VIP & Exclusive experiences are more popular than ever

I can remember pretty vividly the first time I hear Tom Leykis talk about the lighting in a particular restroom at a luxury hotel in California making you look better than you ever looked before.

I’ve also seen the way that being whisked behind the heavy doors of a really exclusive resort like the Surf Club in Miami can make you feel like you’ve been let in on a secret.

This feeling plays out in nightclubs, at car dealerships, and in other places all over the world, all day long.

What this does is highlights the trend that people love and desire more exclusive and VIP experiences and that this trend shows no signs of letting up.

How can we take advantage of this? Let’s take a look.

Begin by defining what you want to create:

In working on projects with VIP brands and partners around the world, I recognize one important thing: you have to begin with the end in mind.

This is important no matter what you are creating because this is an important concept that everyone should use.

I use the simple question: “What will success look like?”

When you are thinking about maximizing the impact of a VIP or exclusive offering, you have to begin with that idea in mind.

Maybe you want to create something that only a dozen or a hundred people can experience like the global tours that the Four Seasons has created for their guests.

You might want something a little more open, but still exclusive like the way that American Express offers the Centurion Card to guests that fit a certain profile.

Taking this one step further, you might go the route of the Bonvoy Program from Marriott where you earn your way to more exclusive perks.

The key here is that when you are thinking about what to offer folks, you start by defining success.

Make your offering unique:

One of the challenges that many events and organizations face is that people want a VIP experience and something exclusive, but because everyone is doing something focused on exclusivity and the VIP experience, finding a way to stand out can come with a lot of difficulties.

This doesn’t mean you should give up on doing something unique or exclusive, but it does mean that you are going to have to work even harder to stand out in the world.

How do you achieve this?

Creativity is the first part of the mix.

Use your location by putting your event somewhere special like the Running of the Bulls.

Or, you can use the assets you have available to you like a venue like the Sydney Opera House has done with its props and materials gained from many years of events.

A second piece of the puzzle means you need to limit what you call exclusive or VIP.

One of the challenges that modern buildings may find themselves facing in years to come is that over the years the amounts of exclusive or VIP areas has expanded and without differentiation, they can feel less than exclusive.

This means that it is going to be imperative that everyone involved in the premium and VIP experience work even harder than ever to create something that feels special and exclusive.

This might mean restructuring some areas as is being done at venues around the US. It may be adding value in some way. Or, it could be something entirely different.

The key is to create exclusivity and limitations so that people feel like they are getting something that not everyone can experience.

A third key idea here is to make certain that people can’t get what you are offering everywhere.

This is the challenge that a lot of venues and events deal with all the time because they have to lay out their events, buildings, and stages in a similar fashion or do so because of best practices to the point that everything feels the same. This is where the idea of creativity comes into play and you need to use it effectively.

Constantly innovating the value proposition:

In ways big and small technology has changed our view of the culture we exist in and the way that we interpret premium quality or VIP experiences.

This change in perception requires a constant attention to reinvention and innovation in our offerings.

When I say innovation I don’t want to scare anyone off because innovations don’t have to be huge differences in the way that a business is run or the offer you make to your guests.

Innovation can be much simpler like renewing the space that you use, the food and beverage you serve, the level of service you provide, or the way someone experiences an event.

The challenge here is that you must constantly be on the lookout for ways to renew your experience. As an example, look at the Wynwood Walls in Miami, a great space dedicated to elevating street art. They are often bringing in new artists to refresh the space and create new installations so that the space is always fresh and people get a new experience.

This method plays out regularly with long running hit plays on Broadway and in the West End. Think about how often the lead changes in Chicago. Where a new star comes on board the cast regularly to keep the production fresh, to renew the experience, and to encourage people to come back and see the show again and again.

A final example here comes from the world of luxury and discretion, the Four Seasons has a airline and plans global vacation packages for their guests that they work on for years in advance with unique itineraries and experiences that are limited to a small group of VIP guests, with the exact locations and itinerary never to be repeated.

All of these examples are innovations and they can be replicated by you and your organization within the limits and the market you exist with a little creativity, focus, and thoughtfulness to how you want to create and deliver VIP events and exclusive experiences for your guests.

The only limit is your imagination.

While this may seem risky, the truth is not thinking about ways to offer your guests elevated, exclusive, or VIP experiences is something most organizations and events can’t take a risk on not doing.

Consumers buying power is changing

I was recently part of a Twitter interview and one of the things that came up was a question about pricing and market segmentation. This was interesting to me because I often feel like pricing is a big challenge for organizations because the pricing decisions can often feel less than scientific.

More important than a debate about the pricing dynamics is the trend that pricing and empty seats or full seats highlights which is that purchasing power for most income levels has changed a great deal over the past decade or more. This is impacting a lot of our ability to market and sell events effectively.

In 2019, the United Kingdom is set to see the lowest growth in consumer spending in six years due to a number of factors. In the United States, the 2020 presidential campaign seems to be setting itself up as a referendum of decades of growing income inequality. Globally, 58% of consumers feel like they are better off than they were five years ago.

All of this should signal for us that we have to take a different and varied approach to our consumers and how they are making their purchasing decisions.

What does this mean to all of us in the live event industry? Many different things, but here are three ways this trend is impacting us and how we can handle it.

The bell curve has flipped: It used to be considered a given that the bell curve had a huge hump in the middle where most of the market lived and purchased.

Now, the bell curve has flipped and the middle is a lot of times a wasteland for marketing and selling to consumers.

Where the margins are and the opportunities are in many cases are to the two extremes: with the commodity purchase or the premium purchase.

Some of the fastest growing areas in business are on those fringes where you see companies like Wal-Mart or Amazon working to deliver cheaper stuff faster to their customers.

Then you look to the other extreme and you see the market for premium cars growing, premium hotels becoming destinations more than ever, and VIP experiences being the centerpieces of many events and offerings.

How do we deal with this?

Well, we begin by understanding that the middle may not be the best place to try and position our experiences any more.

We can’t do average stuff for average people any more because the Internet has taught us all to expect more or less.

So design your experience with that in mind.

Offer a get-in price that everyone can participate in and that offers the experience at a base level, but also consider ways to take the experience to the other extreme with VIP areas, add-ons, party decks, or exclusive experiences.

Consumer’s discretionary income is challenged in many places: A dollar doesn’t buy what it used to is something we can say at almost any time in history and all nod our heads in unison. Because, inflation and purchasing power seem to always be changing.

Currently, in nations around the world, we are seeing consumer’s spending power slip due to increased costs associated with housing, food, health care, and other essentials.

What does this mean to all of us?

Well, it means we need to be considerate of the world that our customers live in.

This may mean offering up more lower or entry-level offerings to ensure that you have an event that has enough people to create the atmosphere or experience you want.

It can also make the idea of having multiple distinct offerings more important than ever before because we are likely appealing to two different edges of the bell curve now.

And, we likely need to think through how we can make our experience feel like a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to splurge on.

The key for all of us is to recognize that our consumers are making a choice that reflects their circumstances and those circumstances are changing in a lot of ways that we may not be considering right now.

Customers have more options: If there is a theme within a theme, this is it.

The most relevant idea to keep in mind is that as consumers are putting more value on experiences, we are finding that more people are creating experiences that they can offer to consumers to win their business than at any time in memory.

What can we do about this trend?

We have to begin by making certain that we are thinking about what we want our guests to experience when they visit us and work with us.

This likely means we need to be more thoughtful about everything we are doing and deliberate in creating an experience that is exceptional and speaks to our specific market.

Second, we have to recognize that because consumers have more options, it is going to be much more difficult to break through to these consumers and get their attention.

This means on top of being more thoughtful in the creation of an event, we have to get more creative in the way we market and sell our events so that we can break through the clutter of experiences that are trying to demand our market’s attention.

This may mean going to the extreme of using PR tactics like the way that the Warrington Wolves sent their mascot with binoculars to a rival’s match to “spy” on them as a way to draw attention to the Wolves. It could be creating an extremely diverse festival line-up like the Miami Beach Pop Festival. Or, it could be by wrapping yourself in discretion, mystique, and luxury like the Four Seasons.

The key is that as our market is getting more options and attention, we have to spend more time thinking about how we are going to make ourselves different.

The same goes for changes in spending power. As our customers see their financial lives change, we have to recognize that this is going to impact their buying decisions and we have to act accordingly to ensure we can still be competitive.