Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
Gloria Morris is a rockstar in her own right, having immediately hit the ground running with Float Sixty out in Chicago. It’s been amazing watching her influence grow throughout the float industry as she helps others consult with marketing as well as help behind the scenes in float projects like her work on the Art of the Float Podcast.
She recently opened up a second location in Schererville, Indiana, basically a suburb of Chicago. Ashkahn takes the time on this episode to ask her about the challenges running a center in a suburban area compared to an urban one and some of the important business lessons she’s learned throughout the experience.
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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Ashkahn: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Daily Solutions Podcast. This is Ashkahn We have a slightly different episode for you guys today. Instead of answering a question like we normally do, I actually have a special guest on with us. Here today with me is Gloria Morris from Float Sixty. She’s gonna be speaking at the Float Conference this year. We just did an interview for our Float Conference podcast, and thought one more little bonus question for you guys here over at Daily Solutions.
So, welcome Gloria.
Gloria: Thank you. I feel so privileged. But where’s Graham and where’s the flashy intro?
Ashkahn: The intro will be there. We’ll do that in-
Gloria: Okay. Make it special.
Ashkahn: You’ll have to hear it on the final production.
Ashkahn: I usually imitate Graham for most of these episodes anyways. He’s not here most of the time, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Gloria: All right, well Graham, you are missed.
Ashkahn: So, my question for you that I thought would be interesting to hear your opinion on is you started a float center in Chicago, in, in Chicago, really in the city. Then two years later, opened up a second location in Northern Indiana. How far is that away from Chicago where your second center is?
Gloria: Physically, it’s 26 miles away, so it’s suburban. People often get confused that Indiana is really far from Chicago but it’s very close. We’re the tip of the south border of Lake Michigan. It’s 45 minutes.
Ashkahn: 45 minutes, so pretty much the suburbs of Chicago. I’m curious there’s not a lot of people out there I think that have both of those experiences simultaneously, running a center really in a big city and in the suburbs. I’m curious to hear what you’ve found the differences to be. Are there different ways that you have to market to people or accommodate people as they come in. Just generally what have you found to be different or entirely the same about running them in different contexts like that?
Gloria: It’s a great question and I was just speaking about this to my interns. We were talking about strategy and customer database related stuff. Totally different dynamic, right? People that come to Chicago, we have a lot of first time guests in Chicago. Just because it’s a huge pool of people. It’s very dense, in a 3 million person population in the metro area.
Your operations and working with people who are coming in for the first time you might have 60% of your day you’re dealing with first time customers. Where as in Indiana, it really is a world away. It’s a much different demographic. It’s a much different population in terms of the density is just not very much. You have to do things much different in terms of marketing.
We very much nurture nurturing campaigns for our Indiana location which we just started. We’re four months in and I’m already having to take a look at the existing database and doing some campaigns specifically to new customers to get them back for a second time. That conversion of a first to second time in Indiana is so much more important than even in Chicago because there’s just so many people to pull from in Chicago. There’s always this new influx of people. Where as in Indiana you pretty much have this fixed area and you’re not going to get a lot of people visiting this area.
Our marketing campaigns, I call it a nurture campaign, we do a lot of existing database mining with our current customer base. We’re having to do a lot more outreach from a media and advertising perspective just to keep our tanks full, and they’re not full. It truly is a test for me to see how skilled I am in marketing. This is much harder in Indiana than it is in Chicago, I think.
Ashkahn: Interesting. When you talk about going through your data to find this, how are you reaching out to people? Through email campaigns or what’s your method of reaching your existing customers?
Gloria: Traditionally I’ve done a lot of email campaigns. In this particular campaign that we just did in June we did a member guest type of campaign. We literally called every member we had, which isn’t a lot because we just opened. We’re very focused on memberships here. We called everybody on the phone. We did do this in River North too because it really did well so we did spill this over to River North. In Indiana we did a phone campaign and we called every single person that had signed up for a membership and offered them to bring in a friend. Nothing too crazy, nothing too creative, but I think it’s just particularly important even in bigger markets to nurture the database you have versus just focus on customer acquisition.
You have to balance them. That’s big, big difference in both locations and the third one, to be able to continue to do our community relations and outreach. We literally have a brand ambassador at each location that goes out. Their sole job is to evangelize and meet business owners and figure out ways to collaborate with them.
Ashkahn: Wow, that’s great. What have you done in the-
Gloria: It’s crazy right?
Ashkahn: Have you done any more traditional paid advertising for either spot?
Gloria: I’ve done a very little bit of print in Indiana. Just because there’s some certain subdivisions in certain areas that I think. In fact it only came to be because we had some customers come in from those areas who suggested it. It wouldn’t be my first choice to do that. We do a lot of social of course. We do a lot of Facebook and Instagram but, again, I do go back to my focus in Indiana being more about the existing database. People who have, not necessarily just members, but I think we also need to look at anybody who’s given us a positive review or somebody that you know really got excited that could be an ambassador. Reaching out to those people and giving them some type of systematic way to spread the word is very powerful.
We use the referral program in Helm big time in Indiana. Much more than we do in Chicago which, again, is mostly out of habit. It’s a cool way just to get people talking, super important.
Ashkahn: In this suburban kind of location, when you’re talking about reaching out to the community do you feel like you’re focusing on individuals more than companies? My impression of your kind of brand ambassador stuff in Chicago is a lot of collaboration with other businesses around you or like minded businesses in the city. I’m getting the sense that it’s almost a little bit more like individual focused in Indiana.
Gloria: I think it’s both in Indiana. I think you’re right in Chicago we definitely focus our brand ambassador activities on collaborations with other businesses. In Indiana it’s definitely both. We have a very strong referral campaign that everybody in the studio is absolutely in tune to doing. Then we have a dedicated brand ambassador who’s the same in Chicago, going around and doing outreach to businesses, understanding what health fairs are out there. We do a lot of activities, a lot of events. We’re just trying to get visibility and crazy piece of marketing that we’re doing is driving this little company van around that’s completely wrapped obnoxiously. You can not miss us on the road. I can tell you how many people have stopped me. I vowed not to drive this thing. I’m Italian. I get a little road rage here and there.
Ashkahn: I’ve been in the car with you.
Gloria: I know.
Ashkahn: That’s a good idea. That’s smart thinking.
Gloria: You know, exactly, right? I’m driving it today. It’s been very convenient to drive it just to haul things between locations. Lisa is the one. God bless Lisa. I can just picture her when she gets this van from me she’s going to be doing her Cinderella wave and her big smile out the window and she’s much better suited to drive that than me.
We’re literally taking that van and doing on-site events and it’s a moving billboard for us. We take our little local cryo machine and we’re doing hot signups for drawings and things like that. Really grass roots pounding the pavement stuff that I think comes from my sales background. I’m very traditional in certain ways and very progressive and modern when it comes to the technology. This is part of the art and science that I’m probably going to talk about at the Float Conference. You have to kind of be prepared to do it all because one thing isn’t going to work for all circumstances.
Ashkahn: Yeah. I feel like that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in business. When you see people that are successful it’s not that they had this one genius idea that is making them successful. It’s that they had a thousand small good ideas that are all building on top of each other. That’s been a take away for me.
Gloria: I think so. I’m constantly every day I wake up and I can’t really shut this off. I’m looking at our number. Looking at our reservations. If I feel like we’re a little bit lighter I’m trying to put something in motion. I probably drive my staff bat shit crazy. I think you have to be able to pivot. You have to be agile. You have to be like a player in a game anticipating these moves from other people, or the lack of moves. I think that’s what really being a modern business needs to be.
You have to have some emotional intelligence to kind of understand when to make these moves and I’m not sure that we do. I mean I’m looking at Indiana and I’m going, “Oh my gosh, it’s so light on these days.” I’m not used to that because in Chicago we’ve been so, our occupancy has been so high. It’s a different dynamic so I think this is a true test for me. Everything I’ve always taught my clients as a consultant, for years I preached about email marketing and making sure you’re communicating with your clients and it’s putting me to the test. It really is.
It’s putting me to the test, am I doing everything I would coach someone else to do? The answer is no I’m not sometimes because you’re putting fires out and it’s hard.
Gloria: I’m my biggest critic for sure but we’re doing a lot of things right. It’s going to take time and yeah, it’s exciting. It’s great to have the challenge of making it work and trying to figure it out.
Ashkahn: Yeah and I guess what sounds kind of valuable to me. What I’ve been hearing you say is that having a slightly bigger challenge of bringing people in has lead you to the stuff that you’re trying there that’s working is then things that you can take over to Chicago to fuel that fire even more.
Ashkahn: It sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of that. Like, “We’ll test it here and we can we can actually get a better sense of that the real impact is and then if it’s worth its time then we can implement it other places.”
Gloria: For sure I did not expect to implement the member guest day in River North but then part of me thought well, “I don’t want one of my members from North West Indiana talking to a member in Chicago.” Which we do have that crossover. There’s plenty of people who go to both. I didn’t want one to have, I guess it’s the mom in me wanting to make sure both of my kids have equal opportunity. I’m like, “Oh my gosh we need to do this over here.”
It wasn’t necessarily to try to push more to River North. We’re just busy there. It was more about just making sure there’s equal guest perception and I didn’t think about that right away. Also from an employee standpoint. We do some incentive programs for our employees too so that was all we do and neutralize the way we do things across locations.
Gloria: So yeah we had to turn some spigots on and off based on business demand in the future for sure. It’s a totally different market and its only 26 miles from each other. It’s amazing how that works. It’s a different world. I always joke around about Indiana being kind of the step children. Nobody likes us from Indiana because we’re from Chicago and nobody from Chicago likes us because we think we’re from Chicago, we’re not. I have luxury of having lived in both. I can honestly say I’m from Chicago too but it’s a different world. Yeah.
Ashkahn: Cool, interesting. Yeah, best of luck with all that and excited to hear more about your marketing experience at the Float Conference this year.
Gloria: Great. I look forward to it. Can’t wait.
Ashkahn: All right. Thanks Gloria.
Gloria: All right, We’ll talk to you soon Ashkahn.
Ashkahn: All right if you guys out there have more questions for us to answer like we normally do on this podcast you can go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast and if you want to hear Gloria’s interview, more long form interview you can go over to floatconference.com and you’ll see a little button there for the podcast to listen to interviews with all of the conference speakers. We will talk to you soon.
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