October 8, 2012 4 Comments
This past week, my 3 brothers and I took our annual pilgrimage up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for some bro get-away time. We hike, we play tennis, we joust over the card table, we verbally spar – it’s a fun time to re-connect. And we love upper New England in October.
There’s a lot of tourist activity in this part of the United States, so it’s interesting to see how different states and communities pull it off. Shortly after entering Vermont on I-91, there is a Welcome Center (Guilford exit) that trumps all other welcome centers I’ve ever seen—>
Beautiful post and beam construction. An eye-catching variety of country implements, Vermont memorabilia, information stations, clean restrooms, lovely exterior design and landscaping – and a huge carved-in-granite welcome sign. Plus, as a bonus, there was a pavilion outside inhabited by friendly locals who were serving coffee and selling a nice and diverse selection of baked goods (many of the healthy/organic variety). One of whom went out of her way to take a group picture of us.
A Welcome To Vermont that was truly memorable.
Then, on the way back south after our stay (which was lovely, by the way – the fall colors were just about at their peak), we left Vermont and re-entered Massachusetts. Now, I’ll try to be fair here – the more touristy sections of the great state of Massachusetts are to the east (Boston and shoreline) and to the west (Berkshires). But I-91 is a major corridor, and I’d like to think the powers-that-be would want to leave a good impression of the state. At least a nice welcome.
Instead? After the obligatory Welcome to Massachusetts sign at the border – “Pull-off area, 2 miles.” No Welcome Center. No facilities. Not even – get this – a trash can.
Well, at least there was a nice threat. Does this type of user experience encourage a repeat visit to the state? Is this the memory anyone wants to leave?
Now, not many of us are in charge of state tourism bureaus. But we do run businesses. And first and foremost on our minds should be our Welcome Centers. What is it like when people first encounter us on social platforms, for instance? A barren, sterile, and functional presentation with nothing to offer the user isn’t going to be particularly memorable – except in a negative sense. A vibrant place of beauty and interest and personal interaction, however, can color the impression of an entire entity – all the way up to the level of an entire state, let alone a business.
I’m a New England boy, so I happen to know all the goodness that Massachusetts has to offer. But had this “welcome center” experience been my first impression of the state, it may have also been my last – and my lasting – impression.
How’s your welcome center? Your first impression may be the last. Make it like Vermont!
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