There are a lot of things I look for in a hotel. Most of them are centered on finding ways to make time on the road feel as comfortable as time at home (hey, everybody can dream).

For me, the must-haves are access to great dining options (ones that appeal to my inner foodie), a clean semi-spacious fitness center (with fully functional equipment), rooms with enough outlets for me to plug in my various gadgets (without crawling on the floor and bumping my head on the desk), and a bed that was purchased in the new millennium (preferably with pillows that were made without sacrificing waterfowl). Yes, I am a bit demanding, but I know I can only give my clients my best when I am well rested and happy.

Chances are you’ve entered a hotel or two in your life, and you have no doubt recognized that each one has a certain feel. It’s a feel that reflects the brand, and it is the sum of a lot of little things–decor, layout, appearance, people, signage, and so forth. But an experience last year dramatically changed my perspective on just how much of a difference the scent of a hotel (or any business) can make.

Let me explain.

It was almost 1 a.m. when I dragged myself out of the metro car and walked into the lobby of the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It had been a day filled with too many airline delays and bumpy plane rides. I was tired and just wanted to get into bed and rest.

But that feeling changed the moment I entered the lobby.

Immediately I was hit by this amazing smell that rejuvenated me and awakened my senses. Suddenly I felt alert and alive, and very thankful that someone had taken the time to pay attention to that little detail–the scent of the business. That small action on their part secured my business for the future.

The fact is that scent can have a powerful effect on consumer behavior.  An ABC News article calls scent the second most powerful of the five senses, because it is the only one that can bypass the rational part of the brain and tap into emotions.  The right scent can make consumers feel more relaxed, energized and safe

That’s why several years ago when Sony wanted to make women feel more welcome in its stores it contracted with a company to infuse a customized scent of vanilla, mandarin, bourbon and other ingredients into every store. And it’s how HunkemÜller, a Netherlands-based lingerie retailer, recently increased sales by 20%–by adding a chocolate scent to its stores.

Now I’m not telling you to invest heavily in scent marketing or strategic fragrancing, (or whatever the experts call it) and I╒m not telling you to run out and clear the air freshener shelves of the closest store. But I am suggesting that you become cognizant of an all too often overlooked element that can redefine your members entire experience–the smell of the building.

So what does your branch smell like?

Seriously. Stop reading and sniff. What do you smell?

Does it smell new, like new carpet, paint, or paneling?  Does it smell old and musty? Does it smell clean? Dirty? Are the aromas from the break room penetrating every public area of the building? Does your building make people glad they walked through the door or anxious to leave?

The bottom line: Scent may seem like a small (perhaps unmanageable) detail, but remember it╒s the little things that often make the biggest difference.

Action Advice: Pay attention to the smell of your branches, your corporate offices, and all of the areas your employees and members use every day, and manage the scent of your credit union with intention.