saw was that she did it because she wanted her dream business so badly -- if that's not something I can relate to I don't know what is! She didn't have it all but she embodied everything she wanted to be in order to get it.
I wouldn't steal or con people to be rich and famous like Anna, lol. But I will work damn hard to get the luxurious life and marketing business that I want. I'm just a girl who was originally from Parma, Ohio and spent her teens and early twenties in small countryside towns. My greatest influencers and supporters pushed me into a dream chaser. By pushing myself to learn, grow, and do the most impossible of things, I have stepped out of my comfort zone and turned my world into a place I only dreamt of once. That's just my story so far and one day, I hope I have the business, office, house, family, and experiences that I dream of now.
If you want to get on the path of changing your business and the way people look at your business, here's what I know...
Changing your business, into something like luxury, requires a lot of planning.
Rework your brand by predicting how people will feel from your brand.
Create a schedule that you follow with extra time to communicate with your clients. That may mean verbal check-ins on the phone, sending hand written cards or gifts, and writing custom email campaigns.
Create a business process, both an internal process for you to follow and external process for clients to see and follow. When planning your internal business process, consider what your clients will need or need to do throughout this plan and build tools to support their reminders.
Create and utilize technical tools (website, emails, calendar, etc.) to keep clients and leads in the loop of your business.
Take care of yourself. Step one here is taking one day off from work (mine is Saturday). Let your brain relax. Try to not make any exceptions. Step two is try to stretch for five minutes in the morning and take a daily walk. Step three is drink water -- no additives -- and track it to a gallon per day. If you want to live long, you should follow a personal care routine like this, and maybe add more to this list. Your body will make you pay if you don't.
Luxury businesses typically are very structured from the beginning; everyone involved in the business knows the plan and knows their part in contributing to the plan. Managing these things are not easy and usually need a lot of help. Successful business rewrites are easier to pull off with the help of an assistant, virtual assistant, and/or the help of Stack Strategies. Where we come in is the creation and organization of your process and tools.
We're all on this path the becoming our version of our best selves. My dream is to support small businesses and their team members to get there. I believe you can become whatever you want to be with the right plan.
Go chase your dreams ❤️