For most small business owners, it’s not a passion for marketing that inspires them to open their doors.
In many cases, marketing is something they have to figure out after.
That was certainly the case for the team behind River Rock Climbing, a climbing gym in Roanoke, Virginia which recently celebrated its one year anniversary.
“I grew up doing some rock climbing and one thing lead to another and I decided to do it,” explains Brent Cochran, general manager at River Rock Climbing. “But knowing about rock climbing doesn’t teach you about owning a rock climbing gym, that’s for sure.”
While marketing may not have been the team’s biggest passion, they knew that in order to grow their business they had to find a way to reach out and build customer relationships.
Like a lot of new businesses, the climbing gym started on social media — launching the River Rock Climbing Facebook Page in December 2012.
“For the first few months, we were doing most of our marketing through social media,” explains Jared Rigby, operations manager at River Rock Climbing. “We started the page before we were open, and were able to gain a lot of traction early on.”
In a few months, the River Rock Climbing Facebook Page had over 500 fans. Seeing some early success on social media, Jared and the River Rock team wanted to do even more.
That’s when they decided to make a greater investment into another valuable channel — email.
“We actually started collecting email addresses before we opened, but really weren’t doing a ton with our email marketing,” Jared explains. “Last fall, we set a goal to start sending an email newsletter every month.”
After signing up with Constant Contact in October, Jared sent the first official River Rock email newsletter to a list of 2,400 contacts.
“For us, it’s about growing people’s awareness and making it worthwhile for them,” says Jared. “Our goal is to have people open it because they feel it will be something valuable.”
Jared quickly realized that people weren’t only opening their newsletters and announcements, they were acting on them, as well.
“We like that we can go in and see that 30 percent of the folks have opened the newsletter and clicked a particular link – it helps us know what people are looking at,” Jared explains. “We’re also able to make smarter decisions about the type of content we include in future newsletters.”
Knowing that people were reading and responding to their email newsletters, the gym made growing and nurturing email relationships a priority.
“One of the first things we did was to start collecting email addresses through social media,” Jared explains. “But we also started collecting email addresses whenever someone would come in to the gym. Our last email we sent to just under 9,000 people.”
With two active marketing channels, Jared and the team started to think differently about how they could build relationships with their most loyal customers, and attract new customers to their business.
For starters, he began sending two separate newsletters — one for current members, and another for prospects who had visited the gym and given their email address. These newsletters would have different content and offers based on their interests.
The River Rock team was soon creating and promoting campaigns to their different audiences, and found out that by doing so, their relationships with each group grew stronger.
In December, they hosted an event for its active members, and used Constant Contact to manage event registration.
“The event registration helped us a lot with keeping track of who was coming to a members-only event at our facility,” says Jared. “We also gave folks the opportunity to bring a plus one, so they could forward folks the invitation, and we could plan ahead.”
In addition to hosting exclusive events for members, the gym also gave them the chance to share their feedback by sending an online survey. Members were asked to share their ideas and their experience as a member of the gym.
As a way to reach new customers, River Rock Climbing ran a special offer — a trackable coupon that offered an exclusive discount for new members, and a special bonus for current members who shared it with their friends.
After promoting the offer across their different marketing channels, more than 70 people redeemed the offer. Seventeen of the people who redeemed the offer were completely new to River Rock Climbing.
The River Rock team has a lot to be excited about as they enter their second year.
In addition to having successfully built a marketing strategy, they are also setting up to do even more business in the coming months.
“We’re really ahead of the curve in getting folks signed up for our upcoming programs,” Jared explains. “So far our only advertisement has been through email and social media, and we’ve already had 100% more signups than we did this time last year.”
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