Adventures of Starting an Adventure Business
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Media November 12 2016, 2 Comments
I have been resisting for a long time. I don't have a data plan on my cell phone, am following no one on twitter, and I wanted to remain like that for many years to come. I hated couples who sit at coffee shops both of them fully engaged in their cell phones. I hate seeing parents who don't pay their children attention because they're too busy texting or updating their status on Facebook.... but regrettably, I think the time has come to buy a cell phone, spend hours online, and learn how to use hashtags.
Why? What has caused me to do switch to the other side? Survival of my business and lack of funds for marketing. I feel that a 16 year old girl would envy my current job and that makes me cringe a bit. Instagram, blogs, checking in where I am at each moment will be my life for some time now.
For those of you who don't know what I'm referring to, Google looks at websites, like ours detourvegas.com, and ranking in organic searches is based in some part on social media presence. So, the websites which have the most social media pages, those pages that are updated the most, and those with the most followers come up higher on web searches. It is my duty, as co-owner and marketing manager (although I don't have the PhD in marketing) to improve our location on Google's search.
So, to all of those who are starting a small business, embrace the change, and calculate in the cost of a large data plan into your business costs.
How We Approached Advertising November 12 2016, 2 Comments
We are just two small people, in a town of thousands of businesses, with almost no money, no public influence, and no hands on marketing experience. How could we possibly find customers. We already took our friends out for free to gain insight into how to handle paying customers.
We posted ads on craigslist, drove our van around town during our daily errands to catch some eyes, handed out brochures to our neighbors but still no customers. We turned next to advertising with Google with AdWords. Everyone uses Google for their searches, but we were not sure if people actually click on ads. I make a point to not click on ads because I know someone's trying to sell me something. We signed up and after a few days of thinking about using Google AdWords, we got an offer for $100 of credit if we spent $25. This sounded good enough to us, considering there was no contract or long term commitment.
After the second day, we had people writing us about our products. We had a group of thirty people who wanted to take a tour with us. Thirty people? We only had one van and six kayaks. Had we created a monster too big to tame? This seemed to be a fluke, or the result of people searching for a long time for a product they couldn't find.
After using Google AdWords for several weeks, we have found that it does bring business. We believe we have good ads with a click rate of about 5% on some of them, much higher than the accepted 1 or 2%. But, do these turn into sales? We have experienced we have a group of two-four every two or three days. So, yes, we have business. But, it's not at a rate which makes us profitable.
With AdWords, the advertiser pays for every click on their ad. The expected return rate is only 1% of those who click on an ad will actually buy the product. Admittedly, we do have a better return rate than 1%, but this means that 1 person would have to generate enough revenue to pay for each of those 99 clicks. At up to $5 a click some companies are paying for keywords of "kayaking las vegas" how can anyone ever turn a profit? We are paying around $2-$4, depending on the keywords. We don't think any type of adventure business would be sustainable if within the sale of one group, we would have to recuperate over $200 just for advertising.
We decided that AdWords is a good solution for our short term needs, to generate some customers so we can find our rhythm in normal operations, and to get some reviews. The cost of our first three Yelp reviews have been so high, but their value is unimaginable for those who wrote them. Without reviews, many customers are hesitatant to try our company, and travel companies such as Viator or Trip Advisor rejected our application to be listed on their website.
To break into the market, we had to attract customers with our low cost, generate site traffic with AdWords, and wow every person we dealt with. If you have taken our tour, we urge you to ask the companies who don't have us listed to list us, and to leave reviews at places we are listed like Yelp.
Search engine optimizer consultants charge lots of money. We understand that the only way for our business to be sustainable is for our company to come up within the first few pages of the organic search for keywords such as las vegas adventure tours, or las vegas ATV rides or las vegas kayaking. While we increase our social presence with Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and build blog posts, we are seeing our company slowly creed up on the organic search results and are hopefully getting closer to a sustainable business.
So, just a reminder to all of you, if you like a business, save them some money by NOT clicking on their ad and type in the url. Each click costs your company $$$.
How We Started a Small Business Without Taking Out a Loan November 12 2016, 2 Comments
How is that possible you might ask. How can you start a tour company with kayaks, mountain bikes, ATV's, a van, trailer, insurance and promotional material without taking out a loan? I can barely make my current car payment now. We believe our dreams were possible due to two reasons: first, we lived modestly, driving older cars living in a small house and eating at home. We don't buy designer anything, eat at expensive restaurants, or take luxurious vacations. By living modestly we have been able to save money. I should also note that we are have been very lucky to have all our education costs paid off and do not currently have children. Secondly, we bought almost everything we could used rather than new. By buying used, we saved tens of thousands of dollars, reduced the pressure of quickly making a profit so we can focus on customer happiness, and can sell all of our assets as the same price we paid for them if our business doesn't work out.
We spoke with some people about buying a used van. Some people thought it was a bad idea, that having a reliable vehicle is the most important thing in our business. We agree that having a reliable vehicle is important, but not worth the price of a new vehicle. We purchased a 2003 For Econoline 350 with approximately 100K miles for $6,000. The inside of the van was immaculate, it was never used for towing, and our friend who is a mechanic gave it a thumbs up. While I was working, Safak searched for weeks on the Goverment GSA Auctions, craigslist and Autotrader ads within 400 miles of our area. We saw an add at 3pm on a Friday, and were in our car by 5pm on our way to San Diego. Yes, it wasn't easy to find that perfect van, but look at the alternative. A new 2013 Ford Econoline Extended Passenger van is around $35,000 new according to Kelly Blue Book. It would take us a half a year of profits to pay for our van. If we need to sell our used van in the near future, we can still get the $6,000 we paid for it, but if we had to sell our van, we would get thousands less than the purchase price.
My recommendation, listen to your gut and do what you are good at. Safak and I are good at buying used vehicles on craigslist, all of our cars have been bought from craigslist, and we have not had any major problems with the dozens of motorccles or cars we have owned over the past ten years.
I think about the terrible businesses I have dealt with in my life, the unhappy employees, the terrible customer service, the feeling of being taken advantage of that I have experienced with other companies that have been in business for many years. We believe that we can do things better than your average Joe, and have followed our dreams. I encourage you to join me to do what makes you happy in life!
Here's our awesome van we purchased for $6,000.
Welcome October 24 2013, 2 Comments
This blog is created to give insight for those thinking about a massive carreer change, those interested in some unique and random how-to's, and those who want to know a bit more about Las Vegas and outdoor activities nearby.
My husband and I recently started our outdoor adventure company, DeTour Vegas. We wanted our daily life to be composed of the things we love- kayaking, land sailing, being outside, working and talking with interesting people, and to feel the pride of creating something from scratch for ourselves. We feel that we are 'smarter than the average bear', sensible with money and would treat our customers fairly and e believe that this witoasis ion would lead us to success.
Each day presents challenges, joys, frustrations and excitement. We hope to provide insight into how to run and operate a husband and wife small business.