An online marketing platform that provides support solely to the hospitality and tourism industries has decided to offer its service for free due to the ongoing covid restrictions that have continued to overwhelm many operators.
Rebekah Carter launched her business – Try Local – late last year in direct response to covid, plus the ongoing frustrations and inequities being experienced by operators within the industry.
“Most operators offer deals or specials from time to time to encourage people to book direct. This is normal marketing practice, but many operators were finding it increasingly costly when using existing channels - notably booking agents - who often charge hefty fees, dictate the terms of any promotion(s) and manage the process. Operators often felt a loss of control over the customer relationship and were dissatisfied with stringent conditions, which is why many expressed a desire for customers and inquiries to come direct to them instead.”
Having experienced this first-hand whilst working in the industry, Rebekah recognised an opportunity for a marketing portal that promoted deals and specials to ‘Eat, Play and Sleep’ that pushed customers and inquiries direct to the operator.
“When covid first reared its ugly head, I decided I really wanted to help, and so Try Local was born. I spent the first 6 months doing proof of concept, the creative brief, building a data base, marketing and setting it all up. I also partnered with a digital marketing company – Forge Creative – who designed and built the initial website in consultation with myself. They provide ongoing support including upgrades, Search Engine optimisation and creative input.”
Try Local launched just over twelve months ago and offered operators an initial free trial period. Thereafter, they could choose to enter into a monthly or periodic flat fee subscription to stay on the website and be actively promoted to potential customer. The subscription allows operators to post as many deals or offers as they wish, for as long as they wish and in their own style – using their own marketing material. They can put these up themselves using a very easy template or Try Local can do this on their behalf. It is very easy and very flexible.
“Things were going really well and I had over 200 deals and 150 operators posting deals on the site within the first few months of launching. I also developed a strong social media following which started from zero and is now over 3000 strong. I work hard at this and constantly promote my operators through these channels. I also did some radio, newspaper and magazine interviews and was generally making great progress.
Most importantly, the operators I was working with were very happy with the system and the results. That being said, there were still many operators who were struggling and finding it hard to exist without the international tourists and a reduction in domestic tourists after an initial burst.”
Then the kicker. Delta arrived and a number of nails in coffins were dealt.
“I decided then not to charge operators to post their deals or offers on the site until such time as the impact of this latest outbreak and lockdown is under control. And likewise, those operators who have an existing subscription will have this extended by the same period.’
Rebekah decided on this course of action as an act of good will and is subsidising the site in the interim.
“I had so many conversations with operators who are absolutely distraught; at the end of their tether and felt the least I could do was give them as much help as I could. Try Local provides an opportunity to promote their business and services and be prepared for when things return to some resemblance of normality. It’s all about getting your name out there and encouraging customers to come direct to you -- for the best deal to eat, sleep, play.”
Rebekah even took on part time work elsewhere to keep Try Local running. “It’s not an easy road, but it’s one that I am happy to take, and will continue to take no matter what. This website was created first and foremost for the industry that made me who I am today, so I want to do what I can to give back to a community that deserves it wholeheartedly”.