In climbing it appears that advertisers need to walk an extremely thin line between giving people want they expect and over stepping the mark, a recent article added to UKC has brought this debate on a very small scale. Whilst I don’t want you to see this as passing any judgement, it is just an observation of the tight rope between success and failure, when it comes to advertising on a small scale where marketing budgets simply don’t exist.
Before we go any further I would like to recommend Love to Climb as a foreign sport climbing holiday and general coaching provider. I think I even wrote a blog that mentioned Catherine a while back, she is after all a very talented coach and climber, and someone that I know who worked extremely hard to get her MIA. In fact she put as much effort into passing the MIA, as she did to her climbing, and my guess is she applies that dogged enthusiasm to her business and coaching.
She recently came under limited criticism for her article of 10 tips for sport climbing, over on UKC. With a couple of people seeing as more advertorial than editorial. Having read it they do have a point. However running a small business, I too have written articles for UKC and every one of them has been aimed at helping drive business to my website. In recent months I have gone all google analytics and burned my feed from this blog, so have pretty accurate numbers of people visiting my various websites. I can say that an article on UKC increases my average daily views from 100 to 500 easily. It also helps drive your placing in search engines like yahoo and google (appearing high up on the first page of result can’t be underestimated!). These sites use a series factors to decide the placing within search engine results and a combination of number of incoming unreciprocated links from large and important sites pay dividends, with links from UKC which due to its visitor numbers has what the internet refers to as a large clout.
When your running a guiding/instructing/coaching business there really isn’t that much money in it, unless you are one of the few who basically runs it as a business, rather than as a kind of lifestyle choice. Somewhere in the general running cost, you have to find the money to set up a website, and for any large business this is often achieved through outsourcing at very high cost. In our industry it means that as well as a coach you also need to be a web designer/ administrator. You need to be able to do some form of book keeping, to keep you accountancy bills to a minimum. There are of course many other skills, the least of which is being your own marketing manager, and if that includes writing an article for UKC, then believe me it is the cheapest and most effective form of advertising for a small business in the outdoor/climbing market.
Sod google adwords, UKC is the strongest media outlet for climbing in the UK, the ability to track how advertising there increases your site traffic, the ability to direct people to a specific page or content, is in my opinion way more relevant and effective than print media now, and probably cheaper too. So if you are lucky enough to get an article on there, you are talking the marketing gold mine. Unfortunately there is two ways you can have an article go from a marketing point of view, one is write on something unrelated to your business that has a lot of ‘clout’, like for instance an article on Mountain rescue, photos of climbing in the slate quarry’s or an article on retro bolting the quarry’s. This method is more a covert way to link to your site, however people don’t see one of the underlying factors, as simply marketing.
A more overt way is to basically write and long advert cloaked as an article, unfortunate this is what Catherine’s article read like, and I suspected that many climber will read it like that. If she had made the tips more general rather than specific to the area she takes her clients, I think she would have ‘cloaked’ the purpose slightly better. She still could have written a couple of paragraphs at the end about Turkey, however its still a good article that highlights a different sport climbing arena.
Hopefully nobody took offence at her article, and I hope even more that it works and she gets some clients to take over there. If you do book, I can only say one thing about Catherine, in the limited time I have hung out with her and partner Nic Sellars I can only say that I have found them two of the nicest, most welcoming people I have met in a long time.
I think what is important to remember is that people like myself, Catherine and any other small coaching outlets simply don’t have the funds to offer large scale adverts or brochures. The known industry standard is Plas Y Brenin, and they have a full time marketing manager, not to mention government subsidies through the sports council, so in order to keep up with them we have to imaginative with our marketing. In order to survive we all have to sell out to a certain extent, it just seems that some people simply can’t accept it as a necessary evil to professional climbing and coaching.
If you’d like to see more marketing progangda then you can on Mark’s Coaching Blog