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Whenever I finish work in a city that I don’t know well, if I have the time, I will take a trolley bus tour. My experience has been they usually give a pretty good overview of the city and help me get my bearings, as well as learn a few interesting facts. Last week, I was in Ft. Lauderdale and decided to take a “trolley boat” tour. Not only did I get to know Ft. Lauderdale, but what a great experience it turned out to be! And coming from a Disney background, what impressed me most was how much they appeared to truly understand and implement the power of the “experience” and the value of the “surprise” factor.

The friendliness of the captain and staff was immediately apparent and genuine. Once everyone was seated comfortably, island music began playing softly in the background to add to the ambiance. We were taken down the Riverwalk canal supported by historical and current information of what we were viewing. As the cruise headed back through the city river canal, a crew member walked around the deck asking if we would like a snack from her basket of assorted chips. Of course, we started reaching for our wallets, but she pleasantly announced “Complimentary”. (Surprise #1) We headed out to the ocean followed by a huge cruise ship which added to the excitement and then proceeded down the coast of the Ft. Lauderdale beaches. At this point, the crew member came around with a choice of soda drinks/water and once again reaching for our wallets for at least $3 knowing and comparing this to most previous “tourist” expenses, we were told they were only $1. (Surprise #2)

The Tropical Adventure Cruise was advertised as an estimated one and ½ hour trip, we were well over the two hour mark (Surprise #3) when we pulled up to dock and disembark. Jimmy Buffet tunes, smiling crew, sunshine made-to-order…. a perfect trip! The guest next to me said aloud to everyone on the boat – “this is the best deal in Florida!”

Once again, from past experience on tours like these, I pulled out my wallet expecting the tip box for the great staff to show our appreciation – but (Surprise #4) the staff stood along the plank helping guests off the boat and gave each one of us a $1 bill coupon for our next ride or to give to a friend!

Breaking the stereotypes, creating an entire experience around the product of the RIDE itself, building an emotional connection and ensuring value are all the elements to a successful business. I encourage you to take a look at your business and see how well you’ve done in these elements.

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