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A Reminder to 20-Something Ski Industry Folks: You’re a Lot Dumber Than You Think

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This topic has been on my brain for a while and it’s time I put it down on paper.

I turned thirty a few months ago. Among other things, the introspection that came along side this milestone provided what I’ve found to be an extremely valuable gift: a harsh reminder of just how dumb I really am.

Today, I’d like to pass that gift on to you.

Today’s 20-Somethings
Before I go any further, you need to know that I think it’s totally okay to “dream small” and “change a small corner of something” rather than the world. It’s also okay to not “follow your passion” and admit that yes, many things are in fact impossible, no matter “how badly you want it.”

But that’s not what we (I’m momentarily going to re-lump myself into the group I spent that last decade in) hear every day. We are told to dream big, that we can change the world, do the impossible, and that we should follow our passions.

All of those things may work great in a Tony Robbins-esque motivation speech, but they lead to something I’ve seen in myself, and many others, which I’d like to address today. These buzzy catch phrases have made our generation pretty dang arrogant. A fact that is also true in the ski industry.

What We’re Bad At
First off, we’re bad at knowing that we’re bad at stuff. We like to think we’re good at everything. That “jack of all trades, master of none” applies to other people, but certainly not us.

We can be social media ninjas, email rockstars, Google Analytics assassins, SEO mavens, pricing gurus, branding geniuses, and product gods. After all, we know why milk is at the back of the grocery store. And, of course, we can do all this with nothing more than two summer internships and lessons from professors more focused on getting tenure than keeping up with trends.

Long story short, we have a lot of theories, a little intuition, but almost no first-hand data or experience to back up the marketing principles we fervently believe in. In other words, compared to our marketing elders, we’re pretty dumb.

What We’re Good At
Luckily, there’s some stuff we’re really good at. We’re good at being creative and we’re really good coming up with ideas. We’re good at using technology and learning quickly. We’ve got ambition on our side and a blank slate to fill with the skills we choose.

When it comes to understanding why the younger generation likes (or doesn’t like) skiing, we’ve got an accurate perspective – something we may lose after a few years of resort life.

We’re also good at thinking outside the box simple because we’ve never been in a box long enough to know how to think inside of it in the first place.

What to Do
So, we don’t know much but have lots of ambition and ideas. I’m going to, once again, do five things this winter. I’d encourage you to do the same.

#1: Assume That You’re A Marketing Idiot
Because unless you’re a reincarnation of Steve Jobs, you probably are. This is a great starting point, though, and recognizing this now is a powerful thing to know. After all, idiots can learn the stuff they don’t know. Geniuses don’t learn because they think they already know it.

Think about that for a sec. Knowing what you don’t know is good thing to know.

#2: Make a List of 10 Things You Want to Learn
Now that you know you’ve got a ton to learn, give yourself a starting point by making a list of resort-marketing lessons you’d like to learn. They may be as simple as 10 questions. Here are (some of) mine for the upcoming season.

  1. Is it better in the long run to charge a lot for lodging up front and fill in last-minute vacancies with discounts or reward advaned-bookers by not discounting the room next to them 5 months after their reservation?
  2. What skiing stories are non-skiers most influenced by?
  3. There is a balance between advanced purchase ticket deals and the uncertainty of weather forecasts. How far in advance do skiers think the risk between the two pays off enough to buy?
  4. Is pricing enough to get a young family to go skiing?
  5. What is the biggest reason skiers who are planning to ski again tomorrow don’t take advantage of lodging deals they learn about while skiing?
  6. At a bare minimum, what elements of EpicMix should a resort try to implement?
  7. What lodging/ticket pricing strategy should a resort take each day as a storm approaches?
  8. How can resorts get more value out of their blogs?
  9. Where is the pricing sweetspot between RevPAR, ADR, and the ancillary spend from extra bookings driven by discounts?
  10. What are the three biggest fears/concerns of non skiers?

Maybe it’s not always apparent, but most SlopeFillers posts start with a question I don’t have an answer to.

#3: Drink a Glass of Humility
This may come along with #1, but if it doesn’t, remember that you may have ideas, but ideas are just that until they are tested. The guys and gals you see in marketing meetings have experience which is usually much more valuable than ideas.

#4: Learn to Say “I Have No Idea”
Going back to #1, when you don’t know the answer to something, don’t spew out a bunch of buzzy catch-phrases, admit it and let that feeling of not knowing drive your desire to learn.

#5: Stay at Least Two More Seasons
One year is enough time to get okay at your job. Two years and you’re getting better. Three years and you’ll be rocking it. Unfortunately, our generation hops from position to position at an astounding rate. Stay at the resort/job you’re in for a few years, hunker down, work super hard, and get crazy good at it.

One Last Word
My intention is not to be a downer. Instead, I think we need to inject a little bit of honesty into the veins of our generation. Rather than letting their naivety drive them to learn as much as possible, some young resort marketers are “faking it” right now. That’s not what the future of skiing needs.

We’ve got an awesome opportunity this winter to learn volumes about skiing and to get really, really good at what we do. If we keep pretending to know everything, we’re not going to do the industry…or ourselves…any good.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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