Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Oh right, marketing

Whew! Wow, are things nutty in my house these days or what? My goodness.

Back before we left for Thailand John and I sat in this house every day, no work to do, nothing going on, those were hard days. Now, we're still sitting in this house every day, no money to spend whatsoever, yet...the days are so different. He's going through a whirlwind right now, I'm going through a whirlwind, but least we have whirlwinds to get through. We're both working hard, so at least we have that.

Oh blog, help again?

Now that I have set Chicago Elevated up on twitter, facebook (yes, there's a fan page, haven't gotten to advertising it much yet, but you can find me here) and the blog, now I wonder: what do I do now?

It's funny, I honestly hadn't thought that far ahead, I was so pumped about getting it all set up, I knew I could worry about marketing later. I discussed a little before about how easy it is to get lost in the social media aspect of all this, like that is somehow doing something, but in reality, it's really not. Much of the world isn't on Twitter yet, many regular Chicagoans, the type of people I'm aiming for are not on it, how do I find them?

So now it's time to get some kind of marketing plan in order. Here are some ideas:

1. I need a press release. I have someone who has offered her help here - then I send out this press release to The Reader and Time Out, both big publications that get "regular people," also Chicago Magazine, things like that.

2. I want to know who it is in large offices that plans things for that office. What are they? Internal communications people? Anyone have any thoughts on this?

3. Once I get business cards I can start hitting the pavement, business cards will happen soon, after the fundraising party...concierges, building managers? I don't know? Anyone?

4. News stations, WGN, Fox, Nick Digilio...that kind of thing.

5. Ugh.

So once again I ask you all if you have any marketing skills, what other things might you suggest I do? I reiterate, I am not afraid to market any of this and since it's for me, I'll do just about anything in the name of business.

I just need to switch my focus now.

I also need to catch up on nano, I'm doing well but a little behind, a little behind one day means alot behind the next. This is true of nano and of dieting.


rachelle said...

Have you thought about targeted ads on your site?

I also noticed that one of your RSS links is broken... on the left.. you can also run your RSS through Feedburner to put some ads there or just to get statistics about who is subscribing to your feed.

Olivia said...

Yay for you for the biz. It's exciting.

A. Target ads is a good idea.

B. SEO optimize the heck out of your site and blog. I would venture to guess that google is the no. 1 source for tour bookings.

In response to your numbered list:
1) I feel like traditional press releases don't work as much anymore. Attach it with a great pitch (and you have an easy and great inherent pitch...not every day you hear about a new tour company especially one that's supposed to be different and new). Sell yourself/your story/your love for it all, etc. Call up places--I get stuff placed much more often when I make an initial phone call, even just to be like "what's your deadline schedule? Are you the best person to send this to?" Always much better.

2) HR I would think. People that plan events/conventions woudl also be good.

3) Concierge would be good.

4) Do it. I almost had a little featurette on WGN about this little group photography show i was in but they had just run a segment on photography that week. Which I don't mean in a haughty way, but more can definitely do it since I was just some little kid working a day job then. Again, I think you have a compelling story so sell YOU mon amie!

rachelleb said...

our office admins do a lot of the legwork for planning our events.

Kate said...

I was talking to my boss about your new business and she asked me if you have a brochure. I thought that was a great idea. It's something you could leave with hotels in those areas where they have brochures for stuff to do around town.

Regarding what Olivia said, definitely follow up on press releases you send out. As an editor, I get tons of them, but don't always pay attention unless someone calls me about it. Also, if you have time, you might want to target releases to the companies you're sending them to. Editors tend to pay more attention to something they know -- right off the bat -- will fit into their market.

Hixx said...

Hey you guys, these are great.

Rachelle, I'll look into targeted ads and thanks for the headsup about the RSS link.

Olivia! Sweet thang. I'm just learning about SEO so i will continue to push that.

The press releases, cool. I'm not afraid to make phone calls and friends and Kate too, I can definitely see how a phone call afterward would help too.

And Kate yes on brochure, I don't have one yet (the fundraiser party will help with that!) but am planning on doing stack cards for concierges and that kind of thing.

You guys are so great, I love having all these great people to ask for advice!

Julene said...

Admins would be a good target - we're always setting up things for clients coming into town. Society of Design Admins - maybe as a start - their list or advertise with them? Since you have a lot of architecture stuff.

Hixx said...

Thanks Julene! Great guys rule.

Dan Izzo said...

If I can put on my heavy duty Business Development Guru hat, the best way to market is to get deep into the heads of your customers. Then do this:

1. Figure out how they search for or find your type of service. (Or look at how they find similar businesses that would compete indirectly or directly with you - all the boat tours, the bus tours, etc.)

2. Deploy your marketing efforts in these areas where these decision points are made. (Even if you could afford radio commercials, do people decide their tourist type activities while listening to the radio? Probably not.)

3. Track your marketing - what works for bringing in people - do more of that. What doesn't work? Do less of that. You track it by asking people how they heard about you. And tracking it. Hardcore. In a spreadsheet or put a big whiteboard up on the wall and mark them.

Here's my gut on how the decisions are made, and an idea based on that gut. I think when it comes to things like tours, people are downtown for other activities (sightseeing, shopping) and stumble across activities like this. Certainly not all people will discover you this way, but if you're doing a downtown tour, being downtown, ready to sell the tour at a moment's notice, you're going to have a much better chance to convert prospective customers into actual customers.

Someone who emails you or calls you? They're shopping around and you might spend a lot of time with them, only to have them not book a tour. Spend that same amount of time downtown with your sign, ready to sell - the people who come up and talk to you, or walk by, can spontaneously buy your service.

So my idea is this: you can do all sorts of gimmicky free tours to build interest. You can do this two ways:

1. Get a decent sign "Free Sidewalk Tour of Chicago's Greatest Buildings - Seriously, Free." When you get enough people, do the tour. Rinse and repeat. (You could hit them up at the end for donations - explain at the start you're starting a business and giving away the tours to build interest, then at the end, 'pay me what you think you'd pay for this tour, or nothing at all, but thanks for taking my tour." Secret trick: ask groups of friends to show up and stand around so it looks like a lot of people want to take the tour.

2. Give away tours to certain groups (Returning Veterans, Chicago High School Valedictorians, Laid Off People, etc.) Do a press release touting how important you think soldiers/"good grades"/"us all sticking together in the economic crisis" is, and explain that's why you're doing it. Could get great press on an off day. It also shows you're committed to the community - which always plays well.

Final Random Idea: Bridal Shower Pub Crawl Tours. Hook up with wedding planners, etc.

Also target social organizations (Daughters of American Revolution, Jaycees, Chicago Social Club, Speed Dating Groups, etc.) those groups are always looking to do something different.

Seriously my final random idea: Do a tour as a class through that adult learning place (Learning Annex?) then you're piggy backing on their marketing (those darned magazines they give out everywhere).

Wait: One more- call the big law firms, find out who's in charge of their summer associate programs - they're always looking to sell the city to those folks with interesting activities.

That's it, I'm spent.