A tour is a powerful branding opportunity but it’s one that companies frequently miss — or mess up.
Here are five steps you can take to craft a more effective facility walking tour.
Step 1: Identify your goal and create a strategy.
While it’s nice to feel proud of your facility and impress your visitors, for a walking tour to have real impact on your brand, there needs to be a strategy behind it.
Before you can create a strategy, however, you need a goal for your walking tour.
- What do you want people to walk away with?
- What do you want their perceptions to be?
Once you know this, you can then build a walking tour that will help accomplish it.
Here’s what not to do: Focus on what your competitor is doing.
In fact, this is the most important work you’ll do in crafting the tour.
It could be the way you make your product – maybe you’re a challenger brand that builds a common product but in a very unique way – or it could be you’re a category leader based on the way you treat customers.
You want to bring that uniqueness front and center and celebrate it throughout the tour.
Step 2: Identify the top stations that define your process.
Using furniture manufacturing as an example, your tour stops might include:
1. Raw materials selection
4. Gluing and assembly
But, just because you have all those stops, it doesn’t mean you highlight them all equally.
Maybe it’s the manner in which you select each individual piece of wood or the application of a 100-year-old family finishing recipe that makes you stand out amongst your competitors.
Or if distribution is more important to your customer, the manufacturing process could be shown at the macro level via catwalk, while the bulk of the tour focused on a more granular look at distribution and the customer service experience.
Don’t forget the lobby!
Even though it is not where your craft takes place, the lobby is the visitor’s initial introduction to your facility and so is effectively the first “station” in the tour. The lobby should contain displays and other materials that set the tone for the tour and build excitement and anticipation for what’s to come.
Step 3: Make each station a destination.
Each station stop on the tour should be clearly marked with signage or a display.The idea is to make the station a destination.
You can have some fun here.
Maybe the displays are made from the same materials your product is made from and incorporate that stage of the process somehow. Signage might reflect the key topics that are covered.
If much of what you are showing on your tour is assembly, maybe your tour stops get more complete as you advance along the tour.
Limit the number of stations to only the important ones – it’s not about how many stations you have, it’s about ensuring a quality visitor experience at each stop.
Step 4. Choreograph the walking tour experience from beginning to end.
A well-crafted tour experience communicates many aspects of your brand simultaneously and in three dimensions. In many ways it’s a performance, and good performances are planned, scripted, choreographed and rehearsed.
Create and distribute a written tour script and ask all employees to get familiar with it. Appoint employees willing to master the script, as tour guides. At each station, there should be a few employees within earshot of the presentation and the tour guide should incorporate them in a conversational but in a planned way. This technique keeps the visitor engaged and gives them a glimpse into the company’s inner workings.
Involving everyone in the tour process will have the added benefit of greater alignment within your company. In fact, a great aspiration would be for everyone in the company to be able to give the tour.
Step 5. Build visitor dialog into the experience.
The tour is a golden opportunity to engage visitors in dialog and make them feel connected to your brand. You can foster this dialog by providing visitors with a dialog starter in the form of a card with a list of best questions to ask at each stop. (Hint: Your sales team can be an invaluable resource here.)
The “best questions” book/pamphlet/sheet could be handed out in the lobby before starting the tour. It’s a great way to show you’ve organized and planned this tour and demonstrates to visitors that their time is important to you.
Ensure your facility walking tour is “Real.”
The most important aspect of the facility tour, however, is to craft it in a way that shows your company as it really is, including its quirks and characters.