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Make People Feel Special

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Originally printed in issue #80 (August 2016) of Blue Skies Magazine.
This article also appears at dropzone.marketing.
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My grandfather, and our family patriarch, “G.V.” La Barrie died in 2009 at the age of 104.

Grandad was a remarkable entrepreneur who had the ability to see opportunity when others didn’t. Born on the island of Grenada in 1904, he emigrated to Antigua in the 1940s and immediately saw the need for a small hotel to accommodate business travelers from Britain and neighboring islands.

George Vincent “GV” La Barrie (my granddad) celebrates his 100th birthday on October 29, 2004. He recited poetry to all who attended. He would pass away in 2009 at the age of 104, having lived through the periods of the Great Depression, World War I and World War II and countless other historical events.

By the 1950s, his vision had become a reality with the 12-room Barrymore Hotel, where I grew up from 1977 ’til 1987.

Barrymore was a businessman’s hotel. It wasn’t on the beach and had minimal frills but it had a loyal customer base who returned year after year. Even though my grandfather had no training as a hotelier, he managed to run an extremely successful hotel. How? He understood the one thing that all great businesses have in common: they strive to make people feel special.

How to Be Different?

Twenty years after leaving Barrymore Hotel, I was following a path I couldn’t have scripted. As a young DZ Manager trying to find my way in an industry I knew little about, I intended to create an event that would stand out amongst the most popular skydiving events of the day, like Chicks Rock and Summerfest.

My challenge was to differentiate my DZ from the rest of the DZs in the world who hosted boogies. The common denominators were all the same: good load organizers, a variety of planes (preferably a tailgate), beer, entertainment and voila, you’ve got yourself a boogie.

As a marketer, I was looking to figure out a “hook.” For several years, I tested different concepts to discover what worked best. We offered sponsored loads en masse. We created the the Family of Freaks Boogie in 2007, bringing together all of the fraternities of the day including the Rodriguez Brothers, Pink Mafia, Flying Hellfish, Dirty Sanchez and the Muff Brothers.

Despite the efforts, nothing would stick.

From Barrymore to CarolinaFest

The epiphany came while sitting in my office trying to answer the question, “If I went to a boogie, what would I love to experience beyond planes and load organizers?”

The answer became my differentiating hook: treat people better than they had ever been treated at any boogie. I pinpointed two questions which would lead to countless more questions: Who were my customers and what were their pain points?

First, I identified the customers who are served by a boogie: fun jumpers, load organizers and vendors. If our team could make each of these groups feel special, then we’d have something.

The process began by asking general questions like, “What about a boogie isn’t fun, is a hassle or is a nuisance?” We set out to answer these questions for each customer base in as extensive and detailed a manner as possible. With that information in hand, we now had a roadmap to build a boogie that was truly unique. By solving our customers’ pain points in advance, we created an atmosphere that made people feel well looked after and respected. In short, we made them feel special.

The Takeaway

Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This is the essence of it all. It’s the magic recipe that no technology or marketing strategy or aircraft or facility can beat. Angelou’s sentiment is at the core of why G.V. La Barrie and his vision for Barrymore Hotel thrived for more than 40 years and why CarolinaFest became such a successful boogie.

If you own a business or desire to become an entrepreneur here’s the recipe for massive success: MAKE PEOPLE FEEL SPECIAL.

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