Selfie on the ice bubbles of Abraham Lake
The adventure is much more than the time we spend together on a tour. We need to consider the guest’s experience at each step of their journey to ensure a consistent connection with our brands.
This starts with having empathy for the guest and their needs, considering how we can best help them experience their adventure rather than focusing on what we want them to do or feel along the way.
This is the approach we use for everything we do, including experience development, sales and marketing. That’s why we believe that our experience guidelines must cover the entire journey, from our first interactions with the guests before they even begin to plan their adventure to reinforcing the memories afterward.
We put this into practice by remembering that our guests are the hero of their adventure, ensuring that the constraints needed for an authentic experience are met, taking a holistic view of the guest’s journey and aligning our actions through the service blueprint to help them live their adventure.
The David Thompson Highway
Allstones Cove on Abraham Lake
The Guest is the Hero
Our role, whether we are involved in marketing, sales, guiding a tour or preparing a meal is to provide guidance and assistance for our guests.
They are the heroes choosing to embark on an adventure. We are the mentors, the coaches, the guides, the facilitators and the cheerleaders helping them along the way. We often fulfill many of these roles at once. That means that sometimes we use a directive approach, telling them what to do. Other times we provide a more gentle guidance, creating situations that allow them to discover the answers for themselves. The goal is to adapt our style as needed to create the best experience for the guests.
Finding the right balance is more of an art than a science. As you create and share moments, remember to take into account the context, the needs of the guests and where they are on their journey.
Our Ideal Guest
Not all heroes are created equal, neither are their mentors. Meaningful connections require a match between the two and that’s why we are not the right company for a number of visitors to our region.
Like us, our ideal guests tend to be what Destination Canada refers to as Cultural Explorers or Authentic Experiencers. Travel Alberta refers to them as Curious Adventurers, summing them up as visitors who like to “immerse themselves in the places they travel – leaving time for unplanned encounters and activities that allow them to truly know a destination”.
Those guests are attracted to our adventures because of the values and cause we share. Being clear in our messaging early on in the journey, staying true to our goal and guiding principles, allows us to attract guests who will most enjoy what we offer.
Our shared purpose is what allows us to create meaningful connections with our guests at the company level. At the product level, we need to consider what our guests are hoping to achieve on their adventure.
There are four main reasons why our guests choose our adventures. They want to:
- explore the region;
- try a new activity;
- meet others interested in similar activities; and/or
- enjoy the outdoor lifestyle.
All of our adventures include a combination of these. The importance of each of these motivations varies depending on the market and the product but the goal is to focus on the areas where at least two of them overlap.
The Booking Guest
During the early stages of the journey, we typically work with one person from each group. This guest tends to be the one best aligned with our adventures but they also need to consider the interests of their partners.
The best approach we have found is to stay true to who we are rather than trying to show that our adventures have something for everyone. At the same time, we have also found that the guest handling the booking typically is someone who enjoys planning and considers it part of the adventure.
They want to learn as much as possible before they commit and they enjoy longer-form content and detailed guides of the region. Instead of having us make the case as to why their group will enjoy our experiences, we provide them with the information they need to make the case themselves.
All of our brands share a similar ideal guest and markets, with some distinctions. These differences are at the product level, working together toward supporting our purpose as a company. The Our Guests document includes more in-depth information on our ideal guests and markets.
Our guests love to explore and immerse themselves in the places they visit. They are curious and love doing things that are new and different, a little challenging and a whole lot of fun. They’re always up for an adventure.
Adventures off the beaten path where they get to take their time getting a sense of place is why they join our tours. Like us, they believe that the journey is the destination and best enjoyed with like-minded people.
Our guests agree that breathtaking landscapes and amazing people are worth the effort to get there. The raw beauty of nature allows them to escape from the day to day and enjoy the moment.
- 70/30 ratio of women to men
- 40+ years old with a smaller segment of 20 to 30 year-olds
- College or university educated
- Comfortable income, working as business managers, artists, scientists, public servants and professionals.
They are from:
- Alberta: Calgary, Edmonton and Central Alberta
- Canada: British Columbia and Ontario
- United States: Eastern Seaboard and West Coast
- Winter tours: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Australia
Our guests like to get to know the destination before their adventure. Explore Nordegg provides them with more detailed information, giving them an opportunity to get to know us and the region in greater detail before their trip.
The other key market prefers self-guided adventures. The main difference between them and our Pursuit Adventures’ guests is that they are more confident in their ability to explore on their own, either because of their experience with the activity or their familiarity with the region.
- Broader age range and a more evenly split between women and men.
- A larger proportion of Albertans and guests who are already in-destination than on our tours.
The Nordegg Provisions Co. and the Nordegg Canteen
Our focus has been on our existing guests taking part in our tours. We are adjusting our target market as we shift our operations to Nordegg.
One thing that we know is that they are interested in local food and the story behind it, but great tasting food is what matters more. They appreciate healthy food, but adventures are a time for indulgence.
Crafting Outstanding Experiences
Our focus at the moment is on our internal audience and partners. We believe that the information will appeal to other operators but this is not our focus, yet.
-Ing vs -ers
It’s easy to assume that if you enjoy hiking, you’re a hiker. After all, simply changing the suffix from -ing to -er seems harmless enough and snowshoer is much quicker to say than “someone who enjoys snowshoeing”. The only thing is that our guests don’t see it that way.
Being a hiker means buying into the lifestyle. Simply because a guest enjoys hiking doesn’t mean it is how they define themselves. When a guest shares our passions it’s easy to recommend gear, tours and places to go. We need to be mindful that it can be harder to relate to someone with a different background, to share our excitement without overwhelming or oversimplifying the explanation.
By focusing on the -ing rather than the -er, we actually take the time to see things from the guest’s perspective. We step away from our own labels to take the time to see how the guests see themselves. This doesn’t only expand the market for our tours and activities, it changes how we create and market our experiences.
Focus on the people enjoying the activity. In the end, there’s not a lot of -ers in the world, but a lot of people wanting new experiences.
The Journey Map
The journey map is a tool we use to better understand the needs of our guests. It helps us identify areas we can improve upon, find opportunities for new experiences and tailor our messages at each step of the journey, from dreaming of adventure to the return home afterward.
It’s a versatile tool. We use them to look at the way things are now and to consider what a future state could be. We use them at the brand, destination and product level. It helps us get out of the “industry bubble” and look at things from the guest’s perspective. The important thing to remember is that the goal isn’t to have the perfect map; it is only a tool we use to create better experiences for our guests.
The steps we use closely follow the hero’s journey, a popular storytelling framework that is well suited for real-life adventures.
The dreaming stage starts with the guest enjoying regular life in an ordinary world. The call to adventure comes in various forms, often related to seasonal changes or life events. They already have a dream list of places they’d like to visit or things they would like to do, built from media stories, social media content and recommendations from friends.
Travel is often complicated however, even for a simple weekend getaway. The thought of finding the time and organizing the logistics can lead them to refuse the call to adventure, at least for the time being.
We all need help from time to time and going from dreaming of an adventure to making it happen is one of those times. It’s an exciting time but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. A mentor helps them through this stage, providing guidance, advice and the information they need to be confident they are embarking on the right adventure for them.
They are ready to cross the threshold and commit to the adventure. The plans are finalized, the dates are confirmed and bookings are made. This is an exciting time, dreams are becoming reality.
This is a time of excitement and trepidation for the guest. The commitment has been made and they are eagerly awaiting the start of the adventure. At the same time, they are now thinking about the small details. Questions like what to bring with them and what the weather will be like were overlooked earlier but are now at the top of their mind.
As they begin the physical journey to our destination, they’ll encounter their first positive experiences but also their first challenges. These will set the tone for their adventure with us, amplifying the excitement or trepidations already present.
It takes some time at the start of the experience for the guests to become comfortable. The excitement and trepidations built in anticipation are still there and now new questions arise: will I be able to do this, did I pick the right adventure, are my adventure partners going to like this?
This leads to the challenge part of the adventure. This involves doing things that are new and different for each guest, doing things that can be a little scary but that also makes them curious to explore further.
The reward for completing the challenge are those special moments, those times that give goosebumps or when everything suddenly makes sense. These are made even better by the challenge that was just completed and the connections made along the way.
The way back is a time to contemplate what was just accomplished, to enjoy the peacefulness that follows a goosebump moment. It’s the beginning of the return journey. Taking the time to reflect on the adventure helps reinforce the memories and capture the emotions experienced throughout the journey.
The guest returns to a new ordinary world, filled with excitement at the new memories made. This is a time for sharing, telling tall tales and a little bragging.
The Service Blueprint
The journey map shows us what the guests need, want and feel throughout the adventure. The service blueprint shows what we’re doing to help them experience their adventure.
It brings together all aspects of our operations, centred around our guests, to make sure that we can focus on the big picture without missing the small details.
Like the journey map, it can be used for a number of scenarios. It’s not a set of rules to follow but rather a starting point we can use to personalize each of our interactions with our guests.
Journey maps and service blueprints are available for each of our product categories in Google Drive.
Sales Funnel, Path to Purchase and Journey Maps
The differences between the three can be subtle and for our purpose are mostly irrelevant. The difference that matters to us is one of mindset and perspective.
All three approaches are visitor-focused, centred around the experience of the guest throughout the journey. In sales funnels and path to purchase the focus is usually on what we want the guests to do at each step and what we need to do in order to get the guests to take those actions.
The journey map is built from the guest’s perspective, looking at what they need and want as well as the emotions they experience at each step of the journey. It starts with empathy.
The other difference is in the interactions considered. A sales funnel or path to purchase map typically focused, as their name implies, on the touchpoints that exist up until the booking is made. A journey map on the other hand considers the entire journey, including the adventure itself and the return to the ordinary world.
Our role, whether we are involved in marketing, sales, guiding a tour or preparing a meal is to provide guidance and assistance for our guests. The journey map helps us remember that the heroes are our guests and the star is our amazing destination.