UPDATE: Derek & Ashkahn discuss the Float Marketing Forum
during episode 103 of the Float Conference Podcast
I’ve personally been very fortunate to watch this salty industry grow since 2011.
Over the past 6(ish) years, I’ve bore witness to a plethora of tank manufacturers emerge, floatation research resume, hundreds of centers in towns of all sizes begin to offer floating to their community, and perhaps, most importantly, for the sake of this blog post, I’ve witnessed the birth and growth of the Float Conference.
While a busy and stressful time of year for anyone associated with Float On, conference season is definitely my favorite time of the year (and not just because it’s summer in Portland).
Prior to the conference each year, Float Tank Solutions puts out an industry report as a way to measure the growth and success of the industry. The responses provided are a tremendous help to future float center owners looking for financing to start centers of their own.
Over the past few years, primarily through feedback received from conference attendees and through industry survey responses, float center owners struggled with and wanted a solution to one thing… marketing.
It makes sense – if there’s one thing every center needs (besides salt), it’s a solid flow of customers in tanks.
While floating is a unique experience that should naturally sell itself, there are a host of indirect wellness industry related competitors vying for attention and the consumer’s dollar. In this noisy world of advertising, being the loudest brand in a shouting match won’t fill up your float center. You have to create a compelling message, targeted to the right people, and deliver it consistently at the appropriate times.
Quite a few float center owners “go all in” with their business venture, cashing out 401Ks, quitting the cushy careers that they’ve held for numerous years, and plunging head first into operating their floatation business… many float center owners still hold part time jobs or have another source of income in their household that keeps the monstrous bills fed.
Dating back to the four years that Graham, Ashkahn, and myself facilitated local gatherings through CAKEpdx, I have had one professional goal: Use my (possibly unhealthy) passion for marketing to assist people in starting self-sustaining businesses that remove themselves out of the job market, therefore freeing up that position for someone who could use it.
It’s my contribution to help fix unemployment rates. 😉
Since the days of CAKE, I’ve consulted on dozens of businesses, play the role of mentor to small startups in Portland operating out of a local co-working space, and I contribute to the marketing efforts of Float On, Float Tank Solutions, and the Float Conference.
The recent float industry report revealed a couple of things that caught my attention.
The revenue numbers of float centers around the world, and that most float center owners said they needed help with marketing above anything else. My natural reaction to find a way to help these businesses raise their revenue through marketing began to kick in.
“Sales cures all.” – Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank investor)
I believe that once a person has committed to giving floating a try, the experience of the tanks can actually sell themselves. If people are curious enough to walk into your shop, they’re likely to take the next step and hop into the tanks.
But how do you get people to even consider floating?
More importantly, once they’ve given floating a try, how do you encourage them to return frequently and create a stable income for your float center?
After some brainstorming with Ashkahn, we’ve decided the best solution for this year was to host a series panels covering key marketing topics that will provide the biggest impact in growing your float center business.
Introducing: The Float Conference Marketing Forum.
This event will be held at PSU’s Lincoln Hall (site of the 2014-15 conference) from 1-8pm. Since we’re expecting nearly 900 people to attend the regular conference, we’re hoping that the 450 seat Lincoln Hall will be big enough to accommodate every current and future float center owner looking for ways to up their marketing game. When the list of Friday activities are fully announced, be sure to reserve your tickets for each section you’re interested in attending.
One of the things that blows me away about this industry (and quite frankly spoils us all) is the open nature of most everyone who owns a center. I’m pleased to announce that this marketing forum won’t be any different.
We’ll have representatives from some of the most successful float centers in the business, including:
- Float House
- Float On (that’s us!)
- Float Toronto
- Float STL
- Modern Gravity
- Beyond Rest
- The Float Spot
- Zero Gravity Institute
Each section will be approximately 80 minutes, which will include a brief overview of the that topic, a panel discussion, and an audience Q&A.
The breakdown of the event will go a little something like this:
Customer Relations: 1:00 – 2:20
“Hi, welcome to McSalty’s how may I float you?”
A warm greeting and a friendly smile can go a long way, but good customer service doesn’t stop there.
We’re in the business of providing people with experiences, and the customer service you provide is a big part of that experience. We’ll discuss all the different factors that can your customers’ experience in your float center, from how your center is laid out, to what amenities you offer, to knowing the right time to enforce your policies.
We all like to believe that we’re giving our customers the best experience imaginable, but there are little nuances that can still be addressed or adjusted: the way your center is laid out, the amenities that you offer, and when is it the right time to enforce your policies, how to resolve conflicts, etc.
These factors and many more can all take an effect on the level of service your customers receive. In the last panel of the evening (and before go party the night away), you’ll hear about best practices to make your float center a place where people will want to stay, even after their floats are over.
Social Media: 2:50 – 4:10
We all know we have to be on there, but why… more importantly, how do we do it well?
The buzz created around “the latest social media platform to be on” can overwhelm even the savviest marketer. In the noisy world of advertising, this is one of the noisiest and the easiest fields to get lost in. Allow us to be your guide…
In this panel we’ll cover the basics of the different social media platforms, which ones you should be on, how to tailor your messaging to attain the biggest reach, and what numbers truly matter when measuring your effectiveness.
Pricing and Memberships: 4:50 – 6:10
The price is right, or is it?
The perfect price is more than a simple math equation of costs + desired markup.
Having the right price not only ensures you’re operating at a profit, but it may also become a barrier to entry for a first time floater, or a limiting factor in return visits.
Among the things you’ll learn in this panel include: How and when to discount your floats, the pros and cons of various membership structures, and how to use your prices to incentivize the type of behaviour you want.
Community Building: 6:40 – 8:00
Your float center is going to help thousands of people in your area, it’s only proper that you become a pillar of your community.
When your budget is low, one of the few resources you have to build your float business is the speed in which information gets around your town. Fortunately there are ways you can foster relationships to assist in the “word of mouth” marketing for your center.
In this panel, we’ll discuss grassroots programs you can perform to reach niche audiences, how you can build a float center through influencer endorsements, and why partnerships with other organizations in your city can produce a constant flow of traffic.
Oh… did we mention that all of this is FREE with the purchase of your conference ticket?
While I could personally talk about marketing all weekend, let’s just start with these seven hours. I believe the topics selected will be a good start in helping keep your center afloat.
I look forward to seeing everyone in August and in the meantime, if you have a marketing success story, feel free to share it with me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned to the conference Friday Activities page as that’s where more information will be announced about this event and the many other activities planned for the day before the conference.