Obviously the future for us is the Internet. Lots of people have the wrong idea about what this means – everybody seems to have a smart idea or an anecdote about appearing high up in Google listings, but it’s a good rule of thumb that if you can do it quickly and easily, then so can everybody else. And there’s no long-term marketing strategy hidden in there.
Luckily we’ve got Lizzie Jamieson on our side, and she and her husband spend a lot of time working out exactly how websites can do better in the search engine rankings. And the answer is mostly elbow grease, sadly. One of the essentials is a monthly newsletter. It involves people, a lively and regular newsletter encourages people to subscribe, and once they’re subscribed, you can talk to them. Involve them in competitions, make special offers, and give advance notice of new products.
We’ve supposedly been doing a newsletter since about February of this year, but I’ve only done 3. Each time a newsletter goes out you can see the effectiveness because of the questions that come in by email from familiar names. Lots of these marketing ‘tricks’, we all know they’re going on, and that we’re being ‘marketing tricked’, but they do work. When we ask for photos or diaries, in they come. When we ask for feedback or suggestions, they arrive. When I meet regulars on Chain Gang trips, I find lots of them read our newsletters and blog.
But I have a real problem with newsletters. What on earth do you write about? Trying to sell biking holidays isn’t ‘news’, not in my book. It’s news in the office when we sell one, but trumpeting the availability of a bike tour in the Dordogne isn’t news. I get a newsletter every bloody day from Screwfix – and if you think the Dordogne doesn’t qualify as news, that applies double to wood screws. That’s why we’ve been so erratic, and of course ‘we’ means me.
And the answer lies in spending more time thinking about what we want to tell people about. Unfortunately, what takes an hour or so to write, an hour or so to source and prepare photographs and perhaps an hour or two in further research, might take 2 days to think about.
I don’t want to have a boring newsletter that’s not worth reading; I do want to publish one every month; I do want each newsletter to be interesting, to be eclectic, but to be based around cycling, and more loosely around the areas that we tour around.
So, our season has just ended, and we start preparations for 2009 with a new resolution. A monthly newsletter, with news in it! I’d be very grateful for ideas, and here are some of my thoughts.
Every month I’ll write about one of our tours – not about the itinerary, but about some news or interesting item from the region; we’ll be running competitions, and trying to source prizes to do with bikes; we’ll be developing our photograph site on Flickr; giving details about what customers and journalists have said about our tours; major upcoming race news from the cycling world; and we’ll try to include news about France, Italy, food and wine, because secretly that’s what we actually do. If anyone has any bright ideas I’d love to hear them.