reading time: 3 minutes It’s not every day that your breakfast teaches you an important marketing lesson. But that’s exactly what happened to Gwen and I when we attended the Inside Edge Event at the Gaylord National. This hotel is gorgeous – with a 19-story glass atrium framing an amazing view of the Potomac River. A really cool way to bring the outside in. We were literally welcomed to the hotel with a red carpet that extended to the lobby — and the lower level featured a dancing fountain that played patriotic music every few hours. It IS National Harbor, after all! The entire experience was top notch – except for one thing: the coffee shop. The Gaylord National is clearly able to run food service well – there’s a nice sports bar and a swank night club on the 18th floor. Here we were extended the appropriate level of service expected for such a nice hotel. But by the third morning, we were willing to walk two blocks in heels to get a cup of coffee without hassle. And here’s why. At the little coffee shop in the hotel, there were about five people behind the counter – but they all seemed to be doing their jobs independently. They grew impatient with one another as they tried to maneuver in the tight workspace and fill orders on their own. They didn’t pay attention to who had taken what orders and seemed to have one line for orders and two lines for payment. I even got snapped at for asking where to pay! But hey, we understand. They’re busy, right? Well, we gave them a second chance on morning #2 and two cold breakfast sandwiches later we were convinced that this was likely the standard m.o. for this coffee shop. And honestly, we were a little surprised. The customer service was awful! I’m going to stop here and mention the following. Feel free to share this: “Customer service is the new marketing” <Tweet This> Ok, back to my story… Everything else at the hotel was right on point – from the front desk help to the amenities in the guest room — but this one piece was off (and I mean it was WAY off ). So, this made me wonder about the attention to detail throughout the hotel. We couldn’t figure out why no one seemed to notice (or care?) about how totally disorganized the coffee shop seemed to be. Surely we couldn’t be the only two people, two mornings in a row, to have witnessed the chaos that ensued behind the counter. And so we wondered… what OTHER things were not quite right with the hotel. Things we hadn’t noticed. It was a total disconnect from the rest of the experience–and it was unfortunate because it really made us question how great it all was… And guess what – the same thing goes for your business. If there is one element that is off, it causes your customers and prospective clients to question your entire business. You have to think about your marketing from their point of view. Do they see a big difference between your blog posts and your website? Between your emails and your phone calls? Is anything in your marketing or your message making the wrong impression? It doesn’t take much – if some small part of your marketing mix isn’t quite jiving, it ruins the whole picture. The incompetent staff of the coffee shop but a big black mark on the gorgeous hotel. Don’t let this be you! Make sure you’re on point from top to bottom so you don’t drive people away. Perception is everything, isn’t it? And if you’re like me…I don’t have to be told twice. Do you have a bad customer experience or branding disconnect you’d like to share?