Lessons In Portuguese Hospitality!

So, after a month of trades shows, building a new office and seemingly endless rain it seemed to be the right time to head off to the Algarve for some much needed R&R. The beautiful fishing village of Alvor in Portgual was the destination and whilst the sun didn’t play fair the first few days thankfully it decided to behave as the days slipped by. But with the cloudy days there was plenty of opportunity to wander around what is still a relatively small resort and wonder how the 150+ restaurants and bars can all compete – especially during a rainy and chilly off-season.  So here are some of the things we observed about the winners and losers that might be relevant in the confusing world of agencies,  creatives and competitors back home. 

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DIFFERENTIATE

The restaurants that seemed to be the busiest and getting the highest ratings on Trip Advisor were those who knew what they were about and stuck to it. From the steak restaurant whose complete menu consisted of the following  choices -  Rib Eye, Sirloin, Fillet to the fish restaurant where your meal was often interrupted by the local fisherman hauling his latest catch through to the back kitchen. Potentially some of these businesses were  missing out on those customers who wanted a wider variety to  choose from but in sacrificing those, they won the loyalty of patrons who now know exactly where to go for the juiciest steak or freshest fish and town....and were happy to share that with the entire world (or those on Social Media anyway). Back in the corporate world though where clients are increasingly demanding that agencies offer chicken, fish and steak (& have some lamb in stock too just in case) all of the highest quality, it’s getting much more difficult to dish up. 

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VISIBILITY 

As a reasonably small resort without the glitz and glamour of some of its continental neighbours the lure of loud music, free shots and (practically) naked bar staff was never going to be the most effective marketing tactic. But those operators who had given the entrance a lick of paint, invested in good quality photography of their offer and proudly displayed easily readable menus outside were inevitably seeing much higher footfall than those who were yet to really awaken from their hibernation. It’s exciting and crucial in the first months of a new business to focus on the look, feel and first impressions but when those big projects and repeat business start rolling in, it can be so easy to forget there are still so many potential clients yet to establish first impressions. 

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VALUE

Seemingly it’s neither the least nor the most expensive that seemed to be the most popular. Those at the very lowest price of the spectrum were often rejected in terms of the buyers context.... “We’re on our holidays and therefore we deserve a bit of a treat.”  With that attitude of relevance to buyers, venues who didn’t understand their needs and parameters were missing out by being and looking too cheap. Yet with three steak restaurants on the same strip, when one is a good 25% more expensive than the other 2 without explanation why, buyers are left suspicious about the owners margins. Value means different things to buyers from  being child friendly, to child free or sea views versus rooftop terrace with price only one element of the equation. Maybe the relevance in the working world is to truly understand what you can add that your buyer thinks is worth paying for...and don’t be too cheap. 

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Overall, there seemed a peaceful, collaborative harmony across competing venues as even in a chilly spring season there was plenty business to be done with customers who wanted different things and suppliers who could offer it. The thriving businesses accepted the challenge from their quality competitors, upped their own game and celebrated the success the village collectively enjoyed. Businesses that focused on delivering quality and value in their specific sector keep tourists spending and coming back, growing the whole industry for everyone. Hmm maybe there is a way forward for experts to work together collaboratively as opposed to multi-disciplinary agencies offering a half-hearted attempt at everything?  

P.S. And before we get a plethora of comments back about the benefits of multi-disciplinary agencies, we hear you, being one ourselves!  If I had the answer to this increasingly relevant question for the marketing agency industry I'd be screaming it from the roof-tops so we're definitely not in the camp of stating either single or multi discplinary is better than the other - it just made us think (and order another beer!). 

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