I’ve been in business for quite a number of years now, and pride myself on my luxury, Emily Williams, brand. But… if there’s anything I’ve learned to be true about building a brand like this, it’s that what makes it premium is NOT its fonts or colors, its photography and videography or even its custom-designed and developed website, and nor is it in the aspirational content that depicts the owner/founder staying in 5* hotels, buying Chanel handbags or sipping on champagne.
Sure, all of the aesthetics can help you paint a picture of wealth and prosperity, of elegance and opulence, but actually…
The real marker of a luxury brand is the quality of its products and services as well as the way in which it offers them.
This became clear to me more than it ever had before when I took a trip to The Four Seasons, and so in this blog post, I’m sharing some of the observations I made while I was there, staying in one of the most upscale and upmarket hotels and resorts in the world.
Now, if you’ve ever stayed at The Four Seasons you’ll know how much of a commitment they make to excellence. In the 1960s its pioneer, Issy Sharp paved the way for a new kind of hotel, one that was solely focused on the guest. Issy made a commitment to providing an experience that was unparalleled. He offered exceptional facilities in exotic locations, with customer service that could not be matched.
By the time the 2000s rolled around, the company had grown in both size and recognition. It had redefined the hospitality and leisure industry and achieved top-class status. There are quite a number of things we can learn, as business owners, from Issy Sharp and The Four Seasons… so let’s dive into what they’re doing that every entrepreneur and company should be, shall we?
1. Client experience should be at the heart and soul of everything you are and do.
The Four Seasons know their greatest asset and the key to their success is their people, and so they make it their mission to ensure they’re satisfied every single step of the way. Making an important contribution to their guests, customers, and business associates is really integral to The Four Seasons’ company values. They’re dignified and respectful in all their interactions and do their utmost to ensure that everyone is comfortable, relaxed, and has the most leisurely, luxurious stay.
You can’t fault The Four Seasons on their manners… they’re absolutely impeccable—everyone I encountered was polite, courteous, and extremely eager to please. No ask was too big or small, when I even had to ask, that is. In actual fact, the team preempted almost everything I could possibly want for. They were incredibly proactive and knew, often before I did, what was necessary to improve or enhance my stay.
But… this kind of care shouldn’t be reserved for the hospitality industry only. We, as business owners, of various types, should be ensuring that our clients feel this thought of and cared for, too.
Myself and the EW and IHML teams make every, united, effort to ensure our clients are 100% fulfilled, because I know, as a luxury brand owner, that it’s my duty and responsibility to provide a premium experience and facilitate a transformation that goes above and beyond anything my clients could have ever imagined, never mind expected.
This way of working has been really important to me from the get-go, as I’m a firm believer that impact and income are positively correlated, meaning the more you help others solve their problems and achieve their goals, the more you will be compensated too—scaling a business is not about making a quick buck. In The Science of Getting Rich, one of my favorite books ever, the author, Wallace Wattles, argues that in order to accumulate wealth and riches, you should ‘give to every man more than you take from him’. And by that, he doesn’t mean give people more in cash market value than you charge for your offerings, but rather, help them achieve something through the buying of your product or service that far outweighs the price they paid.
To take a book as an example, $10 is not a lot if the ideas suggested within its pages help you generate thousands of dollars of revenue, or help you heal your heartbreak or achieve more balance/harmony between your personal and professional life, right? Well, that’s the approach I take in business across the board. I focus on providing a result that is worth much more than the investment it took to secure it, ensuring that everything else my clients encounter along their customer journey dazzle and delight, just as much as the product or the service did. Which brings me to my next point…
2. The devil is in the details.
Something else, The Four Seasons, really obviously understand, is that the devil is in the details when it comes to client experience. Brands have to really know and understand how their customer wants to be serviced. Luxury shopping is much more than a throwaway transactional purchase; affluent customers make an emotional investment in you and your ethos, and so it’s important you act intentionally and deliver on the greater value experience your higher price tag promises.
One way to do this is by impressing your clients, over and over again, in a multitude of teeny tiny ways. Oftentimes the small things are the most meaningful, correct? E.g. a smile from a stranger, the scent of a rose as you walk past a park on your walk back from the park, a thank you note from a friend you helped out when they were in need? Well, the same applies to the small things within your business. What tweaks and adjustments could you make to ensure your clients feel valued? Because trust me when I say that the compound effect is REAL.
Going back to The Four Seasons for a sec—their primary objective is to be known for being the company that manages the finest hotels, resorts, and residence clubs wherever they are located. They pride themselves on the fact that their properties are superior in design and finish to that of their competitors, and deeply instilled in their company culture is to be of service to their customers and do everything in their power to satisfy their needs. The Four Seasons’ guest has exceptional taste, and so everything from the food served to the crockery and cutlery that accompanies it is carefully considered… as is the way the waiter approaches your table to refill your water before you reach the bottom of your glass, the can-do attitude they meet you with, and the asking of whether you require anything else. The soft furnishings you’re sitting on are well thought out, as is the rest of the decor around the room and the temperature that’s never too hot or too cold. It’s all of these little pieces of the puzzle that help The Four Seasons maintain its social standing as the world’s most premier, luxurious, hospitality company… so, with that being said, what could be your wow-factor? What could give your business a similar je ne sais quoi?
I know it might be more helpful to have some examples from my businesses, and so in the next couple of points, I’m going to break down some of the details I, myself, have agonized over, to build my luxurious brand.
2.1. In-person elements at the point of sale and beyond it.
According to Albatross, a global customer experience agency for luxury and premium brands, 90% of luxury experiences still take place in stores, but the new focus is on experiential retailing, in making prospects (and later, customers) feel like they ARE a certain way, rather than that they have a certain thing.
What does this look like in practice? Well, say you’re at a high-end store like Harrod’s in London. This doesn’t just offer consumers a place to shop, but a place to eat decadent truffles and drink champagne, listen to classical music, smell the signature scent that’s being pumped through the building, a place to try out products and sample what it would feel like to be someone for whom all of these luxuries are possible for and available to.
Many luxury brands understand the necessity of experience, and so host VIP events at spas and wellness centers, or host dinners for people to wine, dine, and network. These exclusive events adda social dimension to the brand and make it easier to sell the transformation, but also, help your clients integrate everything that much easier—which is one of the reasons why my Luxe Mastermind includes three retreats. I mean, it’s hard not to be inspired and motivated to hit your sales targets and achieve your revenue goals when you’re strategizing in a 5* hotel in Austin and visioning in Bora Bora!
2.2 Frontline talent.
I don’t have a customer service rep, I have a client concierge. You wouldn’t expect to be greeted by someone who was a junior and didn’t know what they were doing at The Four Seasons, would you? So why scrimp and save on a VA who lacks the experience necessary to greet your clients when they come on board? A warm, friendly, knowledgeable, and expertised representative is viewed by many as one of the most important aspects for a good customer experience. Make sure to hire people who are as emotionally invested in the company and its customers as you are—it will lead to increased acquisition and retention for sure.
2.3 Consistency is key.
Lots of people worry that their business is too ‘predictable’, but isn’t that what we expect of the luxury brands WE invest in, ourselves? I know, when I walk into a Four Seasons resort, what brand of toiletries I’ll find in the bathroom, and what kind of slippers and robe I’ll find in the closet—I even know whether my mattress will be memory foam or pocket sprung, and whether the bed linen will be Egyptian Cotton or there’ll be silky, satin sheets.
Predictability isn’t dull or boring, it makes people feel safe and secure. Clients feel more comfortable when they know what to expect, so make sure that everything from how often you show up on social media, to the standard of the service you provide, meets their expectations, each and every time.
2.4 Add options for personalization.
A one-size-fits-all approach is easy to produce, over and over again, but it doesn’t exactly scream luxurious, which is why, as a premium brand, you should focus on offering options to personalize as much as possible, so that the product or service you provide the client is tailored to them and their needs.
Let’s take an obvious example from my business. I could provide a lower touch product like a course that shares my methodology, but is of course, more generic in nature because there’s no way of ensuring people have specific support. I could also provide a higher touch product like The Luxe Mastermind that has group coaching and even 1:1 coaching calls (that our clients can book when they choose) with myself and James, couldn’t I? That experience can be made much more bespoke and will provide a greater transformation by consequence. It’s infinitely more valuable than a course like I Heart Money is and is the kind of offering one would associate with a luxury brand like mine.
We see this option in designer handbag retailers, who offer monogram printing on their leather, and we see it in meal prep companies who cook food that calculates the macros and micros required in each meal to help their clients achieve their unique health and fitness goals. Are you offering ways in which to personalize your options? And if not, can you think of some ways in which you could do that to elevate your client experience and make your offering more premium?
2.5 Giving people opportunities.
One of the other things, I feel, sets me apart as the CEO of a luxury business and brand is that I give people absolutely incredible opportunities that they wouldn’t find anywhere else. I’m all about expanding people’s horizons to show them what’s possible. I take the women I work with to the most amazing venues, that are decorated ornately and elegantly, and connect them with the most influential experts, coaches and mentors I know. I find that when I offer unbelievable experiences like this, even making the decision to invest deeply changes my clients because it indicates a shift in their belief system—that they now think of themselves as being worthy and deserving of more. Of course, the experiences themselves deeply change my clients, too. The more they experience what their next level of life has to offer, the more comfortable they get with that kind of success and start to strive for something even bigger and better again.
…and that’s it! I hope the insights into building a luxury brand helped you today, and that you’ll take something away from this post and apply it to your business. Be sure to let me know, in the comments below, if you’ll be actioning any of the steps I suggested. I love to hear how people are stepping up as a result of reading this content!