As a business owner working in the heart of downtown Toronto, it’s easy to take things for granted.
The critical mass of other entrepreneurs, suppliers, investors, customers and network opportunities that sprout up in Canada’s cities provides us with a wealth of resources.
As someone who grew up in a rural setting, I know there are a lot of talented people building successful businesses far removed from the city limelight. But it can be a challenge for them to get the kind of PR exposure many of their urban counterparts enjoy.
Take the case of Camp Narrows, a successful hunting and fishing lodge in Rainy Lake, Ont. Camp Narrows caters to U.S. tourists, and Tom Pearson, the camp’s owner, over the years had developed a necessary but tiresome routine. He usually spent the spring, summer and fall months giving his guests an unforgettable outdoor experience. But when the camp closed for winter, he couldn’t take a break – instead, he hopped across the United States attending tourism trade shows to promote his business and attract new clients.
It was dreary work. “I’d sit in one booth after another, week after week. But all I was really doing was handing out brochures,” Mr. Pearson says.
Tired of the punishing travel schedule, he decided to dive into online promotions and customer-based PR. He invested heavily in search engine advertising, bought the domain names “fishingrainylake.com” and “ontariohunting.ca,” and opened a web-based photo gallery for clients that linked to his homepage.
The results have been dramatic. Mr. Pearson no longer uploads photos to his website – his guests do it for him. Most of them want to share their memories with Mr. Pearson, and the photos they post act as powerful testimonials for the company, giving those searching for a fishing trip a clearer view of what Camp Narrows has to offer. As a result, Mr. Pearson has seen a dramatic increase in bookings for the past several years.
He also got some time back for himself. Instead of doing the trade show circuit, Mr. Pearson spends his three-month winter break travelling to places such as Australia and Fiji. The online engine he created for his customers does the promotional work for him when he’s away, and bookings can be managed over the Web.
For many businesses, physical location is taking a back seat to online image. One of the tangible benefits of social networking is putting customers to work on your behalf. They’re credible, positive and – when acting in numbers – can change the future of your business.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. With more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies, she is focused on fostering the overarching vision for the Canadian market. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients, some of the most innovative and well-respected companies in the country, to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies that drive measurable results. Ms. Wedgbury is known as an innovator, an advocate of career opportunities for women and a dedicated supporter of the technology industry.