In my role as CMO of OnDeck, I get to interact with small business owners almost every day. This means I get to learn about the different ways they manage their time to build a successful business. And, as a marketer, I’m also interested in how small businesses reach new audiences and get the most out of their current customer relationships. I am so inspired by our customers, and want to share their stories in our new series, OnDeck Onsite. This series visits OnDeck customers across the US, Canada and Australia, to learn more about the different ways they’ve grown their businesses.
One of the first businesses we visited was in our own backyard, New York City. OnDeck’s customers in New York have made a positive economic impact, contributing over $871 million in economic activity and created nearly 6,000 jobs, according to our Economic Impact study. So as the leader in online lending, OnDeck empowers small businesses to achieve their goals, and it was exciting to meet a customer and small business owner who is doing exactly that, here in NYC.
Dave and Anne Brown from New York Trapeze School first tried trapeze 16 years ago after vacationing at Club Med. Dave and Anne believed flying with trapeze was an amazing tool for helping people, and shortly thereafter brought trapeze to New York City. In 2002, Dave and Anne opened their first school in Manhattan, and got off to a great start after being featured in The New York Times and the infamous Sex and the City episode, “The Catch.”
With their success in New York, Dave and Anne opened additional locations in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. Most recently they opened a location in Brooklyn, with the help of an OnDeck loan. I met with Dave and Anne in the first series of OnDeck Onsite and asked them 5 Questions on Marketing and being a small business owner.
Hi Dave and Anne, its great to meet you and be here in your new, fabulous Brooklyn studio. With locations in DC, LA, Chicago and Boston, and now Brooklyn, how do you market your locations so people know what Trapeze School is all about?
Back in 2003, our Manhattan location was featured in Sex and the City, and in 2012 Modern Family, so for New York we didn’t have to do that much advertising- we got it for free. However, we did do a lot of market research for our other locations and found that the majority of our customers hear about Trapeze School through word of mouth, usually from a friend who flew with us. So our number one marketing tool is to make sure that our customers have a great experience so they tell their friends. We’ve even started a ‘Come Along’ program in a few cities, where if you bring three friends you get one class free. That’s seen good results so far.
That’s great. You also have a really strong social media following. How much time do you spend on social media and your online presence?
We have social media coordinators at all of our locations. It’s really important for the coordinators to be posting photos and videos 3-4 times a day to let people know if we have space in a class or running a special deal. We are on three channels; Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, really showing people how much fun and safe it is to fly.
A multi-channel social media strategy is really important. How has the Brooklyn location positively impacted your business?
The entire construction project in Brooklyn took about 2 years (20 months permitting and 4 months to build). The Brooklyn location opened only a few weeks ago, so it is hard to say exactly what the impact will be on our ROI, but if it is anywhere close to the success of the year round indoor location we had in Manhattan from 2008 until 2012, it will result in positive ROI in 3 to 5 years.
Now that you’ve been in business for several years, what do you love about being a small business owner?
I really like doing what I started out to do, which is to put written procedures and processes in place so that all of our Trapeze School’s can operate the same way. We want the experience to be the same for all of our schools, even when we have different instructors in place, so that the locations can run by themselves and we can get some of our time back.
I love that idea, because we often hear from small business owners that one of their biggest challenges is taking a break. What is one piece of advice you would give a new business owner?
Build a company that will run without you by developing written procedures for everything. It makes it easier to take vacations and focus on growth.