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Every once in awhile, we find our schedule a little lighter than we’d like (hey, it happens to the best of us). To quickly fill our tanks, we side with the philosophy of free floats are better than discounted floats. Using this philosophy, we could easily give out a bunch of free floats to help fill our tanks. We have nothing against it, in fact we encourage it with regular use of the texting feature within the HelmBot to easily send gift cards to people when we feel it’s right.

However this time around we wanted to reward those who help those in need.

Sitting in our regular Float On marketing meeting, we were strategizing about our next free float giveaway, and we quickly switched the conversation to focus less on our own minor woes (ahem, first world problems) and more on how we can help those in need. Despite the fact that Portland had its warmest November of all time, temperatures plunged to all-time lows in December and January. The team came together and voted on the idea of holding a sleeping bag drive.

We wanted to make the rules of this sleeping bag drive as simple as possible to encourage maximum participation: “Bring in a new or slightly used sleeping bag, receive a free float.”

We went straight for the free because it felt like the right thing to do rather than offering a float discount which would make our charitable efforts look more like a ploy to make us money.

The second rule… there was no second rule. That’s it… give us a sleeping bag that meets our criteria, you get a free float.

sleeping bag drive_web-colorAfter contacting local charities that provide assistance to the homeless, we quickly found that the better the cold rating of the sleeping bag, the more effective the donation. After calling around town, the charity we decided on supporting was JOINpdx
. So, the new addendum to our rule was to add “20℉ or colder rated sleeping bags” since it rarely drops that low in Portland. Our city is known for commonly having lows in the 30s.

Our 90 minute floats are priced at $65 and a sleeping bag with the specified rating costing approximately $40-50. This is a steal of a deal for people willing to lug in sleeping bags as a form of payment.

For a couple of reasons, there wasn’t a big concern with lowering the perceived value of our floats by having them available for a price outside of full value or free. First, we’re still technically giving away a “free float” in exchange for a sleeping bag since these could have been slightly used bags. Second, it’s not an obvious everyday occurrence where you can trade floats for the price of a sleeping bag. People probably won’t be waiting with baited breath for the next sleeping bag drive like they’re often known to do if you run frequent specials on daily deal sites. Three, it takes a decent time commitment for people to go shop (online or in-person) for a sleeping bag and then bring it into Float On.

We made an announcement through social media a week before our TANKSgiving promotion and stated that the drive was going to end November 30th which gave us about 2 weeks worth of drive time. This way, if a float membership wasn’t in your future, there was still a way you could interact with us (and fill our tanks). We also placed a poster and collection bucket in the shop for those who stay unplugged from social media longer than just their time in a tank (and kudos to those who do).

The bags began to pile up

It wasn’t more than a day before we had 2 sleeping bags enter the shop. Then a few more, and a few days later, a few more. Until… someone got smart efficient… TEN, 15℉ rated sleeping bags showed up on our doorstep from Amazon. The person who ordered the bags contacted us and we of course gave them their ten floats. We didn’t set a per person limit on this promotion for a reason. From the get go, we weren’t too concerned with having someone back a U-Haul truck of sleeping bags up to the front door looking for a year’s worth of floats. Even if they did, that would be a good problem to have and plenty of people would be helped.

We looked up the brand they purchased online and found these quality bags were only 39 dollars with free shipping for Amazon Prime members. Even at the risk of the entire town of Portland sending us ten sleeping bags each, we posted a link in a follow up social media post where everyone can easily participate in our sleeping bag drive.

Everything went so smoothly that we decided to extend the drive for the month of December. An inherently risky idea because that’s the same month of our annual gift card sale, but we’re risk-taking folks. The drive didn’t actually chip into our gift card sales, and we were still able to help keep the homeless population of Portland a little warmer for a little longer. We also had two entire weekends in Portland of snow and ice (a rarity for us, so much in fact that the city pretty much shuts down). We’re confident those extra bags collected in December went to good use.

[NOTE: After deciding to extend the drive through December, Portland was hit with its worst winter storm in history bringing 12+ inches of snow to the valley floor, temperatures with windchill into the teens, and after 7 days of this wintry mess, it iced over with freezing rain. Needless to say, we’re keeping the sleeping bag drive going until the end of January.]

Since mid-November (and with a couple of weeks still to go), we’ve collected over 50 sleeping bags for JOINpdx donated by 26 individuals. As you can see, quite a few people brought in multiple bags, which is great because they’ll have multiple floats, further building the healthy habit of regular floatation.

Did this promotion actually help fill our tanks? Maybe. But more important than that, plenty of people can sleep a little warmer at night.

Taking a look at our schedule, the days before we ran the promotion, we had at least a dozen slots open in the day (keep in mind, we run 24 hours a day, 6.5 days a week with 6 tanks). For the two weeks from when the promotion began, to the point that we started our gift card sale, less than five spots were available on any given day.

Correlation? Causation? This is one campaign where we weren’t as concerned about tracking our marketing efforts. Just trust that doing the right thing for people is better than any marketing campaign you can ever perform.

It’s having the ability to run campaigns like these that gives us a continued sense of purpose and the opportunity to help others, which is one of the reasons why we started a float tank center in the first place. I encourage everyone in the floatation community to find a cause they’re passionate about and create a way to connect floating with that cause. You could give away floats to people who donate to that cause, or serve the people helped by that cause by giving them free floats.

Either way, as business owners and operators, I believe that we have the ability to shape the community around us. Fortunately, floating is one of those forces that can affect those it comes in contact with in many ways, either directly or indirectly.

Expect more marketing posts to come from me in the future. It’s a deep passion of mine outside of the float world and, whenever I have the opportunity to combine those two worlds, I jump on it. If there are any marketing related topics that you’d like me to explore, I am definitely an opinionated marketer and would love to help. Just email me: derek@floathq.com  

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