The path to specialization

By Stephen Saugestad
February 13, 2014
DesignHospitality

My friend Eric over at SmashLAB recently wrote a post that really resonated with me – as they often do. There are way too many generalists out there, and for us, finding a niche has been a key part our success. A lot of people ask us how we developed our niche. I’d love to say that we analyzed industries, surveyed the market, and looked closely at the competitive landscape before choosing hospitality and travel as our niche. But the truth is not so sexy. We entered this specialization with no foresight. The catalyst was the work we did in 2007 for the Wickaninnish Inn, a Relaix & Chateau property in Tofino. The website is long gone, but we had built something that really stood out. People started talking about the website, which snowballed into more referrals from other luxury hotels, and soon we had our niche.

We’ve learned a lot about building websites for luxury brands in travel and hospitality since we started down this path. And we’ve continually refined our process by applying cumulative knowledge and experience to build a better digital storefront. But this is only part of what we do. From early on, we applied equal weight to both function and form. The utilitarian concerns like conversion rates, traffic, and usability are obviously a big focus for customers in this field. But the creative work we do has always been the foundation our reputation was built on. And we’ve continued to cement this reputation with our foray into film.

In the end there is no magic formula to what we do, and there is no silver bullet in our arsenal. We gather information diligently, plan meticulously, follow a refined process, and rely on strong talent. It’s a recipe that’s given us the opportunity to go head to head with some of the largest hospitality focused agencies out there, but our aspirations are a lot higher than that.

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