What Travel Agencies Can Learn From Starbucks

Richard Earls, Travel Research Online

No doubt, you have a local coffee shop that you absolutely love and that serves better coffee than Starbucks; and I know, friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks. I get it. Starbucks is a mega-chain, an 800 lb. gorilla masquerading as a quaint neighborhood establishment. There is a lot of truth in that, except for one thing: Starbucks manages to be both a national chain and yet, at the same time, very local.

Your neighborhood coffee shop may, in many aspects, out-perform Starbucks. But Starbucks has taught your local coffee shop a lot about the business. It is highly probable the proprietor of your local shop has spent a great deal of time trying to understand all of the things Starbucks does right and, as a result, has learned a great deal. I’m recommending that we do the same.

There’s 2 lessons I want you to take away from this discussion of Starbucks.

The 1st A great mission statement anchors a company’s marketing.

Here is Starbucks’ mission statement:

Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

Regular readers of this column know that I place a great deal of emphasis on the concept of a mission statement as being the single most important element to creating an authentic, intentional and consistent marketing presence. Starbucks is a good example of a great mission statement. Their creed is stated completely in terms of the impact they want their company to have on their customers. Nothing about “serving the world’s finest coffee” or providing “great customer service.

Take a look at the Starbuck’s website. In addition to being creative and well designed, the content reflects their mission statement. There is a section on social responsibility, a section on business ethics and compliance and a section on diversity. Like the ambiance in their stores, you get the sense that this is a company that is authentically engaged in its global and local involvement. Is it any wonder that Starbucks consistently ranks in the top companies in Fortune Magazine’s Best Companies To Work For or their list of the World’s Most Admired Companies?

Starbucks is a company seeking to be a good community and global citizen from its core. As a result, its corporate personality rings authentic.

How does your mission statement read? Is it a statement of the features you aspire to have or is it a statement of the benefits you want your clients to experience? Does the ambiance of your company ring as warm and authentic as that of your local coffee house?

The 2nd lesson I want you to take away? Starbucks clients are purchasing value, the experience, the ambiance. Price is only an aspect of the total value the client receives. If price were really the most important element of the buying decision, Starbucks would never sell a cup of coffee. Their customers can purchase coffee in a dozen different places for less. There’s a lesson every travel agent should understand at a deeply embedded level.

Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.





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