Park City businesses try the cutting edge
Experiments in new communication technologies are proving successful for many Park City businesses.
Mass texting, social networking sites and YouTube are now used in marketing campaigns, but with each new opportunity presented there are also limitations. When used properly, businesses are finding them a god-send.
Marty Ogburn, a Park City resident, works with his son promoting RhinoText, a mass texting service by their company Five3 Mobile Marketing.
RhinoText can send up to 10,800 texts in about two minutes. City Hall and the Park City School District subscribed to the service, mostly for emergencies. City Hall can send instant internal messages to all employees, including off-duty police officers, or citizens can subscribe to receive messages from the city. The School District can announce school closures and safety tips to students and parents.
Ogburn envisions mass texting being used to distribute coupons. A pizzeria could send a message to its most loyal customers at 5:15 when they’re coming home from work offering a discounted pizza if the text is shown at the register. The messages can hit people up with an offer at just the right times.
Dustin Esson, who does marketing for Harry O’s, said he uses RhinoText to remind clients of events the evening of as people ponder what to do with their Friday night.
"It’s the most effective form of marketing we do," he said.
If people text back with an RSVP for an event, he can monitor the success of the marketing campaign and make adjustments accordingly. If there’s a big response, he can know to make more space and order more supplies.
Colleen Burke, director of member services for the Park City Chamber/Bureau, subscribed to RhinoText in case of emergencies.
Resort towns sometimes see disasters like storms or fires that create shortages of rooms. Now she can text everyone in the local lodging industry to see what accommodations can be made for displaced visitors.
While she’s excited about these possibilities, she’s also wary of texting being used for marketing. If people allow themselves to be bombarded with texts on a daily basis, she fears it might cause a numbing effect and jeopardize the effectiveness of emergency alerts.
"I would hate to risk diluting that message if people are inundated with texted marketing messages," she said.
Joey Rusconi, manager at the Wasatch Brew Pub, has tried a small amount of texting from his own cell phone to notify loyal customers of events, but hasn’t found it to be effective. If other businesses have success with it, he said he’d look into again, but has found Facebook and Myspace to be more effective.
Social Networking Sites
Rusconi said Facebook and Myspace are excellent ways to keep people updated on what the pub is doing.
A lot of our employees were on it and so were their friends. They suggested it, and week by week the "friends" list has grown exponentially.
If there’s an event to announce, he can get the message out to about 500 people. That number will only grow as the "friends" list increases.
Bryan Richards of Mountain Town Stages said networking sites are superior to email lists that are hard to keep current.
People change their addresses so often that connection with only 15 to 20 percent of subscribers is considered successful with mass emails.
On Facebook, his list of 200 to 300 "friends" can grow to thousands during the summer. When he posts concerts as his "What I’m doing today," they show up as a bulletin and stay there for several days and are seen every time someone logs on.
"It’s been working out really well," he said.
Esson said Myspace has become indispensable to the club business because it’s such a force to be reckoned with among younger consumers.
"These kids live on Myspace," he joked.
There seem to be limitations, however on what can be promoted.
Megan Gribetz tried to run a Myspace page for Chloe Lane and found it to be unsuccessful. She wanted that presence to lead people to her website, but found that people don’t take interest in the store until they find it carries merchandise they want.
Myspace could promote her brand, but it wasn’t good for promoting the product. She has found success when people searched for merchandise on the Internet and it led them to her website.
Richards said he noticed the same thing with his Orion’s Music Shop. Myspace wasn’t good for moving CD’s, but it was excellent for announcing releases, concerts and spreading reviews and other music industry information.
"It doesn’t make sense to use the pages to sell product, but to promote information about product," he said.
Rusconi called the potential of networking sites "viral." That’s also a term frequently used to describe the spreading of videos on the Internet.
Tom Wood, an associate broker with RE/MAX Mountain Properties, posted an informational video on reasons to invest in Park City real estate. Several homeowners have posted tours of their house or condo trying to sell or rent it. These postings have less than 1,000 hits definitely not a viral reaction, but possibly still useful to a specific market.
The resorts also post videos or montages promoting their snow or new features which receive more attention.
The Utah Office of Tourism and Ski Utah are taking a shot at going viral this year with five new ads featuring comedians in foam suits looking like perfect snowflakes excited to fall on Utah. Two of the ads will receive television time and the other three will be on YouTube, said Dave Williams, deputy director of marketing and research.
Leigh von der Esch, managing director, said they were highly encouraged by the spread of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression on YouTube.
"For the next three days, it went around the world," she said.
With snow on the slopes, Williams said he’s hoping to catch the attention of people watching ski and snowboarding videos to attract them to Ski Utah’s winter planning guides.
The biggest plus is that it doesn’t cost anything to post on YouTube, he said.
von der Esch said she’s not sure what to expect since it’s the first year they’ve tried it, but test audiences have been "enormously favorable."
Tracie Cayford, deputy director, said people are already posting it on Facebook and she hopes the spots will spread that way as well.
A Tennessee tourism ad in which an old Elvis Presley film was transposed to include Dolly Parton talking about coming to the state for a vacation cost about $1 million, and generated about $16 million worth of unpaid advertising as it spread on the web, von der Esch explained.
See Ski Utah’s Snowflake ads at http://www.utah.travel/snowflake/
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