Posts Tagged adventure marketing

Your Own Public/Private Partnerships

The relationship is everything. You can have a fantastic product, offer a tremendous service, with prices that are beyond fair. But ultimately, the strength of your brand will come down to how well you play with others. This is especially true now that anyone, anywhere, can type a few words and have it ricochet around the halls of the interweb for all eternity.

You can create and leverage partnership opportunities that help build your brand and introduce you to people and organizations that would be tough to reach with a cold call. These opportunities are all around, you just have to be creative to find them.

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from a friend I had met in a Tread Lightly Master Trainer class. He was organizing a weekend event for his Toyota FJ Cruiser four-wheel drive group and needed help staffing a booth to share the good word about outdoor ethics and responsible off-pavement recreation. A fun gig, a chance to get out into the backcountry, meet some new friends, and maybe drive a trail or two. I volunteered and we started planning.

The Tread Lighlty exhibit anchored by the XP Camper, with the Cobb grill in the forground.

The Tread Lightly exhibit, complete with a Cobb grill and anchored by the XP Camper.

My first challenge was dealing with the weather. The event meant two full days staffing a table in the middle of a dirt parking lot. If I didn’t want to end up with heatstroke I would need to find some sort of shade structure. I contacted my friends at XP Camper to find out if they might be interested in donating the use of their demonstration vehicle to be the base camp for my Tread Lightly exhibit. Not only would the camper and its attached awning provide shade, we would have a cool place to come indoors and a refrigerator for cold drinks, right in the booth. And XP Camper would get a chance to show off its new design to a whole new group of potential buyers. One quick conversation and I had an awesome plan to avoid sunstroke.

Next problem was how to stand out and draw foot traffic to the booth. There would be lots of cool stuff to see and a lot of activities over the weekend. If I wanted any of the attendees to come to my exhibit, I was going to have to get creative.

Enter the scent of grilled meat. A most powerful attractant for outdoor-folk.

I planned to set up a small portable grill and cook up some tidbits of something tasty. With luck, the wind would spread the scent around and draw folks in. I’d offer them a bite to eat then deliver my pitch. For some time now, I’ve carried a Cobb portable grill on my trips and used it to cook up some fantastic meals. It’s a great product and would be perfect for this event. And, coincidentally, at this year’s Overland Expo, I happened to meet the folks who import the Cobb grill into the US. So I contacted them to say I’d be showing off their product and ask if they wanted to donate something toward the event’s big Saturday night raffle. That conversation went extremely well and I had managed to not only score a cool prize for my friend’s car club meet, I had also gotten Cobb named as one of the sponsors.

The event was a huge success for all concerned. We spread the Tread Lightly message to a very receptive audience, we showed off a cool new camper design, we gave away a very nice prize, and we all had a great time. Moreover, this was a chance to build on some new relationships and set the stage for future collaborations.

It’s a sort of connect-the-dots kinda thing. And it’s all good.

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A Teachable Moment

A few days ago, I came upon a small softroader of some kind attempting a pretty challenging hillclimb on a dirt two-track just off the paved highway. No forward progress, lots of wheelspin. The car would occasionally get a bit sideways. I stopped to watch, knowing that a failed hillclimb can easily lead to a rollover. Didn’t know exactly what I was going to do but figured I might be able to lend some sort of assistance.

After a bit, I began walking up the hill toward the stuck car. The driver put her head out the window and very politely asked me if I was wanting to drive up the road she was currently blocking. I said I was there to see if I could help her out in any way.

We talked a bit and I suggested she try gently backing down the hill while I spotted her. We got the car down without much more trouble than a bit of wheel slip.

Turns out she works for an engineering firm that is doing an environmental assessment of a proposed cell tower site. Her goal was to drive to the site on the other side of the hill a couple of miles away and about 500 feet higher.

I confirmed with her that she had permission to drive on what I believe is private property. And I suggested that perhaps her car was not the best choice for that particular challenge. Then I offered to drive her to the site in my truck. She accepted.

Heading up the hill, I mentioned the benefits of low range gearing, bigger tires, and locking differentials. Also experience and training. I talked about how a more capable vehicle can tackle a tougher obstacle while minimizing impact on the land. I said that the reason I stopped in the first place was concern for her safety and possible damage to the landscape. I told her about Tread Lightly and responsible back country travel.

We found the cell site, she took a few pictures, we had a nice chat, and I drove her back down the hill to her car. I gained a couple new pinstripes but we never spun a tire.

All in all a nice experience and completely unexpected.

Would you have done anything differently?

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Put on the Uniform

How do you get ready for a presentation? A meeting with a prospective customer? A day exhibiting at a trade show? You probably double-check your materials, make sure you have plenty of business cards, and confirm the time and place. Do you put on a uniform?

Uniforms are a powerful tool, common to most cultures. Think about the person who delivers your mail, or packages, or a speeding ticket. They all wear a uniform. It gives them authority. Without the uniform, would you take a cop seriously? How about an airline pilot?

What’s the uniform in your field?

When I worked as a back country guide, our summer uniform was a green company polo shirt, desert or woodland camouflage BDU trousers, a company baseball cap, and a handheld two-way radio. In winter we wore black snow pants and a red and black snowmobile jacket. None of our guests dressed like that and it was obvious who was running the show.

Asked to speak at a presentation to visitors I thought I might dress up a bit better than my “work” clothes. So I pulled out a new polo shirt and some fresh khaki trousers. So did everyone else who presented that day. I looked just like every other talking head trying to sell something to tourists. I didn’t give much of a presentation and I doubt if anyone paid any attention to me at all.

The next week I went back wearing my field uniform, including a big knife and my radio in a pouch on my belt. All the other presenters still wore their khakis and polos, since that was their uniform. I stood out from the crowd and my audience listened to me.

More importantly, I was wearing my uniform rather than someone else’s. I felt comfortable and relaxed.

I had been afraid of speaking in public and it affected my performance. Now, in my comfortable everyday uniform, I could easily play the role that I was supposed to. I wasn’t a pitchman selling something. I was an experienced back country guide telling visitors about the beautiful scenery all around them. About the place where I got to spend 200 days a year. About the adventures I had enjoyed and wanted to share with them.

I felt like the hit of the party. It doesn’t matter whether that was true or not; I felt like it. My audience not only listened carefully and asked great questions, they wanted to hear more. To share in my adventures. To buy what I was selling.

As the last presenter finished speaking the audience broke up. Many of them came to ask me more questions; several wanted to book an adventure with my outfit. I pulled out my cell phone, called the home office, and made their reservations. Our company had been speaking at these events for years and had never before booked a trip right on the spot. I felt like the king of the world.

So the uniform worked for me. More importantly, it worked for my company and my customers. It helped them to decide to buy what I had to sell. Pretty powerful tool, no?

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the uniform was in helping me get over my fear of speaking in public. Before, I had been a guy doing something I didn’t want to do and knew I wasn’t very good at. After, I realized that I was actually playing a role. Out on the trail, where I wore my uniform every day, my guests expected me to be an expert guide, confident to lead a trip, and experienced in handling whatever the back country threw at us. And I was that person. I did that job every day and I was good at it. When I wore my adventure travel guide uniform, I was in character. I was ready to play the role I had signed up for.

So what’s your uniform? Is it the right one for what you need to do? Does it send the right message to others?

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Got an iPad? Enjoy Pyramid Lake

Richard Misrach's photo as seen on the iPad

Richard Misrach's photo on the iPad. Wikimedia Commons image by Glenn Fleishman

How ’bout that iPad, eh? And how ’bout that beautiful background photo? That picture is of Pyramid Lake, in Northern Nevada. Serene, eerie, beautiful.

The default background screen on Apple’s iPad is called “Pyramid Lake (at Night).” It was taken by Richard Misrach, of Berkeley, California, in 2004. It is part of his series called Desert Cantos, an ongoing study of the American Desert landscape begun more than 35 years ago.

More on the photo, and Mr. Misrach, from the Reno Gazette Journal. And a very nice version of the original image, from Artinfo.

Enjoy the image, and your new iPad.

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Lessons From a Dry Lake Bed

Sail Magazine has just published an interesting article on an experimental wind-powered vehicle that does its job amazingly well. And is also extremely ugly.

Background: “Common wisdom” shows us that a sailing vessel, when traveling directly downwind, can only move as fast as the wind that powers it. A well-designed sailboat, or landsailer, or iceboat, can move significantly faster than the wind on other courses, but not directly downwind.

So a bunch of really smart folks began debating in online forums about whether it would be possible to design a craft that could sail downwind faster than the wind blows. And while the debate was raging, some of them actually went out and built the thing. They thought it might go perhaps twice as fast as the wind.

In March, at the annual meet of the North American Land Sailing Association, on the flats of Ivanpah Dry Lake, near Primm, Nevada, it achieved 2.5 times the wind speed. The team is now shooting for three times the wind speed. They’re sponsored by Joby Energy, which develops airborne wind turbines, and by Google, which does everything.

So the thing works. And it is insanely ugly.

Lessons learned:

  • Sometimes, what we all think to be true, isn’t.
  • Really smart people are all around us. So are really obnoxious people. People who can get their ideas across without being obnoxious get listened to.
  • There’s a big difference between talking and doing.
  • Anybody can shoot off their mouth on the internet. Sometimes they also shoot off their foot.
  • Form-follows-function is nice. Purpose-built is nice. Ugly machines are still ugly.

Here’s a couple of samples of some of the debate that got this whole thing going. It gets a bit uncivilized in places:

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