6 Marketing Tips for the Outdoor Industry

Santa Barbara Coast
Santa Barbara Coast
© Santa Barbara Adventure Company

By: Anna Jacobson

For the outdoor industry, the summer season is often the busiest of the year. Our business, Santa Barbara Adventure Company, accommodates thousands of clients sea cave kayaking in Channel Islands National Park each summer. The time to ramp up your marketing to these potential clients is now (or, preferably, yesterday as with all things marketing) With more adventures to choose from than ever before, families, groups, etc. need to be given a good reason to choose you. Here are some things to keep in mind as you go into marketing for the summer season:


1. Differentiation / Believe in Your Product

What makes your product so unique? Is the setting unlike anywhere else in the world? Is your equipment specific and unique? Is your story something guests want to hear over and over? For us, we believe our guides are some of the best in the business – our trip customer reviews time and time again tell us that they felt as though they were “kayaking with a friend.” Sea cave kayaking is also an incredibly unique experience and connecting guests with nature is our ultimate goal. What is it for you? What sets your company apart?

How are you different? Take whatever that is and run with it – tell people why.

2. Current Content

In an age where marketing appears manicured and scheduled, people are craving that raw, current, live content. This makes the product more approachable and your audience can easily see themselves or their family doing the activity. It also gives credibility to your business, as people feel like they can trust your product. This can be done a variety of ways. For us, we try to post at least two photos per week that were taken that day or a day prior. These are often captured from guides out in the field. We are working towards implementing Facebook and Instagram “Lives” out on the Channel Islands and other locations. Sometimes, rather than writing a long description, video helps tell more compelling stories, gets your point across faster and can improve sales. In an article by Social Media Today, 12 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch for in 2018, they note that 80% of users would rather watch a live video than read a post.

Speaking of content, make it relative to what you do. Being in the outdoor industry, you have the advantage of showing off your beautiful destination: river, ocean, mountain, lake, trail: whatever it may be. You can use this scene to evoke emotion into your audience. Your content should always be informative, on-brand, educational, or entertaining. Because we work so closely with nature, we have infinite opportunities to educate our guest, which makes for incredible content.  

3. Leveraging Partners

Meet with your partners in the spring to update them on what is new for the summer so they are all on the same page with your product and any new offerings. Perhaps you can invite them out for a trip as a little refresher to stay top of mind. Ask about any advertising or partnering opportunities during early Spring so you have time to consider your options. If you organize a day trip, maybe try partnering with a local hotel to turn your guests’ experience into a whole weekend of adventure, benefiting both parties.

Santa Barbara Coast Kayakers in blue waters

4. Trying Something New

While you should never abandon what makes your company great, it is always good to try something new every once in a while to gauge interest and see what could end up working out long-term. Media and news outlets always crave “new” information as well as repeat clients.

Trying something new shouldn’t be confused with “keeping up” or “being ahead of the curve” necessarily. For example, customers are expecting real-time, digital information. What do you currently have in place to ensure this is occurring? Some businesses are resorting to a reservation-reminder text, with perhaps a promotional text delivered later in the week or month. At the very least, ensure your website is easily used on a mobile device.

5. Be Prepared / Stay Top of Mind

This means something different for everybody – but whatever campaigns you are looking to do in the summer, whatever new audience you are trying to reach or current one you are maintaining, take the steps now to ensure you are set up for summer. A small example for us is sending multiple photographers/videographers/influencers on our trips in the spring. This way, they are posting on social media themselves and we have current and fresh content to stay top-of-mind for those planning summer trips.

6. Reviews

According to Forbes’ Six Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018, half of adults over the age of 50 regularly check online reviews before purchasing a product or experience. This is the time of the year to make a plan to ensure you have top-notch reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp, etc so that those booking for the summer are more likely to choose you. If you need more reviews, explore ways to incentivize this within your business. Reviews also make excellent content for your website or social media.

Look at who you are representing

Bonus Tip! I’m adding this because while writing the article, our Group Sales Manager, Brooke, got off the phone with a potential client who asked if we allowed children on our trips. Brooke replied that of course we did, we are very family-friendly and our guides love kayaking with youth. The woman responded that we had no photos of kids on our website and was just curious if our trips were too advanced. I took a look at our website, and sure enough – not a lot of visuals with kids. Although it’s impossible to tell how many people notice or don’t notice this, it makes you wonder if subconsciously a parent is scrolling through our website looking at potential summer vacation plans and ends up closing the page because they don’t identify with our product.

Another trend for all types of businesses in 2018 is to market specifically to women and to represent them more in ad campaigns, website, etc. Women are increasingly making the purchasing choices for themselves or their families and you will be “left behind” if you don’t market to them. Especially as summer approaches, they are often planning their summer activities and this is the perfect time to be top of mind. Author Bridget Brennan wrote an excellent book titled Why She Buys that delves deeper into this topic.

Bottom line: Represent your summer target audience in your marketing initiatives.

In conclusion:

Believe in your product, find what sets you apart and run with it. Make sure your content is as current and relevant as possible. Leverage relationships with your partners early so that you are well prepared for the busy season and explore new methods to always be improving your business. Plan ahead, leverage good reviews and always keep your audience in mind.  

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