A Teaspoon of Marketing Insight From My Holiday Train Ride

Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on January 2, 2014


During the holidays, my husband and I took our first-ever Amtrak train, an overnight run from Denver’s Union Station to visit family in Centerville, Iowa.  We rented a sleeper car for the 12-hour journey and, with fantastic customer care and zero hassles with TSA, no  lost luggage, or having to find a rural gas station at 3 a.m., we have been recommending train travel to all our friends and relatives ever since, as a terrific alternative to flying or driving.  Almost universally, they are excited to try the train. But why haven’t they already?

As a recent convert, I lovingly offer three suggestions for smarter marketing inspired by Amtrak, but applicable to all businesses.

Deliver on the Details

With the exception of an itty-bitty salad (seriously: 3 leaves + 2 cherry tomatoes), the food is pretty good – including savvy vegetarian fare. The silverware is real. And the servers look sharp. So why cheap plastic dishware – that they THROW AWAY? Dining cars were historically classy, so draw on nostalgia and double-track the foodie and “green” trends and use real dishes. In any business, practice stringent QA/QC and demand the same of vendors. Make sure that everything you deliver is well-designed, -written, and -produced. Never overlook the details; your clients won’t.

Share the Wealth (of Advantages)

Yes, some people take the train because it’s a more affordable mode of transportation. But there is an (untapped) audience that might prefer the train to driving or flying, if only they knew all the advantages in terms of time saved, convenience of luggage carry-on, and overall experience (more on that next).  No matter what business you’re in, don’t be afraid to “toot your own horn,” but remember that potential clients don’t care how great your company is; they want to know specifically how they will benefit.

Build an Experience and a Community

All the Amtrak associates, from ticket agents to conductors, were helpful and appreciative of our business. Why not take that graciousness one step further and create a tourism “experience” that taps into the rich history of rail travel? Provide fun facts that pertain to the route being traveled or the places along the way. Use technology to engage: add this info to the Amtrak app, and share it based on the user’s current location. Make it more than reliable, comfortable transportation: make it a desirable piece of Americana. All business owners should be cognizant of creating a great experience for clients every step of the way. Make sure your website offers a great User Experience and that your processes are as good as – or better than — your product.  And of course, don’t forget to nurture and grow your community by encouraging feedback and sharing news via an active, engaged social media presence; a regular newsletter; and real-life touch points (remember the phone?).

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