Chapter NineCreating Evangelists

Figure depicting a pyramid, where the top layer denoting 'meets unrecognized needs' that creates evangelism.

If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.

Henry Ford (Attributed)I

I remember the first time I heard boutique hotelier Bill Kimpton say he was in the business of “selling sleep.” Bill was a bit of an idol of mine. In 1981, in his mid-40s, he departed from his stuffed-shirt investment banking life and started what was originally called Kimco, then the Kimpton Group, and ultimately just Kimpton. Kimpton has been a worthy competitor for us to benchmark ourselves against, especially since they're the only hotelier in the world that operates more boutique hotels than we do. Ironically, our home office is just four blocks from their headquarters (although they're now owned by InterContinental Hotel Group).

While I admired much of what Bill did and said (he passed away in 2001), I was always puzzled by his favorite phrase about being in the business of selling sleep. I guess I imagined that would be a base need on the hotel guest pyramid. Certainly, it's foundational for any guest because without that physiological need met, everything else up the pyramid isn't very relevant. But boutique hotels stand out versus the chains not because we sell sleep but because we deliver dreams. We create experiences that allow our guests to get out of their linear, by-the-book lives and live it up a little. At Joie de Vivre, ...

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