Marketing is one of those words that has a lot of different meanings from one person to the next. Personally, I’ve studied marketing in one way or another for the past 20 years. I suppose you can say I’m a marketing nerd (I’ll wear that badge proudly). I even annually budget myself a different marketing conference to go to… for fun.
So when I talk marketing with people, I take a lot of things for granted.
I was chatting with a former float center apprentice – our conversation started as a discussion about general business plan knowledge and finding funding, but it quickly swung into a chat about marketing. I seem to have a knack for always bringing the conversation back to marketing.
I told them that if I could choose only one area of education to dive into as a new Float Center Owner, it would be marketing. Even though they are vitally important, construction, sanitation, payroll, repairs, hiring, and many of the other functions of a float center operator only happen in spurts. I’m simply suggesting that the one constant in managing a float center on a daily basis is marketing.
You have to work on keeping the tanks full or you don’t pay the bills.
In my past experiences, marketing is one of those overlooked things that most business owners in general don’t think about until they are ready to launch. However, from the inception of your idea all the way until the end of your time as a float center owner, you should be thinking about things from a marketer’s perspective.
It was pointed out that I was biased because of my pre-existing knowledge of marketing makes it seem easier than it really is, but I replied that “marketing is in everything that you do.”
They said that they would end up playing to their strengths and leave the marketing to the professionals. That’s when I replied, “Well, what are your strengths?”
“Well, I’m really good at building and maintaining relationships.”
“THAT IS MARKETING,” I cried out loud!
That’s when I noticed an “Ah Ha Moment” go off in their head.
Marketing is knowing who you need to connect with and build a relationship by providing them value.
People often confuse the term marketing with sales. If you look at a modified customer acquisition funnel, marketing is done early and often and it isn’t until nearly the end that a sales process comes into the picture.
You introduce them to the concept of floating (awareness). After the initial awareness of floating, they start to know about your center specifically. Given enough interactions over time, they grow to like and eventually trust you. That’s when they’ll buy their first float from you, and eventually they become loyal enough that they couldn’t imagine floating anywhere but your center. After enough interactions, your loyal customers will become your biggest advocates. Eventually, your marketing efforts will blossom into a word-of-mouth marketing behemoth.
With good marketing, you’ll have to perform very little “hard” sales, if at all.
This process can take weeks, months, or it could happen all in the same day.
Taking a step back, we often form our own negative connotations of sales and marketing based on our own past experiences. When businesses are starting out (and possibly struggling), business owners want to skip some steps and go straight to asking for the sale. This is usually the kind of pushy sales ‘tactics’ that leave a bad taste in our mouths
Sure, given enough pushy sales tactics, people may buy. “It’s a numbers game” as they say in the sales world. However, the customers acquired through this method are not as loyal and, in the end, they can be won over by another business who fosters relationships the right way.
Building relationships takes time, even in business. Don’t market like other early stage businesses vying for those first few customers: be different in everything you do.
Being different is the best strategy in winning over a marketplace… as Sally Hogshead says, “Different is better than better.”
Fortunately there’s very little that’s more different than floating.
It should go without saying, but – don’t wait until you’re weeks away from opening your center to start marketing. As soon as you KNOW this is an industry you want to get into, start building relationships. Whether it’s in person or online, building relationships is the best form of marketing you can do. Also, establish a place online where people can get more information.
How Exactly Do you Build Relationships?
Know EVERYONE in your Community
If this means going door to door and introducing yourself to every business in the area, then so be it! Introduce yourself to neighboring businesses and use this time as an opportunity to develop partnerships. Search for public speaking opportunities to talk about the benefits of floating or your journey to become an entrepreneur. Join local meetup groups and find like minded individuals. Through making these connections, you’ll be introduced to business owners who have crossover clients and/or have friends that could use a float themselves.
Stay in Touch
Once you meet someone, don’t go silent. Construct a system to make sure you’re following up with the people that you meet in your community on a regular basis. Be consistent and make the points of contact as personal and personable as you can get. Bonus points if you can keep notes on each person and start referencing their hobbies, interests, and spouse/kids by name in future conversations.
Create an Experience Worth Talking About
You want people to talk about you, right? Then give them something to talk about. Sure, floating in and of itself is buzz worthy, but go that extra mile. Offer intriguing retail items that can’t easily be found anywhere else. Provide treats for post float relaxation in your lobby. If you have the space, provide a completely separate place for post float people to relax that isn’t in the mix of a lobby. Have a wide variety of quality teas instead of your store bought herbal variety. Did you know that we have rainbow LED shower heads? Little details like that can become a customer’s next instagram post.
Pull Back the Curtain
Especially when you’re first opening up, you want to make your customers feel like they are a part of the process. Show them some behind the scenes happenings on social media. Showcase your construction, feature the friendly faces of your team members, highlight that huge order of salt that’s filling up your lobby. It’s the small, but personal, things that make a big impact.
Shine the Spotlight on Them
It’s no secret that floating attracts a wide variety of talented people. Showcase their talents any chance you get. Run an art program, share their journal creations, welcome a new neighboring business that’s just opening up. Do whatever you can to be less self promotional and more community oriented.
Resist Being Pushy
While making new friends can be exciting and you’ll be tempted to tell them everything about yourself upon the first meeting, resist pushing promotional online messages. Instead, provide them with something of actual value. Use every opportunity to entertain, educate, and just remind people why they like you. In the world of social media, it’s only after 7-10 engaging posts that you earn the right to make any kind of sales pitch.
Find Different Ways to Say the Same Thing
Create a unique message on every platform. If someone is following you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. and you’re saying the same thing in the same way, at the same time, it’ll look like you’re phoning it in and you’ll quickly start getting ignored. Regardless of the online platform you use to communicate, talk to your followers like they were your friends – don’t talk at them like typical businesses do. Be sure to use natural language and perhaps even consider planting an emoji at the right moment. 😉
In the right conditions Hashtags are okay to use, BUT PLEASE… don’t stuff your messages full of hashtags, unless you want to sound like these two. There is this subculture of people who only follow people who use certain hashtags. While that might make your follower count look good, these aren’t real followers. It’s just a vanity metric.
To recap, marketing isn’t an afterthought or a part time function, it’s front and center in everything that you do!
Your employees are marketers, and often they are the first impression customers get of your business. Take extra care to make sure they’re trained and empowered to make the right decisions and create the best experiences.
The design of your float tank center can often be a point of discussion. From lobby decor, to room layout, and to the level of soundproofing you use – everything is a potential conversation among float fans and the people they influence.
How well you connect with the people in your community will ultimately be one of the determining factors in your float center’s success. The alternative to building relationships is paying for advertising. While this can be costly, the first impression people will get is that you’re just a business looking for money and not a friend that provides rest and relaxation.
I might still be biased, and it may seem like I’m over simplifying, but marketing is one key task that you’ll do on a daily basis whether you know it or not.
Be sure to look at everything you do from the perspective of a potential floater, and ask yourself,
“How am I providing people value?”