We've built the Ventana Surfboards & Supplies business around three brand values: artisanship, responsibility, and adventure. Social and environmental responsibility are important to us and, for us, part of being responsible is sharing with others our successes and failures…and we’ve had plenty of failures! In this list, we share some of the marketing we and our partner companies have found to be successful.
These ideas are proven and are free or cost very little. Of course, not all will apply to your business, but we hope they will help inspire you to get creative, share your ideas and successes, and drive your organization forward in new ways. If you like this list, let us know, and we'll post more!
5. Participate in podcasts. Cost = FREE
Reach out to podcasters who focus on subjects related to your business and offer to be on their show and to promote their podcast. Podcasters are looking to reach new audiences and customers just as you are. Look for the overlap between your customer segments and their audiences but think broadly about what overlap means in this context. For instance, if you’ve overcome mental health issues to succeed in your business, look for a podcast focused on wellness strategies. If you’ve invented a product that serves a new market, look for podcasts focused on innovation. Have you had success hiring people with special needs? Look for a podcast focused on that subject. Pitching your products or services is secondary. Find ways to teach and inform others, and the sales will often follow.
We’ve had success simply emailing or contacting podcasters through social media, pitching briefly why we think our story would resonate with their listeners, and offering to promote their podcasts widely on social media, email newsletters, and other marketing channels. We also spend a small monthly fee with Kitcaster, an online service that helps connect podcasters with relevant guests. Once you’re on a few podcasts, other podcasters will often reach out to you for interviews. Here's a sampling of our podcasts. This represents a mix of people reaching out to us and vice versa. Remember to follow through on promoting any podcasts in which you’re featured. We’ve found posting on LinkedIn to be especially effective. One post on LinkedIn of a podcast that was a referral from Kitcaster resulted in more than $25,000 in sales from a single customer!
4. Create a branded, collaborative Spotify playlist. Cost = FREE
This is a simple and fun way to get customers to engage (especially existing customers) with your brand. Basic Spotify access is free, and you can create public playlists and ask others to contribute to the list. You’ll discover new music and, if you have a physical location, you can let people know that the music on the list will be what they’ll hear when they visit. Promote the playlist on social media, in your email marketing, and on other relevant marketing channels. The Ventana playlist is focused on mellow music for beach time and woodworking (feel free to add to it!). Perhaps you own a yoga studio; ask your customers to create a playlist of calming music. Maybe you manage a skate shop; ask your customers to help you curate a mix of punk rock and hip hop. Own a tap room? What about some sing-along rock classics?
Here’s how to set it up your branded, collaborative playlist:
Create a Spotify account
Click New Playlist
Name the playlist, add a description, and upload an image to represent the playlist. We used one of our existing marketing images and overlaid our logo and the Spotify logo.
In the description, let people know the type of music you think is relevant to your brand and want to curate.
Mark it as a “collaborative playlist.”
Populate the list with 30 or 40 songs that match the theme, and then promote on social media and your other marketing channels!
You can even generate a Spotify code to put on your wall or in a handout card so people can quickly scan with their Spotify app to jump to your playlist and start adding to it.
Give it a try with our Spotify code below. If you’re reading on a desktop, tablet, or laptop computer, pen Spotify on your phone, click the Search icon at the bottom, click the camera icon in the top right, focus the camera on this image:
3. Feature pets…even host a dog show! Cost = FREE to CHEAP
People love animals. There’s a reason why “cat videos” are so popular online and why many people create dedicated social media accounts for their pets. Research suggests that pet lovers are perceived as more caring and more attractive. Take advantage of that for your business. Feature cute or funny animals in your posts but make it authentic to your brand, like this picture of Frida Mercury, our Cavapoo puppy, on a Ventana surfboard.
Our friends at Humble Sea Brewing Co., located on the Westside of Santa Cruz, take this a step further but hosting a local dog show called the Westside-Minster Dog Show. For their last show they released a limited run of a foggy IPA called “Who let the fogs out?," made t-shirts featuring their employees’ dogs, and gave out special prizes for best in sea, best trick, best costume, owner/dog lookalike, and more. Attendance was in the 100s, including many who visited for the first time, and the revenue generated was substantially higher than their average number. The event was featured on BringFido.com, a website that helps dog owners find places to stay, play, and eat with their dogs. This helped
Humble Sea reach a new audience, and links from larger sites like BringFido, and other event sites helped Humble Sea’s search engine positioning. At Ventana, we feature our dogs on the 404 Not Found page on our website, and we offer a discount if a website visitor lands there. Try it out: http://ventanasurfboards.com/deadend.
Some of the most popular posts and videos on the internet and social media focus on the process of creating something…especially when that content is totally unique, is educational, or is satisfying to watch. Most of our posts focus on the process of creating our surfboards, and those with the highest reach hit all three areas: educational, unique, and satisfying. #satisfyingvideos is a very popular hashtag on Instagram, and we’ve found that using that tag and variations of it, helps our posts earn significantly more reach. Our most popular Instagram post in the last two years reached nearly 25,000 accounts and our most popular of all time, reached nearly 500,000 across various social media platforms. These videos were simply time lapses of the process of fiber glassing a surfboard shot with a smart phone on a homemade stand. People are mesmerized by the videos and the viral nature of these posts helps us reach new customers.
Our friend, Lili Arnold, has mastered the art of the process post. Her videos are both pleasing to the ear and the eye, and her posts often explain the processes she uses to create her art. She’s also diligent about tagging all the businesses that sell the materials and products she uses. This ensures that many of those businesses see her posts and re-post, as well. She has built a following of nearly 250,000 on Instagram alone and parlayed that into a successful business for her unique art pieces.
Another Ventana partner, Copper Pig Fine Woodworking, creates process posts that are both educational and mesmerizing. Paul has built a sizeable following on Instagram with that approach. His pieces are now highly sought after, and he shares the love by leveraging his following to promote other artists and woodworkers who he respects or with whom he collaborates.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve likely just engaged with our brand for ten or more minutes. The average website visit time is less than a minute. Hopefully, reading this blog post has given you a positive opinion of Ventana and our interest in helping other small businesses. Perhaps you’ll even become a customer of ours or will share this article to help us reach others who might be interested in what we do. And, if this list gets re-posted by others, the cross-linking can help our search engine positioning.
What kind of list could you create to teach others that taps into your expertise? Do you run a hair salon? Write a post about hair care tips. Do you have a bike store? Publish a list of the best innovations for mountain biking…and promote a sale on those items. Sandwich shop? Write a list of the most bizarre sandwich orders you’ve had, name them, and create a “bizarre sandwich eaters” club for customers. You can even submit your list to sites like Listverse, TheTopTens, or Top10Zen for more reach!
What are some of your small business marketing tips and successes? Comment to share your thoughts on the relevant social media post about this article: