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Dale's Business Marketing Scheme --- A work in progress.  RSS feed

 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Dale's Business Marketing Scheme --- A work in progress. The farming and green building part is several paragraphs down.

Background --- I have been self employed for most of my life. I've done landscaping, building and handyman stuff, sold some insurance and real estate and for the past 17 years, I've been involved in recycling building materials and house moving. Most of my customers have been hunted down individually in the beginning and then word of mouth takes over.

Now, I own a 24 passenger tour and camping bus. This will be the first venture where I expect to market myself through targeted advertising and various promotional schemes ranging from give aways to YouTube videos.

I've outlined some ideas below and would like to explore other means of advertising and of integrating my bus business into the development and operation of a working farm, park and campground. Anyone who submits a good idea that I haven't thought of and that I try out will get a free day trip when visiting Victoria. You can give it to anyone you know who is visiting this part of the world. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

BUS MARKETING --- At this point I'm committed to staying away from expensive print, TV and radio advertising. The computer along with various word of mouth schemes are the way I'd like to go. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There are two rather unusual methods that I'm using to market my charter bus.

1. One is to offer free trips to those who help to remove invasive species from natural areas. This should get me some positive media attention and introduce the business to a wider audience, since people like to talk about things that they get for free and they like to promote their volunteer organizations. Ultimately, I'd like to market myself as the saviour of several wild parks in the Victoria area. Thousands already know me as “Dale - The Demolition Guy”. With the right marketing, I hope to be known as “Dale – The Invasive Species Guy”. And the bus guy, the green building guy ...

I also intend to seek permission from the parks department to post signs concerning the maintenance of the park at trail heads and other key locations. We'd have to agree on style and size of the signs. The business involves camping and hiking, so the people using those trails are my perfect target market.

2. Another related promotion that I just began this week is to offer a free day trip to those who are nominated as the volunteer of the month by various service clubs. I've made about 20 calls concerning this and have had only positive response. Ask any telephone canvasser and they will tell you that it is common to receive plenty of negative feedback and angry hang ups. Most of my calls were to seniors' organizations. The demographics for this have been pretty predictable. Most of the potential nominees are women over 60 and retired. These ladies are naturally gregarious socialites who know lots of people and are bound to tell many about their nice trip.

In order to get more of an age mix, I'm contacting environmental groups, kids groups and athletic organizations. These groups have people who have donated countless hours and they come from all age groups. All the way through school, my kids were coached in T-ball, soccer, and basketball by a married couple who were the busiest volunteers I've ever met. They'll get a call from me in the spring to go on a weekend camping trip.

I've seen many businesses who attach themselves to a charity in order to use the name while the benefit to the charity is miniscule, usually less than 1%. I don't want to print their name on the bus or to have any type of endorsement arrangement. By putting the volunteers on the bus, plenty of word of mouth advertising should result and they get a tangible benefit. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So, what does this have to do with growing food and building green etc ?
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My grand plan is to turn the bus into my most important farm implement. I will use it to transport people to workshops where they can learn about various green building techniques, hugelkultur, aquaponics and wild habitat improvement (about a quarter mile of roadway that has great views of the valley will be a public walking trail with wildlife viewing blinds, benches and a nature house.)

I'm a bit off the beaten path but only 8 miles from a population of 100,000 potential customers for farm produce. I intend to offer farm tours along with a stop over at a few popular attractions. Those who buy a requisite quantity of produce will have a portion of the tour fee refunded or get a voucher for a future shopping trip.

The bus is set up for camping and camping attracts plenty of young people who are in good shape. This demographic is likely to take advantage of my plan to trade farm labour for travel. This labour could be used in trail building, rock gathering, cob building and wild foraging. We have several wild crops which are abundant and profitable to harvest. Some will be sold fresh and the remainder frozen. I have plenty of tents to accommodate everyone. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The land is no where near ready to host a wedding or other paid event. Once It is sufficiently developed , I will be offering a package deal which includes the venue, the limo (the bus), photographic service and food that they cook for themselves (This exempts me from the rules regarding restaurants). I may need a zoning change from “resource management” to “recreational”. This would allow for a campground amongst other uses. I intend to use the park aspect of the property to sell the zoning people on my vision. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A FEW MORE MARKETING IDEAS
I have about 20 other ideas for marketing myself. This may be the best one.

TURNING MY CUSTOMERS INTO SALESPEOPLE

1. Bring Three and Travel Free - Just what it says. Those who sell others on a trip get theirs for free.

2. Sell a Charter and Go on Three – If you get your club or team to charter my bus for your outing, you get to go on that trip and two other similarly priced trips for free. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
TURNING OTHER BUSINESSES INTO SALESPEOPLE

Free trips for others in the tourist business. This would include the hotel concierge, employees of Tourism Victoria and others in the service business. There are many other tour operators who operate boats, antique cars and horses who don't compete directly with me. It's common for tour operators to swap customers and to take a ride so that they all know what is offered when referrals are made.

I should stop now before the computer runs out of ink. Please chime in with any ideas you may have for marketing a Tour Bus/Permiculture Farm and Campground.

Thank you: Dale Hodgins

Edit- I may have set a personal record, but I tried not to ramble. Then I came back to look at it and decided that a good ad needs BOLD PRINT.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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Running regular (weekly/twice-aweek) bus runs from city to farm(s) for the sole purpose of taking people to buy produce? Presumably there would need to be something else at the farm end in addition to just the food in order to compete with the traditional farmer's market in town - maybe the pick-ur-own format? Has the potential of regular bread/butter.

In SF there is/was an individual Phillipino guy who bought one rickety old 30 passenger school bus, painted it blue, and started picking up commuters at the local commuter rail station and moving them into downtown (about 1/2 to 1-1/2 mile), stops at any corner. He charged about $1 ea and that was 15 years ago. He was still working the same format 5 years ago, last I saw him (think it was still $1); he may have got one more bus and a helper now but maybe not. Don't know how he got past the city - maybe because he moves 500+ people each morning rush hour (he only runs _from_ the station AFAIK) and the city got an ear-full when it hassled him... The customers don't know him from a walnut but they _vehemently_ love his product! I'm sure there's some "interesting" details about how/why he gets to continue and why he does not appear to have any competition - maybe because of the price.

Anyway, just thought I'd add a working example of a tiny bus business. <g>

Rufus
 
Dale Hodgins
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Posts: 6786
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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The bus is my ticket off the treadmill, so I will not look to transport commuters or involve myself in any other "daily grind" type of travel. In Victoria we have guys who do charters to a different fun event each day(good) and we have guys who drive back and forth on a 4 lane hiway between the city and the airport. (bad)During their "breaks" they park in giant asphalt lots. Not my idea of a life.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Here's a copy of an ad that I put on Used Victoria. Craigslist has lost out to this site around here. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Free Bus Trips for Volunteers.

Victoria Camping Bus and Charters
is offering unsold seats to many of our community's volunteers. If you are part of a volunteer organization, get in touch with me. I'll leave it up to your volunteer coordinator to nominate worthy candidates as the “Volunteer of the Month”.
We'll keep the names on file and call whenever there is room on the bus, during local day trips.

The volunteer will be contacted on the evening before or the morning of the event. Short notice is unavoidable. Some trips may require a degree of fitness but others are tours or stops at theatres or other shows. Passing on a given trip does not move them to the back of the list.

This offer is for travel only so that my costs are not driven sky high. If the trip involves entry fees or a restaurant stop, the volunteer would need to cover that. Most stopovers are not expensive.

There may be an opportunity for your representative to use the PA system to tell the regular passengers a little about your organization. No Soliciting (:

I don't personally have much time to donate to worthy causes, so I hope to do my part by offering regular rewards to Victoria's volunteer community.

Thank You: Dale Hodgins – Owner and operator of Victoria Camping Bus and Charters.

Phone - 250 588 3366 e-mail - dalesbus@live.com
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Three calls in the first half hour. This will lead to some good exposure. If my past experience with old ladies holds true, it may result in regular baked goods as well.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Posts: 6786
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Winter, and other work has stalled the bus business, but I'm starting the tourist season in a strong financial position. Last year I was just about broke from buying all of the stuff.

I decided last week to try to get myself some free media exposure by becoming a regular caller to a morning radio show. I have an opinion on just about everything, so this sort of thing is enjoyable to me, although I've never done it before. I called in three times and they ran it and then the fourth time, nothing. I figured they ran out of time to run my prerecorded comments. I took this horrible blow to the ego like a man. Then the next day, they ran an add for the show using my content as the teaser. All was right with the world after that.

I plan to become a regular on a few other shows, and to include as much business info as they'll stand for. All of the hosts from these and other local radio and TV programmes will be offered a free weekend excursion on my bus. Our small media market means easier access. I've spoken to four of them this week on issues not related to my on air foray. There's no secretary screening who gets access.

I doubt that Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer need to save $100 by going on a free trip with me. Here in our market, these folks need to save a buck just like anyone else. The university has a radio station with volunteers who are still in school. Along with the on air people, I hope to host those in charge of selling adds and more importantly, those who present public interest stories that are aired for free.

Time will tell whether or not this works for the business. Either way, I've found a fun way to express myself to those beyond earshot. Soon, everybody with a radio in Greater Victoria will have the opportunity to listen to me blather on a wide range of topics. I wonder if they all get together sometimes to compare notes. If I took to calling five different shows, it is possible that the Dale show could be blacklisted. I know they don't let the same people win all of the free concert tickets. I suppose someone might cry foul if I garner too much air time. Well, it looks like I've figured out how to spend my free time without blowing a lot of money. If the time spent on this hobby brings in business, I'll stick with it. ------------------------------------------

I plan to become a boorish, blow hard at gatherings by regaling listeners with whatever I said on the radio that week. My ability to turn off the brain to mouth filter should help in this regard and it may affect whether or not I get on air as well.
 
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