Meetup.com – A great travel industry marketing tool.

So I have my tours designed, my website is up, and I’ve begun to distribute my tours online.  My company is starting to come along but it wont be successful unless I can start selling and be profitable.  Unfortunately, just distributing my tours wont be enough.  This is where the two dreaded words business come in (at least I’m scared to death of them) : Direct Marketing.

A few years ago I had a job in a multi-level direct marketing company.  It was a door to door gig selling hurricane impact windows, kitchen refacing, and texture coating exterior paint.  The experience of having 100 doors slammed in my face every day, the occasional naked weirdo opening the door, and even dogs unleashed on me for three months pretty much put me off from the whole go out and get a sale routine for a long time.  However, now that I have my own business, I have a renewed interest in direct sales.  The product I’m selling now, tour packages for 18 – 30 yr. olds, would be more of a college sales gig though.  The question here is, “How do I begin to maximize my time and sales potential with direct marketing?”

Before I start going out to college campuses I’m going to sign up for http://www.meetup.com.  It is a great solution that, in the past, has yielded me incredible results!  Meetup.com is a website that facilitates people who are interested in a topic (kayaking, tarot cards, vintage cars…) to meet up with a group of people in an area who are also interested in this topic.  For $20 dollars a month (or less if you buy three or six months at a time) you can create your own group and target people who have a genuine interest in what you do!

Last night I signed up for my account (3 months = 45$).  I named my meet up group after my business- I Heart Backpackers and tagged it with keywords for what my group was about i.e. backpacking, backpackers, travel, adventure.  Now, what I want to achieve is not only a meetup group to directly pitch my product but to form a community of backpacking travelers to build a customer base and product recognition.  I have designated my community to be for backpackers wanting to share stories, find a buddy to travel with, discuss future travel plans, and play some fun travel games.  Once I have a community going I can offer group trip hosted my the meetup group.

Some features I really enjoy about meetup.com:  The ability to market to people who want to join a group about a certain topic.  Meetup has email lists and forums and will contact members interested in your group for you every time you post a new event.  You can post your event easily on craigslist and it allows integration with Facebook.  Meetup has free printable marketing materials geared specifically for your meetup group.  Has a database of free locations that can be used for your meetup

With my keywords set and two events posted, Meetup will be e-mailing approx. 2,600 people in my area who have specified that they want to attend backpacking related groups.  I need to remember though that the key to making my meetup groups a success is to consistently host meetings and to create a community for my members.

http://www.meetup.com/IHeartBackpackers/   is the address to my meetup group.  If you are curious to how this works please see for yourself.  As I’ve said, in the past this has been an incredible channel for marketing and sales.  I wouldn’t skip this tool if I were you!  Tune in next week as I post an update on the progress of my meetup group.

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